Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. (Mark 10:15)
Operating out of a sense of separation from God and the rest of Creation, human beings have changed the ecology of our planet, causing climate change, habitat erosion, and extinction for more and more species. Unless we avert the catastrophe we have set in motion, extinction may be the lot of our children or grandchildren, too. The Religious Society of Friends has a gift to give the world, a gift to use for the healing of the planet and the human race.
I joined with Quakers twenty-two years ago, after some life-transforming spiritual experiences. I was gathered into a community designed to support direct divine experience and encourage prophetic faithfulness. I found much quiet spiritual depth, a rich history, a theology that made sense to both mind and heart, and a community that walked with me. After I started to respond to the inward prompting to offer vocal ministry in Lansdowne Meeting, however, I learned that some Friends were uncomfortable hearing about my experiences. This made me wonder if Quakerism was the right spiritual home for me, after all. At that time I had a powerful, luminous dream, the rare kind of dream that is sometimes called a vision because of its scope, clarity, and the vivid way it has remained in my mind.
In the dream I saw that humanity was facing a slowly developing but devastating environmental catastrophe. God knew about this long in advance and had a plan to cause a shift in human consciousness. As part of God’s plan, people had been born all over the planet with the purpose of helping to bring about that shift. I saw that I was one of those people, and that I was being sent, with a partner, to a group of liberal, comfortable, well-educated people who were skeptical about the nearness and power of God. These liberal Quakers had a crucial part to play in the divine plan, but only if they learned to pray whole-heartedly. For their prayer to be effective, they needed to open their hearts in child-like trust to God.
In my dream, my partner and I joined in a circle with these Friends. However, I was affected by the skepticism in the group. My heart clenched in fear. We tried to pray, but nothing happened among us. I knew, however, that humanity’s transformation required the gift this group could give, and that giving that gift depended upon becoming able to truly pray. I confessed that I did not know how to pray. I asked God to teach me, to teach us. Humbled, my heart began to open. Vulnerable, I began to feel a child-like trust in God’s ability to bring change into the world. Around the circle of gathered Friends, more and more hearts began to open in humble, vulnerable trust. Then the power of God flowed through the group.
That dream came in 1994, and it helped me to know that God wanted me to stay among liberal Friends, that I had a ministry among them. When I shared this dream with Lansdowne Meeting, I received much encouragement and was told that Friends had a long tradition of traveling in pairs. Two years later, in a gathering of Friends from many branches of Quakerism (Quakers in Pastoral Care and Counseling), I learned an intimate practice of praying for each other in small groups. Ever since, I have been sharing this and many other prayer practices with Quakers, often with a partner serving as an elder for me as I travel to different meetings. Usually there is much reluctance and resistance when I introduce certain prayer practices, but experience changes hearts. I am always delighted to see the glow on Friends’ faces after they feel divine love and healing power flow through them.
In the twenty-two years since I first started attending a Quaker meeting, I have witnessed a gradual spiritual renewal among liberal Friends, a renewal that was set in motion and fostered in prior generations by many Friends, including Thomas Kelly, Sandra Cronk, and others. Today it is much more common in liberal meetings for Friends to take time at the end of Sunday’s meeting for worship to pray for the needs and joys of members, or hold them in the Light. We now more readily recognize and provide support for those called to ministry, and recognize those with gifts for spiritual nurture and eldering. I believe there is still a long way for us to go, both in our prayer and in our action, before we become pure vessels (superconductors) of divine transforming healing power. The essential gift we have to offer the world in our time is still waiting to emerge.
About ten years ago, at the annual session of my Yearly Meeting, the clerk of the Environmental Working Group quoted someone who said that the ecological movement would not gain real traction in this country until it became clearly identified as a religious and spiritual issue. This man’s presentation had been full of facts and information about climate change and ecological footprints, but he had not spoken of God or used any faith language himself. Whether we use words or not, we need to become vulnerable and fully open to our Divine Source in order to effectively make our contribution to the shift that is urgently needed in our time.
Our effort is crucial: changing the way we live, speaking out about what is wrong and the healing path that is possible, and giving witness in society. Our action is as necessary as our prayer. However, it is not our power that can make the needed change. Only God’s Power–flowing through us and through many all over the planet–can avert total catastrophe.
I pray to trust more and more deeply that God, our Divine Source, is able to heal us and our planet. I pray that we Friends grow increasingly able, faithfully, to play our part in the birth of a new, more conscious, connected humanity, a birth now reaching a painful stage of labor.
Last week Quaker Speak released a new short video in which I speak about learning from early Friends what is needed in our time to participate with God in a healing shift of human consciousness:
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© 2014 Marcelle Martin