5.23.2012

Lessons from the World Conference: One thing is necessary

Worship at the World Conference was a challenge for me.

I thought that because I am a Christian and a former Catholic I would not have issues at a conference where most of the worship would be programmed and Evangelical. I was wrong. I certainly enjoyed the worship we shared each morning. I liked singing, I liked hearing prepared messages, and I liked the chance to stand up and sit down! The problem occurred once worship was over, because no matter how much I had enjoyed it—I felt as if I hadn’t worshiped at all.
I admit I have never worn a tuxedo.
Photo thanks to Stan Shebs.

As an unprogrammed Quaker, I often feel like I am swimming in and out of the silence as if it was water, as if I was a spiritual penguin. Like the penguin, if I am floating in the living water I can find grace. On dry land, I quickly become clumsy.

At the World Conference, I quickly became clumsy. Sometimes this was literal. On one memorable day, I scraped raw the back of one ankle, skinned the same knee, bruised the other knee, grazed both palms, and opened a knuckle. Sometimes this was inner. On a different day, I felt as if I couldn’t be properly present to the people I was with. I started spending quiet prayer time in the chapel every day.

I have always known—with my mind—how vital a daily practice of contemplative prayer is for my spiritual life. At the World Conference, I finally learned this with my heart. Without prayer, I can’t live my life in the faithfulness I yearn for. With prayer, at least I can make a start.

A Buddhist meditation group meets every weekday morning at the Meetinghouse where I worship. I am often free on weekday mornings, and have long thought I should attend. This morning, for the first time, I finally did. The heart-knowledge I gained from the World Conference lent me the resolution.
I love the moment when a Biblical passage ‘opens’ for me: the moment I finally find clarity (or new light) in something that had been opaque. In Kenya, this passage opened for me:
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted by much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”