Thursday, February 16, 2012

To Come to Worship Like Everyone Else

The Friend with the Remarkable Story gave vocal ministry a few weeks ago. He said every day before going to bed he thinks about three things:

--something he is grateful for

--something he has received from others

--something he has given others.

RantWoman has to admire his clarity and simplicity.

RantWoman recently attended a question and answer session with Mr. and Mrs. Friend with a Remarkable Story. The event was advertised publicly in two Friends Meetings. On that basis alone, RantWoman is clear to write of it. RantWoman notes that her Meeting in the person mainly of a few committed people has been walking with the Friend with a Remarkable Story for a long time. The Friend with a Remarkable Story has introduced himself and a thumbnail of his remarkable story several times in Meeting for Worship and otherwise. RantWoman has identified herself several times as someone who knows the Friend with the Remarkable Story from the Monroe Worship Group and has offered to answer questions but has heard none.

RantWoman thinks now the Friend with a Remarkable Story is entering a new phase of life. The Friend with a Remarkable Story has no choice about some forms of public presence. RantWoman is unclear that others in her Meeting even have any inclination to interact with the story. RantWoman feels as if her Meeting stepping up to walk with the least we can do. RantWoman is unclear that a blog entry is the best way to honor that and is likely to let it season awhile before posting.

The event was held on a SNOW day. This likely cut into attendance which was SPARSE. Friends from Salmon Bay Monthly Meeting also attended.

RantWoman learned that others from her Meeting have been walking with prison ministry including the Friend with a Remarkable Story for a long time. RantWoman's tiny previous part in this was attending a few meetings for worship at the prison.

Friend With ... spoke of going awry in the storms of adolescence and of an early path utterly lacking in integrity. Friend with a Remarkable Story admitted to more crimes than he was charged with. Friend with a Remarkable Story also said he just ran away if he encountered any resistance. Friend with a Remarkable Story was VERY forthright. RantWoman has decided that some points he was forthright about can be handled with less personalization by citing statistics, another day. The facts were daunting, not easy to listen to.

Friend With ... spoke of arriving for initial treatment after sentencing still convinced that threats of violence were not in themselves violation.

At some point, Friend with a Remarkable Story started to get it and resolved thenceforth to live with complete integrity, not particularly an easy road in any case and even less so in the social hierarchy of prison. The Friend with a Remarkable Story also found Friends for 300 Years in the prison library and realized he felt like he was already a Quaker. A buddy also shared the feeling and they were led to work with some Alternatives to Violence facilitators to found the Monroe Worship Group.

The Friend with a Remarkable Story spoke of applying to join the Concerned Lifers at Monroe. Friend With... answered questions on the application form honestly. For his trouble he was summoned to the Concerned Lifers' office. One of the guys pointed to a file cabinet full of applications dating back to the 1940's. He said there was a whole cabinet full of applications. The lifers figured that probably 1/3 of the offenders represented had done similar things but the Friend with the Remarkable Story is the only one to put it down on paper.

Ordinarily, the Concerned Lifers at Monroe might not be the first place one wants to go for a character reference, but their words "We abhor what you did and we admire how you are handling things now" do justice to lots of things.

One Friend asked the Friend with the Remarkable Story whether he thought his presence in a Meeting might be disruptive. RantWoman in all-purpose event usher / herd people around for public events mode can think of a couple ways to interpret this question. At the Q&A the question was phrased in terms of people who might find it difficult because of their own histories to worship in the presence of the Friend with a Remarkable Story.

This has been a theme with RantWoman's Meeting walking with the Safest Sex Offender on the Planet. Actually, the issue as RantWoman remembers history was people KNOWING they were worshipping with a sex offender. People worshipped with no apparent difficulty for several months before the whole Meeting was told and people developed difficulties being in the same worship with an admitted sex offender (and who knows how many unknown ones.)

RantWoman really needs worship every week. RantWoman assumes both people with more survivor issues than RantWoman has and offenders seeking to walk righteously also need worship every week. RantWoman generally thinks it's God, the Holy Spirit and we are not guaranteed worship without distress. Not only that, in the words of the Baptists of RantWoman's youth, it's GOD's table, not ours to invite or deny. But that is WAY too much God language for some around RantWoman.

Parallel Light has not yet arrived at RantWoman's meeting. In the meantime, the Friend with the Remarkable Story said that, even though he has no outside reason for Meeting to have basis to ask anything of him, he would also be willing to live with the Safest Sex Offender on the Planet's attendance restrictions. RantWoman appreciates the generosity of this offer. RantWoman SO hates the conversational knots attached to the current regimen and RantWoman SO hopes Meeting does not take the Friend with a Remarkable Story up on this offer. RantWoman needs to froth at her keyboard more elsewhere about related topics and return to the rest of the meeting with the Friend with a Remarkable Story.

RantWoman has deep respect for people who have walked certain roads working particularly to prevent further offenses among people walking similar roads. The Friend With a Remarkable Story has been an inmate facilitator for Alternatives to Violence. RantWoman's first question was what was most difficult and what was most rewarding about being an AVP facilitator.

RantWoman to someone who was not there, characterized Friend With the Remarkable Story's response as "What's difficult is when the guys don't get it and what's rewarding is when they finally do."

RantWoman's second question was has the Friend with the Remarkable Story to his knowledge ever talked to people who have suffered offenses similar to his. The Friend with a Remarkable Story answered that he had indeed spoken to more than one Alternatives to Violence facilitator about related topics. The Friend with the Remarkable Story reported that both sides of those conversations had found them healing. When pressed, the Friend with a Remarkable Story did not feel able to say more. RantWoman felt the power in what was said; RantWoman has heard other similar stories in connection with Alternatives to Violence.

RantWoman always esteems a good love story and RantWoman especially appreciated Mr. and Mrs. Friend with a Remarkable Story speaking of how their relationship grew. The future Mrs. Friend With... fairly quickly had to give up her volunteer status to be listed on Friend With's visiting list. Neither is sure who proposed to who. Both say now that, had they known the Friend with a Remarkable Story was going to have to serve every single day of his sentence with no good time, they might not have married.

Someone asked Mrs. Friend with a Remarkable Story whether she might rather be somewhere else. RantWoman recognizes some acknowledgement in the question but still finds it patronizing, like one is supposed to give up on loved ones just because there are challenges. Mrs. Friend with a Remarkable Story just assured everyone it's not all bad. RantWoman is holding the couple in the Light, assuming the Q&A will not be the first or the last time that question is going to come up.

RantWoman is very clear: she is hearing from Mr. and Mrs. Friend with a Remarkable Story a very simple request: they want to come to worship like everyone else. RantWoman is very humble about great forthrightness in general, very honest about why a question of any other practice might arise and VERY clear that worship is God's, that it belongs to everyone.

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