Dean wandered into my Quaker Meeting stirring up all kinds of questions and old wounds. "What, exactly, do we believe?" he innocently asked, repeatedly. "So what do we think about Jesus here and why can't we just say it?" he probed. "Why do we seem stuck in our woundedness – can't we just get over it and move on?" He had a point. We were so welcoming and affirming, especially to those hurt by religion other places, that we tiptoed around what one ought to believe. He lovingly forced us to do some collective deep listening and, eventually, move forward. Personally, he helped me reconnect to early Friends and their Christo-centric view. Actually, I believe he swayed the Meeting in that direction.
After that, he pushed us to think outside of ourselves and touch the secular world with what he believed was special. He organized a huge concert to benefit the Afghan orphanage we collected funds to build. He knew it would also show others our way. He bravely stood to the mostly gray-and-white-haired congregation and said we needed a five-year plan to attract younger members. We didn't want to hear it, we were comfortable with our intimate circle. Of course, we embraced anyone who walked through the door, but we did no soliciting. He dressed as Quaker-zilla during an all-night walk for cancer and, thanks to Dean, we're currently in the midst of QuakerQuest, a British program that helps Meetings know themselves, then invite others in.
I tend to think Jen, who came a bit later though she was already Quaker, and Dean bonded in the kitchen, where they created wonderful community-gathering meals that fed our souls and bellies. Both work in food service and Jen just finished a degree in nutrition. They pushed us into lively meals and discussions.
Jen served as recording clerk of the business meeting, clicking away on her laptop, probably the first to do so, accurately setting the record and graciously taking suggestions. She'd saunter into worship and sit cross-legged and ready for meditation, or centering, as many of us call it, and wrap up in one of the scattered hand-knit shawls. She'd ask for wonderfully simple songs, often from child-hood, that exactly matched the worship energy and reminded us of the basics: God's deep love for us. She is always fearless in stating what she believes and listening to others. She is not afraid to name any elephant in the room.
They both got us singing again.
I don't even remember why, but Jen and I began the tradition of sharing hugs – big, bear-like ones that grip you to the core. She's one of the THE best huggers. PERIOD. With her, you need no excuse, but I especially like to give her one when it looks as if she's just woken up and made her way to worship.
Serving on their marriage clearness committee was a joy, though this always-raring-to-go, plan-it and do-it couple left a few of us scratching our heads. "What if life doesn't turn out this way?" we asked. "Then we'll change the plan," came the response. They seem untainted by the disappointments of life. They're young and shouldn't have the same experience, knowledge and wisdom the rest of us on the committee have lived. They do their homework and I believe their eyes – and hearts – are opened much wider than mine at their ages. Honestly, I had some reservations about their take-charge, practical approach to partnership and then I understood how committed they were and thought who am I to judge; seems like a great match.
We couldn't wait for the wedding and reception boasting fried chicken, biscuits and bacon. Guests would supply the rest. In their matter-of-factness, they explained they needed no gifts, however, if one were so inclined, you could give to their education fund, apologizing for the $25 minimum. Such humility. Jen is waiting to hear back about which medical school she'll attend in the fall and Dean plans to go full forward toward a Ph.D.
I loved pulling up to the Meetinghouse and seeing a billowing white tent weighted to the parking lot and festooned with decorated tables, plants and vegetable-seed favors. This was an honest-to-goodness Quaker wedding, only the second I've attended. Because there were other guests beyond Quakers, I knew Dean was multi-tasking by exposing more outsiders to our quiet way.
As the couple strolled in, Jen beamed with the broadest smile I have ever witnessed. Her usual is pretty wide, but this was something else entirely. Those gathered weren't perfectly quiet and some, I could tell, struggled with the silence until wonderful Jeff broke the awkward spell and began to tell stories about the couple. And they just kept on coming as we all realized what a true communion this was for the bride and groom and also the faith community. We laughed and cried, yet were all bound by the amazing energies Jen and Dean have now knotted. I thought the room might burst from the outpouring of love. In those minutes, our space was irrevocably graced with this blessing of marriage.
As Dean and Jen exited for photos, the rest of us lined up to sign the oversized marriage certificate, a Quaker tradition. Then on to the food, festivities and communal clean up. It was such a homecoming, bringing in former members and new families.
The last thing I heard Dean say as they headed off to the Friends General Conference Gathering, national Quaker camp as Jen describes, was "When you get the chairs set up under the tent for worship tomorrow, can you get a photo?" He was so joyful that their reception tent would house worship the next morning.
That worship was special for many reasons, but, mostly, because Spirit was still very present from the day before. We were small in number, but all reeling from the intimacy created as a result of the wedding. There were far more leftovers than we could consume, so we packed dozens of pieces of chicken, bowls of biscuits, handfuls of honey packets, a vegetable platter and 2 dozen cupcakes for a very special family in my neighborhood that our Meeting has adopted. The other cupcakes went to a food bank. I sailed home knowing how much the food would be appreciated by the parents, daughter and three boys and that this is, exactly, what Jen and Dean would have wanted: their blessing to continue.
• When have I witnessed God bring two people together?
• How has the energy shifted in that union?
• When has Spirit known better than I?
• Where have I experienced deep community?
• How can I contribute to such community?
as an introvert,
which I have
not ALL of
is so quiet
we need the
and the ability
and, we are
blessed with the
new union of
Jen & Dean
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