Okay, not the wildly popular game, The Oregon Trail, (STOP sending me Facebook OT apps already!) but my own mini-tour of the Pacific Northwest that began yesterday after I flew (on three planes) from Harrisburg, PA to Portland, OR. (I give special thanks to Virgina Wolf and the BF for giving me Mrs. Dalloway as a travel companion).
In 2006 the Anawim Community invited me to speak at their winter retreat where I did a series of Bibliodramas for them. Anawim is a Christian men’s group that has met for Thursday dinners and silent contemplation, prayer and Communion for the past 12 years. As Christian men who are also gay, they have provided each other with deep support in their faith journeys and through personal trials, joys and crisis.
I arrived in time to join in on their shared meal and to sit in silent prayer with them. They traditionally light candles for different people they are holding in the Light or in prayer, then sit silently for up to 40 minutes before entering a time of vocal prayer and then a lovely, intimate Communion service. (Even as a Quaker who doesn’t do Sacraments, I partake in the Communion because it goes beyond form and ceremony and achieves a true communal sharing.)
Sitting in the stillness of that room with those men, I remembered early Quakers and some reading I have done where Friends “waited on the Lord,” listened for correction, leading–for the voice of the Lord. I keep my prayer life personal and rarely write about it here in this blog, but last night I prayed a recurrent prayer that I have held out for decades. God I yield to you to have a tender heart, to know your will and to be sensitive to your leading. I remembered a promise in the prophets about how God would remove the stony, hard heart and replace it with a pliable, tender heart.
After the Anawim meeting, I met up with Jon Marc, a member of Anawim (he picked me up in his HMS Uranus U-Probe car!) and we went out for coffee at Pix Patisserie (YUM!) and then went back to his place to listen to some of the music he has been doing. He had been a worship leader years ago before he came out gay, and now he returns to doing music about his faith and his life.
I spent the night with Doug and Bruce, dear friends and a great married gay couple. (They always have all my favorite foods on hand!) and this morning after tanking up on some good PDX coffee, Doug and I head to Salem, OR to see the amazing Peggy Senger Parsons, pastor at Freedom Friends Church. I introduced Anawim to Peggy for their 2008 retreat, and they loved her so much, they had her back for 2009. We will get to spend the day together catching up, praying, eating and no doubt doing lots of laughing.
While in Salem I hope to also see Alivia Biko, a versatile singer and artist (and fabulous cook). Kody Hersh, a Quaker I know who now lives in Philadelphia and with whom I will c0-lead a workshop for Quaker teens adn young adults later this year, will also be in Salem today. Kody spoke back in 2007 sharing some of his journey as a young transgender man who has been involved with Quakers during imiportant times of self-discovery. Lots of Quaker action in Oregon.
But wait, that is not all you get! After Salem, Doug, Kody and I will head to Molalla where the Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns will meet for the annual Mid-Winter Gathering (and where I will perform Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible). This group meets twice a year to worship together in silence, listen deeply to each other, to conduct business meetings, to have social times and to love each other. Some of the folks have been meeting together like this for over 25 years, so it is a deep connection many share.
I most look forward to the times of silent worship, the sitting, listening, leaning in to hear what the Spirit has to say. That and just all the hugs and smiles and laughs and conversations that make the weekend so rich.
I head off to Seattle on Sunday to be with the United Methodist. I will keep you updated on how the tour is going.