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6.05.2007

Today's very public Quaker


Well, that was fun!

I was the designated invocationalist this morning at the Oregon State Senate.
The first question of the day was, mercy, what to wear? My standard personal choice on this matter is to look as NOT like the guy on the Oatmeal box as possible and be very vocal about being a Quaker and this almost never fails to elicit questions. The motorcycle leathers are very useful for this purpose, but it seemed like a little more decorum was called for.
I had used my favorite 'Not oatmeal' outfit, which involves black lace a knee high red snakeskin boots last month at the legislative prayer breakfast - so I improvised. Three inch heels and a flattering dress, and I'm sorry, but it just doesn't feel like the "full armor of God" without hose, and my grandmothers silver and abalone cross. Good enough.
I arrived on time, which is apparently a problem for the Senators. I was briefed that after a Quorum arrived, and the colors marched, that it was my podium for three minutes - please be ecumenical and non-political. I was joined on the platform on time by the Senate President Mr. Peter Courtney who happens to be my representative, though he didn't know that. He informed me that we had to round up 20 of the 30 to start.
After ten minutes, he got cranky and sent out the Sargent of arms to chase them down. He said to me " I can have these guys arrested, you know!" Pete's an old school Pol, a style I happen to appreciate.
At last a Quorum and then the colors. Yikes, I had forgotten about this part. Pete says to me as we stood "American flag coming to your immediate right", and he slapped his hand on his chest and nodded to me. Well, then here comes old glory, and me alone on the platform with Pete, me with my hands behind my back, me not saying the pledge. I just can't do it. It's just to creepy to pledge myself to an inanimate object and then there is all the not true stuff in that thing. If we ever really are one nation, under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, I will reconsider. Till then... well all eyes on the ... "what kinda wacky invocationalist do we have today?"
My turn: (everybody has to stay standing until I am done)
"Good Morning Friends,
My name is Peggy Parsons and I am a Quaker. I represent a people who were some of the first settlers of this state founding the towns of Newberg and Scotts Mills among others. We are not usually a people of big fancy prayers. Often we just sit quietly, but I am happy to join you today. I am going to ask you to join me in a silence where we will center down, be present, and listen to the Divine and prepare to listen to that of God in each other. After our group listening, I will pray. Then I closed my eyes and stood there. so did they. For a long thirty seconds. Then I did what we do at Freedom Friends, I spoke to God and gave thanks for the Senators and their work, for our safety and freedom, and for all the goodness that we enjoyed and then I asked God to be with these people and to give them courage and hope and wisdom while they did their work today - Thank you for everything - we have no complaint - amen."
Sorry friends, but there is no picture of me doing this. My girl reporter self wanted to bring the camera, I am sure the Sargent of arms would have obliged, but it just seemed a bit vain. Quaker trumps journalist after all.
One of the Senators, Avel Gordly, IND, portland, left the floor to thank me for my words. She said she had worked with the AFSC and that Quakers were a "small but mighty people" and she was glad to see one of us in the Capitol.
Have a great Day
God Bless America.

Comments:
YAY!
 
Sounds like a good moment. :)

The pledge thing is awkward, isn't it? I teach in a public school that starts each day with the pledge. And I don't pledge. Daily, in front of 20--30 inquiring minds.

But I think it works out well. High school students are sometimes at a point in their lives where they are cultivating cynicism, and, well, I sort of have to address the pledge (to say or not to say) every year. So we talk about it, and about the fact that there are religious groups that do not take oaths, for various reasons (I usually have one or two students from such a tradition in my room, and sometimes they will volunteer that information). And I ask that my students either do or do not recite the pledge of allegiance... but that, whatever they choose to do, they choose to do it, and that they respect the choices of the other students in the room, too.

It's actually pretty rare to be able to tackle an issue that seem so directly related to questions of conscience and tolerance in a classroom. I'm really grateful to be able to do so, at least once a year.
 
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