Flashback 2002 - Berkeley and Ramallah
So There I was……
In Berkeley California, 2002. There was a war going on, so the Mecca of non-conformity seemed like a good place to be; but that was not why Alivia Biko and I were there that weekend. We had another quest. We were expecting. Pregnant with that of God. Gestating a miracle, and we were looking for a stable where we could bring it forth.
We were carrying within our hearts a new creature named Freedom Friends Church - the culmination of everything our God had been teaching us to this point in our lives. A place where Christ the present teacher is passionately worshiped and radically obeyed. A place where the precious truths of Quakerism are explained and lived out in a new millennium. A place of intentional inclusivity where God’s marginalized children of all stripes are welcomed and given a place of service.
However, the sad truth of Quakerism at the turn of the 21st century is that we are polarized and fragmented. Our larger groups and organizations tend to be Christ-centered and non-inclusive (a thing we find to be contradictory), or inclusive and theologically muddy, (a thing we find to be lacking in unction and power). We needed another option. It seemed unlikely that our home, Northwest Yearly Meeting, was going to be able to give us such an option or claim us as their own if we created it. So we were in Berkeley investigating an option.
It was a “tender and broken meeting,” as the Quakers of old would say. We listened to a Quaker leader describe Friends work around the world; hospitals in Kenya, oppressed but vibrant faith in Cuba, and heartbreaking tales of Palestine. She gave us the unforgettable picture of an old Palestinian man and his wife, separated for thirty five years by an Israeli fence, meeting daily to entwine their fingers in chain link, whispering of faithful love kept apart by institutional violence.
We listened to the leader of our hoped for option describe how she had once considered her own ministry unacceptable, because she was a divorced woman, and how God had surprised her by calling and empowering her to serve in spite of this. She described her joy at being found acceptable.
And again and again through the day we heard the call for workers - help was needed. The fields were white. There was no heart there that did not feel the tug
I sat on the back bench and watched two brilliant, gifted friends - our hosts for the weekend. Two women - committed to the Light and to each other. One whose gentle heart was broken by the reality of an evil that would put a fence up, careless of the separation of love. The other, deeply gifted with insight, knowledge and the ability to empower others - who has been begging God for a clear commission to the work. I watched my friends’ hearts respond to the call. I watched the spiritual struggle and the surrender. I saw my friend stand and ask if her service would be accepted. And then I saw the Christ-centered Quaker fence go up. “Policy” did not permit the service of Christ’s gay and lesbian servants we were told.
I slipped away and into a bit of a vision. I saw the work of Christ on one side of an endless fence, desperately in need of help, and on the other side, a Christ-called worker, fingers entwined through the fence straining to be of use. And I knew in that moment, that it was my people who had erected this fence. Well meaning, Jesus loving, but fear based people. And I saw that I was searching for a group of fence-builders to join. And then I saw Jesus, the lover of my soul, on both sides of the fence, and the Jesus nearest me handed me a pair of boltcutters.