Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Discovered Friend

Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's' Theology Conference
June 8-11, 1995

"... What canst Thou say ?
Art Thou a Child of Light,
and hast walked in the Light;
and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God ? _____ George Fox

Blessed rather are those who hear and understand the word of God and follow it ! _____ Luke 11:27-28

I am a Child of Light. I have known this from a very early age, from my earliest memories, that I felt Gods' presence. Whether this was totally from divine inspiration or from early teachings, or from a combination of both, it is not possible at this age of fifty-four to discern My grandparents were from German Reformed and Lutheran backgrounds and from the age of six, when we moved away from the town of my birth, I was raised in the United Presbyterian church.
My childhood, in the rural hills of Western Pennsylvania, offerred much opportunity for solitude. Many hours were spent walking in the woods and communing with God and being in awe that I was privileged to be a part of this wonderful creation. The only memories that I have about any context of this communing are, in general, asking for understanding and for guidance in doing Gods' will, which is evidence that some teachings were at work there.
The full impact of what it means to me to be a Child of Light did not really come to the forefront of my consciousness until just a few years ago when Nelson Mandela was being released from twenty-seven years in a South Africa prison and stories of his life were available. I read of his dignity and of the respect that even the prison guards had of him and wondered how this could be. How could someone who had spent twenty-seven years in prison still retain even a shred of dignity, and where did he get it in the first place ?
Then the newspaper articles told of his being a prince of a royal household and I thought, of course, he is royalty, that is where his sense of dignity came from. And I wondered what it would be like to have had that sense of dignity that this would have conferred, to have been treated by all those around you from birth with respect and honor and nobility. And then I had the thought, I am a Child of God, created in the image of God, what could be more royal or noble than that ? What could the world be like if we all truly knew and acted on the knowledge that being a Child of God is our birthright ? How would we all be different if we treated each other from birth as sacred, holy Children of God, each created in the image of the Divine ? I have walked taller, with my head held higher since that day, and have seen the rest of Gods' creation through different eyes, through the eyes of one who knows that we are all birthright Children of God.
Paying attention to how the Spirit or Divine Presence manifests itself through the lives of others is one way in which I learn to walk in the Light and; therefore, I try and bear witness to these manifestations in my own life, so that perhaps others may also have an opportunity to learn through my experiences. In worship sharings and in meetings for worship, I have received powerful insights and sometimes leadings from the Inward Teacher through others sharing their experiences of the Divine Presence in their lives and seeing a commonality with an experience that I may have had. On a few occasions, I have been powerfully seized upon to speak in meeting for worship and been approached by Friends afterward with tears in their eyes for the message that was given was so meaningful in their lives.
I have been a seeker all of my life. Even though there have been a few long, fallow periods when the ground was being prepared for the seeds, I have never felt abandoned by God, but rather, have felt a guiding hand through all of my human endeavors, work, family, relationships, and spiritual communities. In my early twenties, I "converted" to Catholicism. One of the tenets that I was drawn by was the authority of conscience, but it did not seem in the end that this was actually practiced or honored. When I came upon Quakers in my early forties, it was like a thunderclap from the heavens, the recognition that this was actually where I belonged all along, I just didn't know about it yet. It is for this reason that I consider myself not a convinced Friend, as I did not need to be convinced of anything, but a discovered Friend.
So, it seems that no matter through which avenue I have been led to seek the Divine, God has been there, whether in the United Presbyterian church of my childhood, the Roman Catholic Church of my youth, or the Religious Society of Friends of my adulthood. It has been my experience that the Divine Presence cannot be contained by any humanly devised belief system, but is present in and encompasses all of our systems of belief. Faith is from the grace of God and it is comforting to know that my faith will not be limited by my belief. I believe that it is a holy obligation to listen for the word of God in all the ways that are possible; through prayer, worship, reading the bible and other inspired writings, observing how God may be revealing through other religions to people of other cultures, and engaging with others in mutual discernment of how we might fit into Gods' plan, both individually and corporately, and to realize our relationship to each other in God.

Jami Hart
Multnomah Monthly Meeting
22 January 1995

Member since 1983

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


For the past year I have been rotating among the various Quaker meetings in and around Portland.
I have been seeking to identify what best feeds my soul and to discover where I might best be led to serve at this time.
A question that has been with me a long time has been, what would my idea of an ideal meeting for worship be like?
Unprogrammed meetings often are very rich, but other times for me it seems as though there is something missing.
On the other hand I love the music and the discussions of queries or messages in programmed meetings, but the five or ten minutes allotted for “open worship” do not provide anywhere near the time required for the deep communion of a gathered meeting.
I imagine a meeting for worship of two hours, a programmed hour and an unprogrammed hour. I also would like to experience the meeting described by Brent Bill in his Modest Proposal: … *“instead of fitting holy silence in, use it as the basis for worship. Then trust God to lead the choir to stand and share musically. And move the pastor to give a prepared sermon…”. That, I believe, would feed my soul.

*A Modest Proposal p.12

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Learning: Lessons from Discrimination

What I learned from a lifetime of discrimination, first as being female and then as being gay, is that the people in positions of authority who have the education, “expertise”, and power over other peoples’ lives, don’t necessarily have the truth.

I learned that what is revealed to me through my life experience can be more valid than what others only know through their studies, belief systems and cultural “norms”.
Whenever unexamined, closely held beliefs result in harm to another person or people, those beliefs have to be challenged with the reality of the experiences of those who have been judged.

The Quaker processes of threshing sessions and clearness committees in which all gather to try and discern together with divine assistance and all are willing to be changed is a major reason that I am a Quaker.
Much has changed in my lifetime. Psychiatry has come to realize that being gay is not a sickness, the law in some countries no longer recognize being gay as a crime.

The last bastion of discrimination is in some of the churches that still recite one portion of the old purity laws while blithely ignoring all of the others.
Jesus said that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.
What does it mean that the law was fulfilled? There is a lot of description of what he meant in Matthew 5:17-27
There is no mention of homosexuality here, but much about divorce and judging others.
Why don’t some churches attempt to recognize fulfillment of the law?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering: Thanksgiving in Exile

Memphis, Tennessee - Nov, 1960

I boarded the bus in Bainbridge, Maryland still wearing the dress blue Navy uniform that had just been stripped of all of its' rate stripes and insignia. The command officers had planned to strip them off in front of the whole recruit training staff, but in the end decided that I didn't yet have enough rate to make an impression.
So, here I was headed for Memphis, Tennessee where some of my friends from boot camp were stationed and had a small house off base. I couldn't go home as the humiliation was too great. Six months before, my parents had watched me graduate from boot camp as Honor Woman of my company, meaning that I was considered to be career material.

Then I was retained as a physical training and water safety instructor as, at that time, I had completed two years of college as a Health and Physical Education major and also had my Red Cross Water Safety Instructor certificate.
I had joined the Navy after two years of college, as my mother was threatening to put me in an institution after having found out by breaking open a locked box of letters, that I loved a woman at college. I was dragged to our family doctor and to our minister, both of whom suggested that I be separated from my love.
Then someone that I had been at college with showed up in one of the recruit companies and she started the rumors.
I was confined to the barracks for about a month in lieu of the brig. At the time being gay was a crime.

I was taken to the Navy psychiatrist and all I remember was that he administered the Rorschach test as at the time being gay was considered a mental illness.

It wasn't long before the investigation began and I was interrogated daily regarding my relationship with a woman at college who had been my first love. The Navy interrogator was a very persistent man and I was a still shy 20 year old. I just needed it to stop, so finally admitted to acts that to this day I don't know what they were as I didn't know the words for things then and was much too embarrassed and shy to even consider asking. There was a female officer present, but she never said a word throughout the entire ordeal. I guess she was only there as a witness. They searched my room, looking for whatever evidence would convict me of the crime of being gay. All they found was a cheap paperback that I had bought at a drugstore, I don't know the title. It was some sordid tale of women that are always available and that give people the wrong impressions of the "gay lifestyle".

I had planned to finish college through a program that the Navy had at that time and go on to become an officer. But now I was facing the loss of a second career choice.
Somewhere I had heard that if I went to the chaplain that things would go easier. I swallowed my pride and told him that I wanted to change and I succeeded in getting a general discharge under honorable conditions. Most service women in my situation received either undesirable or dishonorable discharges.

I arrived in Memphis on Thanksgiving day. My friends were on duty, so I found my way to the house and the only thing in the refrigerator was some leftover stew. That was my Thanksgiving dinner that year and the beginning of the almost half century exile from my family of birth.

The Israelites spent forty years in exile in the desert, ostensibly to learn something. What was I being led to learn?

Sunday, August 1, 2010


This morning at Freedom Friends Church there was a young service dog that got very anxious and ran around searching the room whenever her handler went into another room. It came to me that this was an analogy for it being very difficult at times to have faith in what is unseen. But, isn’t it our purpose to make Love visible in the world by following the teachings of Jesus.

And then I began to reflect on what was my task to make love visible in the world and then to share that.
There are several outstanding examples in my life when I have failed at this task and they are etched permanently into my consciousness. I am trying to make an effort to be more aware of opportunities as they arise and to act out of being centered.

Many people have spoken of how they have felt the Presence of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit as holding them. I have never felt that, nor have I heard a “still small voice”, and yet there has been something, an almost imperceptible guidance, and I have been at a loss as to how to describe my experience of the Divine Presence. I then thought it is more like a knowing, but not quite that and I asked myself, how do you know something. It finally came to me that the word that I have been looking for is more like a perception. A perceiving of what I need to do or say or what I am to do. This has been with me my whole life and I never had a word to describe it.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I have been having promptings lately to make regular visits to Friends churches. My meeting no longer fills my spiritual needs and hasn’t for some time. I need and love the expectant waiting in Holy silence, but that is only a part. Early Friends knew the bible so well that they were easily able to refer to passages that spoke to their lives. I have followed the common lectionary for most of my adult life to try and understand how the teachings might apply to my life, but this cannot be a solitary endeavor. A community is needed to discern together. There is among unprogrammed Friends a tolerance for many paths, except it seems for following the teachings of Jesus. To me this is like throwing out the baby with the bath water, to throw the teachings out with the way that some who call themselves Christian have misinterpreted those teachings and use them to judge and condemn others.

Yesterday I traveled to the westside of Portland to visit West Hills Friends Church. The west hills have always been a challenge for me to find my way around. I had Brunhilde, my GPS, with me and it took 40 minutes for what should have been a 20 minute drive. When I finally arrived, it came to me that this drive was an apt illustration of my spiritual journey. Going around in circles, many dead ends, and every once in awhile landing in the right place.

Part of the difficulty throughout my life has been that a part of me has not been acceptable in any place, but this is becoming less true. So, I will continue to seek out places where I might learn how the teachings of Jesus speak to me today and how I might follow the way.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends

Eighth PNW Quaker Women’s Theology Conference
16 - 20 June 2010
Seabeck Conference Center
Seabeck, Washington

I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith (the leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), [a faith] that first lived permanently in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, [dwells] in you also.
That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands with those of the elders at your ordination].
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:5-7 (Amplified Bible)

"Many Friends today are crying out for spiritual mentors, for ministers and elders who are lovingly steeped in our tradition. Some Friends hunger for a deeper relationship with God, for a connection with a divine power that heals and empowers. We long for wise and loving role models and examples." From: Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, p. 27, Pendle Hill Publications.

"As meetings became settled, elders performed a variety of functions, according to their gifts and leadings. . . . [A]ll gifts and ministries were for building up the spiritual life of the meeting and the Society: directing and re-directing people to the Spirit of God, to the Inward Christ, the Light, the Inward Teacher, the Guide, the one true Priest and Shepherd. It was clearly understood that any member of the meeting might be called to some part of this service, but that some were specifically led by the Spirit at any given time." From: Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality Vol. II, 1999.

THEME: Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends

I have never had a mentor.
I have had many of the opposite; people who tried to discourage me from paths that I felt were true to my inner guide.

As a pre-teen, when I talked of going to college, my mother tried to dissuade me saying, "you'll be like your aunt Betty and get married after two years". My aunt Betty was my father's younger sister, the only girl and the only one of his family of five siblings to get the opportunity and she didn't finish. I guess it seemed logical to them to project that onto me. My reply was always "I'll never get married", which was promptly also dismissed as the naiveté of the young.

I subsequently succumbed to societal pressures as it was difficult to resist in the 1940's and 50's with no support, but I always knew that marriage to a man was not my métier, my vocation or path in life.

Another area in which I was discouraged from following my inner guide was religion. I was raised mostly in the United Presbyterian church, although we did not attend regularly. My father worked many weekends and my mother did not drive. I also felt, even as a very young child that it was not the path to the Divine for me as I felt there was too much hell fire and damnation and very little grace, although I could not articulate this at the time. In my early twenties, I was drawn to Roman Catholicism and "converted" to that religion. When my mother found out, there was a big confrontation and attempts to get me to change my mind. It wasn't until my early forties that I discovered that I was a Quaker. By then, I was away from those who would discourage me in my path to the encounter with the Divine.

But when it comes to spirituality, books can sometimes provide the catalyst or guidance that will help you go deeper in your relationship with God. In a sense, my mentors may have been the writers of books.

In the end, the only mentor that I truly had was my inner mentor who saw me through all of the above and more.


There is some confusion among a few Friends in our meeting about who is an elder. Being an unprogrammed meeting means that there is no permanent body of “Elders”, but the duties of nurture and discipline which constitute eldering are shared among the Oversight and Worship and Ministry committees. There is a member of meeting whom some Friends experience as being “mean” and a Friend who left meeting partly because of them told me that they felt there was no recourse as this Friend was an elder. I replied that this person was not an elder and that being old does not qualify a Friend as an elder. It is also difficult to recognize elders when the positions rotate every few years on the committees.
I may be wrong, but my sense is that if asked, very few could readily identify who are the current elders in our meeting.
It seems to me that the lack of either mentoring or spiritual direction negatively affects the development of elders. I have served on both of these committees in the past and have now been asked to serve on the Ministry and Oversight committee of North Pacific Yearly Meeting beginning in 2011. I can only hope that with God's help I will be able to adequately serve.


Several friends lately that have left meeting have told me of their finding new communities in Humanists and Unitarians and have tried to get me to try these out. I have no interest and the only response that I can think of is that they are not Quaker. The Quaker form of worship, expectant waiting for a connection with the Divine, for me, cannot be surpassed by any other practice. Add to that the testimonies, and the practice of waiting for Divine guidance in meeting for worship for business and these are the things that I could not leave behind.