The word, leaden, to describe the skies, must have been coined by an Englishman. The very definition of the term defines the winter skies in England. It’s a pefect word, too, because it gives not only the colour, a dark, dull grey; it also gives a sense of suppression, a sense of the heavy weight on our emotions, here under those skies. When, rarely, the sun breaks through for an hour or so, our elation is dashed by the inevitable return of the leaden skies, often with rain.
This greyness of days is coupled with the long, dark nights that begin to close over us in September, and reach their longest on December 2st. Sunset is earlier and sunrise later each day. Here, it is dark by 3:30 or so, and in a week it will be dark by 3:00.
All of this, for many of us, saps our energy and even deadens enthusiasm for our usual everyday enjoyment of life’s good moments.
No wonder ancient peoples needed to have a festival, a celebration day, in the middle of this season. And no wonder the ancient Christian church picked December 25th, when the days are just starting to get longer again, to be Jesus’s birthday. Who cares when it really was? We need the celebration now; we need to say, yes, the clouds will lift and we will see more light . . . maybe not soon, but eventually.
Unity, in Quaker terms, is a staggering concept. It is reached not through voting or debating, but through silent discernment during a Meeting for Worship on the Occasion of Doing Business– short form “Meeting for Business.” During the business meeting an action is proposed, or a draft minute is presented. There is some discussion. If the item is of major importance, it is set aside to “season” for a time; that is, the decision will be made after a month or two (or ten), after everyone has had a chance to think about it and to practice discernment on his/her own. If it is a simple, practical matter, the decision might be made at the same meeting during which it is presented.
Unity is reached by the movement of the Spirit among the gathered Friends. Sometimes this movement is palpable; other times it is not. This is difficult to describe or explain to anyone who has not experienced it, but is instantly recognizable once it is experienced.
William Penn, the English nobleman who left his title and his family to found the city of Philadelphia (city of Brotherly Love) and the state of Pennsylvania, wrote of Unity:
The objective of the Quaker method is to discover Truth which will satisfy everyone more fully than did any position previously held. Each and all can then say, ‘That is what I really wanted, but I did not realise it.’
The attainment of unity within the meeting is not the same as the attainment of uniformity. Unity is spiritual, uniformity is mechanical.
For a more thorough discussion of Quaker Unity, read Beyond Majority Rule, by Micheal J. Sheeran.
Every year, I try to find a new book about Christmas for my collection. This year, I found it at the National Theatre Shop– a surprise, because the shop, for obvious reasons, features theatre related items like scripts, actors’ memoirs and NT tee shirts.
The Book of Christmas is a delight.
Struthers covers everything from the selection of the date for Christmas to the first Nativity scene, Santa/Sinter Klass/Father Christmas in all his many guises, weird and wonderful customs (and some you wouldn’t want to try for anything!) decking the halls, Christmas feasting– and lots of other topics. The chapter on celebrating Christmas during hard times is particularly interesting to me.
I am enjoying it thoroughly.
John L’Heuruex, now emeritus professor of Stanford University and well-known novelist and poet, then a Jesuit seminarian, wrote in his journal, Picnic in Babylon, on Christmas, 1963:
Tom O’Gorman, who says Mass for the workmen here, told me this story. While the priest says the Gospel in Latin, one of the workmen reads it aloud in English to the little congregation. Tom says he distinctly heard the chap say in his Negro velvet voice, “And the wise men brought gifts of gold and mirth and frankenstein.” And no one laughed. Terrific.
The book is now out of print, and my copy is literally taped together because the binding has long since disintegrated. L’Heureux has a wicked sense of humour. His novels are always both sinister and funny.
The Tea-party movement is simply the ‘religious right’ in disguise. Half of those who identify with the Tea Party consider themselves a part of the old ‘religious right.’ They believe the Bible is the literal word of God and that America is a Christian nation. Sixty-three percent believe that abortion should be illegal. Eighty-two percent oppose same-sex marriage
Think about it. The Tea-party movement represents a clear and present danger NOW not just to the gay community but to all Americans who refuse to support the values of the Christian right or join them in making this a Christian nation. –Rev. Mel White
About Holy Terror: the Lies the Christian Right Tells us to Deny Gay Equality:
“Mel White’s Religion Gone Bad reads like a page-turning whodunit. His careful recounting of the rise of fundamentalism in America is both chilling and enormously instructive. While religious progressives have been sitting around hoping that everyone would play fair with other faithful people, the fundamentalists have been planning and implementing a strategy for taking over the Christian church and the government. Religion Gone Bad (now Holy Terror) is a wake-up call to religious progressives to take back the Bible and stop being fearful of telling the story of our own salvation at the hands of an all-loving, all-merciful and inclusive God. — The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
I’m reading this now, almost finished, and I tell you, it is frightening. It’s also completely disillusioning for anyone who blithely believes that all self-identified “Christians” truly seek to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The vitriol, the ignorance, the hatred and the power-seeking that is exhibited by Fundamentalist preachers and organization founders are direct attacks on the souls and lives of anyone who doesn’t agree with them, and absolutely deny the teachings of peace and love that Jesus gave us.
Gene Robinson is right; the book is a page turner; because not only does Mel White know the history of the Fundamentalist Christians in the USA backwards and forwards, he also knows the MEN (and yes, they are all men) who started the current movement, knows their minds and their plans; and he makes completely logical conclusions about what will happen if they succeed.
Also, Mel’s writing style is completely accessible. He doesn’t write down to the reader, but he deftly writes of complex concepts and, frankly, frightening ideas in clear, almost conversational language. It’s a history book, but it isn’t. It’s theology, but it’s more. It’s a personal political statement, but also a personal spiritual mission statement. You’ve just got to read this book.
This book was my Christmas gift to many of my friends. Those who have started reading it, have, without exception, commented on the directness, elegance and simplicity of William Bloom’s writing style (and two of these people are published writers themselves). I enjoy his style largely because he is one of the few people I know who actually writes conversationally: he writes like he talks.
William has been one of the leaders of the holistic spirituality movement in the United Kingdom. He has been associated with Findhorn and was one of the founders of the Alternatives program of speakers and workshops at St. James’s, Piccadilly, in London. He has spent the last twenty or so years teaching concepts of holistic spirituality, spiritual companionship and approaches to education and psychology that include, not ignore, the spiritual element in human life.
This book captures the key concepts of holistic spirituality and “how it works” in language that anyone can understand, whether scholar or seeker. It’s fun to read because of William’s style, but incomparably deep and universal in its wisdom. It’s a great book to read at the beginning of a new year.
William Bloom: http://williambloom.com/
Foundation for Holistic Spirituality: http://www.f4hs.org/