27 September 2007

Traveling shorts

Each day, my Sunday departure for Elektrostal draws closer, and each day, a higher proportion of my time and emotional energy goes into saying goodbye. And with each wrenching goodbye, I am attacked by the temptation to second-guess the leading to pull up stakes and move to another country.

I have a friend who moved here from that same other country. Sometimes she's attacked by a combination of fatherland-patriotism and intense homesickness, and she once wondered out loud, in my hearing, whether it can truly be right to move so far from home. I said to her that most of us are called to populate the place where we're planted, but some of us are supposed to spend time in each other's gardens, so the different nationalities, cultures, and colors of people can be known to each other. What if official ambassadors were in sole charge of representing our global neighbors? I don't know whether she liked my reasoning, but now it's time to listen to my own sermon.

Of course, maybe it will help that I'm a transplant myself. My native soil is a little strip of land on the northern edge of Europe. But on my long and complicated road from there to Portland, Oregon, I became less portable each step of the way. When I left the USA for college in Canada, I could literally carry all my possessions in my backpack. (Well, I left a few books behind, but I never did reclaim them.) Now I find that downsizing is a lot harder than upsizing was.

Speaking of Canada, my friend Margaret Chapman of Canadian Yearly Meeting just sent me a wonderful packet of quakeriana, including the "World Conference issue," August 18, 1967, of The Friend.

Sprinkled among the articles covering the major themes of the conference (this was, after all, the event which gave birth to Right Sharing of World Resources and featured the Secretary General of the United Nations as a main speaker) are some minor gems. In an article on "Out of doors at Guilford," Stanley Sweet writes, "The English visitor misses the flower beds of the home gardens. Begonias and a rather lovely red sage are popular at Guilford College, the mimosa tree was still covered with pinkish feathery tufts, and the crepe myrtle and the abelio grandiflora decorated with pink or pink-white blossoms the entry to several of the halls. One looked too at the huge magnolia trees, and wished one could have seen the glory of the flowers."

Or this quietly powerful warning from Douglas Steere, disguised as an assertion that he may not have actually agreed with: "Quakers are all too aware that God through history has a way of putting a parenthesis of oblivion around self-important little groups who spend their time listening to the minutes of their previous meetings."

Last Sunday, many churches in Northwest Yearly Meeting observed "Yearly Meeting Sunday." Judy and I attended North Valley Friends, who observed the day by totally abandoning their meetinghouse to worship in public, literally--in a city park in Newberg. After opening prayers and songs, participants walked a long path around the central part of the park, visiting "Stations of Mercy." At each station, they could learn about a particular way people of our world are hurting or are being victimized. Children who visited the stations of mercy could collect items to remember each station. At ours, they could pick up a bandage to put on a picture of a hand in their worship booklet, to remind them to pray for those suffering from domestic abuse. Other stations were devoted to refugees, the child sex trade, war, local poverty, addictions, immigration, and the environment. (The last station was staffed by Reedwood's own Jim Leeman.)

The mood was sober, but not somber. I saw a lot of thoughtful conversation, much information being exchanged, and maybe some new commitments made. For the most part, even though the event was in broad daylight, it probably did not succeed in being truly public--not many secular people are out and about on Sunday morning. (Perhaps some were drawn by the enchiladas and tamales available at lunchtime--they sold out.) But for me, the most important feature of the day was to see Friends being willing to turn the main event of their church week into a fresh encounter with the realities of the world.

Photos by Scot Headley.

Righteous links: More fresh encounters with the realities of the world. See this new item at A Musing Environment, and the two previous posts. ~~~ New data in Christianity Today on "ex-gay" studies--modest conclusions for a volatile research subject, and "an older, wiser ex-gay movement." ~~~ Richard Skinner explains how Richard Dawkins (and perhaps others among the current anti-God squad of celebrity intellectuals) may actually be doing Christians a great service. ~~~ Don't wait until the Wittenburg Door finishes "reforming" its Web site before visiting; there are some good articles on the site right now--for example, Becky Garrison's interview with Brian McLaren. ~~~ An item not from The Onion: "Pasadena Church Wants Apology from IRS."

The late Gerald Levert and the Funk Brothers do justice to Jr. Walker's classic "Shotgun." I tried to find a clip of an original performance, but so many of them are lip-synched and/or simply inanely presented. (Example from Shindig here.)


Simon Lemarchand said...

Brilliant! I has been long hoping to meet you in Elektrostal again. How long will you be staying along? - Gleb

Johan Maurer said...

Official answer: I have a one-year visa. Heart answer: Indefinitely!

See you soon.

Simon Lemarchand said...

Can't wait to see you. I even came on terms with my boss to skip office days to be able to visit your lectures. Of course, that also means that I'll be nailed working at home for the rest of the day :)

Johan Maurer said...

Skipping office days? Wow, the pressure is on.

Greetings from exotic Kurskii Vokzal!

Anonymous said...

Wow you are already here? When are planning to give a lecture or two at the institute?

Johan Maurer said...

The lectures are bundled into an American Studies class, which will (at least this week) be held at 8 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. on Thursday. The 8 a.m. class is 3rd course, the afternoon session is 2nd course. I'm not sure whether the exact times will be the same each week.