Tag Archives: Quakers

Our Shopsitter Moved to SC

confusionToday we have guest blog from Wes and Rachael, our local shopsitter and his wife. They recently moved to South Carolina (WAAAAAHHHH!) Rachael is seated in the photo.

Regular readers may recognize us as the couple that got married in the bookstore.  We recently moved due to a job change.  It was a difficult decision to leave such a tight knit community of loving friends.  But change comes for us all and so it has come for us.

One of the most joyful things the little bookstore community brought us was our monthly Quaker meetings.  As mentioned before we chose a Quaker meeting for our wedding.  Most of our friends find it baffling that we enjoy sitting in dead silence for an hour, but we can’t think of a better way to find peace in the stressful life we lead.  So finding a Quaker meeting was top on our list for the move.  We earmarked this past weekend for a trip to the Columbia meeting 40 minutes down the road.

That morning we were raring to go, but on the drive we were wracked with doubts.  What do we really know about this meeting?  It’s in a church.  What if it’s “churchy”?  We did a quick google search for “Quakers” to get a feel for what we could expect, and found this troubling statistic: “90% of meetings are programmed worship”.  This means standing, singing … in others words “churchy”!  They probably meet in the sanctuary – pews, altar and all…we pretty well worked each other into an anxiety-ridden frenzy convinced this would be a disaster.  Were we prepared to sit through church, or worse yet walk out?

At the run-down church building, the engraved sign read “unprogrammed worship”.  A collective sigh of relief filled the car.  The first friends arrived a few moments later in their hybrid car.  The woman, wearing a comfy crocheted sweater put me in mind of Wendy who often attended still in her pajama pants and cozy slippers. NB from Wendy: I don’t remember pajama bottoms but it’s a fair cop on the slippers.

We were welcomed with open arms.

The woman told us how the building had been donated by the Methodist church, along with a hefty sum to renovate.  She was particularly proud of the energy efficient LED lighting.  A back room held a loom where salvaged fabric was being made into rugs.  You could see their lovely garden from the window.  The sanctuary had been modified too, the altar removed and the pews in concentric squares facing the center of the room.  Shortly after, a man arrived with a small vase of flowers and set it as the central focus point.

And just like that, we were home.  The Quakers began filing in – all walks of life, young, older, teenagers, some children, but all with the joy and friendliness we have come to appreciate and foster in ourselves.  It seems we haven’t left our tight knit community after all.  Rather we’ve opened the door to a world wide community that will follow us wherever we go.  We are eternally grateful to Jack and Wendy, the little bookstore, and the Big Stone Friends for that opportunity. confusion

4 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized

The Monday Book: SAFFRON CROSS by J. Dana Trent

saffron corssDana and I made Twitter-friends (is that a noun?) a couple of weeks before the Movable Feast of Authors run by Bookmarks, a very active lit-lovers group in North Carolina. The Feast entailed twenty tables of eight people, with authors moving in ten-minute intervals between them–a wild ride covered with online publicity, so Dana and I were in a lot of tweets together. One day I clicked on her icon and found her book was about being an ordained Baptist minister married to a Hindu who used to be a monk.

Well, that sounded intriguing….

Dana and I got a chance to chat after the event, and we traded books. (Don’t tell our publishers, ‘kay? Thanks.) She and Fred had gone on bookstore dates, and I’m fascinated by interfaith connections, so it seemed pretty natural.

More natural than the eHarmony match Dana and Fred made. Her book is less about external pressures put on them by others than personal expectations and changes. That’s what I liked most about her writing. Dana left a lot of space for others to interpret or extrapolate, by holding her narrative to “This is what happened to us; this is what I learned; this is how I understand the contentious points.” Saffron Cross is an honest description of a wife reconciling her full-on belief in Jesus with her husband’s full-on devotion to Krishna.

Early in the marriage, they decided they couldn’t take an easy road and worship separately as each saw fit; they had to share seeking God as a foundation for their shared lives. That made for some very interesting theological points not easy to reduce in a review. If I say that Dana and Fred set up a Hindu-tradition altar in their homes and included Jesus and the Bible in its objects, you might get the idea that this was an easy compromise, rather than a parsed-apart and carefully considered decision about how the two faiths work. You might think about hair-splitting, mental gymnastics, and semantic end runs around scripture.

And that would be the wrong idea, because nothing comes easy in this pragmatic narrative. Back when Sue Monk Kidd wrote about her rejection of male-centered religion, my friends and I who read her memoir were frustrated. She avoided the central question: What about Jesus? If a guy says “I’m the son of God” and you relegate him to “I’m a son of God,” then you’re worshiping someone who belongs in a lunatic asylum. If Jesus isn’t God’s son, he’s a nut case. The “all religions lead to the real God” approach is facile if the only way to make that happen is reducing Jesus’ status.

Dana and Fred don’t take that route; she addresses both anecdotally and in theological observation that she believes Jesus is God’s son. Her meshing this with Fred’s approach, finding peace that they’re both on honest paths, proves less semantic than thought-provoking.

If you’re interested in Christianity because you are a Christian; if you’re anthropologically interested in faith communities; if you’re a Hindu frustrated with Western materialism; if you find marriage stories voyeuristically interesting; or if you like the idea of a woman Baptist hospice minister, you’ll find Saffron Cross a densely packed book that keeps you up late.

And I admit to giggling, thinking of how hard it was explaining Little Bookstore in ten minutes to eight strangers, and there’s Dana sitting down to her tables: “Hi, I’m a Southern Baptist married to this nice Hindu guy…” Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

3 Comments

Filed under book reviews, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, what's on your bedside table, writing