Charlynn Gampher and Judy Sargent opened the session by leading us in singing Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Friends sang with harmony and gusto, and Judy remarked on how good Friends sounded and reminded us that choir practice is at 4:30 pm.
Dave Goff then gave his opening remarks, saying that he has been focusing all summer on preparing for this conversation. He spent time in prayer, asking God how to proceed.
He then shared that when Lost Creek called him as a pastor, he told them that he’s not gifted as a pastor. He knows himself to be gifted as a teacher, instead. He intends to bring that gift of teaching to these sessions since he has been studying these issues all summer.
In contemporary educational theory, he said, teachers are encouraged to connect the knowledge being presented with the body of knowledge that the students already hold. Teachers are also encouraged to have students work together in small groups, so that they can learn from each other. Accordingly, he designed today’s session to reflect both of those emphases, saying:
“This is not a business session. This is a learning session.”
David and Jon Goff co-presented as father and son, and as two people who disagree with one another on “this subject.” Dave believes strongly that people who disagree with one another on “culture war” issues can work together and and love one another despite their disagreements, and offers his ability to work with Jon as an image of that reality. He reminded Friends that we are called to follow Jesus’ example of being in fellowship with sinners and welcoming everyone into the community.
Dave then took what he acknowledged to be an odd turn, telling us about the conflict between the singer Kesha and her producer and rapist, Dr. Luke. He asked us to consider Kesha’s new song, Praying, which he described as a song about offering forgiveness under the worst of circumstances. Dave said, “The hardest thing Jesus calls us to do is forgive our enemies, and yet here is this party girl who is demonstrating the way that we are called to love our enemies.”
Dave used this song to open our time together, then prayed for reconciliation and love to flow among us.
Jon began presenting a version of a powerpoint used at Quaker Knoll Senior High Camp. He then divided Friends into 12 small groups, each of which was tasked with considering a query. [nb: I have been told that the complete list of queries will be released through the Yearly Meeting office soon.] Groups were asked to choose a recorded and a presenter, to discuss your answers to the question without necessarily expecting to come to an agreement.
Jon offered a series of ground rules: introduce yourselves, be kind, be respectful, don’t dominate the discussion or shut people down. Consider this a private discussion unless somebody wants to share. He also offered this classic piece of cinema:
Groups were called back from the discussion, and group representatives were invited forward to share their reactions to the query. After each group shared, Jon gave historical background to the questions, highlighting the ways in which the definition of marriage has changed over the centuries.
Unfortunately, due to time constrictions, we were only able to consider two of the six queries as the larger group. Some sense was given that we would continue considering these queries tomorrow, but as there is no time set aside in tomorrow’s schedule for discussion outside of business sessions, I don’t know when that would be.
Personal reflections: Kesha’s song is certainly sung with prophetic strength, but it remains to be seen which aspect of her song will prevail among Friends in Wilmington YM. I think that Dave meant to be referencing Kesha’s willingness to pray for Dr. Luke, which is repeated in the chorus:
I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying
The verses, though, tell a more nuanced and powerful story of a woman breaking free of an abuser. She may wish him farewell, but there’s no sense within the song that this wish is accompanied by any desire to remain in relationship. She has become strong, due to her experience with her abuser, but the credit for this strength is hers alone.
Her abuser had her fooled, put her through hell. She had to learn to fight for herself and she is now proud of who she is.
“…no more monsters, I can breathe again…”
I hear this song as being less about forgiving those who have hurt us, although certainly there’s some sense of hoping that her abuser comes to repentance, and more about wishing farewell to someone who no longer deserves to be in her life.
But out of the whole song, this was the line that caught me:
“And we both know all the truth I could tell…”
Kesha’s truth-telling, here, is wielded as a weapon- possibly the only weapon that she has in this fight. This contrasts sharply with our on-going fixation on euphemisms. We seem unwilling to name what we’re even possibly fighting about. It’s “the issues that divide us,” or “the current conflict.”
Going into Wilmington YM’s business sessions tomorrow, I find myself wondering what would happen if people simply told the truth.