By Tai Amri Spann-Wilson
I was raised a Philadelphia Quaker, and so I'm very used to waiting. In silent meeting for worship what I've waited for is numerous: the Inner Christ; the Inward Teacher; the Inner Light; the Indwelling Spirit; the G-d that we Quakers believe is in us all. I've also learned to wait for decisions to be made in what is commonly understood as consensus, but better understood as the Leading of Spirit. And lastly I have learned to wait for discerning calls, waits that have taken minutes or years. The waiting of Quakers is legendary. But as the waiting season of Advent approaches, I have to ask the question, when does the waiting end?
In my second year of seminary, when I was working in a church for field study where I was known as Baby Pastor, I would have conversations with the Pastor about our invocation. We would discuss, in the Disciples of Christ Church in Oakland, what we found problematic with asking for the presence of an all-present G-d. That same year, as part of an Advent worship planning team, I was asked to preach one Sunday. In my sermon I spoke to the mostly progressive Christian congregation; I questioned them about what it was they were waiting for. Most of the people in my Christian community and in that congregation did not believe in waiting on a literal savior to be born every year. I talked about how the well-known Christian theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart believed that Christmas was the time when the Christ was born within each and every one of us. In retrospect I realize how much of a Quaker sermon that really was.
In the end of our discussions on the invocation, my pastor and I came to the realization that what we were beginning the service with wasn't so much an invocation as a revelation. We were revealing and preparing ourselves for the Spirit that is already present within. But just because I came from a Quaker background, it certainly does not mean that Quakers have it any more figured out. I believe that at some point Quakers attempted to get rid of certain practices like hol(y)days, baptism, and Eucharist, because all of life was supposed to be a sacrament. What this would mean in practice is that in every moment the Spirit of Christ is born within us, but the further we get away from this understanding, the more we need our sacraments to remind us. Advent can be the sacramental reminder we need of the Divinity that is reborn within us in every moment.
Tai Amri Spann-Wilson is a Jerseyite/Philadelphian Young Adult Friend, Quaker born and raised African American. He received a B.A. in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado and is currently on a spiritual pause from a M.Div. program at Pacific School of Religion. He believes in the divinity of all beings and the natural r/evolution of all things, but in particular he pursues his acknowledgment of child-like faith through his involvement as a first grade teacher in Germantown, Philadelphia.
Read the rest of the series and join the Advent Ruminations!
Part 1: Advent Intentionality by Emily Joye McGaughy
Part 2: What Are We Waiting For? by Corbin Tobey-Davis