Letters - 25 May 2018

From words and worship to Colombia

Words and worship

My husband and I were privileged to be part of Yearly Meeting on Saturday 5 May. There was a full house in the Large Meeting House. A sight to behold! The topic of conversation was the revision of Quaker faith & practice.

One brave lady sitting near the front (we were seated at a top level) was invited to speak and said she thought we should address some of our ‘archaic language’, sometimes used in ‘Quaker speak’ as well as in this book. For example, the word ‘worship’ when we mean silence.

My husband and I were heartened to hear this mentioned. Why do we say we will now have a time of ‘worship’ when it is acknowledged that people have widely varying perceptions of what is happening in a period of silence?

Even though we have been Quakers for about seven years, we still cringe at such terminology, which for most people conjures up the image of venerating or glorifying an other-worldly body. Also, how does this in-language impact on people outside Quaker circles?

Later, a younger man commented that we need to value ‘worship’. Yes, we need to value the essence of what it is – meaningful, filled silence – but I agree with the lady who mentioned that ‘worship’ does not express the meaning of it for many people.

Maria Grace

Gender and being human

I was quite saddened by the contributions (30 March) that appeared to construe my letter (16 March) and Heather Brunskell-Evans’s feature (2 March) as prejudiced against transgender people. I called for more in-depth discussion and, though not expecting universal agreement with my views, did not envision misreadings leading to angry perturbation.

I was concerned about encouraging children to take a transgender route (possibly involving medical intervention) precipitately – when very young and without sufficient consideration. When I referred to ‘reasonable’ safeguards, I nowhere implied that trans-women in general were more of a threat to other women than men at large. I was invoking Heather’s discussion specifically about vulnerable women in women-only spaces such as prisons or safe houses.

Quakers themselves do use ‘safeguards’ – for children. Everyone – male, female, nonbinary, transgender – has to have a DBS check. ‘Loving’ does not preclude bringing thought (not ‘judgement’) to bear on complex, evolving human situations – as we do with mental health.

My main thrust was that Friends should work towards an ever-more gender-equal, gender-variable world, in which the majority (obviously with exceptions) of children and teenagers would rarely feel compelled to say ‘I wish I were a boy/girl’, because all varieties of human behaviour and self-expression (barring those that harm any form of life) would be open to all – spiritual, social, sexual, occupational, political, self-presentation and so on.

Whilst Friends must continue welcoming and warmly supporting transgender and other nonbinary people, the complicated subjects of transgender and gender, body-dysmorphism and all nonbinary variables, need tolerant, loving discussion and listening.

Lois Chaber

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