Saturday, November 23, 2013

Giving Thanks

It's the season of reflection and appreciation.  There is much to be thankful for, so here are a few:
  • Janie Boyd.  Her spirit, wisdom and love just about move me to tears when I am with her.  And now she has me hooked on getting out to the farm as often as possible to pick greens in the morning, an amazing way to start the day.
  • Rob Farley and Margot Eyring.  The breakfast they host every weekday morning at Capitol Hill Methodist Church humbles me, and the daily reflection often really hits home.
  • The American Institute for Urban Psychological Studies, Dr. Grady and Helen Dale.  I met Helen when she was hosting a workshop at William Penn House, and they invited me to speak about HIV and depression at their conference on depression in Baltimore in October.
  • The Southeast White House.  Sammy, Scott, Tina, Kathy, Ernest, and everyone who regularly partake in the fellowship lunches - if only the rest of the world could show the hospitality you do, we really could have peace in the world. 
  • Brian Rodgers and his vision for a sustainable and healthy community in places many people would rather ignore even exist.  Your wisdom and quiet leadership are a model for all.
  • Friends in Pine Ridge, SD, Caretta and Buckhannon, WV.  As I've learned from the High Horse family and the Sundance, annual traditions that are sacred help keep the cycles going.  For me, you are all part of that cycle.  And to Mike Gray - you continue to show what real commitment is.  
  •, for the opportunity to hone my clinical skills and to share my passion for integrating HIV prevention into the broader clinical/helping professions.  
  • Byron Sandford - for his selfless dedication to doing whatever it takes to keep William Penn House going.  And to Josh, Ana and Allison - you've been great this fall during a busy transition.  
  • Katy Swalwell (author of "Educating Activist Allies"), whose academic research has been affirming the spirit of how we have been developing Workcamps intuitively.  I look forward to an exciting future together.
  • All the Workcamp participants, especially those who humble me with your on-going friendship and continued participation.  For the youth among you - especially those who take time to really question what difference we can make - you give hope for a bright future.  
  • People I've met in Kenya, Israel and Palestine.  You remind me that we are all in this together, and I hope to continue to be an ally and friend as we struggle together to bring peace and health to our families everywhere.    
  • There is also my family (Walter, mom, dad, sis, bros, steps, halves) - you mean the world to me and know how to keep me in my place, even when I don't want to be there.  And to "all my relations" - past and present - you are always with me.  
  • Dogs.  Doesn't matter whether I've met you or not, you embody all that is good - love, play, being in the moment.    
These are the reasons I wake up in the morning with enthusiasm and anticipation.  You affirm my Franciscan/Benedictine/Quaker belief that when we seek the goodness in others, stay open to listening and understanding others, connect with a loving heart, and stay committed to a more peaceful world, it just might be possible.  From the bottom of my heart, thanks!
Brad Ogilvie

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bonhoeffer, Community and Quakerism

"Community" is one of the oft-cited Quaker testimonies.  This morning, in my daily Bonhoeffer ritual,  the writing was about community.  While I often try to adapt some of the language of Bonhoeffer to a less Trinitarian Christian message, this one is a stretch, so I'm going to leave it as is, relying that "Christ" for me means an unabiding love for and deep faith in the goodness of all, and the call to live in grace.  So, here goes:

"Because Christ stands between me and another, I must not long for unmediated community with that person.  As only Christ was able to speak to me in such a way that I was helped, so others too can only be helped by Christ alone.  However, this means that I must release others from my attempts to control, coerce, and dominate them with my love.  In their freedom from me, other persons want to be loved for who they are, as those for whom Christ became a human being, died, and rose again as those for whom Christ won the forgiveness of sins and prepared eternal live.  Because Christ has long since acted decisively for other Christians, before I could begin to act, I must allow them the freedom to be Christ's.  They should encounter me only as the persons they already are in Christ.  This is the meaning of the claim that we can encounter others only through the mediation of Christ.  Self-centered love constructs its own image of other persons, about what they are and what they should become.  It takes the life of the other person into its own hands.  Spiritual love recognizes the true image of the other person as seen from the perspective of Jesus Christ.  It is the image Jesus Christ has formed and wants to form in all people."  - from Life Together, pg. 43-44

So much of this resonates for what has long attracted me to Quakerism - the belief that there is that of God/innate goodness in all people.  It also reminds me of the Benedictine "radical hospitality" and the Franciscan spirit to sow love where there is anger and to seek to understand rather than be understood, both of which are vital aspects to my own faith and practice - or at least to my faith, and hopefully a part of my practice.

To live with this faith, we must challenge ourselves to resist our impulses to coerce others to see the folly of their ways - political, religious, social - but to instead believe that when we invite others into our lives as they are, and vice-versa allow ourselves to be as we are, we are living our faith.  I have certainly been on the receiving end of this, especially when I have been welcomed in places I did not expect - such as when I lived in the more conservative Wheaton, IL, or when I go to places like the Southeast White House where I am frequently in the minority with regards to my faith (more universalist than Trinitarian), stance on social issues, and sexual orientation.  It is times like this that I really get what Bonhoeffer is talking about here.  I only hope that I can be that I can always be better at doing this for others.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reflections with Bonhoeffer

Sometime in the last year, I started reading a daily reflection with writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I had read portions of some of his books, but he is very heavy and I find it hard to digest too much at one time, so this book has been great.  Just small but often heavy doses once a day.  What I have also found helpful, as I read some of his writings, is that since I do not consider myself a trinitarian Christian as he clearly is, that by secularizing his language I find his message more accessible.  The basic translation I find helpful  - and I hope still keep with the spirit of his writings, given his messages of inclusiveness, love and humility - is to consider "Christian communities" as "loving communities", "Christian service" as "loving service", and so on.  My belief is that God is a loving God, and our calling is to be loving people towards all, so it works for me.

Periodically, in this blog space, I'll be putting a writing of his that moves me and seems applicable to the work of William Penn House and Quaker Workcamps.  Yesterday's message was one such message, especially as it was a day that we were doing a few hours of service with students from Baltimore Friends School.

"The basis of all pneumatic, or spiritual reality, is the clear call to love and to live with grace.  At the foundation of all psychic, or emotional reality are the dark, impenetrable urges and desires of the human soul - the ego. The basis of spiritual community is truth; the basis of emotional community is desire.  The essence of spiritual community is light. For 'God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all' (1 John 1:5); and 'if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another' (1 John 1:7).  The essence of emotional, self-centered community is darkness, 'for it is from within, from the human heart, that egotistical intentions come' (Mark 7:21).  It is the deep night that spreads over the sources of all human activity, over even all noble and devout impulses.  Spiritual community is the community of those who are called by love and grace; emotional community is the community of pious souls.  The bright love of service, fellowship and grace lives in the spiritual community; the dark love of pious-impious urges burns in the self-centered community.  In the former, there is ordered, loving service; in the latter, disordered desire for pleasure.  In the former, there is humble submission one to another; in the latter, humble, yet haughty subjection of other people to one's own desire."