Monday, October 12, 2015

"Faith in the Process is more important than the Outcome"?

Keith Barrett X with his wife, Veronica
and kids Prophetshabazz Muhammad,
Jesus, Goddess, and Chief, saying
"One God" for the camera.
As I sat in Meeting for Worship on a spectacular fall day, I listened to a few messages enamored with Quaker process. These messages included that decisions made without Quaker process were not as significant as those done through process and, from one message, faith in the process is more important than the outcomes. Sitting among a 100% white congregation on the day between the Million Man March and Columbus Day, two events that are stark reminders of enslavement, suppression and discrimination, I wondered about these messages. I sometimes think that Friends can be too enamored with the process, especially as it is so often practiced among "like-minded" people. I think that the gift of Quaker process is when it is practiced out in the world, among people of very different opinions, beliefs, cultures and priorities. This is when true peace happens. And this is also when faith in another Quaker sentiment is vital: going "as Way opens".

Keith with Prophetshabazz
It was with all this rattling around in my brain that I walked into William Penn House the next day with a sense that the weekend had been a bit chaotic. Some of the chaos was because a family from Montana was sent to us on Saturday by a local TV reporter with an understanding that a local church was going to cover their lodging fees. As I started to try and make the connections between the various parts of this story, I met a remarkable family. Keith Barrett X and his wife, Veronica Lynn Illig-Barrett X, had journeyed 60 hours from the Flathead Reservation in Montana to be a part of the Million Man March. Keith told me that he was unable to attend the first one 20 years ago because he was in prison, but pledged to make the next one. Despite the economics, he made it with a bit of faith in the goodness of people - going "As Way Opens". Keith shared with me his story - growing up in Beaver Falls, PA, Los Angeles and Phoenix, the son of a man in the music industry (who worked with the likes of Barry White). At 18, breaking out on his own, he moved to Washington State. He bounced around between WA and AZ until 11 years ago when he met his wife. Keith is part Blackfoot, and his wife is Flathead, so with this lineage, they made their way to Montana.
Barrett X's garden

As Keith and I talked, he spoke of his belief that good people and oppressors come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and his stay at William Penn House was an opportunity to show that to his kids. He shared that he is a member of the Nation of Islam, but believes in one God that loves all of us. He showed me pictures of the 1/2 acre community garden he put in this spring, and had his 5 year-old son tell me about the lettuce, cabbage, onions, corn and tomatoes they are growing. It was an energizing connection.

Will we actually get the fees to cover this family's lodging? We don't know yet. Is this a vital part of continuing our missional presence in the Nation's Capital? Absolutely! Do we have the means to cover this ourselves (although a special thanks does go to Sam Ford from ABC7 News for covering a portion of this)? Not yet. My deepest faith is that way will open for us to continue to do this. It was not Quaker process that brought all this together, but Quaker faith.

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