I didn't grow up going to church, synagogue, or a traditional place of worship. My brother and I "swore to Mother Nature" when it was really a serious truth instead of swearing to God, and our place of worship was the American river canyon or the open granite of Desolation Wilderness. These places did and do fill my soul's longing for that awesome perspective of being part of something bigger, but my moments in them don’t always come with the rooted-in-community part of worship that I imagine is a huge part of many peoples’ experience with religious traditions.
Going to the SF Friends Meeting (not to be confused with the SFFS Meeting for Worship) has given me the chance to spend a Sunday both to re-ground myself and to feel that I am part of something big and rich. I realize now that I have been subconsciously seeking this during the often breakneck pace of my family’s complex and urban life.
The commitment to social justice and the process of grappling with messiness are a part of our school’s Quaker DNA, and I loved getting more of a window into that at the Friends Meeting.
Part of why I love SFFS so much is because every time I walk into the school, I feel a sense of rootedness and community, and unexpectedly, I really appreciate how tied this sense feels to a deeper tradition of spirituality and worship. Visiting the San Francisco Meeting for the shared January Meeting for Worship for the last two years has both scratched the chance-to-worship itch I didn't know I had, and also helped me to understand how SFFS grows forth from the deep roots and values of the Religious Society of Friends.
We first attended the San Francisco Meeting and pancake breakfast two years ago. I remember that everyone was wonderfully accommodating and friendly during our kids’ not-so-quiet participation in the first 15 minutes of group Meeting for Worship. Then the kids went upstairs while we enjoyed another (much calmer) spell of time for reflection and insights together with the remaining grown-ups. This was an unexpected delight on a Sunday morning to be able to sit next to my partner in silence and reflect. Again, not having grown up with any formal religious traditions, I had a light-bulb moment about why parents love Sunday school! When the kids returned to join our group the first year we attended, they brought with them colored candle holders they had made to represent each of their inner lights, and the boldest of them shared something about their individual inner light with the group.
Last year, our January Meeting together was the day after the Women's March—a great time to sit in silence and reflection together with a group of people who count a commitment to social justice as a core part of their beings. This time, when our kids came back they came with postcards they had written to their elected representatives about changes they would like to see to improve their communities and the current political and social discourse. I remember Doug (my partner) commenting on “this definitely being San Francisco” with an appreciation of the great delta between his experience in Sunday school on the Upper East Side (and some resulting *slight* discomfort at the idea of his 6 year-old writing a protest letter the day after joining a protest march). His discomfort came with a hearty willingness to embrace this new experience (one of the many reasons I love him). And I remember thinking this isn’t just a San Francisco thing, this is a Quaker thing.
When a teacher friend of mine recently roamed our school’s hallways, he said he couldn’t believe the level and depth of engagement that Friends students have regarding social justice issues. It struck him that our teachers and students were not only raising, but really grappling with, the messiness and complexity of issues that faculty at his school wouldn't feel comfortable discussing. And as a teacher, he was jealous of this real discourse. Because we all as community members are living through this hard stuff together, to me, it seems weird not to talk about it. The commitment to social justice and the process of grappling with messiness are a part of our school’s Quaker DNA, and I loved getting more of a window into that at the Friends Meeting.
Each time I go to a Friends Meeting, I am reminded of how grateful I am for the tenets, values, and spiritual compass that guide our kids’ education—and the deep roots that tie us to a broader history and community. I treasure these minutes of communal reflection and seeking each year, for myself and for my family.
And there are great pancakes!
This year's San Francisco Friends Meeting and pancake breakfast will be held from 11am-1pm on Sunday, January 28 at 65 9th St in downtown San Francisco.