The act of creating music from Quaker spiritual writings helped Paulette Meier through a difficult time in her life. These songs are unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
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- Rex Ambler inspired Paulette when he said that George Fox “didn’t tell people what to believe… he told people what to do.” What do you think Rex means by this? What feels useful about this approach?
- When Paulette found herself facing challenging times, she developed the spiritual practice of putting early Quaker quotes to melody. She says, “the only way I know to memorize things is to put them to song, so I just ended up singing it.” Do you have a personal practice that connects you with the roots of your faith tradition and affirms your journey in times of challenge? Could you develop one?
- Paulette says that she had an intense prayer experience in which she was given the message that she has an important role to play in spreading knowledge of the Quaker Faith, which she says is “important for the world.” Do you agree? How so? Have you ever received such a message yourself?
“Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit, from thy own thoughts. Then thou wilt feel the principle of God, to turn thy mind to the Lord God. Whereby thou wilt receive God’s strength and love from whence life comes.”
I’d had an intense prayer experience at Pendle Hill where I clearly got the message that I had a role to play in spreading knowledge of the Quaker faith because it’s so little-known. The message was, “you have a role to play” and that it’s important right now, that the Quaker faith has important things for the world.
“Whereby thou wilt receive God’s strength to allay all blustering storms and tempest”
My name is Paulette Meier and I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and we’re here at my meeting house, Community Friends Meeting in Cincinnati.
I was the artist in residence at the Quaker retreat center outside of Philadelphia, at Pendle Hill, where I had a chance to delve more deeply into the Early Quaker history and writings. The next year I went back to Philadelphia and was sojourning among Friends. It was challenging. I wanted to get my children’s music out there and wanted to learn more about Quaker history and be in Philadelphia in the “Quaker Mecca” but it was challenging for me and my spirits sank a lot, struggling with some isolation feelings even there.
So one day I picked up this quote from George Fox and said “I need to internalize this message” and the only way I know to memorize things is to put them to song, so I just ended up singing it.
“Art thou in the darkness? Mind it not, for if thou dost it will feed thee more, but stand still and act not and wait in patience.”
I was really struck by the wisdom in these texts and how relevant they are today.
Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong is a collection of 21 Quaker Quotations that I happened to put to melody. After I’d compiled this collection of quotations, I realized that there was a group of 4 themes in them and they seemed to relate to what I see as the process of Quaker spiritual practice.
“Ye have no time but this present time. Yet have no time but this present time”
The first one is all about centering and entering into the stillness. Rex Ambler, this theologian from England said—in a class I took at Pendle Hill—that Fox didn’t tell people what to believe. He was very unusual at the time in that. He told people what to do. It was directives about being still and letting go of thoughts and letting go of preoccupations and centering. So that’s the first theme: how to get there.
“When we should see the great creator stare us in the face.”
Early Quakers talked so frequently about entering into the Kingdom of Heaven within. They took that quote from Jesus, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” When one arrives at that deep, centered place, one experiences deep peace, deep healing, restoration into the image of the divine, and love—the eternal Christ spirit, which is love. That’s the second theme.
“Our life is tenderness and bearing with each other and forgiving one another.”
That meeting in silence together fostered a tenderness for each other. Like the Early Christians I think experienced this indwelling of Spirit and this deep connection with each other that seemed to bring home this awareness that there’s that of God in everyone. It’s so much easier to love when one is living in that awareness.
“May we look upon our treasure and try to discover whether the seeds of war are nourished by these our possessions.”
I think a lot of religious traditions may invite one into this centered space of refreshment and everything, but I think the thing that I loved about Quaker faith is that one can be centered but experience promptings of the Spirit to undertake action in the world and to witness to truth in the world.
I think this theme of outward witness is really so important to Quaker spiritual practice and listening for where and how we are to do that outer witness in the world is really important.
“We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity. It is our desire that others feet may walk in the same. We do deny and bear our testimony against all strife and wars and contentions”