Hello my name is Joshua Ponter. I am a member of Haddonfield Monthly Meeting in South Jersey’s Philadelphia area. I have embarked on a year-long mission to travel around the country collecting stories about the founding of different meetings and looking at the way we practice Quakerism today. I will be blogging about my travels on the PYM website. Find my latest entry below. Please email me at JPonter1@gmail.com if there is anyone from your meeting who would like to sit down with me and speak to some of your history — or if you would like more information on me or my project . Thank you!
Laramie – Wyoming
So I have to be honest, as this trip is winding down some of these stops are starting to blur together. While I’ve tried to keep as thorough notes as I can, I can’t help feeling some things are becoming redundant.
As I continued my journey back east, my path took me through Wyoming, which has a unique meeting structure all on its own. So, in Wyoming, there are about five or six Quaker groups that worship on Sunday. They are spread throughout the 9,400 square miles of state and together they form a single monthly meeting that meets on a Quarterly basis often via teleconference and are independent of any yearly meeting though they are affiliated with FGC.
The Meeting I stopped at was in the small university town of Laramie. This was another traditional worship meeting. There were four people attending this Sunday including myself. I am told they max out around eight. They rent a room in a building owned by the Episcopal Church next door. Worship was in a loose circle in a sun room in the front of the building where we sat watching the wind blow through the trees. I started thinking about the differences between my views, on what I see as God, and those to which some of the Evangelical Quakers so heartily subscribe.
I can’t pretend to be anywhere near an expert on biblical scripture. I cannot quote or reference books and passages. I cannot read Greek or Hebrew. I have read enough and different translations to be able to find meaning in the stories, and Jesus’ message taken as a whole makes a lot of sense to me. To most of the Evangelical Quakers I have met, the more fantastical elements of these stories seem really important to their faith (at least in public). Admittedly, many of the pastors I have spoken to are a little more relaxed about the factual nature of some of the myths contained there within. I can see why that schema of scriptural inaccuracy can provide an immense comfort to a thing nearly intangible to all. Many people go so far as to keep a list of things they ask for from God. One group had a whiteboard for prayers in church. When the prayer was answered, it would get a check mark then erased. Though in my experience, prayer may indeed be answered, it is never the answer I expect.
So I am sitting here looking out the window at the prevailing Wyoming wind and thinking to myself that, like God, this is something I cannot see. I know it is thereby the actions it puts upon the trees. If I listen hard enough it can be heard, and when I stand in the breeze, I can feel the invisible force upon my face.