[saymaListserv] Note that the "sweat lodge" is actually the "Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience"

free polazzo freepolazzo at comcast.net
Sun Oct 3 16:52:19 JEST 2004


Dear Perry,                             cc:   Dave Miller, Co-Clerk of FGC LRCP
                                                 SAYMA List
                                                 Atlanta Friends Meeting List
                                                 Jewish Friends List
                                                 George Price
                                                 Breeze Luetke-Stahlman
                                                 Cullen Carns-Hilliker
                                                Chuck Faeger, member of LRCP

I would expect that after 3 years of your committee dealing with this 
concern, the name of the workshop being discussed could be cited 
correctly.  It is listed in the FGC Gathering 2004  Advance Program as the 
"Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience.     It was NEVER, EVER presented as a 
Native American Sweat.    George Price was always clear about this and I 
ask that the FGC LRCP committee also be clear about this and use the 
correct name when discussing this with anyone.   Otherwise it shows a bias 
that aught not be held by those who claim to be searching for the 
Light.   If you, as clerk of an important FGC committee cannot keep 
straight the name of the workshop under discussion,  what else is not being 
understood by this committee?  If FGC's LRCP committee is  truly 
searching  for the truth about the Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience,  then 
begin by using the correct name for the workshop.

The Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience has many cultural traditions that it 
honors, besides the Native American one.   I have always seen the Quaker 
Sweat Lodge Experience as a way to honor the earth and all that exist on it 
and above it and below it.    This is something that seems central to ALL 
indigenous cultures.

The Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience has more in common with Meetings for 
Worship led by Quaker Earthcare Witness (formerly Friends in Unity with 
Nature) than it has with anything else.   The participants are asked to 
honor all life, even where we cannot "see" it, as in the rocks we heat and 
the earth we sit upon.  The wind is honored and there are many traditions 
that understand how breathing in and out is a way to the Spirit.   Friends 
who see this connection between everything on the Earth and ourselves are 
doing the spiritual work of witnessing the Earth and learning to care for 
it.   This is not easily taught and to have a workshop at the FGC Gathering 
that does this so successfully is something Friends could celebrate.

As the FGC Gathering theme for 2004 was "Simple Lives", this was a very 
appropriate workshop to have  listed.   I was glad that the 2004 Gathering 
Workshop Committee had, after much prayer, decided to proceed with this 
workshop.    Instead word came that the Quaker Sweatlodge Experience was 
cancelled by a meeting of the FCG LRCP committee and that racism was the 
major reason for that.

Why didn't the Native American who led the Quaker Sweat Experience and who 
taught George about their interpretations of the Native American Sweat call 
this workshop racist?    When the workshop is called racist, are you and 
the committee saying that the over a thousand Friends who participated in 
the Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience which was blessed by many Native 
Americans over the years didn't understand that this was a racist 
workshop?    Even people who lead workshops at the FGC gathering on undoing 
racism have attended the Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience and did not consider 
that this was a racist activity.    What about the Quaker Sweat Lodge 
Experiences that took place at the many of FGC's Yearly Meetings where 
George Price was invited to lead them?  Were they all condoning racist 
behavior, too?

The only people who say this is racist are people who HAVE NOT ATTENDED a 
Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience.  Yet, FGC's LRCP committee of FGC Central 
Committee chose to NOT listen to the thousands of Friends who had 
experienced the Quaker Sweat Lodge Experience and instead to listen to 
people who "knew" what was going on without ever speaking to the people 
involved.   The cry of "cultural appropriation" has been raised to defend 
the action of canceling the workshop, in addition to the racism charge, but 
that is hard to believe.    It seems to me that Friends appropriate my 
culture, routinely, without even a second thought.

As a Friend of Jewish origin, I must say that to raise the issue of 
"cultural appropriation" in a Religious Society that regularly tramples on 
my ancestor's Faith tradition is the height of hypocrisy.   This is another 
can of worms that I won't go into at this time, but are your sure that your 
committee wants only workshops at the Gathering that are "purely 
Quaker"?   We Jewish Friends have not had very much success being heard by 
FGC's committees, even when a song which says that Jews are responsible for 
the death of Jesus Christ was and still is published as part of the Friends 
Hymnal.

The main issue for me was clearly spoken in a message I heard at a Meeting 
for Worship for Healing held this past summer at the FGC Men's Center 
around the concern over the cancellation of the Quaker Sweat Lodge 
Experience.   The message was:
  "Why do Quakers want to close a door to the Spirit?"

Who Owns the Spirit?  One Race?   Any Race?   Any Group?     Are we not 
permitted access to that "door" because of an accident of birth?  We 
Quakers already "borrow" and "adapt" the Spiritual practices from many 
different cultures. Does FGC's LRCP committee of FGC Central Committee 
really want Friends to give up all those practices?

Holding us all in the Light,

Free Polazzo
Anneewakee Creek Friends Worship Group and Atlanta Friends Meeting,
Douglas County, GA

PS:     Dave Miller, a copy of this email will be being sent to FGC's LRCP 
committee via snail mail..   As co-clerk could you please distribute it to 
the committee's  members?   Thanks.

At 12:43 PM 10/3/2004, you wrote:
>It is disappointing to see the emails concerning the sweat lodge. So much 
>ignorance, so little time. One respondant didn't even know the the Long 
>Range Conference Planning Committee was a subcommittee of FGC or that it 
>must have written permission from the host yearly meeting to hold the 
>Gathering in the area. The clerks of the Gathering Committee are appointed 
>by LRCP from the yearly meeting. I have been clerk of LRCP for the past 
>three years during the sweat lodge discernment. Chuck Fager never attended 
>a meeting that was concerned with this so I have had to correct several of 
>his perceptions. Below you will find the chronology of the discerment. 
>Another meeting for listening was held yesterday (Saturday) in 
>Philadelphia. I was not able to attend. If you desire further information 
>please write me. Perry Treadwell
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