Muriel (Mickey) Wesner Edgerton is openly self-effacing. Punctuated by her distinctive giggle, she characterizes herself as a "blabbermouth," an "extrovert," a person who finds it hard to love "people who aren’t the way I want them to be." Mickey says she has "to be careful not to be seized" by her "insane orthodoxy!"
In describing her life, Mickey says, "I’m an aging, white, Midwestern, birthright (and also convinced) Quaker, a mother, and a practicing grandmom. I have been a nurse, a counselor, and a camp director. I went to Earlham School of Religion; I did AIDS buddy work; I did chaplaincy training."
Her parents and grandparents were Quakers. A social activist in the ’60s, Mickey "was disappointed that my meeting was not being as socially active as I felt it should be. I resigned in a snit in 1972, and rejoined (for not very spiritual reasons) in the early ’80s; my meeting was so loving and so glad to have me back. It was later, when I went to Earlham School of Religion (ESR), that I really became a Quaker and reclaimed, in a slightly altered version, the Quakerism and Christianity I’d been brought up with. I’m very, very grateful for that conviction of what being a Christian Quaker means." "Grateful" is a word that liberally peppers her conversation.
God is active and central in Mickey’s life. "Coming to ESR resulted from the first time I really experienced the Holy Spirit taking hold of the back of my neck—a force interfering in my life in a way that my strong will could not overcome. I realize now that the Spirit was leading and guiding me through some very treacherous shoals. My parents prayed for me every single day of my life, which I believe helped me to not shipwreck. I certainly had numerous opportunities!
"Being a Quaker has taught me that God loves each one of us, which helps me to enjoy and interact with many different people. If somebody sitting next to me on the plane says, ‘Are you born again?’ I can say, ‘Yes, I am, let me tell you about it and then I want to hear about the way you are!’
"It’s so ironic, and good, that God plunked me down here among liberal Quakers, constantly sanding off the sharp edges of my fundamentalism. With my judgmental orthodoxy, I have a lot in common with the Taliban! When I read the New Testament, who do I identify with? The Pharisees, standing on the street corner, saying ‘Oh, thank God I’m not as other people!’ Yikes! My heart tends toward hardness, yet the Holy Spirit continues to soften my heart."
Mickey is active in Gwynedd (Pa.) Meeting and in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. "I’m currently doing a lot more explicit spiritual direction, including helping people in Quaker leadership find a spiritual oversight group for themselves—to encourage them, pray for and with them, hold them accountable, and listen to their joys and sorrows.
"My current work is being a pastoral counselor in a hospice program, part of Holy Redeemer Home Health agency in Northeast Philadelphia where I’ve been working for ten years. It feels like this is what God was getting me ready for, throughout my life, and that my own spiritual and emotional work around end-of-life issues is being subsidized. I get to use all those skills I developed while being a bossy older sister to two brothers and two sisters! They trained me well! My dad was a preacher, so I had a lot of work to do on those kids!"
Regarding the nurturing of her own spiritual life, she says, "I meet with a spiritual director every other week, but I don’t do the usual, boilerplate spiritual practices. I do not journal regularly (I journal sometimes); I do not have quiet devotional time every day. (I do have ‘loud’ devotional time occasionally!) I pray a lot; often I feel explicitly in God’s presence and never far from it. Three days a week, I drive 45 to 50 minutes to work each way—I talk to God a lot during that time.
"I listen to the radio news and dialogue with God—’How can you stand us? How can you put up with us?’ Sometimes I think I have higher standards for my performance than God does! God seems much more accepting of who I am, and often says, ‘Hey, you did the best you could.’ And I think, ‘Yes, but I wanted to do better.’ I spent lots of years feeling like I needed to do image control. I’m so amazed at how forgiving God is; I don’t have to pretend that I’m better than I am. I know that I am God’s beloved child, have always been, and will always be. And it’s not because I’m good enough. It’s just because I am. And at the same time, that’s true for everybody else."
She thinks of herself "primarily as a Christian, in the Quaker mode, most interested in ‘Kingdom’—in us getting to the place where we can live in and by the principles of love and truth. We are very loving as a religious body, but I think we’re so screwed up in terms of how we relate to truthfulness. We’ve been seduced by niceness and the heresy of piety, which is a kind of arrogance that religious people are prone to. I want to help Quakerism live out the uniqueness and truthfulness of its traditions. And I know God is going to prevail, with or without us! The real issue is: can we know and do God’s will?
"I think about the squirrelly group that Jesus worked with! If Jesus really did say to Peter, ‘You are what the church is going to be founded on, the rock,’ the fat was in the fire right away! But Peter is no better or worse than any of us. We are what Jesus has to work with. That helps to tincture my own despair. We need to be humble without being hopeless—so spiritually arrogant that we think we’re the worst people who ever lived. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Quakerism. But I know wonderful things are happening; there are Pentecostal flames, not everywhere, but lots of different ‘wheres.’"
She watches TV, goes to movies, and likes to "know about popular culture. I want it all—I want to do Kingdom, but I want very much to be a part of this world—’speaking to that of God in everyone.’ I want not to be elitist."
What does she designate as her greatest accomplishment? "I managed not to ruin my kids, who are both wonderful! My daughter lives near me, in Gwynedd Valley, and we are so close, including spiritually, which hasn’t always been the case. My son is a fine young man who lives in Missoula, Montana. I was very unhappy and not in great shape when they were young. I know now that the hand of God was very active in their growing up to be wonderful people."
Mickey is confidently self-effacing, a giggler, and refreshingly irreverent. She knows God intimately and loves to tell you all about it. Mickey Edgerton’s spiritual lifeblood flows from the varied veins of Quakerism.