Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"New Kind of Quaker" Gathering - Greensboro / High Point,North Carolina

This past weekend, I had the privilege and opportunity of being part of a very special gathering of Friends. It was the "New Kind of Quaker" sponsored by the Friends Center of Guilford College and hosted by Deep River Friends Meeting in High Point, NC. As the pastoral minister at Deep River Friends, I had the opportunity to be there for the whole experience as a workshop leader, participant, and even dishwasher! I was blessed in all my roles.

I want to say how struck I was by the sincere spiritual depth of those attending. I have to say that I was probably one of the older ones at 46 years old. At the risk of sounding patronizing (which I hope I don't!) these were very spiritual sensitive young adults who seemed to have a much deeper awareness and grasp of a spiritually powerful Quakerism then I did. The first night, I walked a few minutes late into the meeting room and already there was a deep silence covering the room. They had already gathered and were sitting in silence to prepare for the evening session. No musical Prelude was necessary. No tacky religious emcee. Just sitting in deep centering prayer and making room for the Divine Presence. It had been a long time since I had been part of something like that and these young adults were leading the way.

All the workshops and main sessions were filled with a deep sense of F/friends seeking greater understanding of truth as well as a greater understanding of one another. There were hard questions as well as hard answers. There was also deep sharing in the Worship Sharing groups and a desire to get to know one another in deeper ways. Personally, I was excited to witness a group of Quakers gathering to see how they could come to a deeper understanding of the Living Christ and how to live in the way of Jesus rather then trying to figure out who was the real Quaker and whether or not my God can beat up your God.

The conference was designed to connect up with the ongoing emergent movement and come to a greater understanding of the movement called Convergent (Quakers exploring the emergent movement and made up of Conservative Quaker leanings and Emergent leanings). I'm not that sure we adequately covered that and addressed that but I felt that what we experienced on Friday and Saturday was itself a living example of what it would mean to live out a Convergent experience.

What I also witnessed were young adults with a deep desire to follow the leadings and callings of the Living Christ but to live them out in ways that addressed social issues and justice issues. This was not a group looking for just a "personal salvation" experience or how they could add more information to their spiritual seeking. This was a group that was desiring to be faithful to the calling of Christ to open up their hearts to the many offices of Christ (Prophet, Priest, King, and Savior) as well and bring justice and righteousness to this earth. As one who was certainly older then most of the participants, I felt challenged and convicted by their passion and desire to live out an authentic spiritual journey.

Most of all, I was touched by the graciousness of everyone I met. I am sure there were those in attendance that believed differently then I did or saw life differently then I did. But, there was a deep graciousness that covered the whole experience. This was so refreshing and different from other gatherings - even within my own Yearly Meeting - where folks gather and seem tense because of fear of the other.

Ultimately, I discovered this past weekend that our spirituality can either be based on love or fear. If its based on fear, you will always be suspect of the other and even manifest anger, cynicism, and sarcasm. If its based on love, there will be graciousness, kindness, hospitality, and even patience. I, for one, long to live out a spirituality of love rather then a spirituality of fear. Fear always loses and is a loss for the world. Love always wins and is a victory for the world. And what our world needs is a love based spirituality and not a fear based one.

I certainly do not see this conference as the end but a beginning. The beginning of a conversation that will invite us to consider more of what the Convergent Movement can bring to Friends. Those who are leading the Convergent Movement I encourge them to keep on going and listening to the Living Christ. It is a much needed experience and is finding openings in many hearts.


Deborah Suess said...

I am deeply thankful for the depth and grace and passion at the gathering. Thanks to all who spoke, prayed, organized, fed, washed dishes! Deborah

Robin M. said...

I'm glad to hear that it was a powerful experience for you. I've started hearing that the gathering was an occasion that brought Friends together for deep searching, before, during and after the sessions. Thanks for your role in facilitating it all.

Micah Bales said...

"Fear always loses and is a loss for the world. Love always wins and is a victory for the world. And what our world needs is a love based spirituality and not a fear based one."

Amen to that!

It was good to finally meet you this weekend.


Bill Samuel said...

How many came? What kind of variety of backgrounds/affiliations? Were they mostly close by or did it draw a number of Friends from a distance?

North Carolina Yearly Meeting Ministers Association said...

I believe, Bill, there were about 90 to 100 folks approximately. Most of them were young adults (18-35) with a few "older" adults - anywhere from 40-60+ years old. There was a crowd from Guilford College but there were folks from Earlham, Philadelphia, Virginia, Ohio, and other meetings in North Carolina. All in all, a very good mix. Also a good mix of folks from programmed and unprogrammed Friends.

Stephanie said...

Scott, thank you for this. I am deeply moved and encouraged. I recognise that experience of 'deep silence covering the room' and the way that 'these young adults were leading the way'. These young people who are just living out the Quaker way, reminding the rest of us how it can be. It is also my experience that this deep silence that makes room for the Divine Presence lets us find a way beyond our apparent and outward differences. You are also absolutely right in identifying that our world needs a love based spirituality. All we do in the world needs to be done with love, we can not truly do what God wants in any other way.

Liz Opp said...

What these remarks lift up for me is the belief I am growing into, that if the Religious Society of Friends is ever to be united again as a whole, we must be willing to engage in intervisitation across the branches and even within our own yearly meetings. Only then can we see that there is so little power in stereotypes and so much hope in our common belief in the Divine Principle that transforms us and binds us together.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up