Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Reflections on the Pendle Hill Convergent Gathering" by Tony Lowe

(The following is a post from Tony Lowe. Tony is a member of North Carolina Yearly Meeting and particpated in the recent Convergent gathering at Pendle Hill. Tony serves Fancy Gap Friends in North Carolina. Tony will be joining me as together we will be posting regularly our thoughts, hopes, and dreams for a new kind of Quakerism)

Most of the convergent gatherings I have attended have left me feeling hopeful and excited about re-imagining our future as a people of faith, so I was a little surprised that I left the recent gathering at Pendle Hill with a sense of something close to sadness. I first attributed it to my own frame of mind coming into the weekend. Like many other folks, I have been both disturbed and disappointed by the controversies regarding the upcoming YA conference in Wichita being fueled by a few who seem to have no purpose but to try and throw a damper on the gBut as I reflected on the weekend, there was one moment that seemed to be at the heart of what I was feeling.
During one of the worship times , Wess encouraged those present to think of themselves as midwives who would help to “birth” this new understanding of how we relate to the world around us and to one another. As he was sharing this, what came to my mind was how often the metaphor of childbirth is used in the Biblical narrative to represent new life, change in the status quo, and real hope for the future. The images are not all joyful, however. The writers say quite plainly that in the birth process there will be pain and difficulty and suffering which will be surpassed only by the joy that comes from bringing forth new life.
The same is true of the process that we must go through as well. New life means change which will be exciting to some, but threatening to others. I am convinced that some of the negative responses/attitudes even actions to the idea of convergence are coming from a place of feeling threatened or fearful of where it might lead. And the threat is not just a perceived one. There is by necessity an element of death in new life. Jesus told his disciples that a kernel of wheat had to fall to the ground and die in order to produce new life. And the same is true of Friends. As hard as it may be for some of us to accept, there will be death as a part of this new life, death of some institutions, places, and things we have cherished. There will be Friends’ Meetings and Friends’ churches that will be unwilling or unable to make the transition.
Then I began to think about the role of the midwife, not just as it relates to birth and new life, but also as comforter, caregiver, even as a companion at death. Like them, we are called to rejoice with the those who are bringing forth new life, but to offer comfort and care to those in the process , and to weep with those who life is ebbing away.
So, while for me this gathering was not as joyous and exciting as some I have attended, I am grateful to Wess and Martin for a wider vision and a better understanding of the work to which convergent Friends are called. Thanks guys.

1 comment:

C. Wess Daniels said...

Tony, thanks for these words. I appreciate the fuller picture of mid-wife you've added to here.