Closing Minute from 2011 Quaker Spring Gathering
Held at The Meeting School, Rindge, NH
We gathered seeking rest and refreshment in the Lord. It was a struggle to slow down, to let go and rest, but we were able to encourage one another, helped by the freedom from formal program and open to the leading of the Spirit in our schedule and activities. As we laid down our roles, responsibilities, and burdens, we were refreshed by God’s living water, sometimes in new and unexpected ways.
In our first session, we were invited by the words of Isaac Penington to give over our own willing, give over our own running, give over our own desiring to know or be anything… and sink down to the seed that God sows in our hearts. We sought to listen deeply, and to respond faithfully in allowing our time, words, and worship to be shaped by the Holy Spirit.
With the ground of our hearts thus prepared, we experienced the intimate presence of the Inward Teacher leading us, challenging us, opening us to share deeply with one another, and guiding us into new ways of living in Love, especially in and with our beloved meetings.
We were opened this week to a deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching that those who are “poor in spirit”—who know their need of God—are truly blessed. We learned in new ways how acknowledging our loneliness, brokenness, and need of God’s ever-present Love opens the door into wholeness, community, and authentic faithful living. Choosing to be vulnerable about our experiences, our wounds, and our need to mourn is a choice that leads to Life.
We feel a deep yearning to support one another in faithfulness, knowing that many stumbling blocks remain in our paths. We long to experience more fully the Love of God among us, both personally and as meeting communities, yet so often we hold back. We are called to remind one another of the vital dance of giving and receiving—that by allowing ourselves to be held or served, we offer the gift of service and care to others. We face the truth that fear—of being seen and known, of being labeled or judged, of being thought of as weak or needy, of being abandoned—is a potent barrier to meeting each of these needs, but one that can be overcome as we humbly seek to be open to God’s grace. This begins with allowing ourselves to feel how deeply we are loved by God. As this happens, we are given the strength to stand and live in Love that casts out fear. This empowers us to speak fearlessly the truth that we receive.
All of these things are a journey we lived and walked together this week.
As our time drew to a close, we felt the wind of the Spirit moving through us, inviting and challenging us to be faithful to the recognition, care, and stewardship of the gifts among us, for the nourishment of our wider communities and our world. Seeds have been planted in this precious time. May they bear the fruit of Love.
Epistle from Young Adult Friends at Olney, Barnesville, OH, 2007
To Friends everywhere,
Greetings from the young adult Friends who gathered at Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio, where 80 Friends from across the US and Canada came together for a reunion of the Young Friends of North America (YFNA) and an intergenerational Quaker Camp. Seventeen young adult Friends participated in this week of deep worship, fellowship, and play. Older Friends shared deeply about how their personal and spiritual experiences were influenced by the community of YFNA. As younger Friends, we listened and shared about our experiences living our faith.
Through the whole week, many Friends felt the power of the Spirit in the very land that held us. Young adult Friends joined both with our hosts and our fellow guests in spiritual vulnerability to teach by learning, and to learn by teaching.
From the YFNA reunion, we got a great sense of the power and joy that comes from speaking truthfully about our experience of Quakerism with as many Friends as possible and the many dangers and mistakes that are possible while doing so without great care. By engaging with Friends from Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), we gained a greater sense of the depth of our tradition, not only of our ancestors but also of the power of the Christian roots from which we come.
Over the course of the week, the young adult Friends present felt a clear leading to create an organization in which young adult Friends from across North America can build spiritual community together. We spent a lot of time discerning how to move forward with this leading, with the care that is necessary to bring Friends together across theological divides into a diverse community of Quaker youth.
We struggled through in deep discernment, praying for way to open for us to begin this work. We each wrestled with individual discernment of our own leadings and also felt the pressure of our own deep want for this dream to become a reality. We have felt keenly the absence of a true diversity of Friends with us here, and feel much caution at the idea of moving forward without all branches of Quakerism involved.
At the recommendation of the Visioning Committee (which met in Fourth Month, 2007), we are forming a Naming Committee (to be in consultation with the Visioning Committee), which would then form a Steering Committee. The Naming Committee, while not formed in its entirety yet, will meet in the fall of 2007 to name the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee will be active by First Month, 2008. This Steering Committee will include representation from the various branches of the Religious Society of Friends. We are asking young adult Friends from all branches throughout North America to discern deeply and come forward if they are being led to do this work or have names they would like to offer the Naming Committee for discernment. Please email suggestions to Andrew Esser-Haines at [email protected]
During the discernment, Friends present felt a strong leading to a coordinated intervisitation among yearly meetings, by young adult Friends in the summer of 2008, from which they could spread the word of the new young adult Friends’ organization. This event sprang from many individual Friends’ leadings to engage in intervisitation among Friends. Many of those Friends present in Barnesville expressed that they will begin to engage in the work of intervisitation personally once home. Friends also discerned that the next major North American gathering of this generation of young adult Friends would take place during the summer of 2009. Until the Steering Committee is active, a working group will begin arranging some of the logistics for the coming events. Those who feel led to join the working group are encouraged to contact Nathan Sebens at [email protected]
Simultaneously, we experienced a process of discovering ourselves and each other. When we needed clarity, we found it in the vocal ministry of older adult Friends in worship. When we felt frustration with the pace of our progress, we recognized in this a need for deeper worship and found courage in taking small steps.
And so, we wait upon God. We trust that those who are led to do this exciting work will come forward, and that God will provide all that we need to engage fully with this work. We give deep thanks for the depth and breadth of the Spirit, which was powerfully felt during our week in Barnesville.
Sixth month, 2007.
Becka Haines Rosenberg
Elizabeth Piersol Schmidt
NOTE: The spirit of this epistle was delivered to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting by Andrew Esser-Haines and Elizabeth Piersol Schmidt at their annual session in July 2007.
Epistle from QuakerCamp at Stillwater Meetinghouse, Barnseville, OH
Sixth Month, 2007
To Friends everywhere,
We pray for your tenderness of heart to listen beyond the imperfect words we are using to describe what the Living Spirit has done among us here this week. We know that the Truth is beyond any words we might use to describe it.
We are more than 80 Friends, young and old, from the US, Canada, and Ireland, gathered in Barnesville, Ohio, at Olney Friends School and Stillwater Meetinghouse. During our opening weekend, many Friends who had participated in Young Friends of North America from the 1950’s to the 1990’s came seeking reunion and renewal in the Spirit. The following week’s Quaker Camp attracted additional Friends who were hungering for Spirit-led community. We worked to find Truth together, and to support each other’s ministries and leadings. During our entire gathering, we were blessed by the presence of Friends from the YFNA years and of a committed group of Young Adult Friends who seek to plant the seeds of a new Young Friends movement that can minister to the needs of our whole Society.
At our opening Meeting for Worship, one Friend prayed that we experience a fresh incursion of the Holy Spirit. We have been blessed by just such an incursion again and again. We have experienced this presence in open worship, in searching past words for common ground, and as we sought comfort in facing both the terrible suffering in the world today and past wounds in our own lives.
We have been grateful for the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in our worship, worship-sharing, Bible study, song, interest groups, and play. Young and old have felt deeply connected, though not always comfortable with each other’s ways. Older Friends have needed to learn restraint in speaking, to provide space for younger Friends to speak. Younger Friends have reminded all of us of the importance of expectant waiting on the inward voice of Christ.
We were enriched by Friends from Ohio and Ireland Yearly Meetings who spoke to us of their practices and traditions and the testimony of their lives to the power of their faith. We have been deeply touched and challenged by the experience of these Friends who root their spiritual life in listening for and obeying Christ’s voice. Many experienced the Living Christ working with us in new ways as we engaged in intense study of the scriptures together.
Young Adult Friends among us are feeling deeply called to create new opportunities to meet with their contemporaries in all branches of North American Friends, knowing they will encounter God in deeply committed Friends from different traditions. We call upon Friends throughout North America to nurture and encourage these efforts.
As we met in this beautiful setting, we felt intensely the sadness and suffering of a world broken by war, injustice, poverty, hunger, and despair, and we cried out in lamentation. We have expressed a growing concern for the suffering of all of God’s creation through misuse at human hands. At the same time, we have felt a deep joy in being called corporately to service in God’s healing work.
We have felt painfully the intense divisions among Friends over sexuality and sexual morality. Many of those present this week felt led to explore deeply together what God requires of us in this area. Tender intergenerational sharing took place about these issues. This was enriched by open discussion of the brokenness we have experienced when sexual behaviors are not consistent with God’s will. We have found a new degree of unity in the call to witness to the importance of mutual faithfulness and commitment in all sexual relationships.
We recognize that all branches of Friends bear great riches from our common roots, as well as great wounds. No branch has carried into the present the full revolutionary message and experience of the first generation of Friends. We affirm the ways we have been blessed to grow in understanding of different’ traditions within the Friends’ family this week. We call upon all Friends to work together to overcome the deep divisions of understanding among us today.
To us, the heart of Quakerism is in listening and responding to the voice of the Inward Teacher in worship and in shared discernment of God’s will. To hear this voice as a community requires us to engage in a covenant of mutual vulnerability. We must examine our preconceptions about how we encounter God and our rigid assumptions about what the Holy Spirit is saying to us as Friends today. We have been open to language and religious structures with which we are not familiar or comfortable. We have received many gifts as a result of engaging in this vulnerability with each other across generational and theological separations. As we shared our leadings and concerns together, we became elders to each other in love, and for this we are deeply grateful.
We call Friends everywhere to enter into an adventure of mutual vulnerability, discernment and accountability – both in their own meetings and across the barriers that divide Friends. This journey will not be easy, but we trust that God will accompany us and will respond to our prayers for help and guidance. We need to find the courage to wrestle with each other, listen tenderly to each other’s witness, and learn from each other’s testimony.
Yours in God’s love,
Ruth Raffensperger & Pamela Haines, Co-Clerks
Minutes of Exercise
New York Yearly Meeting’s Glossary of Terms and Concepts on its website defines an “excercise” as “the exploration of a deep concern that has been brought to a meeting. The meeting may record this exploration as a ‘minute of exercise.'” Over the years, Friends gathered at Quaker Spring have explored and minuted several “deep concerns.” These include the following:
Our answer to the query: How does brokenness affect my experience of the Light of Christ?
Brokenness is useful in bringing us to God. Sometimes it takes physical pain to bring a person to the physician’s office to seek help. Likewise spiritual affliction can be the trigger than brings us to the feet of Christ. …read more
Query: What is God calling us to do in our home and meeting communities?
For a longtime this past year I’ve felt wrong. I believe as Madeleine L’Engle wrote that: “Love is action”. I am looking at meeting, community, habit or inclination, but have not yet found ways to put love into action. …read more
We Quakers have in our hands two jewels: a unique way of listening to God and a unique way of reaching decisions. Can we open our treasure chest and spread those jewels abroad for everyone to know and gain spiritual enrichment? Query: What would happen if we were truly faithful? What happens when we are truly faithful? …read more
The query: All our meeting communities suffer from rifts. How do we allow and stand with the tears, and mend the tears, moving with God toward forgiveness?
The rift. As members of a meeting, we are co-members of Christ’s body, but sometimes a rift develops within the body. When we are in conflict with each other, Christ says to us: “I am not the leader of a faction! I don’t want you to act in my name to set yourself against others in my body.” …read more
Our answer to the query: How do I feel love acting in my life?
…God first loved us. (1John 4:19) I loved you even before I formed you. I have put you here on earth to love. I will take out your hearts of stone and give you hearts of love. …read more
Query: We live in a fast paced, cluttered, complex 20th century world. What would your life be like if we were to consider what God is asking of us in each moment?
Our life in this place in the 21st Century gives us many privileges, which we generally enjoy. Despite those privileges, in many ways we are captives of this world. …read more
Other Documents from Past Gatherings
Below are several documents created at past Quaker Spring gatherings. Most are records of talks given at evening plenary sessions. The “Queries on Confidentiality and Openness” from the 2007 gathering were brought before the whole gathering by a small group. At the bottom of this tab there are external links to articles and blogposts related to Quaker Spring.
By Susan Smith, Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” —Proverbs 3 : 5-6
We have heard this week that OYM (Ohio Yearly Meeting) Friends maintain a tradition of familiarity with scripture, reading the Bible frequently and often thinking almost automatically in terms of Biblical phrases or stories. Read more…
By Jack Smith, Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
“The Word Of God” — The various meanings of this important phrase illustrate the range of theological diversity that exists among those who call themselves Friends or Quakers. Read more…
Both confidentiality and openness are important in the life our meetings, yet there is a potential conflict between them. It seems that these topics are not openly discussed in many meetings. Here are some queries that may encourage discussion and discernment. Read more…
At the Monday evening session of Quaker Camp, held near Barnesville, Ohio, June 22, 2008, we considered the following question: What do we feel God encouraging us to do, or to do better, in our meetings at home to encourage and deepen ministry in our meetings for worship? Read more…
A panel of Friends was asked to speak about what they do in worship, how they experience the gathered meeting, and how they prepare for worship as we look for this interaction between humanity and God. This is a summary of their responses. Read more…
Links to External Articles and Posts
Quaker Spring: A New Creation (2012), by Micah Bales
Quaker Spring: My People? (2013), by Joanna Hoyt (two parts)
Quaker Spring: Reflections on Privilege (2013), by Joanna Hoyt (two parts)
Mental Illness, Healing, and the Life of the Spirit (2013), by Joanna Hoyt (two parts)
Article and Resources on Eldership, by Peter Blood-Patterson