This last weekend I traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina for "A New Kind of Quaker." Most of those gathered there were young adult Friends from the eastern part of the country. We were joined though be a good number of older Friends who were interested inter-generational conversation. The conference was very short, taking up only Friday night and Saturday till dinner time and consisted mostly of workshops and a little bit of open worship. Many of us however extended our time there by visiting F(f)riends on Thursday and Friday and hearing Nathan Sebens preach at First Friends on Sunday. For me, those extended times of fellowship were during meals, before bed and during car rides were some of the weekend's best moments.
I spent Thursday and then later Sunday night at Pickard's Mountain, an organic teaching farm, where several YAFs work and live. It was exciting to see Friends living out the testimonies of simplicity and peace as they live off the grid in yomes (a mix between a yurt and a geodesic dome) and raise a portion of the food they eat. I realized that here at the William Penn House I have grown use to the noise of passing traffic and the lights of the city. At the farm the full moon lit up our surroundings and we could see the stars and we played a board game by the light of candles. On Friday morning we worshiped together outside in the garden next to the goats. Often in the city I get disconnected from nature, but at the farm I was always in and apart of it.
The conference itself began with a talk by Betsy Blake, a time of small group worship sharing and finally open worship together. I found myself, in the silence after Betsy shared, longing to stay in worship together, instead of break up into small groups. I felt like I should stand up and offer this to Friends, but was scared. Scared of appearing rude, scared of changing the schedule, and so I didn't. Now looking back on it, I regret not being more faithful to the leading of the Spirit. As Friends, are we not supposed to be open to where God is leading us in the moment? And yet I thought that asking for the schedule to be changed would be stepping on others toes.
Much of the weekend felt this way to me, rushing from one thing to the next. The question that many Friends seem to have came with to this weekend was "What is God calling us to?" There were many workshops that talked this issue up and down. I represented Evangelical Friends on a inter-branch panel and spoke about what I saw in the future of my own branch. During the day and a half I poured out to others, talking about my own spiritual journey and trying to feel out what this "new kind of Quaker" will be. But I felt like we had little time to listen to where the Spirit is calling us, to lay down what we expect God to do and just let Him lead us. Many of us spoke of a desire for renewal and rebirth, to commit radically to our faith. I long for that, deeply. But often my yearning gets in the way of allowing God to possibly call me to something completely different than anything I can imagine. How can I get past my own impatience for God to move so that God can really move?
This being said, I did have deep and productive conversations with others at the conference. I enjoyed the experience of sharing deeply with others and finding common ground. That kind of connection is invaluable as we try to together discern the way forward. I met new people who I value as part of my spiritual community and I learned to appreciate old friends in new ways. I am particularly grateful to those who showed us out-of-towners hospitality during our stay by providing us a couch to sleep on and welcoming us at meeting on Sunday morning. The community, love and joy among us was where the Spirit was this weekend. That was where I saw transformation.
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