Convergent Friends Dinner in Indiana
I am grateful to Cathy H. for a ride from the FWCC meeting to the dinner. We also rode with Ann S., who was staying with Cathy, and going up to Earlham afterwards. We went over to the Plainfield Meeting gathering because we thought we were going to be too early for the dinner, but we ended up being a little late.
When we first sat down on the couch, we did a quick round of introductions. Then all these people turned to look at me and I panicked. I opened my mouth and started telling a not-completely-irrelevant story about the origins of convergent Friends and the participation of Wess Daniels in particular. We were saved only by the arrival of Shawna Roberts which interrupted my monologue. Thank you, thank you, Shawna.
I should have asked, “So, what were you talking about before we came in?” Or something like that. The Friends in Fellowship has already been meeting for months in that very room. This type of gathering was nothing new for most of them. I’m sorry, really, for too much yakking by me. I tried at several points to listen closely to the Holy Spirit but my memories are of too much of my own voice. Like those annoying kids in school, I always have something I want to say, but I unrealistically expect that everyone else is just as eager to participate. I have to learn to make MORE space for other people, not assume that they will take it for themselves. Maybe especially in Indiana, I don’t know.
Several Friends talked about the ways that Quakerism and the emerging church are similar and exciting to us. Some Friends talked about what convergent Friends means to them. As readers here know, not everyone uses it in the same way, but the feelings are so far generally positive.
We talked a good bit about the role of pastors among Friends and the possibility/necessity of bi-vocational pastors. I’m not sure I was sufficiently respectful of the feelings of the pastors and former pastors among us, but I was glad to hear from them. In general, we need more opportunities for Friends from unprogrammed backgrounds to hear about the gifts that dedicated pastors bring to their meetings and churches. We also talked about rediscovering the other traditions of supporting ministers among unprogrammed Friends. Shawna and I both expressed our gratitude for the ways our meetings have supported us in our travels, financially and spiritually.
One thing I didn’t get to say that night is that I sometimes wish I was a pastor. Sort of. Not the one-man-shop, my word is law, job description from hell, kind of pastor. But a facilitator of religious formation in a spiritual community. Which I am, sort of. But I would like to be released financially to focus on that calling. If I were in some other denomination, I’m sure I would be seeking ordination or consecration. I am challenged by my meeting’s tradition to explore how I can respond to God’s calling and my family’s needs at the same time.
Other signs worth noting: 40-ish pastors in cool-looking glasses who are seeking widely for what’s going to really engage the 20-something attenders in their meeting. A conservative (in the wider American sense, not the Quaker sense) pastor who is glad for the opportunity for unprogrammed worship and discussion with a variety of perspectives. Middle-aged Friends with fresh inspirations and passionate commitments. Young adult Friends who are taking responsibility and looking at building the next generation of leadership in an organic way. The group was awesome. I am honored to have met them.
I am reminded that when I started arranging these convergent dinners, I didn’t have any intention of building a new movement. It was more like taking advantage of my various travels to get to meet in person the Friends I had corresponded with online. In that sense, this dinner was a roaring success.
After the rest of the guests went home, Nancy and Brent sat down for a late night snack and chat with me. What a blessing it was to stay with them. Very thoughtful, gracious hospitality. Both in the physical, anticipating everything a guest could need, way and in the spiritual tending to my soul way. I aspire to their level of hospitality.
What I would like to have asked during the dinner is, “Where do you see the signs of renewal already?”
I have my own answer for that question, and it will be tomorrow’s post. I encourage you to consider your own answer.
FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: I didn't finish my answer yet, so I'm just uploading some pictures instead. Have a good weekend.
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