How do I find other convergent Friends?
The first thing is to start talking honestly and bravely and gently about the things that are important to us in our spiritual journeys. Can we share our spiritual lives as an invitation rather than a litany of complaints? Then we will find the other people already in our circles who are also convergent in their sensibilities.
We have to be ready to see these people with God’s eyes because they may not look like the people we thought we wanted to be Friends with. Maybe they have grey hair. Or weird facial hair. Or are really shy. Or have children and stay home a lot. Or they’re gay. Or they talk too loud. Or they have really conservative politics. Or an excessive devotion to science fiction or war tax resistance or Facebook apps. Or whatever makes you uncomfortable. Some of those people are also trying to live a faithful life. And they need your help. And you need theirs. If you thought convergent Friends would be just like you but cooler, you’ll probably be disappointed.
However, sometimes we have a hard time starting at home. In this case, there are some other options. One is, of course, the Internet. Through Quaker blogs, you can read about the spiritual and personal lives of Friends all over the world. You can choose the ones you’d like to be Friends with and just read their blogs. Or you can pick a sampling and read about people you don’t think you’d like in person until you find you care about them anyway. The QQ categories/archives are a good place to start to find links to bloggers of all different stripes. (You can also tag blogposts that speak to you to the QQ categories. Really, anybody can. See the category pages for instructions.)
There are also Quaker listserves, Facebook groups, Second Life meetings for worship, and probably other online communities that I know even less about. But these can be a forum for discovering your own voice and interests and for connecting with Friends in a wider geographic range who share some common interests and concerns.
Next, there are Quaker gatherings all the time. Have you ever been to a Quaker meeting or church besides the one you regularly attend? Like the one across town or in the next town over that is completely different from your own? What about an adult religious ed session there? I can’t make any promises that they’ll be more welcoming, but it’s worth a try and it’s worth remembering that every meeting is different every week, just like yours, so maybe you want to go more than once before you write them off.
Have you ever been to your local Quarterly or Yearly Meeting? Have you gone lately? I know they’re all different and some places don’t have local Quarterly meeting sessions. But my point is that if you want to meet other Quakers, these are places to find them and get to know them better.
A step beyond these regular meetings are the large gatherings of Friends that move around from place to place. I mean the annual FGC Gathering, the FUM Triennial and FWCC Section of the Americas annual meeting. There are also specialized gatherings, for Young Adult Friends, or women, or Conservative Friends, or writers and publishers etc.
All the ones I’ve been to or heard of have both large plenary sessions and small group presentations or discussions that, if nothing else, can provide openings for lunchtime or dinner conversations.
If you regularly go to any of these meetings, do the Friends around you a favor and find out how to propose a small discussion group, either formally or informally, and convene one with a sympathetic friend. Pick any aspect of Quaker practice that you’ve experimented with as a topic, say “modern plain dress” or “reading George Fox’s journal,” and see who shows up. If even one other person comes, you have a potential conversation partner. If you don’t have much to offer as a formal presentation, say what your questions are, invite everyone else to say what theirs are, and announce a time of waiting worship for the purpose of hearing God’s instructions on the topic. You might be surprised how powerful this can be.
The last option I want to propose is attending a class or workshop at a regional retreat center. Pendle Hill in PA, Ben Lomond Quaker Center in CA, Twin Rocks in OR, Friends Center in OH, Woolman Hill in MA, Powell House in NY, Quaker Ridge in CO, Michigan Friends Center, and Quaker Hill in IN are a few I can link to in different areas of the US, with different theological underpinnings. I know this isn’t always possible for everyone. But if you really want to meet new Friends, pick a topic, save your money and vacation time, and sign up. Ask for scholarship assistance if money is the only thing holding you back. Creative arrangements are often possible. I once paid my way to a Pendle Hill weekend workshop with Elizabeth Watson by transcribing a speech by Bill Taber for them. It was like double the spiritual enrichment for me.
The main point isn’t that the workshop or retreat leader will have all the answers but that you will meet people interested in the same questions.
In short, you are not alone. There are other Friends hungry for the same exploration and conversation that you are seeking.
Seek and ye shall find.
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