One Day Quaker Retreat

On Saturday, I once again attended the Christian Friends Conference of Northern California, held this time at Sacramento Friends Church.

The CFC’s quarterly meetings usually start with a half hour or so of Bible reading in the manner of Conservative Friends followed by 2-3 hours of open waiting worship in the mornings. There was a good amount of vocal ministry which touched some people deeply. Alas, I never really centered in the worship.

After a brown bag lunch, there is a presentation and discussion in the afternoon. This time, two texts (1 Corinthians 14:26-33 and an excerpt from one of Fox’s epistles on church authority) were presented for discussion without much framing or context. I’m sorry, Friends, but I have to say the discussion felt anemic. Very much from our heads, mostly quibbling over the meanings in various translations. Which I like to do sometimes, but I think there could be so much more. I didn’t sense much interest in exploring the relevance of these texts to daily life as Christians. Attitudes ranged from politely tolerant to dismissive of newcomers’ participation.

At the end of the day there was planning for the next meeting and final worship. I did feel gathered into worship near the end, and I was led to read from my Bible: Matthew 7:15-22 and then 7:1-2. The passages are first, about knowing a tree by its fruit, and then about not judging lest ye be judged. Maybe it was mostly a message for me, but I also felt rightly led to share it.

On the whole, I feel disappointed. I’m still asking myself what is the point? I’m sure that the three hours I traveled in each direction to get there didn’t help my uncertainty. Is there some purpose to my participation that I’m not seeing? I feel like I ought to go to these gatherings but I don’t really want to anymore.

On the way home, I got to process my reaction a little bit with one of the long time participants in the group. He felt that the morning's worship had been very deep. I have no doubt that it was for some of the people there. However, at least one person was snoring and I felt uncalled, untouched by God. Just kind of twiddling my thumbs. For three hours. Sigh.

On our way home, we started talking about other possibilities for a gathering like this. This discussion may be the main fruit of the whole trip for me. I’m now thinking of organizing a one day Quaker retreat at our Meeting.

It would be on one of the upcoming fifth Sundays, since we already have extended worship planned for those days. So we’d have time to listen to God, time to act on God’s commandments, and time to talk about how we feel and what we learned from the experience, time to serve one another and to share food and drink with each other, and through all of this, an opportunity to spend more time together, in different modes of doing and being and learning.

Maybe it would look kind of like this:
9:30-12:00 waiting worship
12:00-1:00 announcements, lunch, social time
1:00-4:00 service project in the neighborhood (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, something like that)
4:00-5:00 communal dinner prep
5:00-8:00 dinner together with discussion of the day’s experiences

I’m thinking about March 30, specifically. This hasn’t been brought to Ministry and Oversight yet, but I have talked to a couple of key people. I am still open to suggestions for improvements and any advice on what or what not to do. I am also looking for suggestions for one time service work we could take on and discussion queries for the evening.

Have any of you tried anything like this in your Meetings?
Would you come if you lived in our area?
Especially, if you do live here, what do you think?

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Blogger Allison said...

Hi Robin,
I am interested in our meeting doing service work together. I know there is the AFSC, but something in our community, because it has always irked me that I have to separate Quaker community from general community. Right now I've been so frazzled trying to work full-time, volunteer, attend Meeting and Quaker events, and have time for my non-Quaker life (which is good for my sanity.) If we could smush the getting-to-know-Quakers and service work together, that would be cool, although I had committed to my current work for the next 9 months. Anyways, I'd be interested.


12/22/2007 2:51 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Great, Allison! I don't know if March 30 is going to work for sure yet, but I'll keep you informed.

12/23/2007 1:00 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Robin, you ask: Have any of you tried anything like this in your Meetings?
Would you come if you lived in our area?

The tentative format you've outlined reminds me of the bulk of how we spent our time at our worship group's retreat last month, which I thought worked well, over all.

I was pleased to have spent some time with the children during one segment, and I did what I could to help them feel connected to what was going on with the adults (they were considering what service project to undertake, as a worship group; the children ended up writing an epistle, describing in their own voice, what they experienced during the retreat. The epistle was read at the very end of the weekend).

As to the question, "Would I come if I lived in the area?"--probably. It would depend on how much involvement I had in identifying the service project(s).

If I hadn't been involved at all, I might shy away unless (1) the project itself really appealed to me; or (2) a sizeable chunk of the faith community was participating.

On the other hand, if I hadn't been involved with the planning but there were 2-3 options from which I could pick how I'd spend my afternoon, that might help me. But I know that part of building and sustaining the covenant community where we worship is to worship, work, and play together, as a community.

I realize my comment is a bit lengthy, but at the same time, I know your inquiry is genuine. If you wish to hear more, or share ideas, feel free to be in touch by email privately.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

12/25/2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thank you Liz for encouragement and constructive suggestions.

For example, it may surprise you, but I hadn't thought at all about how to involve children in the day. But now I will.

I am still thinking about what could be a sufficiently meaningful one time service project that we could walk to that afternoon. My minimum fall back idea is to clean up the sidewalks for several blocks around the meetinghouse. Which would require some hazardous waste gear, but not much training or further commitment. There are also many, many service providers in the neighborhood. I expect that in the next three months, we could find one who could use some basic assistance. We could even include the people who sign up for the retreat in the choosing of the project(s).

12/30/2007 7:31 PM  

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