How do I find other convergent Friends?

A big question that keeps coming up is “how do I find other convergent Friends?” Some folks are interested in developing a kind of directory of meetings, churches and worship groups that identify as convergent. I’m not sure this will ever be possible, but I’m not opposed to the idea. In the meantime, I think we can seek out the individual Friends who identify as convergent.

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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Blogger Shawna Roberts said...

Hi Robin,

I started to write a comment, then it got too long, so I posted on my blog. Then I tried to use html to make a link in this comment so it would be easy for people to see what I had written from here, and I messed up. Big Time. So, I do not actually have a link, but you can find the long version of this comment under "Building Bridges", over at mysticspoetsandfools.blogspot.com. Sorry to be such a techno-fool.

I spent this past weekend over at the Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region yearly meeting, building bridges of affection that will hopefully bear good fruit someday (how's that for mixing metaphors!).

I had a wonderful time. The evangelicals do some things really really right. And they do some things that I think are not so bright.... Gee, kinda like my own yearly meeting!

Go on, folks. Get out there and say howdy. Most people are just friends you haven't met yet.

Thanks for being faithful, Robin.

7/26/2008 12:50 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Shawna, here's the link to your post Building Bridges.

I'm so glad to hear it went well. Like I say from time to time, we don't know much about "those other Quakers" and the rumors we hear are not good, from both sides. But the first hand accounts usually give me more hope. I'm sure it's not always easy, but your cheery and inviting way of being in the world helps enormously.

7/26/2008 2:49 PM  
Blogger Shawna Roberts said...

Oh thankyouthankyouthankyou for adding my link!
I will not bore you with the really stupid difficulties I had trying to make a link. Suffice to say, I was not so cheery and inviting for a while.

Thanks again!

7/26/2008 4:15 PM  
Blogger phil said...

Robin--I'm newly moved to the Nashville TN area and am looking for fellowship with convergent friends or those interested in primitive quakerism--do you have any contacts or ideas?

9/11/2010 6:12 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Phil,

Have you been to Nashville Friends Meeting? I don't really know anyone there, but I read a blog I like very much called Friendly Mama by a woman named Mary Linda from NFC. http://friendlymama.blogspot.com/

9/12/2010 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Pinoy Quakers said...

thank you for writing this blog. i'm a new quaker and would like to learn more from conservative and convergent quakers. i took the initiative of making a facebook page for quakers in the philippines, the Pinoy Quakers. again, thank you.

11/27/2010 1:03 AM  

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