“How are we led as a Yearly Meeting?”
Many of us came to these Annual Sessions seeking a specific calling for our community. But while seeking it, we have been immersed in the richness of ways in which we are led, the ways in which God may be heard and answered.
God works in our duties in monthly meeting. Our workshops for meeting clerks, recorders, librarians, and committees of pastoral care were rich not only in experience and spirit, but also in numbers of attenders.
God speaks in the details of investment plans and operating budgets. This year’s budget process placed increased emphasis on learning what areas have highest priority for monthly meetings. A survey revealed these to be religious education, peace, education, spiritual nurture, and outreach. And in session, we heard a concern for a deeper level of socially active investment, challenging us to invest money with the same care and tenderness to the Spirit as we use to spend it.
God is seen in our children and our elders. Our intergenerational worship-sharing session explored our experiences of God with words and with crayons. We rejoice that we are growing in our ability to share our measures of Light with one another.
God works in our monthly and quarterly meetings. The works of social witness and service, of outreach and inreach, of Christian love speak strongly of how segments of our Yearly Meeting community have been inspired and in turn inspire others. These works include such things as mentoring, making the meeting known to the community, and producing a cookbook whose sales financed recreational activities for inner-city youth. In response to a concern that originated in a monthly meeting, we adopted a minute opposing the twin violences of drug abuse and the futile and destructive War on Drugs (appended).
God moves in our most fundamental practice: our meeting for worship. Our Meeting for Worship and Ministry set aside our usual practice of an invited speaker, and instead invited us to a rich and intense period of open worship, where we were urged to go fully into the presence of God. In the start and close of each session, we renewed our attention to the Divine in the living silence. Our very act of unprogrammed worship is a witness to ourselves and to the world. Our session devoted specifically to the question of how we are called was a time of deep searching, joyful refreshment, and a call to continued faithfulness.
And God speaks through each of us – the prophetic voice that turns us from our scheduled business, the dedicated worker who faithfully carries a duty through the years, the witness whose pain or triumph proves the light of our ideals, each of us whose life holds the experience or insight that illuminates a facet of the Divine. We heard each of these as we explored where that overarching calling to Yearly Meeting might come from.
The call comes from all these sources, or rather through all these sources, from the Living God, whom we know from direct and loving experience. This is how we are led as a Yearly Meeting.
We have the joy of finding many signs of health in our Yearly Meeting. For the first time in almost 30 years, a slight increase in membership was recorded. We heard of substantial progress in two on-going efforts: to make a Friends School education financially available to all Quaker children who want one, and to heighten our awareness of Friends’ responsibility toward public education.
Our one invited speaker, Peter Goldberger, shared his expert legal analysis of civil disobedience, conscientious objection, and free exercise of religion growing from his generous and long-standing legal representation of individuals and our Yearly Meeting in war-tax resistance cases.
Our first consideration of the topic, “Living peacefully in a violent world,” reminded us that there are many issues that call for greater action than we have yet taken. Our children and young people joined us later, and humbled us as they spoke of the many forms of violence they have experienced and the crises of conscience already faced in their principled lives.
So, how are we led as a Yearly Meeting? We are led in many subtle ways. We are led to tasks beyond ourselves, by steps well within our reach. Our answer is not final nor singular. Our answer is to continue in faith, responding in love and trust to the leadings we are given and ever listening for more.
Arlene Kelly, clerk