All along the way there has been God’s Grace. Matt and I started out as, “father and son,” and now we are like brothers. (Journal entry, September 8th, 2023)
I met Matt Rosen at Pendle Hill. He was there for the spring term, 2023. He was totally different from what I had expected. As a philosophy major, coming from Oxford University, and as the Cadbury Scholar, I assumed he would be highly intellectual, very aloof, and difficult for me to make connections with. Instead, I met a young man who had a strong intellectual gift, but was clearly following his heart as well, and had two feet firmly on the ground. As it turned out, our faith journeys were very similar, despite our age difference (four decades!) and we soon became close friends.
We were both brought up in suburban Quaker Meetings, even in the same Quarter! We both struggled as youth, trying to understand the Quaker Meeting for Worship and not finding the strength within ourselves to be, “good Quakers.” We both left Quakers looking for answers elsewhere. We were both totally turned off by religion and found it empty and meaningless. We were both spoken to deeply within by a Power greater than our own. Both of us were drawn to read early Quaker writings and found real Life and Hope in them. Both of us were “convinced” deeply by an experience of Jesus as our Living Teacher, within us, and among us. We both returned to Friends to try to share our experiences and call Friends to connect to the vital faith in our roots. Pretty amazing. I was gobsmacked!
Matt and I visited the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. He was working on a paper about Quaker “convincement,” what it means, and how it relates to membership. I suggested we take a break and explore the new cafeteria building. As we were looking around, a staff member came up to greet us and asked if we were enjoying our visit. He clearly thought that we were a father and son, looking at Swarthmore on a college tour. From that point on at Pendle Hill, Matt was referred to as my son. My wife, Verona, also “adopted” Matt. He quickly became a part of our family.
It was hard to say goodbye (after six weeks) when Matt left to go back to Oxford. Not long afterwards, an unexpected email arrived saying that Matt was, “feeling called to travel in the ministry” and visit meetings in the Oxford area. I shared the email with Verona and she said, “You have to go!” Friends at Middletown Meeting agreed, and some of them even offered financial support for the trip. So, with some trepidation, I wrote back and asked Matt if he had a traveling companion (elder) to go with him. I told him that I might know someone who is interested. He wrote back encouraging me to come.
This began a journey together that provided an extraordinary opportunity for us both. It helped Matt to, “find his voice,” and it helped me to close a circle and find my way forward.
I had been called to travel in the ministry among Friends as a young man (around Matt’s age) and didn’t know what this meant or how to proceed. Some older friends had encouraged me and traveled with me to help me find my way. Now I could do this for Matt. Coincidence? To me it felt like it was a gift from a Divine Hand, something I had never planned or anticipated.