Photograph – A View of Pendle Hill from the 2012 Quaker Pilgrimage
Following worship, a Land Acknowledgment by S. Boone O’ Scheyichbi, and a brief meeting for business, PYM’s keynote speaker, Marcelle Martin, welcomed 144 Friends of all ages to an evening of spiritual programming on Wednesday, July 29th.
She began her presentation by inviting the assembled community into a deeper relationship with the Faith. She acknowledged an apprehension in leading a virtual session with so many numbers of PYM Friends. However, by looking at the evening differently—through the perspective that God wants to reach us—this relaxes the heart. She noted that for her and for gathered Friends, Spirit can have a way of opening the self to a keen sense of possibility and connection—all through God’s love and power.
Like many Friends, Marcelle spoke of her climb to the summit of Pendle Hill, the site in England where George Fox experienced his intense spiritual vision of a great people to be gathered. She mentioned Quaker history and early Friends, naming how they characterized the experience of God with an entirely new metaphor: ‘the Divine Fountain of Life and Love’. Or, ‘streams of God’s love’. These Friends were energized with a daily sense of spiritual power; a power felt deeply known and personally lived.
Marcelle offered many examples of Friends, like Mary and Isaac Penington, who referenced a direct, transformative relationship with God through Quakerism in their lives and their published work. The writings of Friends like George Fox, Francis Howgill, and Elizabeth Hooton were offered as inspiration in addition to those of living Friends like Douglas Gwyn.
She brought to life the words of dozens of Friends from long ago, for example:
- George Fox: The power of the Lord was over all.
- Joan Voskins: God’s Living Power did arise most wonderfully.
- Francis Howgill: Our hearts were knit unto the Lord and one unto another in true and Fervent love, in the covenant of Life with God; and that was a strong obligation or bond upon all our spirits, which united us one to another.
There was storytelling, too.
Marcelle told of Friend Esther Biddle, who was inspired by God to build peace between warring England and France, and took her ministry to the highest powers in both countries, securing audiences with Queen Mary of England and King Louis XIV of France.
King Louis initially refused to meet Friend Esther but changed his mind. If the power of God was over all kings; why would a mortal human (though king) not converse with a woman so deeply conversant with God? Esther could not end the war, but she reached two monarchs with her testimony on peace.
Different people experience Divine power in different ways. Isaac Pennington was a seeker in London, who came to the faith after he and Mary Pennington were accosted in the street by a Quaker minister. Isaac’s contact with Friends led him to realize that God was always inside him. He and Mary came to feel “the power of the Lord was over All.”
Marcelle turned to those present and asked our assembled community: How are we experiencing that power today? We are called to play an important role. But we need to feel our connection to God and sensitivity to Spirit requires an openness, tenderness and love.
In other words, she was helping us see that action requires a spiritual root. Testimony is not separated from spirit.
She also offered that there is a difference between a “leading” and a “call.” A leading is the beginning, an exploration of a concern that might lead to action. A call is more direct. It is action motivated by what early Friends called the source within each of us, the “Divine Fountain of Life and Love,” a transforming power that helped them, and can help us today, live in harmony with God. Marcelle reminded us that witnessing to this transforming power was the origin of Friends testimonies. This power called Friends to live in a new covenant with society and all of creation. We need to connect to this spiritually transformative power if we want to respond to the ecological crisis with energy and courage. Responding effectively may require being gathered into a new covenant as Friends.
Marcelle spoke to “Way opening” synchronicity. Among early Friends, people thought there would be a new spiritual dispensation. It was about Christ coming within people. Friends then discovered this feeling within themselves. God was felt deeply and personally, and through that feeling “way opened.”
She launched our scheduled break-out sessions with a query on how each of us had experienced Spirit, divine presence, and power. She asked us to breathe, and feel into our hearts. As people did this their faces relaxed, and the virtual room felt more open.
We were then broken into groups of three for twelve minutes of a query-led exercise. When Friends returned they were invited to share their feelings about the practice via chat.
Marcelle then read these out loud in a cascade of beautiful, joyful, spiritual words and phrases that settled into our hearts like a poem.
The evening concluded with All Together Time led by Youth Program team members. Friends loved it. There will be additional storytelling about PYM’s spiritually grounded and joyful gatherings of youth and families in future Annual Sessions News stories.
Marcelle Martin leads workshops across the United States and is a member of Swarthmore Meeting. She was the resident Quaker Studies teacher at Pendle Hill for four years and is a core teacher for the 9-month program, Nurturing Faithfulness. On her blog, A Whole Heart, she shares inspiration to help us be all that God has created us to be. She is the author of Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey and A Guide to Faithfulness Groups.