Archive for May 2010

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #19 – After Months of Prayer and Preparation, YAF Gathering 2010 is this Weekend

Dear Friends of Truth,

This past month has been one of intense, final preparations for the Young Adult Friends Gathering that will take place this weekend in Wichita, Kansas. We on the planning committee have juggled Arkansas River - Wichita, Kansasthe logistics of food preparation and where to purchase necessary supplies; the ins and outs of insurance regulations; putting  together information packets and nametags; and making plans for housing conference participants. On top of this, we have made a concerted effort to get the word out, so that all YAFs could learn about the conference and consider whether they were being led to attend.

As I write to you today, we still have many details ahead of us: rides to and from the airport, bus station and train station; housing assignments; food preparation; and more. However, despite the details that remain, I feel confident in saying that we are on course. This gathering is happening. The rest is up to God.
It has always been up to God, of course. It was God who brought us together as a planning committee; who gave each of us a heart for this ministry of reconciliation among Friends. It was God who guided us and showed us what our theme was to be – drawing on 1 University Friends Meeting HouseJohn 1:1-3 – Bearing Witness to the Word Among Us: Witness,  Testimony and Transformation. It is God who has raised up Dave Williams of Barclay College to be our main speaker; God spoke to his heart, and led him to share of himself and his experience of Christ with Young Adult Friends. It is God who is drawing approximately seventy-five Friends from across North America to come together this weekend in Wichita, to see what love can do – so that we may be witnesses to God’s mercy and power, to the ways in which God is working among Friends across the continent.

This is the faith that we on the planning committee had to have in order to stay sane during this planning process: That God is in Keeper of the Plains - Wichita, Kansascontrol, guiding and caring for us as we seek to be instruments for God’s purposes. We have sensed God’s providence in the way the Spirit has spoken to each of our hearts – not only those of us on the planning committee, but also our speaker, works hop leaders, Bible study leaders, pastoral care team members; indeed, to all of us who will be in attendance this weekend. We have been called together for a purpose, and I am waiting with baited breath to see what God will do with us as we are gathered in God’s name.
 
Please pray for all of us – planners, leaders, participants, young adults and older adults. Pray that we may know Christ’s presence in our midst as a community, and that we may be brought into true unity in the Spirit. May God’s Word be revealed to us  – let us hear it and see it and touch it, so that we may be witnesses to the whole world of what we have experienced of the Truth.

Your friend in the life and power of the Spirit,

Micah

Can Quakerism Survive the Airplane?

One of the greatest challenges for this generation of Quakerism will be figuring out how to adapt our traditional practices to a society in which human mobility and information technology have reached a level never seen before. For the first three hundred years or so, the Religious Society of Friends could count on a certain level of geographical stability on the part of its membership. Most people lived and died in the same time zone. When Friends did move, we often did so as a community, re-establishing our social context wherever we migrated to – be it Rhode Island, the Carolinas, Ohio, Kansas or Oregon.

Our present generation lacks the stability – dedication to place and community – that was normative for the first three centuries of our history. All of our structures – Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly Meetings; Ministry, Eldership and Oversight; and the seemingly endless committee structures that have blossomed over the years – all of them were developed in the context of geographically stable, covenantal community.

How might Friends today adapt to the radical itinerancy of our (post) modern context? How do we maintain the spirit of our tradition while re-examining the old forms that often seem poorly adapted to our new situation? How are we being called to re-evaluate our lifestyles to discern when our lives ought to conform themselves to tradition, rather than insisting that tradition conform itself to the exigencies of mainstream 21st-century society?

Are we being called to question our radical mobility? What are the social consequences of our detachment from place? What are the ecological consequences of our dependence on fossil-fueled transportation, particularly air travel? What are the spiritual ramifications of our choice to participate in the wider culture’s nonchalance about place, community and rootedness?

El plazo de la registracion se acerca para la reunion de Jovenes Amigos 2010

Queridos Amigos,

El plazo de la registración para la reunión de Jovenes Amigos en Wichita se acerca rápidamente. Mientras el evento se acerca me gustaría compartir con ustedes un sentido de nuestro estado espiritual en cuanto a la reunion, y también lo que ésta conferencia significa para el resto de la sociedad religiosa de los Amigos.

Creemos que ésta reunión podría ser el más diverso evento cruz-rama para Jovenes Amigos desde por lo menos los años sesenta. Hasta el día de hoy tenemos, al menos dos registraciones de casi  todas las juntas anuales en norteamérica. Estamos pronosticando que los Amigos de la Iglesia Evangélica Amigos; reuniones pastorales en la Junta Unida de los Amigos; y la Conferencia General de los Amigos van a participar aproxidamente en igual Wichitanumero. Ésta es una oportunidad increible para todos Jovenes Amigos a reunirse y participar con lo que el Espíritu nos esta llamando a hacer ahora. Me siento bendecido de participar en este proceso.

Nuestra esperanza es que la reunión sea un espacio donde los Amigos de gran variedad de fondos, auto-conocimientos, creencias, e identidades puedan encontrar unidad en aquello que es eterno: El Espíritu de Dios. Es nuestra oración que todos puedan traer a su ser completo, y ser amados y respetados en nuestra comunidad así comos Dios nos ama – sin condiciones.

La conferencia del último fin de semana de mayo ha sido el enfoque de nuestras oraciones para muchos de nosotros por los ultimos seis meses, y nosotros como planificadores estamos agradecidos por el apoyo espiritual que se nos ha brindado así como hemos buscado proveer un espacio seguro y formentador para todos los Amigos. Gracias por sus oraciones, y por favor continúa sosteniendonos en la Luz del Amor de Dios.

Por increible que parezca para aquellos de nosotros en el comité El Templo de la Iglesia Amigos Universityde planificación, la conferencia casi ha llegado. La reunión se llevará acabo en menos de tres semanas – 28-31 de mayo; y éste Sabado – 15 de Mayo – es la fecha plazo para registrarse para el evento. Para aquellos de ustedes entre las edades de 18-35,  esperamos que se unan a nosotros en ésta oportunidad histórica de reunirnos con jovenes cuáqueros de todo norteamérica para descubrir juntos qué puede hacer el amor entre nosotros. Para aquellos de ustedes que estan muy jovenes o muy mayores para asistir – por favor mantengannos en sus oraciones mientras buscamos abrir nuestro ser al gozo, paz, humildad, y a la ternura del Amor de Dios.

Registration Deadline Nears for Young Adult Friends Gathering 2010

Dear Friends,

The final registration deadline for the 2010 Young Adult Friends Gathering in Wichita is fast approaching. As the event nears, I would like to share with you where we are at in terms of our sense of the spiritual state of the gathering, as well as what this conference means for the wider Religious Society of Friends.

This gathering may prove to be the most diverse cross-branch event for Young Adult Friends since at least the 1960s. To date, we have at least two registrations in from nearly every Yearly Meeting in North America. We are forecasting that Friends from Evangelical Friends Church; pastoral Meetings in Friends United Meeting; and Friends General Conference will participate in roughly equal numbers. This is an incredible opportunity for P1010915Friends from across the spectrum to come together and engage with what the Spirit is calling us to today. I feel very blessed to be a part of this process.

Our hope is that this gathering will be a space where Friends from a wide variety of backgrounds, self-understandings, beliefs and identities can find unity in that which is eternal: the Spirit of God. It is our prayer that everyone who attends the gathering feel able to bring their whole selves, and to be loved and respected by Friends, just as God loves each of us without condition.

The conference this Memorial Day weekend has been the focus of prayer for so many for the last six months, and we as planners are grateful for the spiritual support that we have been given as we have sought to provide a safe and nurturing space for all Friends. Thank you for your prayers, and please continue to hold us in the light of God’s love.

As incredible as it seems to those of us on the planning  committee, the conference is University Friends Meeting Housealmost upon us. The gathering takes place less than three weeks from today, May 28-31; and this Saturday – 15 May – is the last day to register for the event. For those of you between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, we hope that you will join us for this historic opportunity to come together with other young adult Quakers from across North America to see what love can do in our midst. For those who are too young or too old to attend – please hold us in your prayers as we seek to open ourselves to the joy, peace, humility and tenderness of God’s love.

TransFORM East Coast Gathering in DC

I had the opportunity this weekend to participate in a gathering of emergent church leaders TransFORM East Coast Gathering in DC– folks who are involved in or seek to be involved in planting missional, emergent faith communities rooted in the life and teachings of Jesus.  I was able to hear speakers such as Brian McLaren, Peter Rollins, Kathy Escobar and Anthony Smith. I also attended workshops on Christian ecology; turning Jesus’ teachings into living practice as a community; developing new Christian communities alongside more traditional congregations; and a discussion on the way forward for Christians who are neither willing to exclude queer folk from the Church, nor downplay our respect for Scripture. Finally, and most importantly, I was privileged to connect with folks from all over the country, including quite a few from my neck of the woods.

The most spiritually-charged and powerful moment for me this weekend was Friday evening, when we gathered to hear Peter Peter RollinsCollins preach.  He spoke to us about the importance of doubt in our walk with God. Rollins observed that Christ himself cried out in doubt on the cross, and he emphasized the need to release our comforting beliefs and sense of identity, because they in fact separate us from God. God is Truth, not our limited and self-serving conceptions; the Truth – as terrifying and incomprehensible as it can be – must be a the center of our life in Christ. To place our own beliefs and desires at the center is to replace God with an idol, and to dodge the suffering of the cross, which we as Christians are called to bear with our Lord.

Peter Rollins believes that our worship together should reflect the “dark nights of the soul” – our times of spiritual despair, doubt, and sense of separation from God. Our corporate worship can tend to focus exclusively on our experiences of assurance and connection with God; but Rollins encouraged us to consider the role that acknowledgement of suffering, darkness and doubt might play in our shared life as church communities.

To give us a taste of what this might look like, Rollins asked Vince Anderson and Amy Moffitt to perform a song from the Ikon communityMusic in Ireland, where Rollins serves. It was a hymn of darkness, despair, loss and doubt. To be honest, it made me feel very uncomfortable. As the hymn came to a close, though, something remarkable happened. The Holy Spirit descended on us, and the entire gathered assembly was still and silent, hushed with awe. This was a clapping group, which normally gave applause after every event – but after this hymn, no one moved.

The awed silence was broken after a short while by the facilitator, wanting to move us along in our evening program. I felt grieved that the work of the Holy Spirit was being brushed aside. Others certainly felt this way, too. A man rose from the audience, interrupting our facilitator, “Thy kingdom came!” I heard voices say, “Amen!” The man continued to address the facilitator, “can we acknowledge the grace of God among us for a moment?” After perhaps a minute more of silent reverence before God, the facilitator again took up the schedule.

When we were dismissed a few minutes later, a young woman rose from the audience, interrupting folks as they greeted oneTransform another. She invited anyone who wanted to pray to join her at the front of the sanctuary where we were gathered. Faith and I immediately rose and followed her to the raised area at the front of the room. Five of us gathered in a circle while the rest of the group socialized and made their way out of the building. We took turns praying aloud as we were led. Praying for the gathering; that God to continue to pour out the Holy Spirit on us; asking forgiveness for the way in which we had turned away God’s presence from our midst. I feel so grateful for the way in which a few of us were drawn together in the Spirit in that moment to cry out to God and intercede for the Church.

I am in awe of how I see God at work in the wider Church, despite our failure to fully embrace the Spirit’s work in our midst.  I feel grateful for the connections that I have made this weekend with other followers of Jesus, both here in the DC area and acrossBrian McLaren addresses us North America. I had never been exposed to the emergent church movement before, having focused almost all of my attention on the Quaker community in the years since I became a Christian. As a result of this gathering, I feel energized to engage with emergent Protestants; both to learn from them and their experiences as disciples, and also to share with them the rich heritage of Quakerism, which informs my own walk with Christ. Together, I believe we can grow into more faithful friends of Jesus.

A few relevant links: