This weekend, in Burlington, New Jersey, I knew with certainty for the first time that I had been a part of a “covered meeting,” a meeting where not only did the Holy Spirit speak to me, but to all of us as a body. We were covered in the Holy Spirit, bonded together in Love, a gathered people under the headship of the Spirit of Christ. We were broken, tender, and open to the ministry of the Lord. And the underlying message that the Inward Teacher had for us was simple yet profound: We start with love. Often Friends, reaching across the divides of differences in theology, culture and ways of viewing the world, wonder what it is that makes us all Friends. “Why are we called to be together?”, we ask. This weekend, I felt that we were given the answer: We are called together because of our love for one another.
I had come to the gathering with a strong concern for the importance of the biblical witness and the Christian tradition as a foundational part of the Quaker heritage, and I found that I still had that concern when I left. However, the reasoning behind and the context of my concern had been clarified. The reason that I wrestled with my community, was because I love them. I don’t simply care about the institution of the Religious Society of Friends, nor merely about some abstract ideal of Truth. No, while these things are important to me, I found this weekend that the core reason for my concernedness and continued wrestling within the Society of Friends is my love for other Friends as individuals, as well as love for Friends as a corporate body. I found my love for God expressed so beautifully in my love for them, both as individuals and as a corporate body.
This weekend, I came to know what George Fox referred to when he said that he had seen a “people to be gathered.” We are that people, and we are gathered in the name of the Spirit of God. We are gathered together in the love of God, an openness to the penetrating power of the Light and the tenderness to expose ourselves not just to the Holy Spirit, but to one another as well. And I came to find once again how much I need the ministry of my community and how my own vulnerability is essential for my growth as a child of God and for the proper functioning of my religious community. I knew this intellectually beforehand, but this gathering has helped me to gain a better heart-knowledge, recognizing experientially that I am desperately in need of help from the Spirit of God speaking through my brothers and sisters. In submitting to my brothers and sisters in love, I submit to God.
We have come away from this gathering with renewed hope and energy. The Lord has spoken to us. We are the Children of the Light. We are called together to be in loving relationship with one another, attending to one another in our brokenness and vulnerability, just as we attend to the Inward Teacher who guides us as a people. We are the tender Children of God. I am overcome by the experience of the boundless love that flows between us, through us and from us, with its source in the Love of God. We have been overcome by the Love that is forever. Let us magnify it and proclaim it everywhere. We have the hope of glory, the hope of salvation for our people. We have seen the loving-kindness of the Lord and we proclaim it to all who would listen and believe. In tender brokenness, in vulnerability and weakness we find eachother in the Life and Power of the Holy Spirit.
Praise God, who has shown us the living waters of salvation, whose source is simplicity itself: The Spirit of God has always been with us, the tender Love that has pressed at the gates of our hearts from our earliest days. We must have the courage to be simple, yes, to be as little children and accept this simple but infinitely powerful Love that God is and that God pours out onto those who are tender to it and open to receiving it. This weekend, we opened ourselves to the loving mercy of the Spirit of God, and we were penetrated, comforted and united, gathered around the well of the eternal Spring of Life. If we stay low to the ground, if we stay vulnerable and tender to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, there is no limit to how God can act through us. The ministry of young Friends, the ministry of these valiant Quaker men and women, will shake the countryside for miles around.
But we must start with love.