This weekend the Friends of Jesus Fellowship met for our annual Spring Gathering. We came together from across the United States – mostly from the East, but we had a few folks come from as far away as St. Louis, Wichita, and even California! We filled to capacity the space at the little Friends Center in Barnesville, Ohio, and we were grateful for the hospitality of local Quakers who made it possible for us to sleep so many without most of us resorting to tents!
The focus of our gathering was the theme of the mustard seed, which Jesus uses as a metaphor for the kingdom of God. The mustard seed is small, spicy, and hardy. It’s an invasive species that takes over gardens and has to be rooted out with a blowtorch. It’s also a bush where birds can make their nests – a symbol of the alternative social order that God offers those of us who turn away from the broken systems of Empire.
Seeking to be part of this spicy, subversive kingdom, we equipped one another for the work of developing an alternative to the domination system. We explored the spiritual gifts that God has planted in each one of us, which are meant to grow in community. We learned more about how to discern the purpose and mission that the Spirit has for each one of us, and how to put these living commandments into concrete action.
It was a blessing to be co-teaching with Adria Guilzia this weekend. God seems to have given the two of us complementary gifts that allow us to build up the Friends of Jesus community. As Adria and I have said on several occasions, we frustrate each other in exactly the right ways, which provides for good leadership when the two of us are working in harmony.
I was grateful for all the ways I saw leadership being taken and spiritual gifts exercised this weekend. Some took up the task of leading music. Others worked hard at preparing food, doing dishes, cleaning up, and helping us in quiet ways that allowed the weekend to proceed smoothly. Faith, in particular, made it look easy to feed two dozen people three meals a day in a small Midwestern kitchen – a feat that all of us knew was a gift from God.
The Holy Spirit was truly present with us. I felt the power of God in our midst as we sang, prayed, listened, and spoke together. I feel so much gratitude for this spiritual family, and I am reminded of the responsibility that we have to use our gifts to invite others to experience God’s grace and power.
As the Spring Gathering ended, I got some special help in being faithful to God’s working in my life. I met with my Board of Advisors and support team, who helped me do discernment around how to be faithful to the ministry that God has called me to. In addition to the ongoing work that I am doing with the Friends of Jesus Fellowship both locally and nationally, I am feeling clear to undertake more public speaking and to write a book.
I feel so blessed to be part of a community where I can receive this kind of support in discernment of the work that God is calling me to, and I hope that I can be part of this experience for others. We’re so much more powerful together! As a community rooted in the mustard seed gospel, we can participate in the spicy, subversive kingdom of God that topples empires.