Blog Banner

Archive for Barnesville

The Spicy, Subversive Kingdom of God

FOJF Spring Gathering Group Photo

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.

Related Posts:

Sprouting Seeds of the Kingdom

Friends of Jesus in Barnesville

Ready to Explore Your Calling? There’s a Place for You

Have you ever felt alone in your search for depth, meaning, and purpose in life? Do you sense the Spirit calling you to a deeper, more adventurous way of living? Are you seeking a community that supports you in being true to your deepest calling? There’s a place for you here.

Seeds of the Kingdom - Friends of Jesus Fellowship

This March 13-15, the Friends of Jesus Fellowship is gathering in Barnesville, Ohio to explore what it means to allow the kingdom of God to truly come alive among us. How can we uncover what it is the Spirit is asking of us? Where are the tools that God has given us to be faithful? What part does each of us have to play in building up a love-centered community in the midst of Empire?

The seeds of truth, love, power are scattered everywhere. This spring, we’ll discover community and explore how we can support one another. We’ll tend the seeds of life, and learn how to bless our neighborhoods with Christ-like character and love.

Does this sound like the place for you and your tribe? I hope you’ll join us.

There is a Life of Power we can Hardly Imagine

Are you worn out with the Sunday morning routine? Feel like there must be more to the Christian life than committee meetings, worship services, and sitting around in a circle discussing our feelings? Are you hungry for a faith that leads to concrete acts of love? In a culture so hostile to genuine community, what would it mean to be part of an organic whole, a very real and tangible body of Christ?

This March 13-15, we’re going to find out.

Seeds of the Kingdom

Christianity was never meant to be a mindless habit. Jesus’ message wasn’t a set of religious beliefs that we could either accept or reject. The point of our faith isn’t to build a new religion based on Jesus. We are invited into nothing less than a radical, life-altering friendship with Jesus himself.

This is a whole new way to live. The way of Jesus digs down to the heart of our existence and exposes what is really true, authentic, life-giving. It uncovers the dark, hidden parts of our lives, bringing everything into the light.

This new way of living is something that sneaks up on you. It’s easy to miss this quiet revolution amidst the noise of the daily grind. This hidden kingdom has the power to transform our lives forever.

We can experience this sneaky, subversive kingdom together.

The basic building blocks of this new way of living are already present. We don’t have to go looking for some utopia out there. The kingdom of God is within us, among us, present with us when we seek it together. The seeds of the kingdom are already planted; we just have to make space for them to grow.

This spring, we’re welcoming the wild growth that the Holy Spirit has sown in us.

We don’t have to live our lives in maintenance mode. We can let go of the fear and guilt that hold us back from real joy. There is an alternative to the religious wheel-spinning that so many of us are trapped in. Jesus is alive, and he’s ready to unleash a movement the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Are you ready for this?

Consider yourself invited to the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Spring Gathering. March 13-15, 2015. Barnesville, Ohio. Join us as we explore what it means to lead lives of courageous transformation in community. Discover a movement of the Holy Spirit now, in our day, that promises real change in the midst of stuck-ness, real hope in the midst of despair.

Save the date. Tell your friends. Register now, and let us know you’re coming.

Related Posts:

We’re Gathering Momentum – Are You In?

When we Pray, it Boils

Friends of Jesus in Barnesville

This past weekend, Friends from across the United States gathered in Barnesville, Ohio, which has been a key site of Quaker activity for well over a century. Much more recently, this little Appalachian town has become a meeting place for the Friends of Jesus Fellowship.

The event this weekend was our Spring Gathering, one of two regular get-togethers that FOJF puts on each year as we explore what it means to be a community gathered by the Holy Spirit. We had folks make the drive from Detroit, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey, NYC, New England and St. Louis – and one Friend even flew in from Seattle! It was inspiring to hear what is happening in the communities that are organizing themselves in many of these cities, as well as a new virtual group that has begun to meet via Google Hangout.

The theme for this gathering was John 11:14-26, particularly Jesus’ declaration, “I am the resurrection and the life.” This scriptural focus was helpful for us as we listened together for where the Christ’s life is emerging in our life together. All of us face great challenges to living as children of light in a world that so often embraces the darkness, yet we found courage and strength in one another, and the ways in which the Spirit is preparing us for the work of love, justice and compassion.

The sense of our gathering was summed up quite well in an epistle (a spiritual letter) that was approved by those present, as well as our minutes of exercise (a document of spiritual insights). I encourage you to read and share these documents with those who have affinity with the mission and vision of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship.

For my own part, I feel deeply encouraged by the many passionate, faithful people that the Spirit is calling into the work of being and making disciples to Jesus. In a culture that often values wealth and social status above all else, I am inspired to be in community with women and men who are staking their lives on the gospel message that we have heard and experienced. I feel so grateful for the growth of Christ’s body that we are witnessing today, and I am thankful for the care and safety that I feel as a part of this new community.

Probably the most important lesson that I took away from this weekend is how much I really do rely on the gifts and ministry of others. The journey of discipleship is not something that I can carry by myself. I need my brothers and sisters to walk with me, guiding and correcting me at times, comforting and supporting me at others. I give thanks to God for the love, wisdom and courage that I see in those whom God is gathering in the Friends of Jesus Fellowship.

It is my prayer that God will continue to gather this community, adding to our numbers, spiritual depth and love for one another. For those who are reading this message, I hope that you will feel invited to participate in this new movement of the Holy Spirit, perhaps joining us at our next gathering in the fall.

In the meantime, connect with us online – at our Facebook page, discussion group or on our website. There is a place for you in this community!

 

A Deeper Unity – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #45

Dear friends,

Every year, I imagine that this time around my summer will be a little less crazy. And every year, Yearly Meeting season makes that an impossibility. This month, I spent most of my days out of town, attending Quaker gatherings in New York, Maryland and Ohio. These Yearly Meeting sessions have taken most of my time and attention, leaving me feeling a bit disconnected from my community in DC. The balance between local work and the wider fellowship is delicate, and I anticipate that the coming month will be a time for me to pivot and refocus on local concerns and more sedentary work. Though it has been enriching to dive deeply into the wider world of Friends, I am looking forward to being home for a while.

My first trip out of town was to New York Yearly Meeting, at the Silver Bay YMCA camp on Lake George in upstate New York. Gathering on Lake George meant that when we were not engaged in Yearly Meeting business, we were free to go kayaking or sailing, or to go hiking in the surrounding woods. Though I had attended Yearly Meeting sessions in a variety of beautiful locations, this resort atmosphere was something new!

I felt particularly blessed that Faith and I were able to be present with a number of other visiting Friends, including Jon Watts and Maggie Harrision, who are engaged in a sustained ministry of calling Friends to spiritual nakedness. Jon and Maggie really challenged New York Yearly Meeting during an evening plenary session, urging Friends to set aside the suffocating comfort of respectability and to dive boldly into God’s love. In one particularly intense moment, Maggie asked Friends why the reports from New York Yearly Meeting’s local congregations rarely mentioned God. Isn’t that what this is all about? You could have heard a pin drop as Friends took in what Maggie was saying. And then, someone yelled Amen!

After New York Yearly Meeting, Faith and I drove down to Virginia for a wedding. I had a day back in DC before I was on the road again, this time to Baltimore Yearly Meeting – a fellowship of Quakers in Virginia, Pennsylvania, DC and Maryland. BYM holds it annual gatherings at Frostburg State University, out in the western panhandle of Maryland. Getting there was easy, though, since I routinely travel out that way en route to Ohio and points further west.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting felt familiar. Because I live within the geographical territory of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, I run into BYM Friends a lot – whether visiting their local Meetings, attending their events, or welcoming them at Capitol Hill Friends. Though I am not a member of BYM, visiting their annual sessions did feel like something of a homecoming to me.
The theme of BYM’s gathering this year was “Spirit-led Social Action,” and I had the opportunity to speak with Friends about my experience of God’s leading me to participate in the Occupy movement when it first erupted in the fall of 2011. I spoke as part of a two-person panel during BYM’s Tuesday-night plenary session, sharing what it felt like to be led by the Holy Spirit into social witness that is outside my comfort zone. I would never have chosen to become an organizer for the Occupy movement on my own, but I am so grateful that I was obedient to the promptings of Christ within!

Because I yielded to the quiet but persistent nudges of God in my heart, I am now connected to a broader community of those who are working for economic justice. I have met so many amazing people who have changed my life for the better, and I am hopeful that my presence has a positive influence. During the plenary, I shared how God opens opportunities for me to bear witness to Christ’s love and power within the economic justice community. Most crucially, I spoke about the spiritual dynamics of activism and community organizing, and about the need to stay rooted in the Spirit of God. There are so many other forces that would shake us from our Foundation; if we do not take great care, it is easy to get caught up in a spirit of chaos rather than the Spirit of love, order and peace that Christ sends.

I hope that I was faithful in communicating to Friends that our social witness must be, first and foremost, a testimony to the love, life and power that we experience in the Spirit of Jesus. Specific outcomes are important – sometimes we are called to “win” – but the highest objective must always be to remain faithful to the witness that God desires to bear through our lives. This takes great discernment, a practice that we as Friends of Jesus can bring to these movements.

Following my visit to Baltimore Yearly Meeting, I was only home for a few days before Faith and I were back on the road. Once again, we drove out through western Maryland, but this time our destination was Barnesville, Ohio – the gathering place of Ohio Yearly Meeting. After visiting so many gatherings this summer, it was a blessing to finally come home to the Yearly Meeting where we are members. Visiting among other bodies of Friends is wonderful, but there is a particular joy that comes when we gather with our particular covenanted community. Our care and responsibility for one another guides and sustains me in a special way.

I was really struck this year by the way in which my Yearly Meeting handles disagreement. We had several opportunities to engage in prayerful discernment around hard issues this year, and I felt like we were generally able to keep our conversation grounded in prayer and loving concern for one another. There is a sense in Ohio Yearly Meeting that our unity runs deeper than opinions about particular issues. While outward agreement is ultimately important, I am grateful to experience an inward, spiritual unity that allows us to wrestle with disagreements in a manner that ultimately draws us closer to God in Jesus Christ.

I envision Ohio Yearly Meeting as a circle with Jesus Christ standing at the center. Individuals in our Yearly Meeting stand at various points around the circle; we emphasize different things, and there are places where we are not in full agreement. There were several explicit points of tension this year – including our relationship with Olney Friends School; our testimony against the consumption of alcoholic beverages; and our shared understanding of human sexuality. Each of these are places where we could fall into destructive division and mistrust. But God is teaching us a better way.

As we gather around Jesus and draw nearer to him, we come closer to one another. Submitting ourselves to Christ’s light, we find our individual perspectives relativized (though not invalidated), and we are able to see how God is speaking through those with whom we strongly disagree. There is a deep faith present in Ohio Yearly Meeting that, if we wait together in the light of the Holy Spirit, we will be shown the way forward together.

It is probably safe to assume that all of us will be surprised by what “way forward” looks like. I am learning that having a variety of perspectives in my community can be a sign of good health, despite the fact that, at first glance, it may seem like chaos and disunity. We read in Scripture that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Yet, we know that we ourselves do change, and that our individual human viewpoints are often too limited to embrace the truth that Christ desires to reveal to us.
When we come together as a community in prayer, seeking after the Lord’s will, I experience the Spirit guiding us into greater understanding and unity as a body. We continue to have our own individual perspectives, but they are tempered and refined in the fire of Christ’s light. When we hold our disagreements in loving prayer, the Spirit intercedes within us and binds us together in a deeper unity that surpasses opinions.

At the conclusion of our time together in Barnesville, I felt hopeful for the future of Ohio Yearly Meeting. I had a strong sense that Christ is at work in our midst, and that we are being invited into the new (yet ancient) way of Jesus. God is giving us an opportunity to embrace Jesus’ example, laying down our lives for one another and surrendering our need to be correct. I am learning that the true meaning of strength is to bear the burdens of others – not only physically, but spiritually.

I pray that my life will serve to lighten the burden of those around me, that I may lay aside my own need to be vindicated, remembering that Jesus lay aside every honor and privilege that were rightfully his, bearing the cross for his friends. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave him the name that is above every name. I pray that we in Ohio Yearly Meeting will find this scripture fulfilled in our hearing, that through our shared submission to Jesus we be brought into the fullness of his truth, unity and love.

I anticipate that the next few weeks will allow me to stay closer to home. After so much time away, it will be good to re-connect with my community here in DC. I am also looking forward to making progress on the new Friends United Meeting website, which we plan to roll out around the end of the summer. I must say that although there are many benefits to travel in the service of the gospel, it is not particularly conducive to web development!

One last item before I close: You may recall that this June I was arrested by the US Capitol Police for accompanying my friend Deborah Harris to speak to Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, during his visit to the Senate Banking Committee. I did not expect to be arrested, much less to be jailed for most of the day and accused of falsifying my identity! It also came as a surprise when I learned that my arrest could theoretically be punished by up to six months in prison. But I give praise to God that my co-defendents and I accepted a deal on Monday which will allow the charges against us to be dropped, assuming we do not get re-arrested in the next six months!

I have no idea how prayer works, but it is my experience that there is nothing more powerful than the prayerful petitions of God’s faithful people. I know for a fact that I have a small army of prayer warriors who are interceding on my behalf. Thank you so, so much. Your prayers are making a huge impact on my life. Please do not stop!

In the month ahead, please pray that I be grounded more deeply in the Holy Spirit as I seek to be a faithful worker in my roles with Friends United Meeting, Capitol Hill Friends and Occupy Our Homes DC. I would also ask for you to pray specifically that our community at Capitol Hill Friends be built up in Christ’s power this month. In recent weeks, several active members of our fellowship have moved away to pursue educational opportunities; we need God’s strength and guidance as we continue to serve as a spiritual sanctuary in the midst of our city.
May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all.
In his light and love,
Micah Bales

Drawn Into the Light – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #44

Dear friends in Truth,


This is turning out to be a summer to remember. The day after sending out my last ministry newsletter, I was arrested by US Capitol Police while attending a Senate Banking Committee hearing featuring Jamie Dimon – CEO and Chairman of JP Morgan Chase. Dimon was there to explain why his bank was engaged in risky gambling with billions of dollars, but some of us had other questions we wanted answered. I accompanied my friend, Deborah Harris, whose home has been foreclosed on by JP Morgan chase, and I held her in prayer as she got a chance to ask Jamie Dimon in person: Why don’t you face the people that you foreclosed on?

As it turns out, the folks in charge do not like it when you publicly question them. For our thirty seconds of conversation with Mr. Dimon, we spent seven hours in jail. Last Tuesday, we were arraigned at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, where we were subjected to drug tests and ordered to return for a status hearingon August 13th. It is not yet clear what will happen with our case. Please pray for a speedy and just resolution to this matter.


About a week after this new experience on Capitol Hill, I was off to Barnesville, Ohio for the Wider Gathering of Conservative Friends and QuakerSpring. The Conservative Friends gathering was really deep, and there was a profound sense of Christ’s living presence within us, calling us to respond in faith. I was left with the challenge: Do I really live in Christ’s life and power? How does my life demonstrate it?

QuakerSpring was also a powerful experience, though it was harder in many ways. Over the course of the week-long gathering, I became increasingly aware of the burdens that were weighing on my heart. I saw more clearly that I was struggling with anxiety and confusion around issues of financial security and support. I had gotten so caught up in worry about the future that I lost sight of my present Ground and Source, Jesus Christ. I was grateful for this opportunity to retreat for a week with Friends in Ohio. It was an opportunity for me to re-dedicate myself to allowing Christ to work within me, revealing my hidden darkness and drawing me into the light.


God has good timing, because my life was about to get even crazier. A few days after returning home from Barnesville, I began my new job as Interim Communications and Web Specialist for Friends United Meeting. For the next several months, my primary focus will be the FUM website. The current website was originally set up in 1997, and though the site has had an amazing 15-year run, it is clearly time for an upgrade! Once the new site is up and running, I will be able to enlarge my focus to encompass other areas of our communications strategy.

It is an honor to be on staff with Friends United Meeting, which at its best represents my personal faith: passionately Christ-centered, deeply Quaker and committed to mission. I feel hopeful that we at FUM – our staff, our Yearly Meetings and our local congregations – can help to demonstrate what it means to be Spirit-led followers of Jesus in today’s world.

Together with my new job at FUM, working as a technical writer for a national hospice newsletter, volunteering with Occupy Our Homes, writing for my blog and caring for the community at Capitol Hill Friends, I have got a lot on my plate! It has taken a little while, but at this point I have developed a weekly schedule that helps to bring together all the threads that make up my life’s work. I feel deeply blessed to have a life that is so full of meaningful labor, and I pray that Christ will continue to guide me in finding the right balance between work and rest, study and play, solitude and community.

Summer is a fluid time for most people, and perhaps especially for Quakers. Summertime is Yearly Meeting time, and I still have several to attend in the next month and a half. Faith and I will be at New York Yearly Meeting from July 23 to 27. The next week, I will visit Baltimore Yearly Meeting for a few days to speak on a panel and deliver a workshop about how our faith as Friends intersects with movements for social justice such as Occupy Wall Street. From August 7 to 11, Faith and I will be back out in Barnesville, for the annual sessions of Ohio Yearly Meeting. With so much travel and so many opportunities for new connections, it can feel hard to keep my feet on the ground. I pray for inward stability and rootedness in the Spirit. May God will bless each of the gatherings that we attend.

Even as everything is up in the air with summer travels, courtroom proceedings and changes in employment, Capitol Hill Friends is going through a transition of its own. In the next few weeks, we are saying goodbye to three William Penn House interns who have been a real blessing for our community. Lily Rockwell of Stillwater Friends Meeting (Ohio YM) is leaving town this Saturday as she prepares to head off to the University of New Mexico for graduate studies in speech language pathology this fall. Lily has been a vital part of Capitol Hill Friends for the past year, and we will miss her quiet, steady presence.

Sammy and Ceress Sanders are two William Penn House interns who are just here for the summer, but they have quickly become an integral part of our community. They will be leaving in a few weeks, returning to Barclay College, where they have one year left in their undergraduate work. Sammy and Ceress’ commitment to Spirit-led service and a Christ-centered engagement with those around them has been wonderful to experience, and I am praying that they might be able to come back to DC once they finish their college studies. I hope they have gained as much from their time here as we have gained from having them with us.

With Lily, Sammy and Ceress all headed back West, our fellowship at Capitol Hill Friends is bound to feel different. In our experience, spring and fall are pivotal times, moments when our community can really change in exciting ways. This will no doubt be all the more true this fall, as we adjust to the loss of a substantial part of our core group. I pray that God will gather together those people who have need of a community like ours, and teach us how to love one another as Christ first loved us.

Thank you for all of your prayers and words of support this past month – for me, for our work at Occupy Our Homes, for the ministry of Friends United Meeting and for Capitol Hill Friends. Though there have been great challenges, the Lord has stood with us through everything. With each passing day, I am more convinced that neither death nor life, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. May each of you be blessed, just as I have been blessed by God through you.

In Christ’s peace,

Micah Bales



QuakerSpring: A New Creation

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
– Isaiah 60:1-2

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
– Romans 8:22-23

God continues to surprise me. All the Holy Spirit has to do is blow through, and I am back to square one; the sand castles that I have built are swept away by the tide, and I am left without fortifications before God. I suppose it could be frustrating to realize that most of the things I had been worrying about for months do not really matter. But all I feel is joy.

I see with stunning clarity that God is not like me at all. Though I am characterized by grasping and self-centeredness, God’s character is one of self-giving, healing and mercy. God’s presence is power to receive forgiveness, and to be remade in the image of Christ.

This presence and power was very much in evidence this past week at the sixth annual gathering of QuakerSpringin Barnesville, Ohio. QuakerSpring is a unique, Spirit-led retreat that was conceived as an alternative to the frantic programming of some other Quaker gatherings. Rather than planning the schedule ahead of time, each day’s agenda is set out according to the group’s sense of the Spirit’s leading.Rooted in deep worship and shared discernment, QuakerSpring unfolds according to the community’s sense of God’s call.

I was surprised by the spiritual intensity we experienced this year. There was a palpable sense of connection to God, but also an awareness of spiritual darkness. At the heart of our time together was a deep sense of our human brokeness, and of Christ’s presence within, calling us to deeper faithfulness. Our spiritual burdens felt like a heavy weight, but as we sat together in Christ’s presence, much of this darkness was revealed, brought into the light, and purified in the Refiner’s Fire. Both individually and as a group, we experienced real transformation.

During QuakerSpring, I personally became more aware of the burdens I had been carrying. I saw more clearly that I was struggling with a spirit of anxiety and confusion around issues of financial security and support. I was so caught up in worry about the future that I had lost sight of my present Ground and Source, Jesus Christ.

Fortunately, an elder was able to name what was happening. She expressed her sense that the Adversary was loose in our midst. When she said this, I knew immediately that it was true. I perceived the spirit of confusion and anxiety for what it was – a spirit that was not from God – and I felt an immediate release. In what felt like a miraculous moment of spiritual house-cleaning, the darkness, confusion and anxiety cleared out of me. I give praise to God for using this elder to name what was happening, and to reveal the dynamics at play that were keeping me in bondage.

One thing that struck me this week was the prominence of what I would describe as almost “charismatic” expressions of faith. The reality of darkness and evil emerged as major themes of our worship and conversation. At the same time, there was a deep sense of Christ’s inward power that is breaking out of forms and structures and transforming us in ways that we could never have predicted. God is doing a new thing, though it is still unclear what this new creation will look like.

As someone who has been involved in QuakerSpring since the first gathering in 2007, this year felt like a turning point. I have always valued QuakerSpring as a chance to rest in the Spirit and grow in community. I saw QuakerSpring as a vacation from the hard work of ministry in the wider world. This year, however, I had a growing sense that God has a broader purpose for this gathering. What if QuakerSpring is more than a spiritual refuge? What if God is using QuakerSpring as an engine of renewal and rebirth for the Religious Society of Friends?

Everything in the Religious Society of Friends seems to be falling apart right now. Yearly Meetings are splitting, and old venerable institutions are in decline. Many of our Meetings are in states of crisis, and there is a general sense that we don’t really know what to do. We are at a loss for how to respond to our present circumstances. At QuakerSpring, I experience a community that is grounded in the Spirit, listening and seeking to be obedient to the voice of Jesus Christ within. This is the kind of community that I want to be a part of. It is a kind of Quakerism that could truly be relevant for 21st-century post-modern America.

QuakerSpring represents the unique meeting of Christian (or Christian-curious) Liberal Friends and Conservative Friends who seek a more vibrant and flexible Christian faith. I learned in high school biology that hybrids are often much stronger than “pure breeds.” Could this new community – this mutt of branch lineages united in the Spirit of Christ – find a voice and a witness that speaks to the needs of modern-day North America? How is God teaching us to contextualize the truth that early Friends re-discovered in our own – dramatically different – context? How might we move forward with our Guide?

There are no easy answers. While many of us wish there were some sort of “technical” solution for the challenges facing the Religious Society of Friends today, I am convinced that there is no quick fix that will produce faithfulness and awareness of God’s presence and power. Rather than developing a technique or a process, God is gathering a people.

QuakerSpring is not an abstract model or process that can simply be exported. This is not something that we can manage or control. Rather, QuakerSpring is apeople who are being knitted together in God’s love and power. Based on my experience of QuakerSpring, I am more convinced than ever that rebirth within the Church will not be the result of our human plans and strategies. There is a new creation that we can sense, and Christ himself is creating it.

Have you experienced the Spirit drawing a new community together? What does it feel like on the growing edge of a faith tradition? Where is the intersection between what God is doing in each of us individually, and the ways that God is at work in the Body as a whole? How do we give this new creation space to breathe and develop, avoiding the temptation to suffocate it with our own ideas and agendas?

Sing and rejoice ye children of the day and the light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt: and the Truth doth flourish as the rose, and lilies do grow among the thorns and the plants atop the hills, and upon them the lambs doth skip and play. 
– George Fox