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Put on Your Sweater and Hang on to Your Hat! – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #66

Dear friends,

Here in Washington, DC, the weather is telling us that fall has just about arrived. Before I break out sweaters and jeans, though, let me take a moment to share what’s been going on with me and the Friends of Jesus community in the latter half of this summer.

The last month and a half has been very full in every way: with ministry, work and family. Compared to some other summers in recent memory, my schedule for travel has been relatively tame. Nevertheless, I still managed to make some significant excursions outside the Beltway. In addition to a midsummer visit to Philadelphia to encourage the Friends of Jesus community there, I was able to participate in the Northeast Christ-Centered Friends Gathering at Powell House, a Quaker center in upstate New York. The gathering was truly blessed, and I was humbled to be among so many women and men who are working to share the good news of Jesus among Liberal Quakers in the Northeast United States.

I was also able to make a trip out to Wichita, Kansas, to visit family and friends there. It was a fairly brief visit, but I was glad to be able to connect with a few folks from Great Plains Yearly Meeting, as well as with Jerry Truex, a dear friend who serves as pastor of Mennonite Church of the Servant. I am so impressed with the vital ministry being sustained by my friends in Wichita, and my heart aches to be among them, even as I know that God has called me to settle in the Washington, DC region for the foreseeable future.

This summer has been very typical in some ways, yet in other ways it has been quite strange. I’m used to all my spring routines breaking down each summer, only to be replaced by new patterns in the fall. The difference this time, though, is that I didn’t have to leave home to make it happen. This deconstruction of my ordinary routines has taken place here in situ, amidst the familiar surroundings of home.

To give just one example, my life was delightfully disrupted by a visit by Tyler Heston and Hye Sung Gehring. Tyler and Hye Sung spent six weeks this summer serving as interns with the Friends of Jesus community in Detroit, and by all accounts had a blast. I am so grateful that they are part of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, and it was great to spend almost a week with them as they swung out to the East Coast. Tyler will be spending the next year finishing up his undergraduate degree in Memphis, while Hye Sung will be out in Portland spending a year with Quaker Voluntary Service. I’m really excited about the friendship and collaboration in ministry that we are developing with these two very talented and big-hearted young men.

OK, now that I’ve filled you in on summer, I’m ready to put on my hoodie and tell you about what’s on deck for this fall. As the air starts to change, so does our program. The summer was extremely informal for our community here in DC, and we gathered in many different ways – whether grabbing tacos on H Street, cleaning up Shepherd Parkway in Southeast, or gathering for a low-key Bible study. As we move into fall, our plan is a bit less free-form and slightly more methodical, but we hope to maintain a posture of experimentation and freedom in the Spirit of Christ.

We’ve got several ways we’re looking to engage in the coming months. Let’s go from smallest to largest:

On the small end, we’re launching several Life Transformation Groups (LTGs). These are groups of 2-3 people who gather each week to confess sin to each other and practice intercessory prayer for a few people that members of the group would like to see come to faith in Jesus. During the week, members of the group read a large amount of Scripture, allowing the biblical witness to speak into their lives. We hope that our LTGs will be a practical support for members of our community who want to go deeper in exploring what it means to be disciples of Jesus in the most practical sense, allowing relationships of accountability – to Christ and to one another – to transform our lives.

A slightly larger expression of our community this fall comes in our small groups. Here in DC, we’re expecting a group of roughly half a dozen folks to participate in an 8-week small group experience based on The Tangible Kingdom, a resource produced to help friends come together and discover what it might be like to live as a missional community. Our hope is that this experience might foster a deeper level of commitment and intimacy, together as friends and followers of Jesus. For more information about The Tangible Kingdom, check out the original book, and the TK Primer, which is the resource we’ll be using in our small group (a free sample of the Primer can be downloaded here).

In Maryland, we have a small group that has already begun gathering in Rockville, in the chapel of a retirement community where one of our members lives. By all accounts, it sounds like things are going very well so far. The format of the group is one of interactive Bible exploration, and our Maryland organizers hope that the small group will be a safe, supportive environment for both established Christians as well as those who are just curious about what the Bible has to say and how it might apply to their lives.

In addition to our LTGs and small groups, we are also planning to have a monthly worship gathering that will welcome folks from across the entire DC metro area. For those who are not familiar with our region, travel can be extremely draining and time-consuming, so once-monthly gatherings for the whole metro area seems like the most we can sustain right now as we seek to grow communities in more particular geographical locations. We look forward to these times of corporate worship as opportunities to receive spiritual nourishment from Jesus, and in that communion to connect more deeply with one another as brothers and sisters in him.

Please take a moment right now to pray for us in the following ways:

  • That our LTGs would cohere and become micro-communities where the Holy Spirit can truly do transforming work on each member of our community. That God give us new life and power to change as we become more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus.
  • For the presence of Christ to be felt in our small groups. That he would use each of our small groups to build up core communities in our two present geographical locations, giving us courage and boldness to become fishers of people.
  • That the power of God truly be felt among us in our monthly gatherings for worship, and that geography not hold us back from coming together as one church in the name of Jesus.
  • Finally, please pray that God will bless the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Fall Gathering. Pray for large attendance, powerful teaching, and a palpable awareness of the sweet Spirit who calls us to pick up the cross and become disciples of Jesus.

Thank you for your support – through your prayers, financial giving, and all the ways that you have been instruments of God’s care for this ministry. Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your friend,

Micah Bales

PS: If you haven’t registered yet for the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Fall Gathering, it’s not too late! Check out our promotional flier, register, and leave a comment on our Facebook page if you have any questions!

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #20 – YAF Gathering 2010; Service Days; Great Plains Yearly Meeting; and Illinois Yearly Meeting

Dear Friends,

More than usual has happened this past month. The YAF gathering came off without any major hitches, followed by volunteer service in the city of Wichita; I attended Great Plains Yearly Meeting; and, not long after that, I was able to join Friends in Illinois Yearly Meeting for their annual sessions. In the meantime, I have also stayed engaged with Friends in the DC area and in Virginia. This has been a full and fruitful time for Christ’s work in my life, and I hope that you will forgive me if I run a little long in my report.

To begin with, the 2010 Young Adult Friends Gathering was held, with divine assistance, over Memorial Day weekend in Wichita, Kansas. Young adults from across the United States and Canada – Micah and Dave Williamsas well as a few Latin American Friends – came together,  representing twenty three Yearly Meetings. All branches of Quakerism were represented, and Liberal-Unprogrammed, orthodox and Evangelical Friends were present in roughly equal numbers, along with a few Conservative and independent Friends.

Our time together was richly blessed with the sustained and gentle presence of the Holy Spirit who kept us grounded in unity University Friends Sanctuaryand peace, despite the difficulties we faced as we came together from our different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives. We sought God’s face together in periods of extended unprogrammed worship; we also celebrated God’s presence among us with hymns and praise music; and we received teaching from from Dave Williams of Barclay College in two of our evening sessions.

Our different beliefs and practices stretched all of us to seek that which is truly central in our life together as Friends. Some of us were exposed to far more unprogrammed worship than we were Registration used to, while others of us were astonished to see some Friends raise their hands in adoration as we sang songs of praise to the Lord. It is safe to say that each one of us was uncomfortable some of the time, and I know for a fact that some Friends came away from the event feeling that it was a “mostly Liberal” gathering, while others came away feeling that it was an “Evangelical-oriented” conference. I think this speaks to the prophetic power of Christ’s work among us. None of us came away unchallenged.

This gathering was a wake-up call for many of us as to the reality  of the divisions within the Religious Society of Friends. The splits, Welcome Young Adult Friends Gatheringwhile they may have begun as disputes over seemingly minor points, have grown to a breadth and depth that we are forced to acknowledge that we are incapable of mending the wounds ourselves. It is in this surrender, this recognition of our own inability to save ourselves, that I pray that we will become receptive to the reconciling power of Christ in our hearts and in our midst as a people gathered in His Name.

The weekend gathering was followed by a few days of service. Between a half dozen and a dozen of us who had stayed on after the gathering worked with Mennonite Housing in Wichita. We did landscaping at two different sites, and we were surprised at how happy folks were to see us at Mennonite Housing and in the communities where we were working. We did not expect any gratitude for our brief time of community service, and we were humbled by the appreciation we received.

We were surprised at how simple it was to set up a work-camp for YAFs. Tyler Hampton, the main organizer for the service days, said that setting up the service project was, “the easiest thing [he] had done in [his] life.” We would like to encourage young adults to organize their own work camps through established organizations like Mennonite Housing. It can be done – and quite easily.
We concluded our service by helping Friends at Heartland Meeting to prepare their meetinghouse to host the annualHeartland Meeting House sessions of Great Plains Yearly Meeting. About half a dozen of the YAFs from the Memorial Day gathering stuck around for GPYM, and it was a blessing to have their prayerful presence with us as we conducted our business as a Yearly Meeting.

This year’s sessions of Great Plains were probably the best that I had ever experienced. We enjoyed new leadership from Laura Dungan, who has taken over as presiding clerk.  Her energy andGreat Plains Yearly Meeting vision has been indispensable in the past year in mobilizing Friends to  take on the ministry of intervisitation in the Great  Plains region, and it was a joy to see her presiding over her first Yearly Meeting business sessions. I appreciated the discipline I saw her bring to our proceedings, and I felt blessed by both her warmth and her seriousness in the role.

We were grateful to have many guests – YAFs from the recent gathering; visitors from other Yearly Meetings, FGC and FUM; and visitors from neighboring Meetings in the Great Plains region. It was gratifying to see Great Plains Yearly Meeting serving as a bridge across the branches, both nationally and regionally.

We also faced great sadness together as a Yearly Meeting. We were shocked and deeply grieved to learn that our friend John Damon, an active member of Great Plains Yearly Meeting, was dying of a post-op infection following an otherwise-successful liver transplant. We were not prepared for this news, and many tears were shed over our dear friend. John was a valued member of our fellowship, and his loss is a great blow to us.

This year’s sessions were a time of letting go for me, personally. As I am now living at a considerable distance from the GreatMicah and Faith at GPYM Plains and have no plans to return, it felt right to lay down my leadership roles in the Yearly Meeting. I had served as co-clerk of Ministry and Counsel, as well as serving on Continuing Committee; I stepped down from both of these positions. I feel  much gratitude to Friends in GPYM who have upheld my ministry and have allowed me to serve among them. While I am saddened that I am no longer in a position to take an active role in Yearly Meeting leadership, I am confident in the work that Christ is doing YAFs at GPYMin the Yearly Meeting. The spiritual gifts that Friends need to do the work they are called to are present in the body; I pray for Friends in Great Plains Yearly Meeting the wisdom to be used in God’s service.

After a brief trip back to DC, I was once again on the road, this time out to Illinois Yearly Meeting. ILYM has its sessions near McNabb, Illinois, at the beautiful Clear Creek Meeting House. Near the meetinghouse, there is space for camping, six cabinsThe Front Porch with room to sleep almost fifty, as well as another building (used by the teenagers) that can house many more. In addition to these facilities, Friends were excited last year to acquire neighboring land, including a farmhouse that they have been busily renovating since then. All in all, these Friends have a wonderful facility to host their Yearly Meeting, as well as other events as they see fit.

Having spent such a long time in cities, it was a relief to be in the ILYM Campgroundscountryside and out of doors for long periods of time. For me, the site was almost magical; I was mesmerized by the sound of frogs, insects and the wind rushing through the trees, accompanied by the blinking lights of the fireflies that hung in the air throughout the camp site and across the cornfields.

This was a good environment for the ministry that I was called to do. Friends in ILYM asked me to speak to them during their first evening sessions; they asked me to share about my spiritual Clear Creek Meeting House Interior journey. No further instructions. I spent a lot of time in prayer about what I was to say, and as I arrived early at the Yearly Meeting site, I was beginning to feel around the edges of it. On the morning of the day I was to speak, I felt clear that I had been given a word from the Lord to deliver to Friends.

And so it was. That evening, I shared with Friends about my trials and stumblings as a youth; my existential despair and confusion; my eventual convincement as a Friend; and my long journey, ILYM AYFswhich continues, to grow closer in my walk with Christ. My message ended up being centered around listening, and I asked Friends in ILYM to consider how they taught their young people  to listen for the voice of God in their hearts. Based on the worship that followed and the comments that I received afterwards, I believe that I was faithful.

Except for a workshop which I presented the following day about the North American Young Adult Friends movement, I was mostly free to spend the rest of the sessions in prayer and Micah with Caryn and Zoe conversation with Friends. I spent much of my time with the Young Adult Friends (in ILYM called “Adult Young Friends”), and I was grateful to be available to them as they did some discernment around what they are called to as a community within ILYM. I was pleased to hear a vision emerge among them: That their  community was to be a place of transition, aiding young Quakers in the transition to full adult membership and participation in the Yearly Meeting.

It was truly a gift to be with Friends at ILYM’s sessions. I felt very warmly welcomed among them, and I look forward to how I might be of service in the future. I have seen that the Lord has blessed them with competent and Spirit-led leadership, and I am confident that God is working out God’s purposes in their midst.

The next couple of months are going to be just as intense as the last month has been. I am leaving today for Barnesville, Ohio, to attend the Wider Gathering of Conservative Friends. Following that, I will continue on in Barnesville for QuakerSpring – a unique, completely “unprogrammed” time to gather together in Christ. Finally, after a few days back in DC, I will make my way out to the Pacific Northwest for the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage, where I will serve as one of four adult leaders, serving with almost thirty high-school-aged Young Friends as we discover together our rich heritage as Quakers. I will not be back home until mid-August.
I appreciate your prayers for me as I continue to travel and minister as God leads. I hope that you will continue to hold me in the Light, and that you will let me know if you have prayer concerns that you would like me to take into my prayer life.

Your brother in the family that is Christ’s Reign,

Micah Bales

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,


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.

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #18 – Entering the Home Stretch towards YAF Gathering 2010

Dear Friends of Truth,

I’ve been on the move a lot this last month. After a time of relative settledness and rest on Capitol Hill, I emerged again this April as I began the final Capitol Hillpush in the planning of and outreach work for the Young Adult Friends Gathering 2010, to occur this Memorial Day weekend in Wichita. I am currently on the road, visiting Friends in Wichita, having first spent a week in Chicago.

This month’s letter was to have begun with a report on the gathering of New York Yearly Meeting’s Young Adult Friends. Faith and I had intended to attend their event near Ithaca, New York, in late March. Unfortunately, both Faith and I were struck by sudden illness just before we were to depart. Though we were Circle of Young Friends (NYYM)very sad to miss the gathering, we trust that God has a plan in everything and that the Spirit was present with our beloved brothers and sisters in New York Yearly Meeting during their time together.

The gathering in New York was only one of several regional Young Adult Friends gatherings that have taken place this spring. There were also gatherings held in Philadelphia, DC, and Wichita.  At these events, Friends had the opportunity to engage with the advance materials for the May gathering, prepare themselves for  the event over Memorial Day weekend, and to get to know better other Friends from their area. Turnout for these gatherings was generally small, but we know that many who were not able to attend will be able to engage with the conference materials individually.

Shortly following the DC regional YAF gathering,Chicago I boarded a train to attend the Religion Communication Congress (RCC), held in downtown Chicago, April 7-10. It was a really eye-opening  experience to gather with hundreds of other religious communicators, learn about the state of communications among religious organizations across the country, and dig deeper into the emerging technologies and communications strategies that are shaping our intellectual and social landscape. Particularly important for me was learning more about the importance of video as an outreach tool. (To see some fruits of my exploration thus far, click here.)

Following the RCC, I spent several days with Garnet and Eileen Chicago mass transitFay. I was very grateful for the warm hospitality they showed me. It was a blessing to accompany Garnet to worship at Chicago  Friends Meeting. My parents were co-pastors at this Meeting back in the late 1970s, and it was good to see the meeting house where they served together just after getting married. It is a very different Meeting now, having become non-pastoral in the mid-1990s. I was glad to get to know these Friends and to share worship with them.

Faith met up with me in Chicago and we took the train together to Planning committe in WichitaWichita, where we spent a weekend with the planning committee for the YAF Gathering 2010. There were seven of us, from across  the United States, who met together to conduct the last major items of business that we had before us as we geared up for the final weeks of conference registration. During the weekend, I spent a lot of my time shooting and editing videos to share our meetings with everyone who couldn’t be there in person. You can see the videos on YouTube by searching with the keyword “YAF2010” – or, just click here.

Faith headed home following the committee meetings, but I am staying on in Wichita for another week, specifically in order to be present this weekend at Earlham School of Religion’s 50th anniversary celebration at Heartland Meeting House. Yesterday,

I travelled with Charity Sandstrom out to Barclay College. We spoke with the students there about the upcoming YAF gathering, and invited them to participate. The Friends at Barclay were very welcoming and sweet. I felt honored to be among them. Our main speaker for the gathering, Dave Williams, is professor of pastoral ministries and chaplain at Barclay; so we hope to get a good turnout from Friends there.

In the midst of my travels, I managed to launch, a joint project with Jon Watts. QuakerMaps is a site where Friends and seekers from around the QuakerMaps.comworld can  discover Quakerism and explore the location of local Meetings and Yearly Meetings through embedded Google maps. We still have a lot of work left to do, but it is coming along nicely. I would encourage Friends Meetings to check out our Active Outreach Program, which we hope will serve local Quaker Meetings in their internet outreach efforts. Also, if you or your Meeting have a website, please consider linking to

In the month ahead, I will be engaged in the final preparations for the 2010 YAF Gathering. Please pray for me, and for the planning committee, as we seek to be faithful to God’s guidance. We believe that God wants to open a welcoming space for Friends from across North America – and across the branches of Quakerism – to come together and know one another in the Spirit of Christ. I am convinced that God is active in guiding and preparing this conference. God is in control, in a very real sense, and I can only look on in awe as the Holy Spirit prepares us for what we are to see, experience and learn this Memorial Day weekend.

Your friend in Love,

Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #15 – Young Adult Friends in Baltimore and New York; Christmas in Kansas

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you in the love and peace of Christ Jesus. In the month since my last newsletter, Faith and I have visited Young Adult Friends in Baltimore Yearly Meeting, traveled to Kansas for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and attended New York Yearly Meeting’s Circle of Young Friends, in western New York state. In our travels, we have felt blessed by an abiding sense of God’s love in our lives, and we have sensed that God is at work through us.

Just before Christmas, Faith and I were able to attend the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends retreat. The weekend event was held at Stony Run‘s meetinghouse, in the city of Baltimore. We camped out in sleeping bags throughout the building, cooked in Stony Run’s large kitchen, and watched as a blizzard covered the Mid-Atlantic in a thick blanket of snow. It was good to connect with Friends from BYM that we had known before, and to make new connections. We spoke to the group about the upcoming YAF gathering in May, and we hope that many of them will decide to make the journey to Wichita.

Just a couple of days later, we were on a plane out to Wichita, to spend Christmas and New Years’ with my family. Being back home for the holidays was a real change of pace. I don’t think that I had relaxed so much in at least two years. My first instinct is to say, “I did nothing,” for a week and a half. But, the truth is that I did quite a bit; but none of it was work. My brother gave me a guitar, and I began to teach myself how to play; I read several books and watched several movies; and I got to have some important time with my parents, who I don’t see very often anymore. It was blessed time.

Returning to Washington, though, I had a tough time getting back into my normal routine of ongoing, purposeful work. I felt very behind, having set everything aside for almost two weeks. I felt somewhat adrift after such a long stretch of fallow time. Fortunately, I would soon be given the opportunity to re-engage.

This past weekend, Faith and I drove up to the Beloved Community House, near Ithaca, New York, to attend the New York Yearly Meeting Circle of Young Friends retreat. The Beloved Community House is the site of NYYM’s new Young Friends in Residence program, which consists of three (eventually, four) Young Adult Friends who are released by their Quarterly Meeting to live together in intentional spiritual community. The biggest piece of their service to area Friends will be developing and sustaining a Quaker youth program, focusing on middle school and high school aged youth. This program will be modeled to a great degree on the programs of Powell House, but will also develop its own distinctive characteristics as Friends discover the particular needs and gifts of Friends in their region.

We spent the weekend in the house with around thirty other young adult Quakers, guided by Christopher Sammond in a program of listening deeply and intentionally opening ourselves to the Divine. Some of the young people present were not comfortable with the word “God,” let alone a Christian understanding of God; however, over the course of the weekend, many hearts were touched by God’s Spirit, and great advances were made by the Truth.

The joy of God’s presence was palpable among us, and though not all of us acknowledged God in Christian – or even theistic – terms, it was clear to me that we were indeed sharing in communion with Christ through His Holy Spirit. The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit that came over us created a space for me to share about the Gospel with a number of individuals, and I was grateful to have a number of those attending approach me and thank me for my presence and contribution during the weekend. One young Friend expressed his thankfulness that I was there to express our experience in Christian terms, “which we in New York Yearly Meeting often shy away from.”

When we talked to Friends in New York about the YAF gathering in May, we received a very energetic and enthusiastic response. One Friend’s first reaction was to say, “I can fit seven people in my Suburban – let’s go!” By the time the retreat was over, there was some talk of whether it might be a good idea to rent a bus. Faith and I were amazed and grateful for the energy and tenderness of spirit that we experienced with these Young Adult Friends. We look forward to seeing many of them in Wichita, in May.

Finally, this Wednesday, Capitol Hill Friends had its first meeting for worship in 2010. We had a good turnout, with nine people showing up for dinner, Scripture reading, singing, and waiting worship. I feel very heartened at the way that the group is developing, and I believe that a core is starting to emerge. I encourage any of you who are able to make it to our worship to attend, and we would be very grateful to host traveling ministers who feel a burden for building up the Church. Come, and share the Gospel with us! Whether or not you are able to visit us, please pray that God will build us up numerically and spiritually as we dedicate ourselves to the work that the Lord has for us in the city of Washington.

I pray that God bless each of you with an abiding sense of Christ’s presence within you, leading you to boldness and freedom in the Truth.

Your friend in our brother Jesus,

Micah Bales