Epistle from the Kindler’s Conference
Held at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham, England
This weekend, 91 Friends have met at Woodbrooke and sought ways to kindle afresh the Kingdom of Heaven within our Meetings. Does this language resonate for you Friends? Can we at last move beyond the words and really listen to each other’s spiritual yearning?
We have been asked to consider individually and as Meetings: “What is our ministry”? What is the role and calling of each of us in the task of renewing our community, as each generation must? Being and doing Quaker means more to each of us than turning up on Sunday mornings.
Quaker Meetings need to be life-enhancing, world –changing places of shared transformation. “It’s not called Meeting for Thinking, is it?!” We sense a yearning to discover how best to share that amongst ourselves and publicly. Our Quaker worship and insights should not be secrets to be kept by “us”, a group currently limited both in number and demographic. What makes you come alive? Can Quaker Meetings be places where people of all ages come alive as a full expression of the Spirit at work in our lives, bearing fruits of love, gratitude, forgiveness, hope and joy?
Is your Meeting one in which young people (often seen as those under 60!) are seen as our now, or our future? Young people and young adult Friends may have different ways of being Quaker and of expressing their Quakerism, which may not be through attending a local Quaker Meeting on a Sunday morning. These alternatives are not less valuable.
How do we nurture the spiritual life of our Meetings? How do we respond to the sparks of new ideas and kindling attempts of others – to live experimentally – is it with nourishment or is it by a hasty ‘squashing’? We acknowledge the power of this ‘squashing’, as well as the marginalisation of those less seen amongst Friends. We need to challenge the “well-established hierarchy of experience and age.”
We have reflected deeply on the need to accept our own vulnerability in bringing our hopes and visions and needs to our spiritual community. From this starting point of humility, we need to develop Friends’ gifts for teaching and guiding others, or speaking with confidence and clarity, for providing leadership and authority with tenderness. We have affirmed that Elders have a particular responsibility to make opportunities for spiritual development available. They need to work within a shared understanding of their role. They also need to ongoing support to gain confidence and skills. All of us, however, can be gifts in nurturing one another and new Friends.
We have heard of a thirst for new ideas, of taking Fox’s call literally to live ‘experimentally’ – being radically flexible in trying out new forms of worship, laying down our structures and meeting the world’s seekers as they are, stripping back our current ideas to allow the Spirit to name our priorities.
We have felt the fire that so energised early Friends in our time together. Meetings that are burning with the power of the Spirit are those most able to shine the Spirit out into the world around us: we are the first Quakers of the 21st Century.
Note: For a review of the conference and interesting discussion in the comments see Craig Barnett’s blogpost: http://transitionquaker.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/the-death-of-liberal-quakerism-and.html.