A GREAT PEOPLE TO BE GATHERED — IN CHRIST, IN COMMUNITY, FOR MISSION
FUM Day of Discernment
Over the past forty days, many of us in the Friends community have joined together in an intense and intentional season of prayer, listening, and conversation. We trust this time has enriched and enlivened your experience of Christ. We pray it has deepened and developed the connections within your local community and across the Society of Friends. We have expectant hope it has given all of us a greater interest in and insight about how to engage our world in redemptive and reconciling ways.
Today, on the final day of our 40 Days of Prayer for the Future of Friends, Friends United Meeting invites you to participate in our Day of Discernment. As the FUM board and staff have been working together on discerning necessary changes and a more clear sense of direction, we quickly agreed such an effort needs the input and participation of everyone who belongs to Friends United Meeting.
Today, all around the world, we are asking Friends to join together in worship/reflection groups to consider and respond to a common set of queries focusing on the future of FUM. By gathering together and being gathered by the Holy Spirit, we believe an important and clear sense of leading will emerge through us and begin to unite us in a new and powerful way.
This effort to evoke a sense of vision from the community is what led us to call for the 40 Days of Prayer. If we are going to be a gathered people—in Christ, in Community, for Mission—it will arise out of a deep openness to God’s Presence and Power working among us and through us. We trust these forty days have prepared us for this work and made us willing to lay aside our own personal agendas to adopt the will of God as it is revealed to us. Thank you for your willingness to engage in this work together. We look forward to what emerges in your gathering and to see the threads begin to weave together in a remarkable and beautiful pattern that will guide us in the days ahead.
As you gather together, it may be helpful to notice and name some temptations we can face in a process like this. For a few of us, it might be the temptation to subtly impose our will or desires on others. Maybe the temptation will be to insist on a dream, goal, or a vision that has less to do with God and more to do with our own needs. Some of us could see this as an opportunity to shift FUM in a certain direction or leverage the conversation to make sure our favorite project or good work gets highlighted. In the end, however, there is perhaps only one right question for discernment: “What is the will of God for us?”; and only one right response to the Divine Will: “not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Naming these temptations as a community may help us resist them together.
Suggestions for the FUM Day of Discernment
1) At the beginning of the 40 Days of Prayer, we asked local meetings/churches to make plans Sunday, 18 November, to host a Day of Discernment gathering. This can happen in a variety of ways. We encourage the creative energies of leaders in the local community to organize in a way that best meets your needs and increases participation. Some ideas include:
• have all Sunday school/First-Day school groups discuss the queries,
• set aside a time after worship for interested people to meet (and enjoy a potluck!),
• organize a number of home dinner groups in the evening,
• invite a neighboring meeting/church or your quarterly meeting to gather with you after worship and break into smaller discussion groups.
However you configure the groups, we encourage people of all ages to participate. If needed, of course, please have groups meet the following week during existing small groups, youth gatherings, Bible studies, etc.
Please make the queries on the following pages available in advance to encourage deeper reflection.
2) Recruit a facilitator and recording clerk for each group that meets. The facilitator’s role is to begin and close the meeting and ensure room is created for good listening and appropriate sharing. The recording clerk will capture the responses of the participants. If it is helpful for the group, consider writing responses on a board or large paper throughout the discussion.
3) Begin the gathering with a period of centering silence. Consider reflecting on a passage of Scripture — Isaiah 43:18-21 or Ephesians 3:14-21 — to help focus thoughts and frame the sharing.
4) When the facilitator feels clear to proceed, read the first query. Ask people to respond as led, taking care to share only what is useful, relevant to the query, and prompted by the Spirit. We encourage this to be worshipful sharing, rather than simply brainstorming or debate. The recording clerk is encouraged to write down all responses seeming to resonate within the gathering. If the facilitator and group are able to discern responses the group can unite around, we are especially interested in having those recorded. Giving space between each query, repeat this process until finished.
5) At the close of the gathering, we ask you to pray for all of us within the FUM community — that we would be faithful, courageous, and compassionate in our local meetings/churches, within our yearly meetings, and as we work together as a global gathering of Friends.
6) We ask the facilitator and recording clerk from each group to coordinate who will send the responses to Friends United Meeting. A template is provided. Your group’s responses can either be emailed to the FUM general secretary, Colin Saxton, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to the FUM-Richmond office: Friends United Meeting, 101 Quaker Hill Drive, Richmond, Indiana USA 47374; or the Africa Ministries Office: P.O. Box 478, Kisumu 40100, Kenya, EAST AFRICA.
Please mail/email your responses by 1 December 2012. The FUM staff will synthesize the responses and report back to both the FUM General Board and the wider FUM community what Friends are saying. We trust these responses will make a significant impact on the FUM board’s strategic planning and discernment in the coming year.