Evelyn and I met at a Quakers Uniting in Publications annual meeting in North Carolina in 2008. The following year she moved to Richmond to attend the Earlham School of Religion. I asked how she was adjusting. In addition to lamenting the North Carolina sun that doesn’t shine in Indiana, she said she missed the worship group she had been part of “back home.” We briefly chatted about the possibility of beginning a women’s worship group, then went back to our busy lives.
Another year passed and Evelyn and I were involved in a leadership conference together at the FUM offices in Richmond. She was beginning to adjust to the gray days, but still missed her worship group. We chatted again about beginning a women’s worship group, declaring that this time we were really going to do it.
During that same conference I found myself standing in line next to Emma. Emma was also an ESR student. We’d met a year or two before at Pendle Hill, a retreat center in Pennsylvania, and had had good conversations about the renewed energy of young adult Friends around the Quaker Voluntary Service movement (which you can read more about in the next issue of Quaker Life).
While in line next to Emma she asked how I was doing. The seconds that followed changed my life. I realized in those seconds that I had a choice. I could say “fine” or “good” or “okay” or even “great, how are you?” Or I could be honest. I could tell her I was struggling to hear God, that I needed a friend or a clearness committee or a vacation.
“Not great,” I responded, surprising us both.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked.
Again I had a choice. I could say “not really” or “no thanks” or pretend I didn’t hear and ask how she was doing instead. But again I surprised us both and said yes. We found a table in the corner and I shared with her what was on my heart. I discovered she was a great listener; she asked all the questions a good clearness committee would have asked. At the end of our conversation I invited her to be part of the women’s worship group Evelyn and I were now committed to starting.
The three of us began meeting weekly in Emma’s home, sharing tea and silence and rich conversation, looking deep inside for our growing edges. We had been part of several common “communities” before meeting together for worship — organizations, conferences, geographic locations, gender and age groups — but it wasn’t until we were willing to “know one another in that which is eternal” (George Fox, 1657) that I really discovered what it means to be in community. I now know how to satisfy the longing that God put in my heart to know and be known.
In the same Spirit, our writers approach the topic of community with a determination to share in one another’s hurts and triumphs with a love that is possible because God first loved us. I invite you to read deeply and to seek the fullness of what it means to be in community with Friends. Don’t put off for years what God is calling you to today.