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FUM News in Brief – September/October 2014

Kaptama Health Centre Vision Camp on Mt. Elgon, Kenya

By John Muhanji

It was a moment when the dark mountain became bright and nature could be seen from its true colors — a moment when a cloudy atmosphere disappeared from the face of Julius who now saw his wife differently. Julius’s eye sight was invaded by cataracts many years ago. He was one of many whose sight was recaptured by the miraculous work done at Kaptama Health Centre.

Early morning of July 3rd, a high number of people walked from all directions toward the hospital for the first day of the camp. The young, middle aged and seniors streamed towards the hospital by walking, riding on donkeys and motorbikes. Others were carried or led by friends. The team of health care providers of Sabatia Eye Hospital and Wabash Friends Church found the Kaptama Hospital grounds full of people waiting to be treated. Julius was among the first people to be seen and booked for surgery the following day. The vision camp saw and treated over 1200 people.

The hospital was equipped with a surgery building, but it had never been used since it was built in 2004. During the vision camp, that surgery building handled over 100 surgeries excellently. Julius came back after having his eye sight restored and helped other people in the line, keeping order while rejoicing and praying God.

The mission on the mountain was two-fold. On one hand, eye sight was restored to many. On the other, spiritual transformation was evident. Initially, six trained young people in discipleship trained another 12, and those twelve trained 16 other disciples. Both groups are actively involved in reaching many other places on the mountain and planting churches. Because of this, the Ndorobo people who live in the forest, and do not mix with other people freely, were reached for Jesus. They, too, came to the vision camp after traveling over 30kms.

This camp and its results reminded me of the incident mentioned in Matthew 9:27-31: “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him calling out: ‘Have mercy on us, son of David!’” The blind men heard about Jesus’ miraculous healing power from other people in the region and pursued him actively, doing their best to get attention. Jesus then turned the spotlight back on them, asking them to honestly reflect on their faith.

People came to Kaptama Health Centre to be healed and left rejoicing and praising God for renewed eyesight. Joys and praises reigned in the air on the mountain. People left the camp and stated that they have been changed through this ministry, causing others to come and be healed as well.

January/February Work Team Invitation

You are invited to visit and work among Friends meetings in eastern Cuba (particularly in Holguin and Gibara) at sites where Cuban Friends meet for camp, yearly meeting sessions and pastoral training. Some stamina is required for unskilled construction tasks, travel, longer walks and multiple church gatherings.

To register, go to: www.regonline.com/cuba_jan_2015.

A $200 non-refundable deposit is required at the time of registration as well as a copy of your passport. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Terri Johns by email or by phone at 765-962-7573.

Dates: Last week of January through first week of February (exact dates determined on flight schedule from Miami to Holguin, TBA.)
Cost: $2,100
Participant Limit: 10 team members
Deadline: September 30, 2014

REGISTER NOW

Cost includes:

• Round trip flight from Miami to Holguin, Cuba
• Hotel stay in Miami on either side of the trip
• All meals, transportation and lodging in Cuba
• Needed supplies for work
• Visas and licenses
• Note: Costs will need to be adjusted if fares change significantly

Cost does not include:

• Meals in Miami on either side of the trip (team dines together)
• Baggage fees (estimated at $100)
• Flights to Miami and home
• Spending money for offering, snacks, souvenirs, etc.
• In addition, most work team participants carry items needed by Cuba Yearly Meeting

The First FUM Stewards

By Dan Kasztelan

The first year of the FUM Stewards program went exceedingly well. Four young adults — representing a wide range of ages and levels of Quaker involvement — participated.

Throughout the five days we were together, the stewards spoke about how they experience God, and tried out several new spiritual disciplines in order to experiment with expanding their responsiveness to God’s presence. Powerful stories were heard from Friends Sammy Letoole and Getry Agizah about how God has approached them in their work as African peacemakers.

The stewards also participated in many of the general activities of the Triennial, including the plenary sessions, workshops and other activities. Perhaps the greatest success of the Stewards program was in offering these young adults a family-like home in which to share stories and responses about the Friends they were meeting and the ideas they were hearing.

Feedback from the four stewards was extremely positive. As we left each other on Sunday, they were counting down to the next Triennial and figuring out how many more times they’d be able to participate in the program before hitting the upper age limit (27). They’ve also made plans for how to stay in touch after Marion.

2014 O&P Changes Approved

The following Operations and Procedures (O&P) changes were accepted and approved during the 2014 Triennial Business Sessions:

1. Membership:
• Clarifies the provision for Associations and other Quaker groups to become members.
• Establishes criteria for membership that includes alignment with FUM’s purpose statement and ministry priorities, and a willingness to actively engage in and financially support FUM’s mission.

2. Redefinition of staff structure:
• The General Secretary will be the sole executive staff member.
• All other staff will be hired by the General Secretary.

3. Definition of Global Regions of Friends United Meeting:
• Provides provisions for regional gatherings to meet and focus on ministries in their area.
• Grants authority and responsibility for Global Regions to name and populate commissions and task forces to broaden participation of individuals in the work of FUM and more effectively enable FUM to fulfill ministry priorities.

4. Establishment of a New Executive Board:
• Appointed and accountable to the General Board.
• Function as a global coordinating body of the General Board, structured for efficiency and to enhance global partnership priorities.
• Better balance regional representation.
• Meet more often through various communication means.

Closing Minute: Friends United Meeting Triennial 2014

This week, James Bryan Smith reminded us how completely we have been embraced by the love of God. Richard Foster reminded us that God’s divine power has already given us everything we need for life and godliness.

Colin Saxton reminded us how people in our world are hungering for what Friends have to offer:

· Intimate spirituality
· Radical discipleship
· Passion for justice
· Commitment to nonviolence
· Devotion to simplicity
· Concern for equality
· And a vision of a beloved community.

This week, the Lord met us here in Marion, Indiana, and gave us direction for our next steps together in mission.

As we all return to our home communities, may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be over us all until we meet again.

Meanderings and Musings – September/October 2014

By Annie Glen – Communications Editor

My husband possess a unique ability to know what direction he needs to go to get to any destination he wishes. Most generally, he doesn’t need a map. Unlike me, he never gets lost.

I, on the other hand, could be placed within a cardboard box with the instructions, “Go to the upper right hand corner,” and I will get lost. When I venture out to parts unknown, there is always a part of me, deep within, that panics. I know that once I am lost, I will never figure out how to get to my destination.

My long suffering husband, who received the frenzied calls and who would calmly help me out of directional jams, thought it wise to purchase a GPS for me. What a gift! Now, I had a voice that would tell me to turn when I needed to, gave me fair warning that the exit was on the left and my destination was .2 miles on the right.

The only times I would get lost was when I ignored the voice — even when the voice stated and repeated, “At the earliest, most convenient time, make a U-turn.” I finally would listen — when I was about 50 miles out of my way. Turn around, make a U-turn. These words have been spoken to me more times than I can count — and not by a mechanical voice. There is deep within my soul a GPS that tells me and assures me that I am on the right path. I call it my “God Positioning System.”

My GPS was re-activated at the 2014 FUM Triennial with the words: “I am one in whom Christ dwells and takes delight. I live in the strong and unshakeable kingdom of God.” All of a sudden I heard my GPS state, “Are you ready? At the earliest, most convenient time, make a U-turn.” I have long held the belief that life with Jesus Christ is one that influences; it should be a model that listens to a spiritual GPS and does the actual work of God here on earth. God’s work. Not mine. God’s. I could do good works on my own and be OK, but is that the life to which God calls? Why can’t my work result in influencing others to a closer, tangible experience of a living God?

Through the speakers and the many conversations I had with people from all over the world at the Triennial, I found that tangible experience of God once more. I began to understand that I have ignored and eventually shut off my internal GPS system. My U-turn consisted of me looking at the belief that a tangible relationship with God, my Creator, does involve being a person of influence because my life is hidden in Christ with God.

Influence comes from not trying to do things on my own; it doesn’t come from my ego or determined sense of independence. It comes from trusting that my life, hidden in Christ, will influence. If I am one in Christ, the kingdom in which I reside becomes influential. The most significant part of the U-turn is the truth that it isn’t my life that influences, it is Christ’s.

I need to go back to a practice of listening intently and trusting that Voice. Christ’s voice spoke loudly during Triennials, “Annie, you are one in whom I dwell and take delight. Why don’t you let go and live in the strong, unshakeable kingdom in which I reign? The influence will be My job, if you just listen and trust my Voice.”

FUM, as a body, I believe, also heard its GPS say the same words. I found myself praying throughout the time, “We are listening, O God. May Your life become tangible to anyone we encounter. If we need to, may we turn around and make a U-turn right into Your strong and unshakeable kingdom. May the world experience Your influence, again. Amen.” It is a prayer I pray for you, my
Friends. And, may you never get lost.

Out of My Mind – September/October 2014

By Colin Saxton – General Secretary

Three years ago, when the Friends United Meeting search team interviewed me for the general secretary position, I told them one of the reasons FUM should not offer me the job is that I did not know that vast majority of people who populate this Quaker community. I had traveled some among FUM Quakers and built friendships and working relationships with a few of you, but it seemed to me FUM most needed a general secretary who was intimately connected to those she or he would be serving. Whoever they called, I suggested, ought to make relationship building and listening a major priority, in order to deepen the sense of community and discern how FUM could best move into the future. In response, the search team and General Board assured me I would have ample opportunity to get to know Friends if wound up being called to serve. It turns out, they were right . . .

I get to travel a lot in my work for FUM. Along the way, I have come to know and love Quakers from every corner of the world. Among the things I am tasked and led to do in service of FUM, one I enjoy the most is sitting down with individuals and small groups of Friends to talk about and dream about our life together and the work God is calling us we to do for the sake the world.

Around your kitchen tables, in your coffee shops and your meetinghouses, I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of you about FUM. Whether those conversations were in rural Tanzania, downtown Boston, sunny Jamaica or wintry Indiana, Friends have shared their hopes, fears, questions and concerns about the future of FUM.

At our recent Triennial, the staff and General Board shared an emerging strategic plan and set of priorities for the next five to 10 years. The particular features of this plan arose out of these many conversations with you and the responses we received from the Day of Discernment held over a year ago. The plans focus on new initiatives related to leadership development, improved communication and providing practical resources that support the life and vitality of local and yearly meetings who are a part of FUM, especially those in North America. We believe Friends have important work to do and that it will require a determined intentionality and deeper spirit of partnership and collaboration to see it come to fruition.

Over the last few months, FUM partnered with Henry Freeman to conduct a feasibility study to consider the possibility of an FUM Campaign. New and improved initiatives will require adequate and sustainable support if we are going to be effective and faithful. For several months, Henry also sat around the kitchen tables and local diners of Friends who were invited to be part of the study. He listened to the stories, passions and dreams of some of the people who make up our community. Over and over, Henry heard Friends speak hopefully about an FUM that can enable Friends to be more faithful, more effective and more united in Christian fellowship and service. They expressed a longing that FUM could make a transformational difference in the lives of individuals, meetings and yearly meetings by providing training, curriculum, shared experiences and connections aimed at energizing, equipping and connecting our community. The results of
the feasibility study were clear and consistent: FUM needs to move this direction and the time to do so is now. At the Triennial, the FUM General Board approved launching a $3,000,000 Campaign over the next three years. Above and beyond what Friends already give to support FUM, this new funding will begin to reposition FUM to better meet the needs of our community and set us on the path of making Friends’ hopes and dreams a reality.

Over the next several months, you will begin to hear more about the Campaign. Along the way, Friends will be invited to consider outright gifts, pledges and planned gifts that will enable FUM to not just meet our financial goal, but more importantly, deepen the sense of partnership in our shared future and turning hope for a vital Quaker community into increasing reality. It is my intent for the Campaign to also serve as a first step in building a much more sustainable base for FUM long-term. We have a future well beyond the next three years and now is also the time to be readying ourselves for it.

The launch of the Campaign means that I am going to having a lot more kitchen table and coffee shop conversations with all of you. I am excited about this and hope, when I call and ask to visit, you will consider meeting with me. Like so many of you, I love and believe in this community. Like you, I am passionate about our identity as Friends and sense our work and witness is as needed as ever. I think we have a hopeful future together. Let’s find new ways to partner together to make sure it is realized.

Joyful, Fearless and Always in Trouble!

By Colin Saxton

It has been a good week at the Triennial, hasn’t it? We were enlivened by the Spirit of God. We were re-membered, one-to-another into that living reality known as the Body of Christ. And maybe, just maybe, we are little more prepared to go back into our communities ready to continue the ministry of Jesus. What do you think?

On Thursday evening, I mentioned how several people have told me they thought Quakers had all died out. Turns out … not yet. As Mark Twain once said when a rumor started circulating that he had passed away, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” We are not dead either — not by a long-shot.

In the future, I hope our vitality and felt impact in the world will not leave any room for doubt. In fact, it is my prayer that when others look at us, who they will really see is the Risen, Living Christ. This is who we are meant to be — the ongoing, incarnational Presence of Jesus, enfleshed in ordinary humanness but animated and directed by God’s Spirit . . .

Paul is even clearer in Colossians 3. As the ones who gets what God is up to in the world — reconciling all things in Christ — this becomes their joy and passion. Out of a growing intimacy and union with God, this chosen people put aside what might bind or distract them from their Good God and the Good Life and Great Work they have been invited to share in. So they put all of that behind them, like worn out clothing no longer suitable to wear. In its place, they dress themselves in lovely garments that bear witness to Christ’s presence in them: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forgiveness, peace … and above all, undying love. As this happens, the glory of God gets revealed through us — even people like us!
But this road to glory passes through a valley of death, as we learn to die to ourselves in order to be raised to new life.

Over the last few years, one story that keeps nagging at me comes from John’s gospel. It is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. Let’s turn there together — John 11 and 12.

I am assuming most of us know the story. Jesus is summoned by Lazarus’ sisters because their brother is sick. But Jesus takes his time getting there, and by the time he arrives it is too late . . . or at least it seems. And though it has been a few days since he had passed away, Jesus calls to Lazarus’ tomb and before a crowd of people . . . a man’s life is returned to him.

Now, most often we leave the story of Lazarus at that point — a reunited family ready to live happily ever after. But if you read on, in particular to John 12, you find Jesus with friends in Bethany just before the Passover. In fact, they are meeting at Lazarus’ home, gathered around the table to enjoy a meal together, when in verse 9, we find this:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

I am going to take a few liberties with the text at this point … but I think it is a fair reading of the situation. Here folks are eager to see Lazarus … just as much as they are eager to see Jesus. No doubt some wanted to trust Jesus … just as Lazarus trusted Jesus. But then we get this other bit of news — turns out many folks want to kill Lazarus … just as much as they want to kill Jesus.

What is all that about? Is this a story gone horribly wrong … one where happily ever after fails for Lazarus and his family? Or maybe … is there something wonderfully right about it, as he has finally become what we all are designed to be in Christ — a burning light — remade in Christ?

Lazarus, of course, had been a friend and follower of Jesus for some time. But now, having faced death, his life takes on a new quality and character . . .

Lazarus had just come through death and lived to tell about it. Not only “lived to tell about it” as though he barely escaped with his life. But LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT — in the sense that this now becomes the sole focus of his future. And so that’s what he does — telling everyone about it through his words and through the content and character of his life. No wonder, then, that so many were simultaneously drawn to him and threatened by him. He had become a burning light— just like his Master…

Nietzsche once said something like this: If Christians wanted him to believe in Jesus, they’d have to start looking more resurrected. I think it is fair to say that Lazarus here is looking more resurrected — and people are noticing. You see his life is no longer his. He is dead to himself and now it is Christ who lives in him — fearless and free. He is at peace — able to face down a still violent world and not be afraid. I suspect Lazarus embodied the quality of life that Douglas Steere, the wonderful Quaker writer, once described this way (I am paraphrasing a bit):

“Christians should be absurdly joyful, entirely fearless, and always in trouble!”

Absurdly joyful, entirely fearless, always in trouble. I can’t say for sure this always described Lazarus’ life from the moment he stepped out of that cold tomb — into the warming Light of God’s new world, seen life from a brand new perspective … but I am guessing it might.

Friends, what do you think of Douglas Steere’s notion about the Christian life — joy, fearlessness and trouble? In those few words, I think we get a glimpse of some pretty essentials signs of life…

Joy! There are two things I pray regularly for Friends. One is humility — which I think we could use a real dose of now and again. The other is joy. Joy! That deep, lasting sense of gladness arising out of our experience of God’s overwhelming kindness for us.

As I keep learning to go deeper into Christ, joy is what I experience. Not giddy happiness. Not an absence from pain or the elimination of the kind of real-world suffering we all endure. In fact, in terms of a sensitivity to others’ suffering, it seems to me that the deeper one goes into the Christ-life, the more keenly one is aware of the hurt and brokenness there really is in the world.

Joy is an altogether different animal, isn’t it? It may cause you to do all kinds of outlandish things. Consider the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13 where Jesus so beautifully captures the essence of spiritual joy in the parable of a man who stumbles across a treasure hidden in field.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” . . .

You know, he didn’t even “borrow” a few of the gold coins or precious stones in advance to pay off the land-owner. Instead, he went home and liquidated all of his assets in order to buy up the land and the treasure. What would move a person to do such a thing? JOY! Whatever he had found that day must have been amazing! Life-changing! He must have looked deeply enough into the treasure to realize it was worth far more than anything else he possessed.

For some of us, the faith-life winds up being much more an expression of some sense of duty, obligation, fear of punishment or tradition than it is a natural response arising out of a deep joy. When this is the case, the Christian witness is we demonstrate and proclaim winds up looking awfully constrained, reserved and guarded. There is little sense of wild abandon about it, not much radical self-giving, only hints of the kind of extravagant grace we’ve experienced in Christ. I wonder if joy was something Lazarus experienced after being raised to life? There is wonderful song by a fellow named Bradford Loomis called Dead Man’s Dance. The words are on the screen because I could play it for you this morning. It begins as a slow dirge and builds over the course of the song to a rocking celebration. The lyrics read:

O my love, when my days are done, and my bones have been put to rest
When my graven stone has found its home, may you not be bereft
Don’t waste your prayers on a wretch like me
My hearts been giv’n to wandering
All the things I’ve done since the war begun,
I could never be free
Wait my beleaguered love brings hope don’t set that stone
Though you feel meager,
Your heart may roam but mine will be your home
Wake, O you sleeper! There is still hope. Roll away that stone
Wake, O you sleeper! There is still hope. Roll away that stone
Come on up, rise on up, get out of that grave my Lazarus
Come on up, rise on up, get out of that grave sweet Lazarus
Go on get up Lazarus go on get out the grave
Oh you ain’t never seen nothing like a dead man dance

—Dead Man’s Dance by Bradford Loomis

I know . . . Quakers don’t dance . . . But maybe we would if we knew the joy of a Lazarus. Maybe today it would be enough to look again at the treasure we found in Christ . . . and see what a renewed joy might cause us to do.

I won’t spend so much time on being entirely fearless and always in trouble. Think about some the things we humans fear. What comes to mind? (Pain, not having enough, what people think about us, the unknown, etc). Do you think we’d view these differently through Lazarus’s eyes? Grace-healed eyes — that see people in a renewed light rather than our old prejudices. Eyes of generosity — that see God’s abundance rather our own limited resources. Eternal eyes — ones that sees a world set right…far beyond that one glaring issue or obstacle we can’t see beyond . . . The disciple’s life I have read about, seen modeled by my heroes in the faith or even experienced in my own life . . . is more like a wild boat ride where we are slapped around by frighteningly strong waves. And then in the midst of it, Jesus dares to show up and calls us to step out of the “safety” of the boat. Will we be ready to take a walk on the wild-side or seek the relative security of the boat? The more I read that story, the more I am convinced we ought to be praying God will sink the boat, if needed, to get us where we are called to go.
What we are promised is not safety — but a love that conquers every fear. And we are going to need every ounce of that love, because we are going to see and do some crazy stuff.

Which leads us to Steere’s third notion — that Christians will always in trouble. Hmmm, now hold on just a second here. Why does he have to spoil it that? Joy? You bet! Fearlessness? Ok, even if it does mean some scary stuff. But always in trouble? Isn’t it time to start the potluck?

One of my favorite theologians says it this way: “The cross is what happens to those who take God seriously.” The cross is not an inconvenience. It is what comes to a person who is willing to identify themselves with the values, priorities and purposes of the Gospel. It is the laying aside of ourselves, our ingrained cultural patterns, our status quo morality in order to be radically identified with Jesus. And when we do, the cross becomes the price we pay for our social non-conformity. It is what happens to people when the values of Jesus’ Kingdom collide with the values, priorities and wisdom of the world.

Long before Jesus ever faced his own literal cross, he had a crystal clear idea of what it meant to be crucified. Though the history of Jesus’ early life is very vague, one story from his teen years has some historical support. It is said that when he was a young man, there was a Jewish rebellion near his home. For a brief moment, Jewish Zealots seized control of the territory — away from the occupying Roman forces. Before long, however, the emperor sent in some of his powerful troops who simply overwhelmed this little band of rebels and quickly crushed the uprising. In the aftermath, the Romans wanted to ensure that the people learned a lesson they would not forget. So they crucified a Jewish male every 10 meters along a 16 kilometer stretch of road. For you math wizzes like me — who never got converted — to the metric system — that’s over 1700 people spaced every 30 feet for 10 miles. Imagine the horror . . .

If, indeed, young Jesus looked into the agonizing eyes of those dead and dying countrymen — the terror of it all was no doubt burned into his consciousness. It could never — would never leave him. And if that story is so, it is no wonder Jesus used the language of the cross as often as he did, even well before he faced his own. For in that ugly moment in human history, Jesus saw just what measure of evil God’s love was up against…how much sacrifice and devotion to God it would take by himself and others who would follow after — if the light was to, indeed, overcome the darkness.

But not by people unwillingly being led to their deaths — but rather by people voluntarily laying down their lives to take up a life of obedience to the will of God no matter the cost. When Jesus called his followers and the readers of these gospels to take up their crosses — he was under no illusions as to what that would mean for himself or them.

This, Friends, is the gospel at its most terse and dangerous. The cross is not a magic symbol or a fashionable decoration — it’s a symbol of a risky, alternative lifestyle. It is a symbol that makes normative claims about who our God is, about who we are and about the shape and direction of our life together. It is a symbol for how God and God’s people exercise redemptive love that has and will eventually transform the world. Being in constant trouble has nothing to do with being an annoying, judgmental, angry, demanding group of religious fanatics. We don’t go looking for trouble—it simply comes to those who are willing to follow where he lead.

Joy, fearless, trouble. These are signs of vibrant Christian life. And all we need to get there is near-death experience. That is what John Woolman experienced when one day in a dream he heard an angel say, “John Woolman is dead.” When he awoke, he pondered what the dream meant. Then he said, “At length I felt divine power prepare my mouth that I could speak, and then I said, ‘I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’” This is an echo of Paul’s experience in Galatians 2:20 where he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

One of my good friends spoke on this text at a Friends gathering and asked people whether they felt similarly to Paul. It was a broad mix of Friends from all persuasions. He was surprised when those gathered explained Paul’s feelings away by noting he didn’t really have all of the things we have today that make life so appealing — comfort, security, entertainment, etc. Crucified with Christ — not today . . . There are other more appealing things . . .

I wonder how Lazarus would have responded had he been in the gathering of Friends that day? What might he say to us today?

Stories of Faith and Peacemaking

Panelists:
Getry Agizah: Friends Church Peace Teams, Kenya
Theo Stitther: Friends Committee on National Legislation
Ross Hennessy: Acting director of the Quaker Voluntary Service
Odalys Hernandez Cruz: Presiding clerk of Cuba Yearly Meeting
Candido Quelvys Fernandez Perez: Pastor & student of Cuba Peace Institute
Karla Moran: Translator

Getry:

Friends, I greet you in the Light of God. I promised myself that I would do this ministry until God says for me to end it. I don’t know when that will be . . . I was asked if it is time for us to stop. So I bring the question to you. Do you think we should stop? It is a ministry. God sent the work. There is a book I am reading and it is telling me when Jesus left after his 40 days and he sent the Holy Spirit down, he gave his instructions to his disciples. And he went. The disciples had the choice to do what Jesus said or not. They chose to continue.

We still have these disciples now. It is me and you . . .

Friends Church in Kenya has moved through thick and thin. From the time of the election in 2008 and the tension in 2012, there was an internal conflict within everyone whether there will be violence or not. But, we mobilized ourselves and said we needed to stand together and see this come to an end . . .

In 2013 we had an election. It was peaceful — not because there were no mistakes. Mistakes were there. But, we respected how Kenyans reacted . . . to each other. So we look at ourselves at 2013 as a goal. We have a government. We are living with the government. Do we still stop our work?

I am talking about issues of coming to the crisis type versus working along with Friends to trust in this ministry up to the end. I say the end is not now. It does not mean the work will stop. Right now, we are working with Burundi for their election to see how they can carry some of the things we used in also helping the country of Burundi. It does not mean in Kenya there are not issues. We do have issues. We have social injustice issues. We talk about an amount of insecurity. It is still our responsibility . . .

We are reaching non-Quakers and still preaching the gospel for peace . . .

I look at the work we are doing as a continuous ministry and add that we still work together. Don’t give up. The issue of insecurity is not my country’s issue; it is a global issue . . .

Theo:

FCNL’s vision statement starts with the very simple proposition: We seek a world that is free of war and the threat of war. In my position at FCNL, I work on peace building policy.

About a decade ago, FCNL came out with these bumper stickers. Another simple proposition that war is not the answer. When FCNL was on Capitol Hill, lobbying members of Congress, talking to them about why war is not the answer, we would often get the question, “If war is not the answer, then, what is?”

We have spent our time, our energy to figure out if war is not the answer, the, what is? FCNL has been lobbying for the prevention of armed conflict to ensure that before we go into war, before we invade a country, before the 911s of the world happen, that we are working to ensure that the elements of the conflicts are eliminated. It is a very simple proposition.

Our government is starting to invest in peace and in conflict prevention. At the same time, that our policies, our foreign policies, especially, is heavily militarized. The events in Iraq just this week where militants are taking over different parts of the country. The first question that policy makers often ask is: “What is our military response?”

FCNL is working and lobbying to ensure that we don’t keep asking that question. U.S. still spends a massive amount of money on our defense. There are drones that continue to do targeted killings in places like Yemen and Pakistan and Somalia. We still have a president who still has unchecked authority to go to war anywhere he pleases.

That is our challenge. If war is not the answer, the, what is? We continue to answer that question with policy makers.

Odalys:

This institute went through a lot of phases of trying to reflect, trying to make the government understand. Because when we went to the interviews, the government said, “There is peace. We don’t need an institute of peace here.”

We perceive the hand of God opening doors . . . It was in this way that Cuba Yearly Meeting approved what we call ICCP, the Quaker Institute of Peace. It is an institute to proprogate and train a practical form of peace and resolution from a Quaker perspective to equip Quakers — Latin American and all kinds. With the tools that we need to reduce violence in our communities and context, our main objective to contribute to develop a culture of peace, creating a community of learning of pacifists who implement actions and practices so that we can reduce violence in their communities . . .

I invite you to reflect, that this is the best legacy that we can leave to the next generations. I want to challenge you in remembering the words of William Penn, “Let us then, try what love can do.”

Ross:

Quaker Voluntary Service is a response to a need in a vacuum that has been existing for a while, which is service opportunities for young adult Quakers in the world. I have been working in Philadelphia for the past year. I have helped expand the program from one city in Atlanta to a three-city national network. We are also in Portland, Oregon.

In Philadelphia, our volunteers are doing some really neat stuff . . . volunteer working as a legal assistant helping refugees and immigrants that are trying to enter the United States and connect with their families . . . volunteer that is working with the HIV population that is coming out of prison . . . volunteer who is working with the mural arts program in Philadelphia with adjudicated youth. I have another volunteer that works for a food co-op . . . two volunteers that are in schools in the city of Philadelphia . . . another volunteer that is doing anti-racism work through Quakers, with Quakers.

In Portland and Atlanta, we are working with the homeless population. We are working with mental and physical disabilities. We are doing a lot of different work.

One of our volunteers is a young man who was not a Quaker and was placed at one of the inner city schools. This school laid down its music program because of budget cuts. He had studied music in college, but was not a teacher. The administration said they were desperate and asked him to create a music program. As an idealistic young person right out of college, he told them it shouldn’t be too hard.

This past year, he has done an amazing job. I get to go in and meet with the site supervisors a couple of times throughout the year. We were going through some of the things that our volunteers could grow upon. At the end of the supervisor’s discussion with me, I asked if there was anything else she wanted to say. She looked at me and said in all sincerity, “Ross, your volunteer is an answer to my prayers. This is a God send.”

That same volunteer, later, during our mid-year retreat worship time said, “I just want everyone to know that it is because of meetings like this that I have become a Quaker.”

There are a number of stories of different ways in which this work has been this catalyst for both personal transformation and transformation in the communities, in which they work. I like to say that service work for Quakers is sort of like mass for Quakers. This is our sacrament. This is how we practice our faith.

Candido (ending prayer):

Our Lord and Faithful guide, our brother, our friend and light in all of our ways, we give you thanks this night so that your Word lives. Your word of love, your word of peace has been among us. We ask you now that your Light can be within ourselves. That you can guide our steps in the paths of peace, in love and the good of everyone. That you, can be through our hands, be a voice, security for the person that feels insecure and that we can be as Francis said, “an instrument of peace in this world.” In the sacred name of your son Jesus Christ, that opens his arms to hold us all . . . Amen.

Reflection of Peace

By Mary Lord, Peace Panel Moderator

We look to this statement given to Charles II, as the statement of our peace testimony in the 1660s:

“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world . . . The Spirit of Christ, by which we are all guided, is not changeable, so as to once to command us from a thing as evil, and again to move us unto it; and we certainly know, and testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the Kingdoms of this world . . . Therefore, we cannot learn war anymore.”

That very strong, powerful statement that cost Friends so much, has endured. But, there is an evolution of the peace testimony. Moving from opposition to war to work on building peace. It doesn’t mean we aren’t opposed to war, but we are shifting what we do in some important ways. From a testimony that works for right of conscience that says, “I will not kill or use outward weapons,” from responding to the effects of war, which is humanitarian work. We still do it. We still work on matters of conscientious objection. To beginning more of learning more of what are the roots and the nature of this violent work. That is the field of peace research that in the past 50 years has exploded until there are colleges and universities with many. Efforts to develop international law and arbitration as an alternative to war, which people like Theo are doing on the prevention of armed conflict.

Community, mediation, Alternatives to Violence . . . The Healing and Reconciling Our Communities, the responding to or preventing domestic abuse, anti-bullying strategies, protecPaneltion for minorities and response to hate crimes are just a few of the works that prevent and protect people from violence.

I leave you with this thought as we hear the many stories of our panelists. There are two predictors of violence in a society or a country apt to come to war. One is the degree of inequality, especially if there are many poor and few rich. That is very unstable. We have that in our own country. Or if there are isolated and victimized minorities, such as in Europe, as the Jewish people experienced.

The other predictor of violence is the percentage of young men between the ages of 15-25 with no job, not in school and no hope. They are very vulnerable to those who would use them for violence.

I just wanted you to get a sense that we are shifting from steps of conflict . . . to heal the violence and to prevent it.

Energizing, Equipping and Connecting for the Work of God

By Colin Saxton

Good evening, Friends! It is a joy to be with you, and I am so grateful for the privilege to serve as general secretary of Friends United Meeting. I have appreciated Jim Smith’s devotional messages over the past two days and resonated with his distinction between the Living Water that is our source of life and the vessels we create to contain that Water. To be fully honest with you, I don’t have much interest in the containers we create within the church — the systems, structures and bureaucracies that demand so much time and attention. I would much rather talk about and splash about in the Water of Life.

But tonight, I do want to talk about the vessels — because they matter, and they are necessary, if we are going to be a community. Systems and structures either free us to life in the Kingdom of God, or they hinder us from faithfulness. A useful vessel, one that is well-designed and properly used, pours out living water to the thirsty. And in a day when there are so many who thirst — we need well-designed and well-used vessels . . .

If you have ever heard me talk about my hopes for the Religious Society of Friends, then you are likely familiar with a quote I have loved and used on several occasions. It comes from one of my favorite Friends, Francis Howgill. In talking about the experience of Christ gathering his people in those early days of the Quaker movement, Howgill said:

“The Kingdom of Heaven did gather us & catch us all, as in a net, & God’s heavenly power at one time drew many hundreds. We came to know a place to stand in & what to wait in; and the Lord appeared daily to us … And our hearts were knit unto the Lord & one another in true & fervent love, in the covenant of Life with God; and that was a strong obligation or bond upon all our spirits, which united us one unto another. We met together in the unity of the Spirit & of the bond of peace … and holy resolutions were kindled in our hearts as a fire — which the Life kindled in us — to serve the Lord while we had our being. And mightily did the Word of God grow among us & the desires of many were after the Name of the Lord. O happy day! O blessed day! The memorial of which can never pass out of my mind. And thus the Lord, in short, did form us to be a people for his praise in our generation.”

I love this image . . . but I wonder some days if we really believe it is possible that it might also be true for us in our time and place.

Over the next several days, you will hear me and others use three words with some frequency: Energize. Equip. Connect. They are the words that I hope will more fully inform and shape FUM’s work over the next several years. And they arise, I think, right out of the imagery in Howgill’s description of whom the early Friends were . . . and who we might be in our time . . .

I had met Christ in college — he lived a few doors down the hall of my dorm-floor through the life of an amazing young man. Later, and more profoundly, I encountered the risen Spirit of Christ on a midnight run through campus that changed the whole content and trajectory of my life. From that day on, it has been the same Spirit of Jesus that encounters and encourages and empowers me to run toward him and run with him . . . rather than away.

This is exactly the story we read in the text of the New Testament. Jesus, we are told over and over again, . . . is alive. He is risen! And he abides in and among and through his followers. It is his empowering spirit, not our religious devotion or human effort that transforms us into something beautiful and animates and directs our efforts to continue his ministry
in the world.

This, in my mind, is what it means to be energized. This is what it means to be filled with the power of God, in a way the New Testament describes in language akin to dynamite. This is the power that Jesus sends the disciples out to minister in — to drive out evil, cure diseases, heal the sick and make visible the reign of God. It is the power the apostles waited to be immersed in Acts 1, as they prepared to engage in a world-transforming movement.

This dunamis — the energizing and animating power of God almighty — is described as a foundational grace that enables us to live truthful lives, bold and courageous lives, lives drenched with love and compassion, graced with divine endurance and might, rooted in a liberating joy and freedom. It is the power to walk in unhindered union with the God we’ve come to know and love.

Does this describe your life? Are you energized and animated by the living Spirit of Jesus? Does it sound like the life you in your meeting or church? . . . I am not asking about an experience you may have had in the past . . .

I confess I do not always live this way — but it is my heart’s desire. And I think we can, in fact, live into this Life and Power by God’s grace, and as we nurture and encourage it in one another . . . behind our strategic thinking is an even more foundational grace that is our source of faithfulness. It is that Presence and Power of Christ that is beyond us and all our best efforts and wisdom.

As I think about the community of Friends, and in particular those of us within FUM, I want to be part of gathered people who share in and depend on the energizing Spirit of Christ. . . . And so long as I keep serving with FUM, I am determined to do what I can to see that we stay focused on energizing our community with a passion for and sense of spiritual vitality and depth.

Alongside being energized, are we equipped as a community? Are we ready to co-labor with God in restoration of all things — because that is what God is up to in Christ. . . .

We are meant to be a community of ministers — mobilized around the advancing reign of God. As ambassadors of God’s grace, as ministers of reconciliation, heralds of Good News, prisoners of hope, instruments of righteousness, restorers of justice … our lives and our life together are intended to reveal the glory of God and see that God’s will be done on earth … just as it is continuously in heaven. Our work is to embody the things of God.

As I think about a people who bring praise to God in our generation, I imagine a community that is fully equipped to serve as God intends . . .

Across the world, Friends have fed the hungry, taken in the alien and orphaned, spoken the truth when silence or a little-lie would have proven less costly. On our best days, we have shared our faith with humility and courage and invited others into our fellowships.

This is work we’ve done in our past — but what about today and tomorrow? And are we prepared to do this work and other work effectively? Skillfully? Sustainably? . . .

Well, I want to be part of community that takes seriously the work of equipping. Across the Quaker world, and especially within our FUM community, I’d love for us to become better focused on raising up effective leadership, developing and deploying able ministers, and creating opportunities and experiences for our faith-in-action to be nurtured and God’s work to be accomplished through us. And so I am determined to do what I can to make sure FUM keeps moving this direction . . .

Finally, in addition to being energized and equipped, how about being connected?

Later this week, you will be asked to approve three new yearly meetings and an association as new members of FUM. This will put the number of yearly meetings and associations FUM at 34. Thirty-four! Among the four major branches of Friends, FUM is the largest, and there is the possibility for even greater expansion. In East Africa, Friends are reaching out in places like South Sudan, the southern area of Tanzania and Malawi. Over the past two and half years I have been in FUM, we’ve had inquiries from several groups in India, other places in Africa, Barbados, Finland, Mexico and by scattered Friends in North America. People want to belong to something beyond the cozy confines of their meetinghouse walls. I think it is because the love of God naturally draws us to reach beyond ourselves . . .

But it ain’t easy … is it? Community is tough work, whether that clan consists of three people, 30 people, 30 meetings/churches or 30 yearly meetings . . . It is the source of some of our greatest joy and our deepest heartache. I think it is a severe mercy that will either break us apart or transform us. The question is whether we will come to experience and rely on that unity which transcends our diversity, to be knit together in a lasting bond of peace or whether we’ll let the threads that might connect us to simply fray beyond repair?

For me it is our greatest challenge and the spiritual discipline we are called to claim as a priority. I want to be part of a community that actually practices peacemaking in our local churches and meetings, within our yearly meetings, within the covenant fellowship of FUM, as eagerly and authentically as we try to do in matters of national and international dispute. I want to be connected in spirit and in purpose with Friends who know in their bones they are on an adventure together . . . This means creating spaces and places to be together, to worship together and to work together. It means learning from each other and staying engaged when we don’t see eye-to-eye immediately. It means praying for one another, taking responsibility for the hurts we cause one another, and forgiving as freely as we have been forgiven by Christ. Connection — if it is to be in terms of creating a global community of Friends and not just being an international affiliation of organizations — is going to require a level of humility and intentionality that will stretch us at our souls. Are we willing?

On a whole other level, connection also speaks to the world around us. How is it we Friends are demonstrating and proclaiming the good news of Christ to the people around us? If my experience is any gauge — I’m not sure we do this so well . . . Here are some examples from conversations I have had and exchanges I have seen on websites:

• I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We have a nearby city called “Quakertown” and the people are known for making fine furniture.
• Yes. I just saw Quaker oatmeal in the grocery store the other day. So they must still be around to make it.
• I didn’t even know until a recent conversation with a friend who is dating a Quaker that they still exist. I knew they were here in the 1700s, but after that, my history lessons failed me and them. To me, they were in the same category as Atlantis and woolly mammoths.
• I have heard of George Fox. Isn’t he connected to Quakers?
• There are Quakers in Kenya?!? When did that happen?
• Do Quakers still exist?
• You are the first Quaker I have ever met.
• And then worst of all — and I have heard this several times… “I thought you were all dead?!?”

Friends, are we dead? No, seriously — are we? I didn’t think so. Why then are others saying it is so? . . .

My question is — why do we allow this to be the case? Beyond the peril it brings to own vitality and future, if we really believe in the goodness of this Life we’ve come to know and the Power that is available in this community, why on earth would we not share it joyfully and freely with others?!? . . .

The life we have in Christ is a cool cup of water waiting to be tasted … guzzled by some … who are feeling like they are dying of thirst. Why on earth would we deny them?!?

There is a thirst for what we claim to possess. Several years ago when I was a pastor, I got a phone call from a telephone company asking if the meeting wanted to switch providers.

I told the guy on the other end of the line that I was just a pastor — I couldn’t make high-level decisions like this! After a bit of nervous laughter, he said, “Are you a Friends pastor? I’ve always wanted to meet one of you but I did not know where to find one. I’ve been reading about Quakers and am so drawn to your faith and life. Can you tell me if there are any in Texas where I live?” I found my handy-dandy FWCC meeting directory and gave him the contact information of a couple of churches and meetings near him.

Another time, I was sitting in a pizza parlor waiting for my take-out order. A man came into the restaurant and . . . took seat next to me on the waiting bench and said, “What are you, religious or something?” [because I did not know where the liquor store was located]

I told him I wasn’t too sure how religious I was, but I did happen to be a follower of Christ and a member of the Quaker community in town. “QUAKER,” he nearly shouted. “My grandmother was a Quaker!” For the next 20 minutes or so, he commenced to tell me everything he knew about Friends and a good deal about his beloved grandmother. By the time he wrapped up his story he had tears in his eyes and he said, “I wish everyone was a Friend.”

You know, I do as well. But not if they are going to be dead Friends — or ones that are confused for being dead. We don’t need Friends in name only. We need ones who are baptized into the transforming Life and radiating Power of Christ. In my reading of the New Testament, Jesus wasn’t much interested in proselytizing. When he called others to follow, it was not by way of proselutos — where one changes their religious affiliation. Instead, he invited them into a metanoia — a radical, reorienting, transformation of life. This is what the world is looking for — can we offer it?

Well, I am determined to do what I can to make sure FUM builds connections — both within our community and with a world that ought not to be wondering whether we are all dead or how they might find us or if we are still doing anything today. We are made for connections — here and out there. As we move into a new Triennium, it is the hope of the General Board and staff that FUM will increasingly be a global community where Friends are energized, equipped and connected in order to carry out the work God is calling us to do in our time and place.

Toward a Quaker Renaissance

By Richard J. Foster

I am moved by your theme for this Triennial, “A Great People to be Gathered: in Christ, in Community, for Mission.” This theme, of course, draws from that wonderful experience when George Fox climbed Pendle Hill, with “much ado” as he put it, and there on the top of Pendle Hill looking out across the British countryside; he saw “A great people to be gathered.”

What a wonderful vision God gave to George Fox on that day! And it did indeed result in a mighty gathering of the people of God . . . Is it even right for us to hope for such a thing? I’m not sure.

One thing I do know for sure: you and I cannot cause such a new gathering to happen. This is a work of the Spirit, pure and simple. We are utterly dependent upon the mighty hand of God for any great new gathering of the people of God today. What we can do and what I would like us to do tonight is to consider several elements that would be central for a new Quaker renaissance to emerge in our day . . .

What is needed for a Quaker renaissance today? We will need a great, new experience of Jesus as our ever-present Teacher. We are all acquainted with the passage in Fox’s Journal where he declared, “When my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, oh then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,’ and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.”

This vivid experience of Jesus as present Teacher is at the very core of the Quaker witness. Let me say as clearly as I possibly can, Jesus Christ is alive and here to teach his people himself. He has not contracted laryngitis. His voice is not hard to hear. His vocabulary is not difficult to understand.

• Jesus is our Savior to forgive us.
• Jesus is our Teacher to guide us.
• Jesus is our Lord to rule us.
• Jesus is our Friend to come alongside us.

Try this query on for size: Do I long with all my being for this experiential intimacy? Do I hunger and thirst for the living Christ to be truly present and active among us?

The great Quaker leader Francis Howgill witnessed, “The Lord appeared daily to us, to our astonishment, amazement, and great admiration. And from that day forward, our hearts were knit unto the Lord. We met together in the unity of the Spirit and of the bond of peace. And holy resolutions were kindled in our hearts as a fire which the Life kindled in us to serve the Lord
and mightily did the Word of God grow among us, and the desires of many were after the Name of the Lord.”

That was Howgill’s experience of Christ as the Prophet living and acting among his people. And what about us? Oh, we weave erudite speeches about whether the cosmic Christ is the same as the historical Jesus. We debate whether our meetings should be “programmed” or “un-programmed.” And for those who do have programmed meetings we worry about whether the “open worship” should be fully open or semi-open or just be certain that it is kept to seven and a half minutes! May God forgive us!

Please understand, I am not saying that such issues are unimportant, but I am saying that they are wholly secondary next to the great reality of Jesus living among us, teaching us, healing us, guiding us, rebuking us when we go astray and giving us his life and love and joy for all the vicissitudes of life . . .

The early Quaker evangelists declared that Jesus is the eternal Logos of God: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” They proclaimed Jesus as “the true Light that enlightens every person coming into the world” so often and so vigorously that John 1:9 became thought of as the Quaker verse . . .

The author of Hebrews tells us that in days past God spoke through the prophets of old but that now he is speaking through his Son. Historically, Friends have taken this conviction of Jesus speaking and teaching with absolute seriousness . . .

How is it that Quakers in the 17th century were on the forefront of literally every social movement of their day? They weren’t smarter than other groups. They didn’t have deeper insights into the social movements of their day. They had no greater understanding of social ethics. No. This came about because when they gathered in the power of the Lord and listened for Jesus, the Christ, their ever-living Prophet and ever-present Teacher, they received the guidance they were seeking. Jesus taught them and guided them and empowered them to speak and witness in ways unheard of in that day.

If we are to have a genuine impact on our world today we too will seek to go deeper into the subterranean sanctuary of the soul.

• We will seek to become a freely gathered people who will know in our day the life and powers of the kingdom of God.
• We will seek to become a people of cross and crown, of courageous action and sacrificial love.
• We will seek to combine evangelism with social action, the transcendent Lordship of Jesus with the suffering servant Messiah.
• We will seek to be buoyed up by the vision of Christ’s everlasting rule, not only imminent on the horizon, but already bursting forth in our midst . . .

Then, too, we need to work toward the highest possible Christology — to use a theological term. Three days after his crucifixion Jesus rose from the dead demonstrating that his divine Zoé life is indestructible and that this Zoé life of his is available to you and to me. Here. Now. And this makes all the difference in the world . . .

What is needed for a Quaker renaissance today? We will need a great, new vision of life together. We are the people of God together: “praying together, learning together, obeying together, suffering together,” as Lewis Benson often said. It is Jesus, our eschatological heavenly Prophet, who gathers us together into a community of faith. He teaches us what is right and what is wrong and gives us the power to do the right and reject the wrong.

Jesus himself is the builder of this new community, this ecclesia. We live by the direct conversational relationship with God’s heavenly Prophet. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, “Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). Gathered together by the living word of Jesus, we learn together, we pray together, we obey together, we suffer together.

As God’s gathered community the key question is not: Are we in the direct line of Apostolic Succession? No, the key question is: Are we living in the life and power in which the Apostles lived?

The key issues are not to be sure we have the proper number of sacraments and the proper administration of them. The key issues are for us to be learning to be baptized daily into the Trinitarian life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; learning to feed daily on the whole wheat bread of Life; learning to drink daily from him who is the water of Life; learning to experience him as our daily strength in our businesses, in our homes, with our neighbors and friends . . . and, yes, with our enemies.

So, the gathered Christian community does not come about by us building up human-made religious organizations but by our responding to the call of our heavenly Prophet who brings us into a loving conversational relationship with him. It is a relationship of care and intimacy. We do indeed become the friends of Jesus. “You are my friends,” says Jesus, “If you do what I command you.”

It is also a Master-disciple relationship. Jesus is our Master for he truly is the Maestro of all of life. He is speaking and teaching: we are hearing and obeying. For the gathered community Jesus is in reality our Lord, our Shepherd, our Bishop and our King.

It was this dynamic reality of life together that kept the early Quakers from the craziness of many of the other purification movements during the 17th century . . .

However, Quakers (for the most part) escaped these excesses because for them all personal revelation was to be confirmed by the community of faith. There were no solitary Quakers. Friends were to bring their individual guidance to the Christian fellowship as a whole for their discernment. Individual guidance needed to be affirmed by the guidance of the fellowship. They believed that Christ was among them and as they waited together they received the guidance for which they sought. Jesus was the leader of their worship, of their business, of all that they were and of all that they were about.

So, my plea is that as the community of faith gathered by Christ himself, we recognize how much we need each other, how much we depend upon each other, how deeply connected we are to one another.

Now, I am keenly aware that various ones of you seated here have experienced the bitter sting of division and are likely feeling that this Quaker ideal has broken down in significant ways. And perhaps it has.

But, as someone watching what has been going on among you at a distance, let me speak a word of encouragement to you. It may well be that Christ, your living Teacher, is leading you forward in ways you could not have imagined even a few years ago. Remember the constant refrain of George Fox that, “the power of the Lord is over all.” There are many different ways for us to organize our life together . . .

Further, as the community of faith may we always have a prophetic witness. Quakers are a minority . . . we all know that. But, frankly, majorities are highly overrated in our day. So, if we are a minority, let’s be a prophetic minority! Always calling the status quo into question. Always evaluating everything on this earth in light of the transcendent Lordship of Jesus Christ . . .

One more thing. Can I urge among us a deeper catholicity of spirit? Quakerism, as you know, originated as one of the great purifying movements that have arisen in Christian history, and while purifying movements do many good things, they also have a tendency to become cultic and separatist.

So, while we want to maintain the vigor of the purifying concern, we also want to confess our solidarity with all those who have sought to be faithful to Jesus Christ all through Christian history. (On this point, in my opinion, George Fox was simply wrong in believing that the Church had been in complete apostasy since the time of the apostles.)

We need to seek a new appreciation for the wisdom and devotion of the early church fathers and mothers. We can revel in the deep spiritual experiences of Augustine of Hippo and Catherine of Sienna, of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, of Julian of Norwich and Bernard of Clairvaux, of Martin Luther and John Calvin, of Jeremy Taylor and William Law and many others.

Now, some people complain that I include too many in my lists of the devotional masters. But my lists are nothing compared to what William Penn included in No Cross, No Crown. As you perhaps know, Penn devoted the entire second half of his book to a huge parade of witnesses from antiquity to the fact that Jesus, who is the True Light, has been shining into the hearts of women and men of all sorts. Penn gives testimony after testimony of people who have been faithful to the Light of Christ in their lives even before the incarnation of the Son occurred.

The great devotional writings throughout Christian history are for all the people of God. May we with humility of heart learn from this great treasury of Christian witness and faith. Who knows, it just might engender a new Quaker renaissance.

What is needed for a Quaker renaissance today? We need a great, new understanding and experience of the growth of the soul. Specifically I am talking about the spiritual formation of the human personality until increasingly we are enabled to take on the likeness of Jesus Christ. This begins as a genuine God-shaped work in the human heart and results in deep interior habits of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.

The old word for what I am trying to describe is “holiness.” But this word has been so damaged in our day that we need to find other ways for talking about this whole-life transformative reality. Jesus, our present Teacher, will teach us how to live our life as he would live our life if he were we. In daily experience his Holy Spirit instructs us in how to live life well:

• How to love our spouse well.
• How to raise our children well.
• How to study well.
• How to face adversity well.
• How to run our businesses well.
• How to form community life well.
• How to reach out to those on the margins well.

And Quakers can lead the way in this. We have a long history of personal integrity in daily life: in simplicity, in peace efforts, in honest speech and more.

But we can do more and we need to do more, much more. We need a whole-life theology of the spiritual disciplines for training the body, mind and spirit in “righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” And we personally need to become practiced in spiritual disciplines like fasting and solitude, silence and prayer, study and simplicity, service and confession, meditation and guidance, worship and celebration, and more . . .

In addition, we need sterling examples of exactly how this life looks and behaves. By that I mean that we need saints today, which we can look to and learn from. The old term was “weighty Friends.” Quakers whose lives demonstrate a steady unshakableness of life orientation; Quakers who have both impeccable integrity and friendly approachability; Quakers who will shine like bright lights in the midst of the deep darkness of our world. . . Today the world looks at church people around them and asks, “What kind of life am I to be converted to?” It is only as we ourselves become formed and transformed into shining examples of integrity and joy and hope and love that people will be drawn into this life for themselves. And this will surely produce a new renaissance of spiritual life and vitality. May it be so!

I hope you have noticed that I have been working on all three aspects of the FUM theme: Christ, Community, and Mission. But, now, I have one more thing I want to share with you. However, to share it with you, it is important for you simply to forget everything I have said up to this point . . . or, at least, to let what I have said up to this point to fade into the background of your thinking.

So, here is my final point — and in an important sense my primary point: If we are truly looking for a renaissance of the life with God within the human family, I recommend that we begin first of all by getting to know our neighbors . . . our “nigh-bors,” those who are near us. I mean quite literally our children and our spouse and our work associates and those who are living next door to us and the people we encounter in the course of our everyday lives. This is where we begin.

Let’s take an interest in what they think about and what they care about. What is important to them? What are their passions and their joys? What are their fears and their anxieties? What are their hopes and their dreams?

In other words, let’s become their friend. Not with any alterative motive, just to be their friend, pure and simple. In doing this perhaps they will become our friend as well. And, who knows — who knows — they just might also become the friends of Jesus! And that would be renaissance enough for me.

Hidden in Christ

By James Bryan Smith

Good morning, Friends! Last night, if you were not there I talked about my personal passion, which is transformation into Christlikeness. I spoke a little bit last night about transformation is often thought of as something we have to do by the power of our will to change and be better people. That actually fails and harms people.

A story in that vein of change and transformation is about a guy who is down and out on his luck. He had lost several jobs and his house. He was looking in the paper one morning and saw there was a job at the local zoo . . . He showed up and waited for an interview. Finally, a guy walked in and asked, “You here for the job?” He said, “Yes.” The man said, “Stand up,” and proceeded to look at the guy. The man said, “You’re hired.” The guy said, “Great! What is the job?” The man said, “You are the gorilla.” The guy asked, “Excuse me?” The man said, “Well, all good zoos have a gorilla and we can’t afford a real one. But, we have this gorilla suit. If you would just wear the suit, and sit in the cage; it is easy money.”

The man thought about it and said to himself, “I need the job.” So, he put the suit on and sat in the cage. People walked by. After a while, it got kind of boring and began to look for something to do while he was in the cage. He then noticed ropes and rocks to climb on . . . He started to swing on the ropes. He did cartwheels. Pretty soon people came from all over to see this gorilla. He became very popular. One day he was swinging off the rope and showing off. He kept swinging himself higher and higher until he swung himself into the next cage, which was the lion’s cage. The lion moved his head, stood up and began to walk toward him. The guy thought, “I have got a decision to make. What am I going to do? I need this job, but I value my life.” Meanwhile, the lion was getting closer and closer. Finally the guy said, “It is not worth it.” He startedto scream, “Help! Somebody help me!” The lion got right up in his face and said, “Shut up, buddy! We are both going to lose our jobs.” Turns out it was a discount zoo.

Why am I telling that story? Well, it seems to me there is a great deal of pressure to be Christlike in our communities. Yet, the reality is that we know internally we may not match that. In some sense we feel pressured to put on a Christian suit and pretend that we are something that we are not. I know what it is like to want to reflect Christian virtue when it is not really there. The difficulty of being honest and authentic and state, “This is where I am. What do I do?”

It seems to me as Dr. Willard has said that many of our churches have no plan for helping us grow into Christlikeness. We just assume you will somehow figure it out. We don’t have a plan, a real method that is tried and true that will help people move into that . . .

I learned there really is a reliable method of transformation. In its most fundamental sense it involves our mind . . . Paul says to put on the mind or be transformed by the renewing of our minds. . . .

I mentioned Dallas Willard who was a very important mentor for me, along with Richard. One day I said to Dallas, “What is the most fundamental practice for you as a Christian? You have been practicing the disciplines your whole life.” He said, “The single, most important practice for me has been the memorization of Scripture. No single verses, but entire passages.” . . .

You will notice, if you memorize whole passages, you begin to see the flow of thought. It is not just an inspirational nugget here and there. You can see the system in the thinking. What occurred to me was, in Colossians 3:1-4, Paul says: “Since then you have been raised with Christ. Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on things below. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, appears; you will appear with him in glory.” That is he first four verses which is all about: you died, you rose with Christ, your life is now tied in Christ and when Christ appears, you will appear with him. It is all about YOU. You know that phrase, “It’s all about you?” Those verses are really all about you — and me.

Then, in verse 5 it says: “Therefore…” As one seminary professor said, “You always need to know what the therefore is there for.” The therefore is there as a hinge so it can bring you from the established idea to this. You can’t do one before the other. Now, that you are established who you are in Christ. “Therefore, put to death sin that is in your members.” Put to death the sin that is in you. I began to wonder why is Paul so insistent that we understand our identity before he speaks about our behavior.

Because in the world I live in and in the world you live in, our identity is determined by our behavior. You do good things, you are a good person. You do bad things, you are a bad person. But in Paul’s line of thinking, identity shapes behavior. This is who you are, therefore, walk in these ways. Paul is very consistent and never varies in any of his epistles. I began thinking this word is really important. He wants us to know our identity, our person, who we are, as being people who have died, are risen in Christ and will appear with him. Know that and the behavior follows.

Working through this passage, God gave me a wonderful epiphany. It came through a very strange and unexpected way. It came through a guitar.

I was field testing what became the Apprentice books. A man in that group was really attentive to the teaching and the practices. One of the practices in one of the weeks, is to give away five things to someone. . . . It must be something of value and give it to someone. You don’t need it and you would be fine to be without it. It would be a blessing to someone. The practice was coming up and we had been talking about it. He said to me after the class, “Hey, Jim! I heard you mention that you play guitar.” I said, “Yeah, I do.” He asked, “What kind of guitar do you play? You know, the make and the model of the guitar.” I said, “My make and model is the garage sale kind of guitar. Is that what you mean? It was $25 at a garage sale. I don’t know the name and the model.” He said, “That is good because I collect a lot of guitars and thought I would give one of my guitars to you.” I thought, “That is great! He might have a guitar that is worth a few hundred dollars. I will be able to play this really nice guitar that I would never have bought for myself.”

I had known this guy and his wife for a couple of years and didn’t know — because they never put on any airs — that they were very wealthy. I discovered it when I drove up to their home. After lunch he said he wanted to show me the guitar. I was really excited.

We went to (I am not kidding and not exaggerating) a special room in his home that was just where the guitars were kept. On the wall, were 17 guitars hanging like pieces of art in a climate controlled room. One by one he shared where it was from, how it was made and gave all these details about each one. It was impressive. I was wondering if he was going to give me one of them. I didn’t think I was that good of a guitar player. Finally, he told me the guitar he was giving me was not any of the ones he showed me.

He went to a big table and pulled out of its drawer a guitar case. He said, “This is the guitar I want you to have. This is a limited edition, marked guitar. This guitar was commissioned by Eric Clapton, who had it specially designed. Not many were made. They were all stamped. You can see Eric Clapton’s signature on the front and his actual signature is on a piece of paper inside the guitar.” I kept thinking, “I am unworthy. I am unworthy to even touch this thing.” He, then, said he wanted me to have it and began to give me instructions of how to care for it. I got out my notepad. There were 17 things I wrote down to know how to take care of it.

As I was taking the guitar to my car, it occurred to me that this particular guitar might be very valuable. I wondered if I should get it insured. I turned to the man and said, “This is a very weird question and may be way out of bounds. Don’t answer it if you don’t want to, but I am wondering if I might need to get this guitar insured.” He said, “Yeah, probably.” I was very uncomfortable and asked, “How much is this guitar worth?” He said, “Ummm, about $9000.” . . .

I got home and told my wife this story. She said, “Wow! That is amazing.” She looked at me and said, “You better take good care of it.” I had one of those moments you have with your spouse when all you can think of is, “Duh!” I didn’t say it because I don’t think duh is a word. But, I thought about it and wondered why it is so obvious that I would take good care of the guitar?

The reason is pretty obvious. It is a treasure. It is a very valuable thing. I mean, it’s worth all that money, and it has Eric Clapton’s signature. That’s when the epiphany happened. I thought of Paul and verses 1-4 in Colossians 3 and proceeding verses 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Here is the reality. That guitar is just a guitar. It is made of wood. It is a finely crafted instrument. But, you know what? You are more valuable than that guitar. I am more valuable than that guitar. We are people of sacred worth and value. Eric Clapton’s signature may be inside that guitar, but the signature of Jesus is inside each one of us. We are sacred treasures. I know how precious that is. Paul says, “This is who you are in Christ. You died, you rose, and you are with him. You will be glorified with him.” All the sins detailed in verses 5-8 have nothing to do with you. You are way above that . . . But many Christians I know, when asked of their identity, will say, “I am just a rotten sinner saved by grace.” Really? That is the best you can do? If you are just a rotten sinner saved by grace, then sin would be normative, wouldn’t it? Sin would be natural. But sin harms you every time.

Try this instead, “I am one in whom Christ dwells and takes delight. I am sacred and precious and valuable.” It is a much different approach. The key to Christlike living and Christlike loving is knowing that you are sacred and valued of worth. Last night I told a story of a Russian Orthodox priest in the 19th century named John Kronstadt. Each day he would go and lift men and women out of the gutters somewhere. . . . He would lift them up and instead of judging them, he would say, “This is beneath your dignity. You were meant to house the fullness of God.” John had it right. He didn’t say, “Look at you, you rotten sinner!” He said, “This is beneath your dignity. You were meant to house the fullness of God.”

I mention that I am not a very good guitar player. I like playing and can tell if a guitar is very good — even at my level of expertise. But a friend of mine is an expert guitar player and dropped by because he heard I had this famous guitar. He asked if he could play it. He started playing it. Wow! I didn’t know how good that thing could sound. I encouraged him to keep playing. I just wanted to listen.

I had my second epiphany with this guitar. Jesus who is the maestro, the master of life. If Jesus is orchestrating life, imagine the beautiful music we can make. We are the sacred instruments, divinely crafted. When he is the one who is orchestrating our lives, amazing things can happen.

The third and final epiphany that happened with this guitar is that I wrote a story, which is in Hidden in Christ. I had permission to tell it from the man who gave me the guitar. When he read it, he appreciated the story and what I had learned from it. He said, “I want to tell you one thing that you might not know. You saw all those guitars and you probably thought that I was a pretty wealthy guy. You probably thought that was a guitar I could give because I had so many. I want to tell you, the guitar I gave you is by far the most valuable, most costly guitar that I have. But, I had been praying all week about what to give away. And God reminded me: ‘I gave you my very best. When you give, you give your very best.’”

One simple guitar taught me so many lessons about my sacred value, your sacred value. About what Christ can do when he is the one playing our lives and how God gives us his very best for each of us so we can, by his very grace, give our very best to one another.

Would you pray with me?

Gracious Abba, we need your help to see ourselves as you see us. Too often we forget who we are and easily turn to behaviors that are beneath our dignity. So, Holy Spirit help us to believe the truth about ourselves no matter how unworthy it is. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Editor’s note: There was complete silence as Jim walked off the stage to sit down. A gathered time of worship began.

First-Time Attender, Long-Time Listener

By Steve Olshewsky

As we know far too well, there is much more work to be done than we will ever complete. We pray for help with all that could be done, not just locally, but around the world in which we live. The FUM Triennial was a great way to catch up with so many of God’s harvesters — the living answers to our prayers.

Looking at Matthew 9:37-38, Mark 4:29, Luke 10:2 and John 4:34-38, what else can be our calling than to harvest the opportunities that God presents us? It was exciting for me to find so many faithful Quakers answering this call of “A Great People to be Gathered: in Christ, in Community, for Mission.”

My drive to Marion, Indiana, was immediately rewarded by the welcoming staff of FUM who had obviously worked extremely hard to make my experience a smooth and easy one. Volunteers pitched in to ensure that I received what I needed in good order. This first contact set the tone for engaging exchanges over the next few days.

Many of the items discovered in the check-in packet were novel, yet useful. This included toys that were both were both fun and practical, thus characteristic of most Triennial activities. I still use the bag it all came in for groceries.

Because there are no FUM affiliates in Kentucky where I worship with Quakers, my experience with programmed Friends has been limited. However, the good work of so many has been so noticeable that the opportunity to attend a Triennial was compelling. While I know very little about FUM itself, many of the people were recognizable from other Quaker arenas, and the work of everyone there was a joy to discover. It was humbling to realize I was breaking bread with such luminous children of the Light.

I enjoyed speaking with current and former fellow students, as well as professors, from Earlham School of Religion. Talking at length with a chancellor of Barclay College, or trustees of such places as Friends University, reminded me that my academic world is larger than realized.

Many funny jokes were told, and Quaker humor was openly encouraged. Referring to iPhones as Apples (because they are so tempting) took the serious edge off of thinking about my electronic idols. Laughter was a common, refreshing part of the Triennial.

Many amazing stories of money miracles made the fish and the loaves seem almost commonplace. One example was found in Del and Suzanne Livingston who made my drink seem more precious as they told me about their efforts with Living Water in Africa. They helped me realize how far the seeds we plant can extend.

The economic and political aspects of African countries embracing a Quaker initiative seemed less important than the practical aspects of providing drinkable water for a household of 10 to 12 with raw materials as simple as sand and gravel. Hearing prices like $1.20 or 50 cents per month gave me a new perspective on my water bill, but also on what is really important to do with all the blessings I enjoy, whether clean water or an hourly wage. How much easier would healthcare issues like cholera or AIDS be if the world had an available water supply?

Many of my quandaries, like how I could ever be as Christlike as those around me, were addressed by plenary speakers. The dilemma of reflecting Christian virtues while being authentically human is not new, but it was previously unimagined that Jesus living in us makes us sacred the way an artist’s signature adds value to a painting.

FUM’s mission statement: “to energize and equip Friends through the power of the Holy Spirit to gather people into fellowships where Jesus Christ is known, loved and obeyed as Teacher and Lord” was echoed by employees describing their callings in the same terms. Each talked about how, according to their individual gifts, God led them to this harvest.

Henry Freeman’s definition of a disciple as a student spoke to my condition of being in school, and his entertaining presentation persuaded me that fundraising is a different process than I imagined. He described it as uniting people with their dreams, or their true callings, as I might term it.

The FUM staff had worked so hard to organize the Triennial as a vessel, making it an environment that allowed us to better hear the authenticity behind the voice rather than the presenting voice. This sense of gathering and quickening overshadowed any sense of differences and gave participants a sense of being called.

Donne Hayden reminded me how important it is to go to each other’s “do’s,” and how attractive Quakers are to the outside world when we are united. That was easy to see at the Triennial where members of Liberal, Conservative and Evangelical branches joined in with, and were celebrated by, FUM Friends.

The cross-sectional nature of the conference was not limited to organizational styles, but was seen in the mix of ages. Thus it was easy to confer about how to engage young adult Friends in Quaker programs. Who would have otherwise thought to frame the issue as how to support the excellent work already being attempted in youth programs?

As many Quaker events as I have been to over the years, I was sad that so many display tables were new to me. Displays not seen before ranged from earning Quaker badges in conjunction with scouting to Lugulu Hospital in Kenya with the motto: “We treat, Jesus heals.”

The whole experience fed me intellectually with sound theology and insightful perspectives on the Bible. The difference between works and the word effort used in II Peter 1:5-7 solved the age-old “grace versus works” problem, and called us to action.

I came away from the event refreshed and encouraged that so many good Friends are diligently working for a better world, and that FUM gives us a venue to learn about, as well as join in with, so much good work.

Steve Olshewsky is a Writing as Ministry student at the Earlham School of Religion.