By David Herendeen
My decision to attend the FUM Triennial this year arose from a desire to act on a long-held concern that New York Yearly Meeting Friends remain engaged and connected with FUM. Coming to terms with my reservations (and fears), I felt I was ready now to follow through on my concern. I am thankful for the generous support of Northeastern Regional Meeting and New York Yearly Meeting, which enabled me to attend this year.
Attending FUM’s Triennial also enabled me to reconnect with old friends I had known during my 12 years of pastoral ministry in the Midwest (1982-1994). Many changes have taken place in FUM since that time. FUM has grappled with some tough issues. Some of its Midwestern yearly meeting members have suffered painful and divisive conflict. Friends meetings have separated from Indiana Yearly Meeting and formed a new association. I wanted to hear their stories personally, rather than rely on reports and internet blogs.
Indiana Yearly Meeting served as gracious hosts of this gathering, which met at the modern and comfortable campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. Meals were abundant and pleasing. There was ample time for conversation at mealtime and after evening programs. This was a time for me to sit in on some challenging and difficult conversations concerning issues of concern within the FUM family. I strove to listen lovingly. While Friends shared stories of pain and woundedness, I also heard stories of hope and new beginnings.
The theme for the week was, “A Great People to Be Gathered: In Christ, In Community, For Mission.” Plenary sessions began with a devotional worship or hymn singing. And, how these Friends love to sing! Gospel hymns and praise choruses projected on an overhead screen were mostly familiar to me. Although some of the texts no longer speak to me, still, I found joy entering into song with other Christian believers! FUM gatherings provided an opportunity to meet and hear from field staff working in global ministries. One evening session was devoted to hearing their stories, and slides and videos of this work enlivened my sense of these ministries. The story of Cuban Friends, who have developed their own unique indigenous Quaker identity, was uplifting. We sang a song, based upon Isaiah 61:1: “Si el Espíritu está aquí hay paz, Si el Espíritu está aquí hay amor . . .” A touching end to this evening was the laying on of hands and prayer offered for all new field staff.
A more recent development among FUM global ministries has been a renewed call for reconciliation and peacemaking. A Peace Panel held Saturday evening consisted of representatives from
Friends Church Peace Teams (Kenya), two Cuban Friends sharing about their Peace Institute, Quaker Volunteer Service and FCNL. Kenyan Friends have worked in Trauma Healing Reconciliation (in
partnership with African Great Lakes Initiative) and have even developed a peace curriculum (with FUM assistance) for Kenyan schools.
Three new yearly meetings/associations were welcomed to the FUM family: Chebuyusi Yearly Meeting (Kenya), Highland Yearly Meeting (Kenya), and the New Association of Friends (Indiana). I sat in on an interest group this new association led. They are still in the formative stages, but stated they are considering the highest authority to be in the monthly meeting. They are interested in invitations to other yearly meetings who would welcome getting to know them and hear their story.
I also attended a workshop on Indiana Yearly Meeting history. Many other mid-western yearly meetings were birthed out of this yearly meeting as Friends moved westward. They were also active in the evangelical Quaker transformation and the development of the pastoral tradition among Friends in the 19th century. FUM has been working hard to bridge the differences, which sometimes hinder the work of the body. Colin Saxton, the new General Secretary of FUM, is providing strong, yet gentle leadership. Many took part in an FUM Forty Days of Prayer devotional and Day of Discernment in preparation for this Triennial. I felt a depth of spirit and prayerfulness undergirding this gathering.
Does FUM have enough common ground for us to remain in ministry together? I am convinced that it does. Great care had been given by a Restructuring/Prioritizing committee of the General Board (sound familiar, NYYM Friends?), which brought a proposed revision of Organization and Procedure. Changes were made taking in account the process by which new member yearly meetings become part of FUM. Also addressed were how to develop an organizational structure that is sustainable, and how to continue to nurture global partnerships that are truly equitable, given the cultural and economic diversity of FUM. They did a good job of informing Friends of these proposed changes.
I served on the new business committee, which forwarded a concern from United Society of Friends Women International that FUM consider meeting concurrently with their triennial rather than consecutive years.
Speakers called attenders to be the great people we are called to be NOW, being attentive to the urgings of Spirit to make a prophetic witness to the world. We were challenged to be about energizing, equipping, and connecting Friends to participate in God’s transformative work in the world. We were invited to be a people who sit at the feet of Jesus, listening and learning how to be a beloved community witnessing to a redemptive love realized in the world.
A recorded minister, David A Herendeen has served pastoral meetings in Indiana, Illinois and New York. He currently cofacilitates a group of Friends who visit and encourage meetings and worship groups within New York Yearly Meeting. He also instituted a meeting intervisitation program within his Regional meeting. He has been an active attender at Easton (New York) meeting for the past 11 years. He is now serving as pastor of Manhattan Monthly Meeting in New York City.