As we close the 2011 Triennial Sessions of Friends United Meeting, we celebrate the vision, the faith, and the dedication of those Friends who more than a century ago founded what is now Friends United Meeting. We celebrate also the Christian fellowship that reaches across oceans, continents, and cultures to bind us together in one family. Yet, amidst this celebration, we acknowledge that Friends United Meeting is facing new and significant organizational challenges, declining financial support, and what seem to be irreconcilable differences between some of our constituents.
This Triennium began with deep concerns expressed regarding the structure and composition of Friends United Meeting. The General Board appointed the Restructuring Committee to develop recommendations that would enable Friends United Meeting “to more effectively live out our statement of purpose.” While external organizational changes are essential, and recommendations are forth coming, deeper transformational changes are required of Friends to ensure a vital future for Friends United Meeting.
In light of this hope, the theme for the new Triennium is: “A Great People to Be Gathered.” Friends are challenged to prayerfully envision the members, ministries, and resources of Friends United Meeting as part of a fresh movement of God’s Spirit.
As the winds of God’s Spirit blow among us may we be moved:
- From a Historic Institution to a Spiritual Movement;
- From Institutional Maintenance to Ministry and Mission;
- From Adversarial Posturing to Strategic Positioning;
- From Representing yearly meetings to Equipping and Energizing yearly meetings;
- From Friends United Meeting membership as a Privilege to membership as Responsibility;
- From Doing mission work on Behalf of Friends to Enabling Friends to Do mission work;
- From a mindset of Scarcity to Abundance;
- From attitudes of Fear and Mistrust to Freedom, Respect, and Mutual Love.
From its beginning Friends United Meeting has repeatedly affirmed its orthodox Quaker Christian roots, while including a spectrum of faith, practice, and cultures. Our roots are deep and strong as we seek unity in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Friends United Meeting has an opportunity in this present moment to proclaim a powerful, life-changing message to the world, that Jesus Christ is here, now—available to us all. Our testimonies of simplicity, peace, equality, community, and integrity speak to a world: hungering for an end to war, violence, and the polarized politics of our day; desiring healing of our environment and healing of fractured relationships, and needing the affirmation of a life lived with God at the center.
There are any number of outreach programs and evangelistic techniques available to us. However, all these techniques will have little or no effect until we can tap into the power of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit prompted George Fox to climb to the top of Pendle Hill, where “the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered.” Friends, those places are right where you and I live. Those people are you, me, the members of our monthly and yearly meetings, and our neighbors. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Friends United Meeting can spark a renewal, a global movement to “gather people into fellowships where Jesus Christ is known, loved, and obeyed as teacher and Lord.”
At the beginning of these sessions I noted that transformation comes as a gift to those generously open to the Holy Spirit. I close the 2011 Triennial Sessions of Friends United Meeting with this simple encouragement: Go forth as a Great People Gathered in Christ, Generously open to the Holy Spirit.