By Laura Y. Dungan, Great Plains Yearly Meeting presiding clerk
Great Plains Yearly Meeting is beginning to consider its place and purpose among Quakers in middle-America. As part of this process, 53 people from across the Friends theological spectrum gathered in November at University Friends Meeting in Wichita, Kansas. Arthur Larrabee, general secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, facilitated the gathering where those who came from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas experienced the power of God in our midst. All present were eager to better understand how to create space for conducting business in a worshipful spirit. Larrabee provided a strong and open container for God’s power, Christ’s presence and Jesus’ love to surround and bless us.
In my welcome to Friends who had come for learning and spiritual fellowship, I shared the passage of Scripture from John 4 that describes Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus said:
God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming — it has, in fact, come — when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself — Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. (John 4:22-24, The Message)
At the conclusion of the workshop, Gail Fletcher from Norman Friends Meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, shared this response: “The act of gathering together and joining together in Spirit at the workshop was powerful and an enriching experience. The diversity of participants and the worship we shared was significant.”
Richard Sandstrom, Emporia Friends Church, Emporia, Kansas, shared his experience this way:
Whenever many Friends that come from different traditions gather, it has been my experience that we have trouble showing the love to each other that we do to outsiders. Yet, the Leadership and Clerking Workshop was not so marred by our past grievances. I went to the workshop to gain a better understanding of the role of the clerk. It is one area that seems to have roots in our meetings and churches that go beyond our theological disputes. I did learn much from the teaching of Arthur Larrabee, but the unexpected occurred. As we worshipped together in silence the Spirit of God moved among us. In the silence we had communion. Out of respect for one another the silence was not broken even though some felt led to share. After this time of worship it was discussed and we all agreed to enter back into worship with a shared understanding that it would be okay to speak as the Spirit led. As people rose and spoke what was laid upon their hearts, it was obvious that God was in our midst. That simple act set the tone for our gathering and has been a blessing to my life.
Great Plains Yearly Meeting will continue to discern God’s guidance for our work in this region. The two days of learning together last November provided an opportunity to equip ourselves for moving back into our local communities, meetings and churches better able to: open space and walk alongside people who are seeking a vital and transformative relationship with God, witness in others the living Christ at work and join where the Spirit is moving.
Those who attended the workshop are members at: Fayetteville Friends, Fayetteville, Arkansas; Heartland Friends, Wichita, Kansas; University Friends, Wichita, Kansas; Willow Creek Friends, Overland Park, Kansas; Topeka Friends, Topeka, Kansas; Emporia Friends, Emporia, Kansas; Norman Friends, Norman, Oklahoma; Hominy Friends, Hominy, Oklahoma; Lubbock Friends, Lubbock, Texas; Booker Friends, Booker, Texas.
Great Plains Yearly Meeting sessions will be held May 31–June 2, 2012, in Central City, Nebraska. All are welcome to attend. FCNL’s Diane Randall is scheduled as the keynote speaker. For information and registration, visit: www.greatplainsyearlymeeting.org.