On a hot, sunny day, on the lush, green, tree-lined campus of Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio, USA, over 350 Friends from 28 yearly meetings and Quaker organizations gathered for the 2011 Friends United Meeting Triennial Sessions from July 27-31. We were warmly welcomed by Wilmington Yearly Meeting, greeted with an open house of the Meriam R. Hare Quaker Heritage Center, given tours of the beautiful historic campus and other sites in the area.
The theme of the Triennial, Transforming Lives, was drawn from Romans 12:2: “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (The Message). The theme was reflected again and again in worship sharing, devotions, business sessions, and lectures.
In worship sharing and devotions, we were inspired to preach the Gospel boldly, with love, to position ourselves so God can transform us and use us in the transformation of others. Whether we are wrestling like Jacob, or metamorphosing like a butterfly, we are called to be fully used by God.
The reports in the business sessions demonstrated both the transformations that FUM and its programs have undergone, as well as those that are still needed. Do we have enough in common to stay together? The answer is yes, because the commonness is the work we are all called to do. The report of the General Board described how the differences among Board members helped them examine themselves and find community, so that FUM can move forward with the work that God has given us.
The efforts of field staff in global ministries are a ministry to the West as well. Our global ministry has affected the work of God in three dimensions: education in places like Belize, Ramallah, and Lindi, Kenya, gives students hope and tools; health care at hospitals in Kaimosi and Lugulu tend to the physical needs of people; and evangelization in places like Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, and soon South Sudan, minister to their spiritual needs. The Friends Church Peace Team reminds us that we do not know the meaning of peace until it is taken away. The restructuring and changes in FUM are in response to the growth of these ministries in Africa. Despite the global recession, we celebrated the fact that the support of our global ministries continues. We also celebrated the leadership of Sylvia Graves and Kelly Kellum, the gifts of our staff, the 50th anniversary of Quaker Life magazine, and the presence of Cuban Friends. We welcomed Tongaren Yearly Meeting into the fellowship of FUM and Colin Saxton as General Secretary. We regret that visa difficulties once again kept other Friends from us.
The Johnson Lecture speaker challenged us to reflect on what stifles and stimulates our spiritual growth. It is a sign of spiritual maturity to embrace all that Jesus is, not to choose and select the parts of Jesus that feed our likes and dislikes.
The challenge posed in Quaker Life’s first issue remains: Not whether we are good enough for our parents, but rather, are we good enough for our children? We are a Christian organization based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and we desire to call our own membership to a deeper relationship with God, to continually transform our hearts and minds to support the work of FUM. We pray to be willing to change our selves, our meetings, and may God change us as needed.
Macci Schmidt, New England Yearly Meeting, on behalf of the Triennial Epistle Committee