Wednesday, November 19, 2008

With Love

For someone who claims to be a writer, I sometimes have the hardest time getting writing projects together. My friend Sarah H is on the editorial board for the Quaker Youth Book Project, so I have known about that project for quite some time now. I assured Sarah when I saw her in July that I was planning to submit some writing, but now it's November and I am still trying to decide what to submit.

Most of my Quaker-related writing has been for this blog, so I thought a good place to start would be with some posts that I particularly liked. A few months ago, I created a special "Quaker Youth Book Project" folder on my computer and put a few files in there. Then I ignored them.

Earlier this week, I finally printed out a few of the posts and sat down to edit them. I thought it would be nice to put two posts together, contrasting Freedom Friends Church and University Friends Meeting. But when I got to the piece I had written about University Friends, I felt like I was crossing out more than I was leaving. So much has changed since I wrote it.

I had written all about how I felt like no one knew who I was at University Friends, how unwelcoming they were to young adults, and how I felt that sometimes Friends were doing more editing than listening. This simply has not been my experience at University Friends lately.

A Friend who helped to found our Young Adult Friend group recently visited meeting for worship after a long absence. After meeting she asked, "when did the YAF population at the meeting explode?" It's true. A few weeks ago, I counted ten Friends between the ages of 18 and 35 at meeting, and none of them were there for the first time. Most weeks, we have young visitors and many of them visit repeatedly.

In this Year of Discernment, University Friends Meeting is trying to answer two questions: Who are we as a community? and What are we called to do? When I first started working with the other members of the Steering Committee, I didn't feel like the "we" in those questions applied to me. I was a member of another meeting, and I felt like my role in the process of discernment was to provide an outsider perspective.

This has changed too. Even before I formally became a sojourning member of University Friends Meeting, I began to realize that this was my community too. I have been honored and a little embarrased by the warm welcome I have received from so many members of the meeting. They have given me so many gifts and I feel grateful to have them as friends as well as Friends.

A message from meeting on Sunday has stayed with me through the week. A Friend said that he was struggling with what he was called to do and mentioned, almost as an aside, that he was called to love. This rang true to me. We are called to love. In fact, we are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor.

Today, it occurred to me that this message provides one answer to the questions that University Friends is asking. Who are we as a community? Friends. What are we called to do? Love. I know that there is still a lot of work to do and I doubt that University Friends will be able to simplify in the way that some hope by the end of this Year of Discernment. But if we can do all of the things we are doing with love, maybe that will be enough.


  1. Ashley,
    I am touched and humbled by this message today-
    actually tonite. I fell asleep in my chair and finally went to bed. Then I couldn't sleep. so I woke and have been reading a couple of blogs I have been missing... I must tell you, this is a beautiful sermon, and I say "Amen". Love to thee.

  2. Thanks, Alivia. And please give my thanks to everyone at Freedom Friends for the card this week. It was so good to hear from all of you!

  3. Hey Ashley, glad you're thinking about writing for the book project. I have too. I spent a lot of time sending the info around and trying to make sure people knew about the book project. Then at some point I suddenly realized I could write something too because I was still a YAF! My husbands response was basically, "duh!" =) I have an idea what to write about, and have even written some stuff, but haven't taken time to really sit with it. But there is still plenty of time (famous last words)...

  4. Hi Aimee,

    I'm glad to hear that you're planning to contribute to the book project too! Good for Jeremy for reminding you that you're not so old yet. I am no closer to knowing what I am going to send than I was when I wrote this post, but Sarah H is coming up to Seattle to inspire all of us in a few weeks, so hopefully that will help!



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