Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Thread

I am leaving for Kenya in two weeks.  Between getting vaccinations for exotic tropical diseases and finding a travel alarm clock, I have been preparing for the thread group I will be leading at the World Conference of Friends.

The thread groups are three-day afternoon workshops near the beginning of the conference that explore the theme at greater depth.  My thread group is part of the sub-theme "Salt and Light" and it is called "Convergent Friends: worship and conversation."

Preparing for this thread group has been a little daunting.  Although I have led workshops in the past, it has always been as a co-leader.  This is my first workshop as a leader instead of co-leading.

Fortunately, I am not alone.  I have the wonderful support of my elder, Lucy F.  Even though we are in different cities, Lucy has been providing good counsel and grounding this ministry.  I am looking forward to being able to work together in person!

I have also been thinking about what it means to be a convergent Friend.  In a recent Friends Journal article, Robin M defined convergent Friends as:
Friends who are seeking a deeper understanding of our Quaker heritage and a more authentic life in the kingdom of God on Earth, radically inclusive of all who seek to live this life.
 In my description of the thread group, I said,
The term “convergent Friends” describes a movement of Quakers coming together across the branches of Friends to try to discover the best of our tradition.
Earlier this week, I was reminded that the convergent Friends movement looks different depending on where you are coming from.

On Sunday evening, Sarah H and I drove up to Camas Friends Church for Convergent Friends Worship.  Camas Friends has been hosting a convergent worship once a month, inviting Friends from the meetings and churches in the surrounding area to come together to worship.

When we arrived, Friends were greeting each other and having coffee and tea.  We saw several people we know from different meetings.  After greeting each other, we settled into worship, which began with a time for Bible reading as led, then open worship, and ended with responses to a query.

For Friends from unprogrammed meetings, the time dedicated to Bible reading would be a change from their usual practice.  Friends from programmed meetings might not be used the amount of time spent in unprogrammed worship.  And at Freedom Friends, we don't often spend time responding to queries.  So for all of the Friends gathered there, parts of the worship were familiar and parts were new or different from their usual practices.

One of my hopes for the thread group is that it will be like that worship—that some parts will feel familiar and other parts will be new or challenging.  I think it helps if the parts that are new for some are familiar for others, so that those who are more comfortable can help ground those who are experiencing something for the first time.

But, most of all, I pray that in our worship and conversation, we will feel the presence of the living God among us.

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