August 1, 2005

After Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative sessions

Seventh Month 2005

I feel refreshed by the Spirit that lives among this group of Friends, though I cannot point to any other time when I have sat still for so long over many days--

in Meeting for Worship;
in Meeting for Worship for Business;
in holding presenters in prayer.

How is it that I am refreshed after four days of this routine, with 12 hours of worship, neither drained nor eager to return home?

I can attribute it to the movement of the Spirit; the discipline and gift of IYMC's clerk; the discipline of the body of Friends gathered. Even in response to the longest of reports, only a very small number of Friends spoke to its wordy knots. It seemed to take a few minutes to loosen the knots and then move on.

During MfW for Business, Friends seemed to speak to the heart or the kernel of what their message was. It was enough to say, "It is a joy to have the young Friends of junior yearly meeting among us," without having to add why the Friend felt that way.

The clerk recorded the sense of the Spirit among us, rather than the who-said-what-and-then-what-happened details that often lead to long corrections and wordsmithing from the floor by more than the clerks' team.

Each committee's report seemed to be received as a whole, as a mini-gestalt, rather than as a list of items that had to be scrutinized, challenged, edited, and threshed by the gathered assembly. Explicit approval of minutes was seldom sought. Silence or the occasional "Good minute" were enough.

The lack of suggestions and the absence of impromptu brainstorming that met each report sent me a nonverbal message of the level of trust in the work of the committees these Friends had, as well as being another signal that these Friends, for the most part, share in the discipline of seeking out committee clerks away from the floor of business session in order to share ideas, ask questions, and offer revisions.

Spiritual hospitality also seemed to be a gift that is part and parcel to the life of this yearly meeting. I was welcomed warmly--perhaps because of the travel letter that accompanied me--but my sense is there is a deeper, quieter joy in many of these Friends that is embodied by genuine welcome and care for visitors and first-timers.

The love of God that these Friends experience in their daily lives is clear. And it is made manifest by the words they speak and by the deeds they do.

I was invited to sit in on a care-and-accountability committee, as well as be part of two other hold-in-prayer opportunities for speakers and the clerk; and I was asked to participate in the variety show, despite my newness to the yearly meeting.

As the week progressed, I was told that the clerk felt that these Opportunities would give me the experience of being among Conservative Friends in a variety of settings, rather than solely looking at MfW for Business and MfW.

I was particularly moved by the epistle that will be sent to Friends Everywhere (as compared to the epistles that will be sent to Iowa Conservative's sister meetings, Ohio Yearly Meeting and North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative), which mentions the presence of Friends from Yahara Preparative Meeting and the as-yet-unnamed Conservative-leaning worship group; and that by having us among the yearly meeting, Friends are having to consider the question, "What makes us Conservative Friends?"

Other observations and perceptions include:
1. A good deal of Conservative Friends exchange greetings and news with one another via letters rather than emails.
2. Cell phones ring less frequently but are just as annoying when they do ring.
3. Bible verses, selected by the speakers, were read at the start of each plenary session.
4. Friends were easy with "God language" and with "Jesus (Christ) language."

Overall, I sensed the shared desire and concern for faithfulness and obedience to the leadings of the Spirit; that individual Friends as well as the corporate body be discerning and attentive to the Will of God as it is made known; and that such faithfulness is encouraged.


This post is an adaptation of a journal entry.

UPDATE, Eighth Month 2006: Here is the first of two posts I wrote after having attended the 2006 annual sessions of Iowa Conservative Friends.


Joe G. said...

Here's some "God" language: God bless you for reporting this! ;)

I was hoping that you'd report what you had experienced, and I'm glad that you did. Much appreciated!

So, are we to wonder if the said " as-yet-unnamed Conservative-leaning worship group" is considering and/or seeking preparative status with a Conservative YM? Inquiring minds want to know!

It seems that you felt comfotable in this context, even with the Jesus (Christ) language. I wonder how you react to that, given your cultural and religious background (Jewish). When I have mentioned my concerns about Friends to Friends who are Jewish I sometimes wince since it is not my intent to exclude Friends with those backgrounds (and since I view Jesus as an extention of the Jewish tradition anyway, but that's my bias).

Thanks, Friend! More please, as thee is lead, of course. :)

Liz Opp said...

Beppe, thanks for the questions.

The worship group will have another Meeting for Worship for Business in late August, during which we'll continue discerning how we might name ourselves and how we might affiliate, as Conservative, liberal, or even independent.

(The two names we are testing are Laughing Waters Worship Group and Minnehaha Worship Group. "Minnehaha" can be translated to mean "laughing waters," and it seems traditional among Friends to name a meeting or worship group either by locale or by geographical feature nearby.)

At MfWfB, we'll probably hear reports from the Friends who attended Iowa's annual sessions--myself and a family from the worship group that showed up later in the week, somewhat unexpectedly.

I don't know that as a worship group we'll find clearness about our affiliation, given that half of the group has not worshipped among Conservative Friends. We will need to stay open to the Spirit, as well as await the visits from a committee that IYMC has appointed. I'm hoping that these visitors can help us understand the distinction between Conservative Friends and liberal Friends.

The fact that the yearly meeting has appointed a committee to visit with us, of course, is very promising. Already I feel as though individuals from the worship group have received a great deal of care and welcome from these Conservative Friends.

As for the question you raise about the Jesus (Christ) language, I have had to await the Spirit's inward teachings about that for myself. Since I have posted a long(er) entry about my journey with Christ, I'd like to allow that post to speak for itself in response to your question.

But I agree: there is in me a call to be tender and mindful of how I speak of God or even of "the Christ" when I know I am speaking with a Friend who has Jewish roots.

I am so very aware that my description of IYMC sessions does not adequately describe the sense of feeling covered or of feeling held and nourished by the gathered body over the course of those 5 days.

Already in my mind I am hoping and planning to attend next year's sessions...


Amanda said...

I was very moved by this entry and description of the Yearly sessions. Thanks for being a faithful witness.


Joe G. said...

I'll hold your worship group in prayer. I think it's exciting that IYMC is sending a group to meet with your worship group. How exciting.

I've read your previous post about your thoughts about Jesus. It's appreciated.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for your comments, Amanda and Beppe. I know it takes time to read and absorb and comment, and then go onto another (equally absorbing) blog. ...At least, if you make the blog-rounds as I do!

All these comments on all these posts are so helpful to me--a way of testing, threshing, reformulating, listening further, testing again.

Thank you, thank you.


Anonymous said...

Awesome report! My partner and I attended NC Yearly Meeting-Conservative and had a similar experience as yours. We actually attend a NCYM-C Meeting.

Robin M. said...

Another possibility, if you do not have unity on the name, is that perhaps you have chosen the wrong geographical feature. If you do not see yourselves as Laughing Waters, perhaps you should choose the name of some local rock, or a forest, an open space or a deep and still lake, or more radical yet, an urban phenomenon, like tall buildings or crowded sidewalks or a public transit station or the street on which you first met.

I don't certainly don't know the answer for your worship group, but I look forward to learning more about your process of discernment as well as your ultimate choice of a name.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for the additional possibilities to consider, if we find ourselves going nowhere. Clearness will come in its own time.

Of course, God knows who we are, whether we have a name or not. This is the primary reason I do not wear a name tag during worship, though I wear one at the start of announcements and during fellowship... when I have remembered to retrieve my nametag from its space by the door.


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