Over the weekend, Laughing Waters Friends Worship Group met with two couples from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). This intervisitation was arranged as part of the worship group's ongoing discernment around "what sort of Quakers we are"--Hicksite or Conservative.
It was delightful to have four Friends, as a committee from the yearly meeting, visit with us. Such a visit reinforces my growing sense that, for IYM(C) Friends, intervisitation among meetings and between Friends is highly valued--in addition to exchanging letters, postcards, epistles, phone calls, emails, and blog postings. Such intervisitation seems to help prevent meetings from becoming insular or from getting caught in a loop of all-too-comfortable thinking or "same-old, same-old" activity.
Well, I am left with these memories and snippets.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the weekend happened during the reflection and sharing that occurred just after worship on First Day. One Friend, whose Quaker lineage extends backward several generations, spoke with tears in his eyes:
Worship is at the center. Worship comes first. Extending from worship, Friends consider and address secular concerns. IYM(C) "is still evolving from a center."
[I loved seeing a number of us from the worship group nod our heads, as if this statement spoke viscerally to us, surpassing intellectual understanding...]
In the late 1860s, as part of the Gurneyite-Wilburite split, Friends who preferred a more "traditional" form of Quaker worship walked out of Iowa Yearly Meeting sessions and met elsewhere, away from Friends who had grown to prefer a more "active" worship that had greater emotional fervor. Apparently, this second group of Friends referred to those who had walked out as being "conservative."
[Until I heard this story, I had always heard that Conservative Friends are so named because they wish to conserve the early practices and forms of Quakerism. Which I suppose points to the same thing...]
One of the more recent pieces of history among Iowa Conservative is that as universities grew, so did urban populations, which increased the attendance of younger people at Meeting for Worship. These younger people didn't always know what the unspoken "rules" were among Iowa Conservative Friends, especially when it came to answering queries, a part of the Conservative tradition. Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) found itself being challenged by these younger Friends about the growing acceptance of use of tobacco and alcohol, which is now reflected in a query on personal responsibility. The Iowa visitors asked the worship group, "Do you have any Friends in the worship group who have grown up in a Quaker family?" We all automatically answered "No." And then someone added: Wait, that's not true. All of the kids have grown up in a Quaker family!" That got a nice chuckle all around.
When we settled into worship, I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time: like I was home.I had felt this to be a witness, a testimony to the Living Presence having been among us, and I was greatly moved by this Friend's quiet words...
I remembered back to 45 years ago, when I was a boy... Daddy, why are they all sitting there...? "They are listening," he answered.
To what? Nobody's talking. "They're listening to that still, small voice inside."
But why are they so quiet? "It's hard to listen when we're talking."
By the way, First Day worship was attended by a total of 18 adult Friends and 5 young Friends. That's nine regular adult attenders of Laughing Waters Friends Worship Group, four Friends visiting from Iowa, and five other visiting Friends, plus one visiting young Friend. WoW!
Overall, with these Friends from Iowa, there was an ease in talking about God and about God's loving presence in our lives. After the events of the weekend, and the conversations and the worship, I find it hard to imagine myself returning to a more liberal form of Quaker worship and practice.
But that's "me" talking, and I have some more listening to do!