August 31, 2005

Qualities of the Inner Light:
Two other Friends write

NOTE: I have shared my own consideration of the qualities of the Light in my previous post. Originally these two posts were blended into one long one. I felt a nudge to separate them.

Let us all Walk in the Light, remembering and cherishing what that has meant to Friends over the centuries and across the generations.


From Samuel Caldwell:

Numerous Friends, among them George Fox and Robert Barclay, have been urgent in cautioning us against confusing the Inner Light with such natural phenomena as reason or conscience, both of which are physically and socially conditioned. Rather, they have emphasized that the Light is God's eternal and indwelling power resident within our mortal frames, there to enlighten and inform the natural reason and conscience with truth of a higher order.

1. This Light is personal. It is no mindless, purposeless, undifferentiated force or power. It is the mind and will of God - the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah - who indwells our souls. To claim, as we do, that we are led or taught by the Light is to accept by inference that the power by which we are led or taught is capable of actively leading or teaching us. This requires a personal or theistic conception of the Spirit, which Friends have traditionally held.

2. This Light is saving. It is the instrument or means by which we are drawn into fullness and wholeness of life and right relationship to God, ourselves, and one another. It is not primarily through the mechanism of assent to certain theological propositions, however heartfelt, nor by participation in certain established rituals, however sincere, that one comes to be "saved" in- Quaker faith and practice; it is chiefly through the operation of this Saving Light in human hearts - in the hearing and doing of the Living Word as inwardly revealed in the course of common life.

3. This Light is eternal. It was before time, is now, and will be forevermore. As the writer of John says, "in the beginning was the Word." Friends have always identified the Inner Light with this "logos" or Eternal Word. It is by this Eternal Light and Word that all of the saints and sages down through the ages have known and spoken the Truth. It is by this Light that the Holy Scriptures of the ages have been written (and must be read). It is by this Light that whatever is true, good, and beautiful has been brought forth in human community over time. This Light is and has always been the source and fountain of all human creativity.

4. This Light is resistible. It is not an inevitable force or automatic power; it can be resisted, ignored, or otherwise denied in the human heart. To quote C. S. Lewis, "God does not ravish; He only woos." Although we receive this Light freely and from birth, we are free to choose whether or not and how to respond to its promptings. As someone once remarked, "We are predestinated and foreordained to decide for ourselves!"

5. This Light is persistent. The Light never ceases to make its Living Witness within each and every human heart, even when it is resisted. Although stubborn resistance and persistent disobedience may greatly dim its luminosity, the Light can never be fully extinguished within us. This is the unfailing love and mercy of God which passes all understanding.

6. This Light is pure. It is utterly infallible and perfectly good. Although we may err in our discernment of the Light's witness within us, for any and all who turn to it in humility of heart, the Light is an inerrant guide to truth and wisdom. And, because it is the pure love of God within us, this Light is completely good and trustworthy.

7. This Light is ineffable. It defies complete and accurate description. Like much in the realm of spirit, the Light cannot be completely understood, but it can be experienced and known.

8. Lastly, and perhaps most important to the present discussion, this Light is unequivocally universal. It is freely given by God to each and every human being who comes into the world, regardless of race, sex, nationality, philosophical orientation, religious creed, or station in life. It is the divine birthright and inheritance of all, not the privileged possession of a few. To paraphrase the scripture, it is the Good News of God "preached to every creature under heaven" (Colossians 1:23).

From Wilmer Cooper and his book A Living Faith, pp. 17-19:
Early Friends believed that if they waited in the Light and walked in the Light, they would be... empowered to live up to the measure of the Light that was given them... [Some of the Light Within's] distinguishing characteristics [are]:

1. The Light is experienced as the direct and immediate presence of God. Robert Barclay identified our capacity to receive the Light with what he called the Seed of God within,... which by God's grace makes possible the divine-human encounter. Fox frequently used the term "that of God in everyone" to suggest the same meaning. This meaning is prerequisite to understanding the other usages of the term.

2. As already indicated, the Light was identified with Christ by early Friends and was referred to as the LIght of Christ WIthin. It is always from God or Christ and therefore is divine in origin. Likewise, it is transcendent in the sense that it stands apart from and beyond our finite existence.

3. The Light was understood by early Friends to be universal. Taking their clue from John 1:9, they maintained that the Light of Christ enlightened "every man," which included believers and nonbelievers alike...

4. The Light of Christ was understood to be the Inward Teacher of righteousness. This assumed a dynamic personal connection between oneself and God that allowed one to enter a "hearing and obeying" relationship with God, to use a figure of speech drawn from Lewis Benson... Benson has repeatedly pointed out that the essence of Fox's understanding of the Light of Christ is expressed in his oft-repeated phrase, "Christ has come to teach his people himself."

5. The Light Within is not to be identified with or confused with conscience and reason, but both can and need to be illuminated by the Light of Christ. In order to clarify this distinction Barclay compared conscience to a lantern and the Lght to a candle that burns within the lantern. Both Fox and Barclay believed conscience and reason were natural capacities that needed to be illuminated by the divine Light of Christ before they could become dependable guides for human action.

6. Response to the Light is also to be discerned in the community of faith. Fox and other early Friends formulated a doctrine of the church that found expression in the concept of the Gospel Order. Christ was not only the Inward Teacher for the individual, but also the one who ordered the fellowship of believers....

August 30, 2005

Qualities of the Inner Light

Sometimes what helps me articulate my faith and my belief is what I call having something to push against. At times, that "something" takes the form of another individual who sees things very differently from how I see them. Friends recently have pointed out to me that perhaps I am being "honed" spiritually and theologically as a Friend as a result.

I find I am being exercised by the Spirit as I step into the space between the differences of belief and practice that exist between myself and more liberal Friends. It is in that space, the space between our differences, where continued seeking, deep listening, and long struggle occur.

I more and more frequently encounter Friends who appreciate the theological diversity within liberal Quakerism; I encounter fewer and fewer Friends who, like me, talk about the discipline of waiting for God's guidance or even the centrality of God/Christ/Spirit/the Light in their faith.

What's going on here?

Apparently, early Friends spoke so frequently about the Inward Light, the Inner Light, the Light Within that they were known by others as Children of Light.

The other day, as I was remembering a few traits about the Light, I came across a couple references that speak to these traits. I've been going back and forth on whether to cut-and-paste long quotes from certain Quaker authors and have that be the post itself, but it seems to me that Quaker bloggers and their readers prefer to read firsthand what the blogger herself has to say on a subject. So:

Qualities of the Inner Light

1. The Light is constant; the Light is forever. When I center down and strip away all distraction, when I sense a clear pulse and direction around where to bring my life, I believe I am experiencing the same Light, the same Spirit that was available to early Friends, to early Christians, to Jesus the carpenter-turned-rabbi, to the peoples on the planet before Jesus... And it is the same guiding Light that my niece will experience at times of her greatest distress and during her clearest moments; the same Light that I am experiencing today.

2. The Light cannot be extinguished. Though it can be ignored or neglected.

3. The Light is free. It cannot be commanded, it cannot be purchased, it cannot be chained. The Light cannot be manipulated or deceived. Neither does it manipulate nor deceive those who seek the Light or those who deny it. The Light is free in much the same way that the air is free. We do not choose to breathe the air, we just do. We do not manufacture air for our own gain; it simply exists.

4. The Light is accessible, directly. When we pay attention to the Light, when we open ourselves to receive the Light, we can engage with it in a way that transforms us. We need no go-between to listen on our behalf or to interpret the Light to us. It matters not if we are well-read in Scripture, if we can speak in tongues, if we have the gift of vocal prayer, or if we are a preacher's kid. As soon as we begin to seek or to listen, we gain access to the Light Within.

5. The Light is with us. It is neither above us, like God on a mountain or angels in the heavens; nor is the Light away from us, like a light at the outer rim of a tunnel. We and the Light are part of the same thread that weaves humanity together, that holds our cells together. We do not need to search for the Light nor pray that it be with us, for it already is with us. We need only pay attention to it, remembering that the Light is already with us, next to us, within us, surrounding us.

6. The Light is indivisible. This point is tricky. The fullness of the Light is within each of us, yet we each have our own measure of light. But the Light cannot be divided so that one individual or country or religion has "more," leaving another with "less." The Light is whole within each of us, and it is the same Light within each of us. The metaphor of the candle flame comes to mind, in that the flame from one candle can be passed onto another candle, and each flame is whole unto itself, yet each flame has the same characteristics as its brother and sister flames.

7. The Light favors harmony, wholeness, and balance. It desires harmony among all creation, and when that harmony is fractured, the Light travels both with the bringer of disharmony and with those who are harmed by the disharmony, for the purpose of healing and of reunification.

Other writings about the Light

Having shared my own thoughts about the Light, there are a variety of brief summaries online, such as this one; and I also will lift up these two other writings, by Samuel Caldwell and Wilmer Cooper (adding numbers, boldface, and italics to help pull out parallel threads), in a separate post.


August 25, 2005

The War Plays Project

Tonight I saw a performance piece called Letters To, Letters
From . . . Letters Never Written.
It was put together by a Friend who is a professional actor and who has pursued a leading to put her theater skills, knowledge, and experience to work by creating The War Plays Project.

The Project is, according to its mission statement,

a non-profit organization whose goal is to educate and enlighten people on the reality of violence and war through theater, spoken word, and the facilitation of open community dialogue...
This is the second or third performance piece that Friend Fran has put together since the war in Afghanistan began, following September Eleventh.

Fran doesn't proclaim that she is creating these plays because of the peace testimony; she appears to be working on the War Plays Project as an extension of herself, of her faith.

I would say that she is being led.

What most impresses me is the quality of her leading:

1. It taps her creativity and is "outside the box."
2. It energizes her and feels bigger than herself.
3. It draws people in and knits people together.
4. It brings forward information that is otherwise stale or "out of reach"--something many folks might not pursue on our own.
5. It has its roots in her faith and experience as a Friend, without imposing values or dictating what action one should or shouldn't engage in.
6. It compels her to do more, not less.
7. It is a natural extension of her gifts and of her connection to the world beyond the walls of the meetinghouse.

The particular performance piece I saw tonight, Letters To, Letters From . . . Letters Never Written, is based on dozens if not hundreds of letters written by and sent to veterans over the years; letters that Fran solicited, read through, and selected for inclusion in this performance.

Parts of letters that my partner's family had exchanged were included. I'm hoping I'll see it again, with my partner, next month at a local college.

There were excerpts from vets who were exposed to Agent Orange, who had PTSD, who had lost a limb or worse. There were excerpts from World War II vets; veterans from VietNam and Korea; and vets from the first Gulf War, including the voices of a couple women veterans. Some letters ended with the words EDITED BY BASE COMMAND; some looped back on themselves, the poetic license of Fran pulling the individual letters together while illustrating the inanity of war...

To be fair, I acknowledge that I haven't asked Fran if she's had a clearness committee, or asked her how she has gone about testing her leading. On the other hand, the meeting has, in a fashion, sponsored the performances that she has put together. And there is a minute of support from the meeting's Peace and Social Action Committee, which often serves as an informal clearness committee for an individual who has a leading that relates to, well..., peace and social action.

What most lifted my soul, though, was when I first heard of Friend Fran's War Plays Project. It had "leading" written all over it. ...I often consider that one way to know if God is moving among us is when items emerge that no one could have predicted or planned for.

And bearing witness has oh so many forms...


August 24, 2005

Audio: Quaker youth speak out

NOTE: Due to being spammed, I am re-posting this entry. If you wish to make a comment, you'll now have to type a series of digits in the box below your comment. -Liz

. . . . . . . .

Thanks to Paul L. of Showers of Blessings, who has a link to an audio feature within the online version of Friends Journal.

The audio feature allows web-surfers to listen online to young adult Friends, talking about their Quakerism, the importance of gatherings to them, choices they make about life, and more.

I acknowledge I haven't had a chance to listen to these audio-articles, except in the smallest snippets, while I'm visiting with friends.

In addition, if you're like me, where learning-through-listening is among your weakest skills, then listening online might get tedious. Still, it may be worth it to poke around and click on a few topics in order to "eavesdrop" on what some young Friends are talking about.

Also of interest might be this brief history about the "quake as retreat" phenomenon among young midwestern Friends.


August 20, 2005

World Gathering of Young Friends

I have been reminded that we can see photographs and listen to presentations from the World Gathering of Young Friends online. I have only begun to look at the World Gathering's home page, taking time to let a few photos come and go before scrolling down to review what audio might be available.

I also took time to read and consider the 1985 epistle from the previous WGYF, held at Guilford College, North Carolina. In particular, this epistle seems to address concerns that are still alive today: given the branches of Friends, what unites us as Quakers; and how do we live into the Testimonies that are intrinsic to letting our lives preach? One quotable phrase:

...We are called to be peacemakers, not protestors.

I'm hoping that an attender or two from either the 1985 or the 2005 World Gathering will share their experiences online. Martin K's Quaker Blog Watch has pointed to the August 18 post from an Indiana Friend who is at the World Gathering, which ends on August 24.

I find I am hungry to learn more of how the Spirit is moving among Friends, especially young Friends and especially around the world...


August 17, 2005

Vanessa Julye's plenary address:
The Seed Cracked Open

Recently a number of Quaker blogs refer to the emerging and recent ministry about addressing racism within the Religious Society of Friends.*

I myself wish to lift up a plenary address made by Friend Vanessa Julye in Eighth Month 2005, at the annual sessions of New York Yearly Meeting.

The text is long (17 pages), is a PDF file, and is compelling. Please consider downloading it: The Seed Cracked Open: Growing Beyond Racism.


*I regret I don't have the energy to post links to those blogs right now. Readers can look at Beppeblog for an example.

August 14, 2005

Tags and a catalogue of links

NOTE, October 2007:

This post is now in two sections. The first is a set of the tags (which are also links) that I have been using for The Good Raised Up--and a link to my page. The second section is my original "catalogue of links" that I have been updating occasionally, ever since posting it in 2005.

As always, if you wish to contact me directly, please email me at lizopp AT gmail DOT com.


Tags used in The Good Raised Up

  • My page

  • Catalogue of links

    A few months ago [Spring, Summer 2005], I was coming across so many outstanding blog-posts that I wanted a way to catalogue them for easy retrieval... well, easier, anyway. I began cutting-and-pasting the links to these posts on my computer's "Post-It note" application, and now that list is quite long.

    So it's time for me to post them now, so I can find them later. From time to time, I'll likely add to the list. No doubt I will not include everyone's favorite post or series of posts, and for that, I apologize in advance.

    My intention is completely selfish and self-serving: that is, for me myself to have a way to access what has resonated deeply with me, or has given me tremendous food for thought at the time.


    NOTE, June 2006: Beppe's links no longer work, since the original "beppeblog" has transitioned to another site. I am, however, leaving the subject of his posts within the catalogue. I know Beppe is on his own journey, and I miss his take on Quakerism already.

    UPDATE, April 2007: Rob's links no longer work; he's been out of the loop for awhile, but I am only now updating this list... No doubt over time, fewer and fewer links will be active, as people move on.

    My personal list of significant blog posts

    Quaker Basics
    Rich of Brooklyn Quaker, on vocal ministry
    Trev, stages of worship
    Barry, the heart of Quaker experience
    Paul L, Quakerism's core
    Claire's compilation on the essence of Quakerism
    Paul L, the elephant and the blind men, especially the comments
    Paul L, 100 Quaker things Friends should know
    Martin, the centrality of God in Quakerism
    Marshall, the corporate practice of Quakerism
    Rich, "that of God in everyone" ...that of God in every one"...and quite the discussion ensues
    Will, how we know it is God who leads us

    Concerned Members One of Another
    James R's guest piece, spiritual inclusiveness and nontheism
    Beppe comments on Universalism
    Beppe's series on uberQuakers
    Paul L, treading down reasoning to meet together in unity
    Martin on Quaker youth and YAFs [4/2007, discovered link is not active]
    Rob, on attracting Young Friends
    Nancy A., explanations for a weak worship experience
    Beppe's discomfort when there is a call for interior work
    Rob's own catalogue of significant posts
    Pam, where have all the Quaker leaders gone
    Zach, how modern Friends differ from early Friends

    Quaker Identity, Renewal, & Discipline
    Rob, discerning to blog
    Beppe writes about corporate identity vs. individualism
    Danny, on radical Quakerism [4/2007, discovered link is not active]
    Barry, Quaker renewal
    Rob considers faithful lives and Quaker identity
    Peggy, being a message bearer and not an orator
    Peggy, attending to what is around us
    Mark, are Liberal Quakers burying the "talent" we've been given?

    Mending Quaker Schisms
    Guest piece on Quaker Ranter, traveling to meet with Quakers
    Robin M., her vision of reunifying Quakerism
    Peggy's description of convergence among Friends

    Faith Crisis
    Martin, Ranters and liberal Friends
    Kwakersaur, spirituality without faith (Oct. 2007 - link no longer active)
    Johan, discontent among Friends
    Rob, crisis of the Quaker faith tradition
    Contemplative Scholar, queries about disillusionment with Quakers

    Christianity and Quakerism
    Beppe, a Quaker Christianity?
    Rich, a Christian Quakerism?
    Beppe compares and contrasts Martha and Mary energy
    Sarah, calling herself Christian (or not)
    Lorcan, challenge of Jesus language
    Nancy A's thoughts on just wars

    Specific Experiences in Worship
    Alice, on prayer (Oct. 2007 - link no longer active)
    Rob, God getting a word in edgewise
    Gregg Koskela intervenes to protect the spiritual safety of open worship
    Jon, how his Friends Church calls upon God during worship

    Rachel of Velveteen Rabbi, on Jewish renewal
    Rachel of Velveteen Rabbi, 40 weeks leading up to Yom Kippur
    Rachel, answers to questions about the Jewish blogosphere

    October 7, 2005
    March 17, 2006 [reorganized into categories]
    June 17, 2006 [includes attributing a post to the correct blogger. Sorry, Rich!]
    October 2007 [added tags-as-links]

    August 10, 2005

    Ministers: NEYM youth to older Friends

    I've been extremely guilty of ageism of late: I've been writing a fair amount about how (older) Friends must be diligent about how to convey Quakerism to young(er) Friends and to new attenders.

    But in New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM), it is a group of young(er) Friends--teens--who remind old(er) Friends what Meeting for Worship is... or more precisely, what it isn't.

    (Martin at Quaker Ranter has been lifting up youth ministry among Friends for a while now, including the fact that age does not determine who will receive or provide mentoring and healthy eldership.)

    Below is what appears to be a summary of the minute that was submitted to NEYM's Ministry & Counsel by the teens directly. M&C then presented the minute as part of their State of Society report.*

    Excerpt from a summary of Ministry & Counsel's presentation of its State of Society report

    Young Friends have come to M&C with a minute that they approved at their business meeting yesterday [First Day, 7 Eighth Month 2005], and they would like to share it with us. We don't have to approve it, but we want you to hear it. Hannah Z., outgoing treasurer of YF, will read the minute. "Our life is love and peace and tenderness and bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusation against another, but praying for one another, and helping each other up with a tender hand." (Isaac Penington). A summary of the YF minute follows.

    We want to bring some issues to your attention. We are worried about this YM and our ability to worship together. Sunday morning we shared our gifts with you. When we are alone we have deep worship. We want to share with you our appreciation of the silence. Sunday morning many of us left after Max Carter's Bible Half Hour. We were ready for silence, but many left feeling empty and spiritually unfulfilled. The meeting seemed uncentered. We were concerned with how many messages seemed personal. The lack of silence between messages made it hard to appreciate them. We had hoped that by demonstrating our ways of worship, they might catch on. We love you and would not bother with this if we did not care deeply about you and about this issue. We know it is possible for us to sit together in silence, we did it on Sunday for fifteen minutes, and we want it to happen again.
    For a personal account of how things transpired, take a look at this post by Peterson, who is currently attending NEYM sessions.


    *I came across the summary at David Coletta's blog, which was referenced by Amanda of Of The Best Stuff But Plain. Sadly, I can't find a specific link on David's blog that has the minute (or its summary), which I have included above. But if you click on David's link, it hopefully will take you to his Quaker posts and to NEYM annual session's summaries. Scroll down until you see the section "Monday morning's business session" ... "Ministry & Counsel's presentation..."

    August 8, 2005

    Recommended anthology: Whispers of Faith

    Within 30 minutes of receiving and paging through my copy of Whispers of Faith: Young Friends share their experiences of Quakerism, I received an email from an older parent asking, Would you recommend this book for my 20-year-old son [who has been among Friends for nearly all those years]?

    You might guess my answer.

    Here are the chapter headings, to which a total of 3 or 4 dozen young Friends from around the world respond (many but not all are from the U.S.):

    Spiritual Journeys
    Walking On Water.
    The last chapter sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

    Each chapter has a preface written by a member of the editorial board for the book--all of whom are Young Friends themselves. By young, I mean under 20 years old.

    ...What was I doing when I was 17, 18, 19 years old?!?

    Just paging through and stopping at random pages, I came across tender poetry, personal struggle, questions of faith, and answers of practice.

    In these few pages alone which were exposed to me, already there is a sense of ministry, within and beyond this book, that cannot be received fully if adult Friends and young Friends do not work to bridge the divide between us.

    The work does not fall to one group or the other to build the bridge. The bridge must be built from both islands, so that we may reach out to each other.

    I'm glad I bought two copies of Whispers of Faith: One for me to pass on and the other for me to keep... and write in, circle, underline, and add exclamation points, of which I'm sure there'll be lots!


    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    To buy a copy--or two!--contact one of two places: in the U.S. and Canada, contact QuakerBooks of FGC, either by phone at 1-800-966-4556 or through their website. In Europe, contact Quaker Bookshop, by phone at 020 7663 1030 or through their own website.

    August 3, 2005

    The danger of SPICE testimonies

    NOTE, Tenth Month 2009: Many of the original links in this post are no longer working and I've removed them and marked them with a * as I've discovered them.

    Over in the archives of the Quaker Renewal Forum, I came across a post* about identifying the testimonies with the acronym SPICE as a way to enliven how we speak about Quakerism.

    Here is the main thread of the comment I left there, expressing my disagreement:

    Among some unprogrammed Hicksite and Conservative Friends, there has been a concern that the historic testimonies such as you have listed here are in fact becoming creedal in nature... and therefore dangerously close to becoming empty or meaningless.

    I have had to rethink these testimonies for myself in recent months. And I have chosen to challenge myself to avoid using the word "testimony" to describe my faith as a Quaker. In doing so, I must therefore start with the Seed, the Inward Light as the foundation for my faith, out of which certain behaviors and beliefs grow.

    Here's an example regarding the peace testimony. This testimony, like the others, was NOT intended to be used as a reason to pursue a certain activity. It was instead a thread that could be identified with reflection only after a number of actions had occurred.

    I myself can reflect on a time when a bicyclist and a driver of a minivan were fighting with one another as to who was at fault in a little mishap that happened. I mean, they were really letting the other have it.

    Not knowing what I was going to say (I had witnessed the mishap), I approached both of them and found myself calmly affirming how caught off-guard each of them must have felt; here's my name and number, can I have yours?; how would you feel if I called each of you in a day or two and see how you are doing?

    That little story and my part in it is, for me, an example of the Spirit working through me to engage in peacemaking. It was NOT the Peace Testimony that led me to act the way I did, though.

    In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing that if I had stopped to consider "What does the Peace Testimony say about how I should act in this moment?," I think I would have become immobilized, spending all sorts of time composing what I might say, to whom, rather than acting out of faith and an inward prompt.

    By being led by the Spirit in the moment, I was able to touch a peaceable place within myself, which maybe was enough to invite these two people to calm down. And both people appreciated my follow-up calls to them. They both expressed feeling cared for as well as feeling a bit embarrassed by how they each were acting towards the other.

    I hope this example helps clarify what I am wanting to get across. If we lead our lives by the Testimonies and not by the Holy Spirit, we run the risk of seeking guidance from something other than the True Source.

    UPDATE: Over at Beppeblog,* Beppe expands a bit* on this post, and I found the comments there to be worthwhile as well.

    Timothy (One Quaker Take) writes about creeds and individualism among Friends.

    Quaker Jane reminds Friends that Love is the fount from which the Testimonies rise.

    *Link has been removed.

    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.