August 15, 2007

Iowa Conservative sessions 2007,
Part II

...Continuing from where I left off...

Epistles. During its annual sessions, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) reads excerpts from a variety of epistles that have been received from around the world.

I was struck by what I heard because I felt that the excerpts were of Friends who were bearing witness to the movement of the Spirit, whether responding to the wrestling that continues among more liberal Friends who are a part of FUM, or lifting up prophetic voices.

There was no way for me to record what each excerpt held because I was so focused on just receiving and taking in what I was hearing... I did manage to make a list of many of the yearly meetings from which we heard, though:
  • Holland
  • Kenya
  • Baltimore
  • Japan
  • Illinois
  • Southeastern
  • New England
  • Philadelphia
  • Germany
  • There were probably a few other yearly meetings we heard from, but as I sat there and listened, I realized that these excerpts perhaps helped "place" IYM(C) in the wider context of the Religious Society of Friends.

    What I mean by that, in part, is that IYM(C) isn't itself directly connected to Friends United Meeting or German Friends or Friends in the Netherlands, and yet it opens itself to receive news of what is on the hearts of Friends everywhere. The yearly meeting gains a sense of connection and of being part of a religious body larger than itself.

    By extension, it is easier for me to imagine, then, why these Friends value intervisitation so highly. Intervisitation provides a similar though unspoken message that welcoming other Friends and visitors from beyond our own borders is a part of our responsibility of being members one of another. What one part of the body is experiencing and reporting may have a direct impact on what another part of the body is going through or may go through over time.

    Scattergood ties. This year, my third consecutive year of attending IYM(C) sessions, I found I have a growing appreciation for Scattergood School and its ties to the yearly meeting. For one thing, there is a farm that is part of the school, and Friends are reminded that the farm provides much of the meat, eggs, and produce that we eat during the week.

    (The freshly picked corn-on-the-cob was the best corn I've had in years!)

    For another thing, the reports that are related to Scattergood lift up the "field experience" the students receive. The hands-on experience is built into the curriculum, and students work the farm and school grounds in any number of ways. Here are examples, pulled from the 2006 report:
    Students have weeded rows, witnessed births, cared for young birds, processed produce, reseeded parts of the prairie, put in new fencing, gleaned fields, written grants, tested sheep feces for parasitic cysts... They are involved... through biology and advanced biology classes, farm project and farm crew, chicken and egg crew, poultry project and food preservation project...

    --2006 Scattergood Farm Report
    It's clear that there is a symbiotic relationship between the school and the farm, and this year it became clearer to me that there is a strong relationship between the farm (and therefore the school) and the local community. Items from the farm are taken into town and sold to local stores, for example, so the farm and school are doing its own part of outreach.. and by extension, Iowa Friends are made a bit more visible as well.

    (FYI - I've written more about the connection of the yearly meeting with Scattergood in one of last year's posts.)

    So it is that I too am finding a fondness in my heart for Scattergood, because I see some of the fruit it bears each year: not in the current students but in the teachers, administrators, and fFriends of the school who attend these annual sessions... and in the many older Friends in the yearly meeting who themselves were students years ago.

    Two other "take-aways." In my small notebook where I jotted my thoughts during sessions, I have these two items:
    Iowa Yearly Meeting is, as a body, skewed/directed more than my own yearly meeting is, toward faith-in-action. Not because it's a good idea but because Friends are so convinced/convicted by the movement of the Spirit.


    In the business sessions I have experienced, there seems to be a qualitative difference between these Conservative Friends and Liberal Friends. Sometimes among Liberal Friends, as we struggle to find the way forward, I imagine we are all pointing in different directions. But during these and other sessions of IYM(C), there is more often a sense of a collective "reaching together"--in the same direction, seeking unity with God's will.

    P.S. I believe I have one more post in me, regarding these sessions: comments on Marshall Massey's report to the yearly meeting.

    Iowa Conservative Sessions 2007: Part I and Part III: Marshall Massey
    Learning the game Telephone Pictionary at 2007 sessions of IYM(C)


    Cat C-B (and/or Peter B) said...

    "Sometimes among Liberal Friends, as we struggle to find the way forward, I imagine we are all pointing in different directions. But during these and other sessions of IYM(C), there is more often a sense of a collective "reaching together"--in the same direction, seeking unity with God's will."

    I really long to get better at this kind of seeking.

    I'm working at it. I'm hopeful. Especially since I think I'm not the only one.

    Thanks for this report, Liz. (warm smile)

    Liz Opp said...

    Hi, Cat -

    Yes, I believe all of us are working at how to "reach together," regardless of the branch of Friends we are a part of.

    Often I reflect on where I've come from in my own journey among Friends. It's taken me about 7-8 years to grasp just the concept of the corporate nature of Friends and another 3-5 years to practice the diligence of laying aside my personal ambition so I might better attend to the Voice of the Shepherd as discerned by the group.

    But then again, I still falter. I still have my moments where I stop "listening" because I'm so certain I know the way forward. Hah!


    Mark Wutka said...

    I have appreciated your accounts of your visit to IYM-C. At NCYM-C, I also felt that sense of reaching together, and also a sense of worship that pervaded everything.

    One thing that I have pondered a lot has been how much of the stronger sense of community among conservative Friends comes from the common faith tradition of Christianity, vs. the recognition that they are part of a corporate faith not an individual one. I ponder this, of course, because in my own monthly and yearly meetings I do not sense that same togetherness. Since I don't forsee my MM or YM becoming more explicitly Christian, I am left to wonder how much of a sense of a corporate faith is possible? How do we go about nurturing that faith?

    I hope Ceal and I are able to visit IYM-C one of these days (years), thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    With love,