Friday, May 30, 2008

YAF Gathering in Richmond

As a result of my contacts with Friends in the wider Religious Society over the past few years, since attending the World Gathering of Young Friends in Lancaster, England, in 2005, I have found myself increasingly drawn into a movement of Young Adult Friends (YAFs). In February of 2007, we met together at Burlington, where the Spirit of God was powerfully felt among us, showing us that we were the People of God, the Children of the Light, and that God had a mission for us, together. Since that time, I have been working with a number of other YAF leaders to cooperate in the work of the Holy Spirit to draw together the disparate shards of our Religious Society, attempting to heed the voice of Christ within. It has become clear to me that God is raising up a new valiant generation of ministers qualified to preach the Gospel of Christ across North America, and the world. 

      Since late spring of 2007, I have been in regular meetings with other Young Adult Friends leaders from across the continent, attempting to discern with them the way in which God is leading us to move. At a meeting in Boston, in April, 2007, a small group of us met and came to unity that a North American organization for Young Adult Friends should be formed, to bring together Friends from across the theological and geographical spectrum of the North American continent. This sense was confirmed by a subsequent meeting of a larger number of young adults at Barnsville, Ohio, in June, 2007. Despite our sense of divine direction towards the ultimate goal of inaugurating a North American YAF organization, by late fall of 2007, it became clear that the energy of many young adult leaders was focused on organizing a YAF Conference. Bowing to where Friends’ energy seemed to be headed, I and other leaders have taken part in a process of planning a gathering for Young Adult Friends.

      The conference for Young Adult Friends, entitled Living as Friends, Listening Within, took place from May 23rd to 26th, 2008 on the campus of the Earlham School of Religion and Earlham College. Young Adult Friends from across the US and Canada, and with representation from all of the branches of North American Quakerism, gathered together for a time of intense fellowship, worship, workshops, and interest groups. During these days in Richmond, we were stretched, challenged to deepen our faith in the Spirit of Christ and our willingness to live out our faith in the world. We wrestled with the meaning of Paul’s words to the Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We were encouraged by many young adult ministers to listen within to the Inward Guide and to be faithful to that Voice, submitting ourselves to our God-given leadings under the care of our monthly meetings and spiritual elders. We were convicted of our own unwillingness to live into the radical message of Jesus and exhorted to let our lives be conformed to that Life. We were ministered to as one, and shown that we are the Body of Christ. At the same time, we were reminded that we as Young Adult Friends are only one small part of the Religious Society of Friends, and an even tinier part of the whole of the Body of Christ. Further, we were reminded of the brokenness of Christ’s Body and how far we as Friends have to go in being healed, both as individuals and as a religious community.

      As one of the organizers of this conference, it was a very different experience for me than if I had been solely a participant. I felt a strong sense of needing to ground the gathering, particularly the worship sessions, and worked with the pastoral care team to help spiritually anchor the gathered body, which at times had an energy that seemed to spiral out of control. The reality that I ultimately had no control was humbling, as I was once again brought to acknowledge that only Christ has lordship, and that all I can do is submit to being an instrument in the divine plan. The conference was a victory in the Lamb’s war, but the battle was won by the spiritual sword that proceeds from the mouth of Christ, and not from any outward force that we as organizers could have wielded. 

      As we move forward from this conference, I would ask for the continuing prayers of all Friends. I pray for the continuing guidance of the Spirit of Christ to be with all of us in the Religious Society of Friends, and in particular with those who are feeling a call to nurture the Young Adult Friends movement in North America. I pray for God’s guidance in revealing to us what next steps we are to take in this movement, that our spiritual offering to God might be good, and acceptable, and perfect.