New York Yearly Meeting's annual retreat at Silver Bay - a beautiful, rustic camp located a couple of hours northeast of Albany. I will confess: The beauty and isolation of the site made me nervous at first. When we arrived at Silver Bay, I wondered whether we were just in for a week of Quaker-themed summer camp. Were Friends gathered here to listen to the inward voice of Christ and to be changed by what they encountered within?
Fortunately, we got here just in time for an afternoon plenary session led by Jon Watts and Maggie Harrison. Jon and Maggie have been traveling together in the ministry for the last year or so, delivering a message of transformation by the inward light of Christ. Using the image of nakedness as a spiritual sign, they are calling us to open ourselves to how God wants to reveal our fear, brokenness and darkness, placing our trust in the healing light of the Truth.
Jon and Maggie pushed really hard yesterday. They challenged New York Yearly Meeting to set aside the comfort of their false selves, to dive boldly into God's love. In one particularly intense moment, Maggie asked Friends why the reports from New York Yearly Meeting's local congregations rarely mentioned God. Isn't that what this is all about? You could have heard a pin drop as Friends took in what Maggie was saying. And then, someone yelled Amen!
Something is happening here. The ground is churned up, ready for planting. There is an openness here, a tenderness that cries out for the Seed to be lifted up. It feels like Friends here are sensing a call from deep within, inviting them into a new baptism of God's Spirit. Faith and I learned later that New York Yearly Meeting had already done some real wrestling before we arrived. In their business meeting, they openly and explicitly examined themselves as to whether they were indeed the spiritually grounded, inclusive community that they sought to be. As Friends here began to recognize the ways in which they fall short, they have also encountered a hope that urges them forward in faith.
God's word and life and power are filling the world, and we are being invited to participate in this story of transformation. We still catch only glimpses of this new life in Christ, and we often struggle to name it. But sometimes the truth is more complicated to describe than it is to live out. Do we have the courage to live into the hope that God has placed within us? This hope that God has set before us is real and true; indeed, it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world. Are we ready to be pruned so that we may grow into our full stature in the Truth? Are we willing to do the hard work that comes before the harvest?