Our real work

In a normal year, our meeting usually has 2 or 3 funerals, spread throughout the year. This spring we have had 5 funerals in just 6 short weeks. We have lost some dear Friends, and nearly everyone in out meeting is suffering both from grief and emotional fatigue.

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for over a month – I simply haven’t had time. I did sit in on two open discussions our meeting held on our future relationship with Indiana Yearly Meeting. As you probably know, Quakers in Indiana are in the process of dividing, and it’s been a long, contentious and tiring year.

At the second discussion, one Friend said that this whole process with Indiana Yearly Meeting has worn out his patience, and that he wants our meeting to get on with its own work. That comment drew everyone’s approval, and it made me ask myself, “What is our own work? What are the things we need to be doing?”

For the last 6 weeks, a great deal of our work has centered around caring for the sick, comforting the dying, and supporting families who are grieving. We’ve been sharing stories of love and faith from the lives of our Friends, we’ve been praying, and we’ve been doing a lot of practical tasks. That’s been our work.

What is our real work? We’ve gathered for worship every week, and tried to provide a good spiritual experience to everyone who comes here. We’ve lifted up our voices in praise and in song. We’ve celebrated the achievements of this year’s students and teachers.

We’ve collected food for the hungry in our community, and we’ve collected money to help them. We’ve also raised money for Quaker missions, and enjoyed hearing first-hand reports from people who have visited Friends in other parts of the world. That’s our real work.

We’ve had groups for Bible study and for prayer. We’ve had clearness committees for people who are trying to discern God’s leading for their life. We’ve encouraged people to think about using their spiritual gifts. We’ve tried to help people who are looking for work in this difficult economy.

Here’s a question: is division among Friends the work of God? If it is, why are so few people enthusiastic about it? If it isn’t the work of God, why are we even thinking about it?

Most of our meetings are engaged in strikingly similar activities. Most of us can enjoy worshiping in each others’ meetings on Sunday. We support the same Quaker missions. We have a great deal of common experience and tradition.

We do have some differences of opinion and interpretation, but these tend to be on a very narrow range of issues – and anyone who reads the news knows that other Christian churches are experiencing tension over the same issues. We’re not so special.

Are our differences so great that we have to divide? Is division between Christians ever the work of God? Or should we focus on what we believe in common, and on the real work we can do together?


4 Responses to “Our real work”

  1. 1 d. suess June 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

    what a helpful post… and prayers as you and your beloved community grieves and does the good work of ministry and care.

  2. 2 Dortha Meredith June 13, 2012 at 11:18 am

    your words speak for me.l I shared this with Dick and he to appreciates this. I am so glad to receive these essays.

  3. 3 Bob Carter June 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Good questions, Josh. I have an observation and another question. First the observation: if you and I end up in different yearly meetings, I still will not perceive myself as having been divided from you. So now for the question: is the division of a yearly meeting the same thing as division among Christians? Or is it simply the dividing of a man-made structure that is perceived as no longer adequately serving the needs/ interests/ convictions of its constituency?

    I do not mean to imply an answer by asking the question. The question comes from recognizing that the “Church” is neither the building nor the administrative structure, but the people. Church history seems to be replete with division after division starting with the Roman/Orthodox split. And yet I want to believe that the Kingdom of God remains undivided against itself.

    It has been very difficult for me to watch this whole process from afar. And yet I have to trust both the sincere listenings of those appointed to explore and shepherd this issue, and the ability of the Holy Spirit to lead them even though I fervently wish the outcome would have been different. In my position I have no other option than to trust that the Lord is still able to lead His people, even if His people are divided into different flocks. So I continue to struggle against the temptation to sit in judgement over the Lord’s various servants and instead try to be as faithful as possible in the work He has appointed as my portion.

  4. 4 Shawn June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    We will always have our differences. I believe we need to be coming together on what we have in common and going forward from there. Our differences cause us to become polarized and ineffective. Once polarized, our ability to discern has been compromised.

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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.



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