Let’s get to know each other!

One of the paradoxes of Quakers today is that even though travel and communication are cheaper and more available than ever before, Friends don’t know each other very well. Among the many contributing factors in the breakup of the old Indiana Yearly Meeting are the isolation of Friends from each other, the enormous lack of mutual understanding, and the breakdown of common experience among Friends in our area. We might as well have been from different planets.

As the new association of Friends starts gearing up, one of the best things we can do is to create and encourage many different opportunities to get to know each other better. Worship, fellowship, and sharing by many Friends at a deep spiritual level needs to be the outstanding characteristic of our new group.

There are some simple things we can all do to stay in touch. If your meeting has a newsletter, please make sure to send it to the other meetings in the new association. If your meeting has a Facebook page, make sure you have “friended” some Friends outside your immediate local community.

I hope we can find a variety of ways to worship together often. Again, a simple way to do this is to encourage exchanges of speakers (sometimes called “pulpit exchanges,” although the pulpits or podiums themselves don’t seem to move). Think about sharing a speaker from your meeting, and inviting a speaker from another nearby meeting, every 6-8 weeks or so.

Pastors can be encouraged to re-think their role – could one of your regular responsibilities be visiting and strengthening other meetings in your area? And of course, the visiting speaker need not be a Friends pastor – some meetings have a number of recorded ministers, or Friends who have a special concern can bring a message. Let’s get in the habit of inviting each other to our worship!

An exchange doesn’t always have to be a speaker – last year our meeting partnered for a year with Winchester Friends Meeting. Our women’s groups met together a couple of times, our pastors were part of a monthly study group, and most ambitious of all, our choirs arranged a joint performance – one Sunday at our meeting, the next week at Winchester Friends. Each choir taught one of their favorite pieces to the other, and we learned a new piece together – then we sang all three pieces at each meeting.

We can also try gathering Friends from similar committees – Peace and Social Concerns, Education, Ministry and Oversight, or Outreach. There may be workshops or training events we could enjoy together. At least once a year, the Missions committees could gather to talk about the projects we do as individual meetings, and about projects we can work on together.

Also high on the list: think about ways our Young Friends and Young Adult Friends can get together for worship, fun and conversation. Most of these groups tend to feel isolated from each other. If you’re involved in leading one of these groups, plan to visit another group at least a couple of times a year!

Meetings which are geographically close can plan one or two events each year when they lay down their worship service and go as a body to worship with another meeting. (West Richmond Friends, Richmond First Friends, and Clear Creek Friends have done this for many years – we meet for outdoor worship on the grounds of Quaker Hill Conference Center, usually in June or July.)

One of the most helpful ways to strengthen small or struggling meetings is to have a “sojourning friend” come and visit for an extended period. If you are an experienced Friend with a bit of energy and wisdom, see if there’s a meeting you could visit for a couple of weeks. Worship with them a few times. Stay in several different homes. Bring a message, or share a class, or spend an evening listening with a committee. Talk with the meeting’s leaders. Share whatever you can. This kind of visiting can have wonderful long-term effects, and can do a lot to lift the spirits of a struggling meeting.

Is your meeting painting a room, digging a garden, fixing the roof, cleaning out a storage space, or doing some kind of physical activity? Invite other meetings to help! A lot of people don’t enjoy sitting in meetings or listening to talks, but they’re happy to do “hands on” projects.

Has your meeting put together a play, a presentation, an art show or a multi-media event? Think about taking it to another meeting! It’s great to invite other folks to come visit your meeting, but you’ll probably reach more people if you try taking it “on the road”.

Some events take some advance preparation, while others can be spontaneous. The bottom line is to strengthen and build up our meetings by sharing our strengths and by listening to each other.
Most of all, let’s have fun! Joy and friendship are some of the best signs that the Holy Spirit is at work among us.


4 Responses to “Let’s get to know each other!”

  1. 1 Joan March 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Baltimore Yearly Meeting has been visiting Friends from Friends United Meeting intentionally for the last 8 years to get to know one another better through worship and fellowship. We have understood this is a “ministry of presence” and have realized many fruits of the Spirit along the way. I love some of your ideas for doing this in many different venues. And, we have had some of our members want to visit with you in Indiana in the near future when the time is right. Blessings for your faithfulness. Joan Liversidge

  2. 2 rightquaker March 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Great advice! I recently traveled to worship in a different meeting at it was something of a novelty to those Friends. This should change, we need to co-mingle, encourage each other and benefit from exchanges of the spirit.

  3. 3 Tom Smith March 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    As a former (50 years ago) staff member at Quaker Haven where I met my wife and where we spent our “honeymoon” working in June 1964, that seemed to be a place for “sharing” but which also led to some “splitting.” I remember when Tom Mullen and and a couple of other “young” leaders stopped on their way back from the “beach” to play some volleyball with campers while they were still in their swimming suits. My understanding was that a number of “older” IYM “leaders” were very upset and let quite a few people know about the “scandalous” behavior of these “leaders.”

    It is still hard for me to think how those who feel it is necessary to EXCLUDE those who act differently or think differently would be “enticed” to participate in joint venture with “the other” unless it was in an “evangelization” effort to convert “the other.” This seemed evident in some of the activities at Quaker Haven that I evidenced.

    I suspect, from communications that I have read, etc. that IYM hasn’t changed mush in the past 50 years, but I would hope that as the “climate in Western and Indiana YM continues to be contentious that Quaker Haven might be a useful place to provide a sharing of activities and conversation.

    • 4 Bill Smith March 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Since I was on the Indiana YM young friends committee at the time this was brought up, I can say that this was a minority opinion and there was unity among young friends that this non-tolerance of differences would have excluded the “best” leaders. It that time “Marion College” did not allow the men to waer shorts to play basketball. Marion College supplied many of the “paid clergy” for Indiana small meetings. They were more Wesleyan Methodists that Quaker. The holiness movement was one of the major reasons for Indiana Friends to break with many Quaker traditions.

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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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