These days I am appreciating, perhaps more than ever, that Friends are my faith community. Friends are my people. Many years ago, in my teens, I walked into a Friends church in Hillsboro, Oregon, and I found Christ. My soul was nourished among a simple, genuine, and gentle people. Being a Friend fit me profoundly, even though I doubt I was thinking of such things at the time. In the ensuing years my journey with Christ has been in the company of Friends. Recently I was asked why my wife and I have continued in the same church for nearly forty years. Before I could think, I heard myself say, “Because these are our people.”
Being “a people” sounds good, but it isn’t easy. Those in my congregation and yearly meeting are hardly of the same mind of what it means to be a Friend or if it is important to be a Friend. I assume that circumstance is common among Friends these days. That brings me to my point. I am appreciating that it does matter to be a Friend. It does matter to share an understanding of what it means to be a Friend. And my point is one of community – of sharing the journey. The journey is shared because of what we share. So “what we share” merits some close attention.
I feel the value of preserving Friends, as a people, among whom one can find an oasis of faith and life. I am wondering if there is value in an ongoing conversation among those who share that value. The conversation would center on what it means to be a Friend today. It is not hard to find Friends who have a sense that something important is slipping away. Maybe we can identify that and share a life-giving way of preserving it. That is an attribute of a faith community that I seek. A few of us are beginning to shape a local conversation to this end. I also wonder if a geographically broader conversation would be feasible and good.
I need to add another thought because I am wary of the danger of such a pursuit that results in the emptiness of division rather than the satisfaction of a shared life. An observation attributed to Augustine points in the direction I am headed. He said we cannot really know someone by asking, “What do you believe?” It is only when you ask, “What do you love?” that we begin to know another. I think my yearning for a conversation is more about addressing what we love. It is about knowing each other in the company of the committed. It is about being a people.
Shared with permission from Chuck Orwiler