“All of us at the table came to this moment from very different paths. We were drawn together by Truth and Love – the searching for them and longing for them. The common ground that we hold dear is our listening to the present leading of the present Christ – right here
, right now
. It guides our actions and change and growth and everything we do. It includes listening very carefully to the experience of those in our midst, especially people who have experience of being shut out, especially if we haven’t had that experience.”
So began Catherine Olson’s description of the comments at her table in the “What is God calling us to be?” discussion at SCYMF’s quarterly meeting. One hundred and five people attended the event at Eugene Friends Church on October 20th. I found the discussion energizing; it was full of hope, inspiration, joy, wisdom.
Sue Scott of Eugene had planned it all as a “Conversation Cafe.” I was part of her little task force, but I mostly just cheered her on. In the last half hour that day, the table hosts described the discussions at their tables. Remarkably, their comments generally had these elements:
- a radical invitation to others, especially the young, the marginalized, the hurting
- the why of it all – Christ
- how we treat each other – with integrity, respect, grace, joy.
- celebration of what we have done so far
- the work yet to be done
As I go over my notes, I was struck by how much those at Catherine Olson’s table talked about so many of these things. The rest of Catherine’s summary follows. I give it to you as an example of what the entire discussion at quarterly meeting was like:
“It’s also the act of showing up as a lively quarterly meeting, with enthusiasm. Generosity – showing up with generosity of finances and showing support for people who are local, who are far around the world – that speaks very powerfully into many people’s lives.
“Curiosity and discovery are also our shared characteristics. And the realization that we are distinctly Quaker, and being able to celebrate that and define that together, as a body, thinking about in the future.
“At our table we all kind of jumped when someone said, ‘I want to be able to be proud to say that I am a Christian.’ I was like YESSSS!!! I WANT THAT!!! So apparently that resonated with me, too. And we are on that path, toward accepting instead of punishing/dismissing/judging individuals and groups. We need to create safe spaces.
“We need to keep following that present, relevant voice of Christ with this amazing, life-giving enthusiasm that we have today. We need to define ourselves by what we are, not what we are AGAINST. It requires a lot of continued healing on an individual and a corporate basis. It requires having faith that we can do that healing. It also requires realizing that the healing never stops - it's not like DONE, CHECK. Instead it’s seeing how healing continues until the emotions pop up and we see how we deal with them. It’s about developing skills, then being able to stand with others – in a very real way – who bring their own pain.
“Many of us are drawn here by people in community. That is encouraging and should remain at the center of our hearts as we gather.”
Thank you to Catherine and her table! Thanks also to Sarah Katreen Hoggatt who facilitated the discussion. A special thanks to the table hosts, and to all who participated.
The next query for discussion is “What is God calling us to do?” Is it social justice? Spiritual nurture? Youth programs? All of the above, or something else entirely? What is the Holy Spirit whispering to us about it? The discussion will be part of the next SCYMF quarterly meeting February 16th at West Hills Friends. Come join us.
from Judy Maurer