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[Note: this is now the approved version—an earlier version was posted by mistake.]
Sing and rejoice, ye children of the day and of the light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt. And truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants atop of the hills. And upon them the lambs do skip and play. And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the seed Christ is over all, and doth reign. And so be of good faith and valiant for the truth.
—George Fox, 1663
During this 350th gathering of our beloved yearly meeting, our exercise has gone forward in several ways. In our meetings to hear God’s call, we identified some specific areas that will require sustained and disciplined attention if we are to be prepared to witness as faithfully as we want to. These include:
- the call to forgiveness,
- the call to strengthen our ability to love and to build our community,
- the call to name, cultivate, and exercise gifts of ministry, eldership, and leadership
- the call to undertake clear leadings for witness.
These priorities are reflected in our minutes of exercise, and we have returned to them repeatedly. They have emerged so clearly in our sessions that we direct Friends to bear these priorities in mind, and address them explicitly as they are doing their work at every level of our community. We cannot now dictate specific courses of action, but we ask all committees and meetings to seriously reflect on these priorities, starting within the next two months of 2010. We also encourage Friends to discover ways in which meetings and committees can help each other in this work. It may be that Quarterly Meetings and the Yearly Meeting can help constituent meetings, but it may also be that monthly meetings or committees can find ways to collaborate directly.
Furthermore, because we know that we have much work to do, and we are always tempted to avoid hard work, we desire to hold ourselves accountable. So we ask Friends, as they report to each other and to the Yearly Meeting, to speak in concrete terms about whether and how their work has taken account of each of these priorities. Clerks of meetings and committees at all levels must be responsible to ensure that Friends undertake this in a substantive fashion. But this call is laid on all of us.
During our sessions, the anchor groups have been deep in exploration, discernment, and community building. They have been working with concrete individual gifts and leadings, and begun to develop structures of accountability necessary for these to bear fruit. That work will encourage monthly meetings, Quarterly Meetings, and committees within the Yearly meeting to take up the work of supporting and eldering these leadings, holding each other accountable in love within our communities.
We note that we are not finished with the work of listening for God’s call, and for God’s guidance in preparation and faithful response. We have learned during our Jubilee years that there is no substitute for frequent extended times of worship, in groups of all sizes within and between meetings, and this is a lesson that we must not lose. Therefore, we encourage meetings and other groups to continue to create opportunities for such worship.
We are not discouraged that we have so much to do, and that so much of it is long overdue. We are not discouraged by the realization that this work will take time. It has begun, and we all, for the honor of Truth, are called to proclaim what we found during our jubilee exercises, here in Smithfield, and in the months leading up to it, and be persistent, creative, and joyful in bringing the work home with us.
We would like to close by sharing some of the words of one of our anchor groups, which expresses much of our exercise, our hope, and our resolve, noting that we as a body cannot claim all these words as our own:
There is only one testimony, and it is the testimony to the transforming power of God. There is only one witness and it is the witness of the body of Christ. There are many pieces of work which will require the particular gifts, ministries, and passions of all of us, because the desire of God for healing and redemption of this blessed creation requires profound change.
We refute the lies of the present situation: the lie that causes movements for transformation to see each other as competitors; the lie that says that social action is spiritually shallow and spirituality is socially passive; the lie that says that war and destruction are inevitable and efforts for change are hopeless; the lie that says we can’t change the world until we have perfected ourselves.
We declare that with God’s help, we stand ready to be agents of transformatory witness to God’s promise. We pray for the wisdom to perceive the patterns of thought and behavior within ourselves which conform to the present darkness. We pray for the strength to take bold, prophetic and concrete action in the world. Some of that action will be local, some global, some individual, some corporate, some immediate, some long-term. For action which is rightly guided, we can trust that we have already the resources required for faithfulness. Use us Lord!
It is with pain and regret and gratitude for their faithfulness that we record that the following Friends wish to stand aside from this minute: Clifford Harrison, Allan Kohrman, Elizabeth Dyer, Connie Kincaid-Brown, John Wilmerding, Jerry Carson.
August 12, 2010