I’d never heard of Conservative Friends until sitting with my then new friend and fellow Friendly Adult Presence Mark Wutka at a Southern Appalachian Young Friends retreat 5 or so years ago. We were both members of Liberal Friends meetings and I did what most every Liberal Friend does when confronted by the word “conservative” in this context, I sorta bristled before asking Mark to explain what Conservative Friends means. He told me that Conservative Friends seek to follow a traditional Quaker path. Their worship is unprogrammed but it is more Christ-centered and Bible based than Liberal Friends. He said he feels much more spiritually at home worshipping with Conservative Friends than he often does among Liberal Friends. I trusted Mark to speak from a God-filled place and so was interested in Conservative Friends but filed the information away as a curiosity rather than anything I wanted to immediately pursue.
forward to the present: Mark and I are married (it blows my mind to
think of God preparing us for this from our first encounters!) and
attended North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative together this last
month. I wasn’t sure what to expect but what I experienced was a
blessing! It was a joy to me to see how well-loved and cared for Mark is
in this community. In part because so many of his School of the Spirit
classmates were there, it felt like a family reunion: Mark was hugged
and I was hugged and introduced and then hugged again. It was lovely.
community is small and it was easy to feel the intimacy and deep
relationships between people who know one another as the Body of Christ.
What impressed and thrilled me was the shared spiritual vocabulary and
the unabashed acknowledgement of Christ actively working in folks’
lives. I was happily moved to hear people in casual conversation talk
about obedience and following God’s will.
for Worship for the Conduct of Business are the heart and major
activity and are well attended. They make it a practice of having each
Monthly Meeting answer the Queries from NCYM-C Faith and Practice as a
body and the clerks or representatives of each MM read the responses
together. I can’t say I was always edified by the responses (some were
exceedingly verbose) but I found the practice compelling.
evening, one of Mark’s classmates from School of the Spirit, Charley
B directed the 2nd performance of a play she wrote as a class
project, The Call. Ashley W read the role of a young woman called
to ministry. The play was about the challenges she faced, practical,
emotional and spiritual and the support she received in the form of
Friends who preceded her in ministry. I found the play to be well
written and researched and deeply thoughtful. It was well-received and
good conversation was generated afterward.
Thursday, during her workshop “Dance of Compassion”, I fell in love
with Nanbee. Her open heart and guilelessness are a rare and
amazingly beautiful gift in this world. Immediately we felt like Soul
Friends and tried to find time to sit together to get to know one
another better. Friday night after the play, my favorite time of the
entire 5 days happened. Nan, her husband Tom, Mark & I got together
at a table on the patio. After visiting a bit, Mark decided to go to our
room to write a letter. Shortly thereafter, Lloyd Lee and Ashley joined us. It had rained at various points that day and while we
sat at our table, it began to drizzle. We raised the umbrella just
before the downpour started. Because several of us were newly acquainted
and I wanted to know each of them and didn’t want to waste the
opportunity making small-talk, I asked everybody questions. I like to
ask the kinds of questions one only needs to be an expert about one’s
own life to answer so everybody can share something and not feel
ignorant or left out. Sitting in the our increasingly damp little island
in the middle of a crashing storm, creating a wonderful intimacy while
telling stories about ourselves was deep and rich for me. I feel we
shared something rare with one another and I will, I think, remember it
the rest of my life.
having sat in business meeting for days, Saturday evening’s activity
was exactly what everybody needed. We played “A Big Wind Blows” and
“Four Corners” and moved a lot and laughed even more while sharing
thoughts and ideas and bits of ourselves. It was great fun.
Meeting for Worship was followed by a reading of North Carolina Yearly
Meeting (Conservative)’s Advices. Mark had been asked to read them,
which touched him. Again, I’d never heard Advices read aloud before a
body like that (SAYMA’s Faith and Practice doesn’t contain Advices and I
honestly can’t imagine a body of Liberal Friends ever agreeing on
Advices-seems too much like control). I can’t say the language of the
Advices is completely comfortable for me but I tried to “listen in
tongues” and hear the Holy Spirit behind the words.
I’d been feeling some serious trepidation about going to NCYM-C due to
the fact that I wouldn’t know one person there and it being Mark’s (and
Mark and Ceal’s) community. I wasn’t sure how people would respond to
me, or if I’d be comfortable with the spiritual vibe. Turns out that I
was nurtured and enriched in ways I never could have imagined and I’ve
made at least one friend I know I will keep all of my days. I returned
home with a renewed spirit and joyful heart and am humbly grateful for
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Sunday, July 29, 2012
“It is in this covenantal tradition that Christians have understood their relationship with Christ as a new covenant. George Fox proclaimed that Friends were entering into the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah. For Fox this covenant was the fulfillment of all that went before. In this new covenant God’s law was not to be written on tablets of stone:
I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts;...And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor..., for they shall all know me, …; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33-34, Revised Standard Version)
For early Friends the new covenant was Christ Jesus and their living relationship with Christ...”.
(imagine, if you will, a car...slowly...coming. to. a. halt. Only not a car. Me.)
Christ? Christ Jesus? What? What does that mean? I tried to continue reading the pamphlet but each time, I’d be drawn back to that paragraph, perplexed and frustrated. I was good with the idea of an historical Jesus, the deliverer of the Sermon on the Mount, the man who taught that we are to love God and love one another. The message Jesus taught is why I consider myself a Christian. Jesus as the teacher, guiding us to open our eyes and see we are with God right now. Jesus as a human who was more in touch with That of God than most people. But Jesus Christ? Jesus the Divine? Jesus Christ, which is often followed by our Lord and Savior? Uh...I’m sorry but I can’t go there. I can’t accept Virgin Birth, Resurrection,etc. In touch with God, yes, but not God incarnate. Sorry but it just didn’t speak to me and no matter how I looked at it, I wasn’t able to find meaning in it.
What could I do with the agitation I felt around that last sentence? After rereading it fifty-eleven times and confronting Mark about it repeatedly, I resentfully set the pamphlet down and walked away from it thinking “we’re just going to have to agree to disagree”.
But then something happened. I can’t tell you when exactly but my heart opened and what I came to understand and accept is that God is the universal and Christ is the personal. God is what unifies us and Christ is God communicating to each of us. Individual names for different aspects of the divine but still one God. I’ve had a blossoming around Christ since then. I embrace my understanding of God’s relationship with me as being through Christ. I would even say that I find peace, joy and delight in Christ in my life. I feel comfort and security in the concept of Christ: God is so big and ultimately unknowable as to be sometimes overwhelming (awe-some, fear-some) but Christ is intimate, knowing and encouraging, whether firmly directing or gently nurturing, with love.
I struggled with this for so long last summer that it became a thing for me. Mark would ask me what I was reading and I’d sullenly reply, “I’m still Cronking”. Once I “got it”, cronkin’ became a good thing. I was just accepting into the School of the Spirit Spiritual Nurturer class #9. Sandra Cronk was one of the founders of SotS so for the next two years I will be cronkin’ hard.