Last month I had the privilege of attending the World Conference of Friends at Kabarak University near Nakuru, Kenya. It was the first time so many Friends from around the world were together in one place in forty-five years. Friends from over 100 yearly meetings and over 50 countries attended.
What struck me about the conference was how much more unity there seemed to be than divergence. Certainly, there were huge differences among us: from Friends who would call themselves non-theist to Friends who really feel that the Bible is the ultimate religious authority, from bisexual, gay, and lesbian Friends to Friends who believe that homosexuality is against their understanding of the bible, from Friends who live in communities of wealth and privilege to Friends from communities in which poverty and corruption or violent conflicts are daily concerns. So, how was it that unity was the primary spirit of the conference?
Despite the enormous differences, I sensed that the spirit of love was stronger than the impulse of separation. There was openness to talking about and engaging around our differences and a deep appreciation of different forms of worship and language. Spoken and translated into four distinct languages throughout the conference were plenary addresses that resonated with one another and created a prism of a common message. We were called to deeper faithfulness, to let go of the past and our divisions, to vulnerably embrace a call to transformation within the Religious Society of Friends, and to witness powerfully in the world beyond the walls of our meetinghouses. Within each plenary, I heard a deep challenge to work together in a common project of revolutionary love.
In several business sessions, an effort was made to weave such a project out of the threads of concern explored at the conference. Though there were queries and people rose with suggestions - ending war, working to address global change - those sessions did not result in a common message developed by the body. (The Kabarak Call for Peace and Eco-Justice was approved later).
But the longing and sense of unity for a common project of peace and love remained. It left me with a query: how would such a common project look? AFSC certainly was founded on the idea of being able to achieve bigger aims than monthly or yearly meetings can alone, but maybe the spirit of unity around peacemaking was bigger than could be contained in any one organization. I wondered what it might look like for us to intentionally weave our work for peace and justice among worldwide Friends together. Perhaps American Friends could commit as a body to war tax resistance for one year, while projects such as Healing and Rebuilding our Communities could spread their curriculum and work to countries around the world?
A common project wouldn’t necessarily mean that we would take up new work, but that we would knit our work together, communicate about how to support one another and build on the work of others. The call for such collaboration won’t end anytime soon. How might Friends respond? I’m eager to see.
In the Light,
Recent Posts at Acting in Faith
This post includes excerpts from the addresses during daily worship and plenary sessions at the 6th World Conference of Friends in Nakuru, Kenya. The messages offered during worship operated as a prism, offering many views of the rainbow light which shone through the participants at the conference.
A story about Healing and Rebuilding our Communities work in Burundi: “Anne-Marie, a young, slight woman, told us, ‘The one who killed my father, I used to see him, he was a soldier. When I saw him before the HROC workshop, my wound would re-open, I wanted to kill him, but now I have forgiven him, I’ve seen him since and I knew I was healed.’”
“And that, to me, is a powerful lesson of the World Gathering, that by coming together across what many would see as enormous geographic and cultural differences, we begin to find our way home. We understand the joy of getting to be alive together at this time, even in the midst of great calamities and things coming apart. We get to be here on earth together, mysteriously working to be faithful and striving to express the love of God as one.”
For the Meeting Newsletter: Reports on the 6th World Conference of Friends
For those who would like to read about the 6th World Conference of Friends, you can find several posts including excerpts from plenary addresses at Acting in Faith, a blog edited by Lucy Duncan, AFSC’s Friends Liaison. Included in the excerpted plenary messages are links to the full addresses, the Kabarak Call for Peace and Eco-Justice and the epistle from the conference. You can find those posts here: www.afsc.org/friends. To see a compilation of reports, plenary addresses, the epistle, photographs, and links to many blog posts about the conference, visit the World Conference of Friends web site.
Quaker Activism achieves Results: Jewish Voice for Peace thanks Quakers for their work on Divestment
Jewish Voice for Peace recently sent out a notice that Quaker efforts have helped to move forward their campaign and call to divest from companies supporting the conflict in Israel/Palestine. They particularly appreciate Friends Fiduciary for making a decision to divest $900,000 from Caterpillar. Read more.