Monday, June 16, 2008

Interest Group: The Contemplative Path?

I lead an interest group for the Young Adult Friends conference in Richmond IN. I have decided to put the description and queries on here. Friends might find it interesting or helpful.
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Interest Group: The Contemplative Path?
There are many visible forms of ministry within the Religious Society of Friends. Friends can be called to travel among meetings, organize youth programs, work for Quaker organizations and live in intentional communities. While these are all wonderful forms of ministry others are called to more scholarly or contemplative paths. Some Friends feel called to ministry through writing, theology, history, biblical study, and other more academic ministries. Is there a place within the Religious Society of Friends for such callings? If so what is the role of the Young Adult Friends who are called to such a path?


Interest Group Queries
"And thou, faithful babe, though thou stutter and stammer forth a few words in the dread of the Lord, they are accepted." ~ William Dewsbury 1660


1. Quaker tradition teaches us that we are all ministers in the Religious Society of Friends. What ministry do you feel called to?

2. Most other religious faiths have traditions of scholars, contemplatives, historians, and theologians. Does the Religious Society of Friends also have such a tradition? If not can we see a need for people called to such ministry?

3. Traditionally Friends have shied away from systematic theology. Is there becoming an need for such a theology in today’s Quakerism?

4. What kind of oversight or support do those of us called to a more contemplative path need? Is it provided? If not how could it be provided?

5. How might your gifts as scholars and thinkers fit into and enrich the larger structure of the Religious Society of Friends?

10 comments:

Liz Opp said...

These are great queries, Anna! ...Can you share anything about how things went at this interest group? What learnings, if any, have settled within you around this topic?

Is there anything the Quaker blogosphere can do to help and/or provide eldership to one another, especially for those who feel a call to the more contemplative element of the faith?

I'm all in favor of supporting what I sometimes think of as the "quieter" or less visible/less vocal ministries, many of which aren't about activism....

Whenever it is that you can return to the FGC Gathering, I hope you'll consider offering this or a similar interest group there, too.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Anna said...

Hey
I'm glad you liked the queries. I personally feel very strongly that now is a time when The Religious Society of Friends needs a systematic theology. I also believe that while we do not have a strong tradition of formal theology the fragmentation and confusion we are facing now might make such a theology now useful.

Although I can not speak for the Friends in my group it was my sense that many of us struggle with the fact that the Friends in our meeting do not talk about thinks like theology, Quaker tradition or the Bible in any kind of real way. Several of us also struggled with the fact that among Young Friends the "trendy" think to do is more social justice or activist type work. Leaving us scholars feeling like second class Friends.
One Friend spoke about a Bible study group his meeting has in which they all thoughtfully and in the spirit of worship work through some of the hardest parts of the Bible.
I think I came out of the discussion feeling like Friends who are call to a more contemplative path just need other Friends who are willing to talk about these kinds of topic, not just social activism or monthly meeting business. Study groups might be especially helpful.

Peace and Joy,
Anna.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for the reply, Anna.

You probably already know this, that a number of Liberal meetings (rather than Conservative or maybe other branches) seem to give more weight to the more visible, social-action sorts of witness; and that it seems that the more Liberal meetings are the ones who have fallen/are falling away from use of Scripture as a means to test leadings, learn about the nature of God, etc.

What happens in one branch (or meeting) isn't necessarily representative of what is happening in the other branches (meetings).

What's been an interesting course of events in my own journey among Friends is that after a number of years of patient waiting and difficult exercises of the spirit, I am just now beginning to encounter Friends who are asking questions about certain Quaker practices, terms, traditions, etc.

Speaking as a "contemplative" Friend, I feel like I'm not being given those sideways looks anymore... for the most part.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

monkeyhack said...

Hi Anna,

I saw your comments after a link from the quakerquaker.org group. I was looking for some quaker information as I have been considering visiting a meeting house in my home town of Sheffield, UK. I was trying to find a little more out about what it means to be a quaker. In your questions I have found a few more answers - I am someone who needs to ask myself questions and feel ok about the answers, whatever they may be. Your blog was interesting and helpful to me in my search. Thanks.

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