Faithful Meetings: Juicy January!

My January has been joyfully busy facilitating Faithful Meetings with Friends and I’m excited to be able to share some of what I did with you!

On the first Saturday of the new year, I witnessed the closing Faithful Meetings retreat of Red Cedar Friends Meeting. I say “witnessed” because, although I am the facilitator of Faithful Meetings, I designed the program so that the community steps in to facilitate the ninth gathering, which is the closing retreat. At the end of the eighth gathering, I remind folks of all the themes and topics we have explored and invite them to begin thinking of the topics that they, as a community, want to carry forward in the life of their meeting. How each meeting decides to structure the closing retreat and what they do will be unique to them.

The Red Cedar planning committee met this assignment with enthusiasm and creativity, bringing members of their Ministry & Worship committee into their planning. The closing retreat they designed provided opportunities for each attender to consider the topics they learned about during the Faithful Meetings program and what they think is most important for their meeting to continue to explore. The Red Cedar Faithful Meetings classroom will continue to be a resource for them as they find new ways to live into the topics. 

One primary concern for Red Cedar Friends is how to meet conflict with openness, seeking the potential for new understanding. I suspect most communities will similarly feel that conflict is an important topic to continue to consider.

Old Chatham Friends Meeting in New York and Live Oak Friends Meeting in Texas both opted to do the community learning sessions twice a month for two hours rather than a half-day session once a month. 

Old Chatham is nearing the end of the program. During our two Thursday evening gatherings in January, they explored the topic of “gifts of the Spirit” during the theme of Spirit Through Us and then moved to the theme Seed and Fruit to explore “continuing revelation.” At the end of the second session, I invited them to begin thinking of how they would like to structure the closing retreat next month. At the beginning of Faithful Meetings, rather than schedule a weekend retreat, they opted for us to meet on Thursday evenings over eight weeks so the “9 month program” will have lasted 10+ months. Spending every other Thursday evening with these dear Friends has become a warm routine and I will miss them when we come to the end.

I meet with Live Oak Friends one Tuesday and Saturday each month. The theme for January was “Being Knit Together” so they explored the topics of “unity,” “worship,” “meeting for worship for the conduct of business,” and “ committees and roles.” After I introduce each topic, I provide the perspective of a variety of other Friends, contemporary and historical, about the topic before inviting reflections and discussions in small groups and with the entire gathered group. I feel well used when Friends make a shift from seeing the topic as a concept into their experiences of it in their own life and meeting.

I usually forget to take photos when I’m facilitating. I took this one when Chattanooga Friends were doing a journaling exercise.

I returned home late Sunday night from the opening Faithful Meetings weekend retreat for Chattanooga Friends Meeting. 16 Friends participated, some of them long-timers and some brand-new to Friends. It was a beautiful, tender, open time of deep sharing and willing listening. Each time I lead an opening retreat I am amazed at how ready and hungry Friends are for opportunities to build trust and intimacy with one another. It was a blessing and a joy to be with these Friends as they listened to one another’s stories of spiritual experiences and learned the words each uses to name what is ultimately indescribable. During one of our frequent “worship/sharing” sessions, a Friend said this: “When we had the information session to initially learn about Faithful Meetings, we were given the query: What is a more you are yearning for in your meeting? What we are doing this weekend is the more that I was wanting.”

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