Over the next several months, I will focus this space on exploring our identity as NWYM Friends. A clear message communicated throughout the vision and long-range planning process emphasized our need to relearn and reclaim our identity as Christ-centered Friends. Together, we believe we have something significant to offer the world as we are faithful to our particular calling as Jesus’ people.
Some of you may not know this, but NWYM has one of the longer Yearly Meeting sessions among any group of current Friends. I know this because I have attended other yearly meetings and because I get ribbed about it a good bit by other Friends superintendents and secretaries. There is one who especially likes to remind me HOW LONG we meet. In response, I’ve encouraged him to simply install a drive-up window for Friends in their Yearly Meeting…since they gather for such a brief amount of time.
Now, I know there are mixed opinions about the length of Yearly Meeting. Some among us can’t imagine it being shortened. Others can’t understand why it runs so long.
This year we are trying out a bit different schedule. It is likely that over the next few years we will continue to refine the format and possibly even the length of Yearly Meeting, as we try to best meet our goals for the week and the needs of those who want to attend. It is tricky trying to balance the desire to do many good things with the practical realities of people’s schedules and availability.
Maybe, at the end of the day, the big issue is not how long we meet…but rather why we meet.
Historically, Yearly Meeting sessions have been a time of re-connection for Friends who have been called together by Christ. Through our worship, business, fellowship, and education we are re-minded (as we come together to seek the mind of Christ) and re-membered (as we sense again the kindred tie that binds us). On our best days, we come to find a fresh sense of direction that will guide us into the future, as well as celebrating the work that God has done in and through us over the past year. When we are truly centered, we do these things knowing that Christ is present and leading us in the moment. When all of this happens we can say with integrity that Jesus is, indeed, head of our church.
This means, of course, that we come together bringing our concerns…but willing to put aside our agendas. It means that we come willing to fully engage and participate but not manipulate or try to coerce. It means we come willing to both listen and speak. We come, again in our best days, willing to sit down at the table with good friends and new friends to partner in the work of the Kingdom.
Since I didn’t grow up in the church, I still find many things we do astounding (perplexing, too, but I’ll stick to astounding today…). I mean how often do a group of amateurs get to be “in charge” of an organization whose mission is nothing short of changing the world?!? Huh?!? What business or government would trust people like us with this kind of responsibility? Who would give us permission to spend this kind of money? To take these kinds of risks? To make ANY decisions that would even remotely affect the lives of others, or history, or eternity?
I can’t think of any…and yet…here we are. In Christ, we are made co-laborers in the ministry of reconciliation. We are participants in the great work of God to restore all of creation unto Himself through Christ. Maybe you have never thought of it this way…but I find it absolutely astounding…and frankly rather frightening…that amateurs like you and me have been given such great responsibility and such an amazing opportunity.
This is one reason why I think Yearly Meeting is so important. It is not just an annual get-together where we do some business. This is our big chance every year, to meet in the power and love of Christ to plot the overthrow of the world! We dare not miss the opportunity! Hope to see you at Yearly Meeting
— Colin Saxton