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Are Friends Clear?

At the rise (close) of Meeting for Worship, the Clerk or Greeter usually says, “Are friends clear?”

What does that mean?

The short answer – is everyone sure that they have nothing more to say that rises to a need to share during the time of worship?

Going back quite a few years, we at Grand Rapids Friends Meeting added a practice of having the Greeter ask, five minutes before the end of the hour, if there are any further “sharing,” or prayers, concerns, joys to be expressed as the time of worship draws to a close. This is to provide an invitation and ample opportunity to share concerns or joys on people’s minds, that have not risen to the level of an urgent “leading of the Spirit” during the hour of worship.

After this final 5 minutes, at the end of the hour, “Are Friends clear?” is a final punctuation, with a slight pause, in case something is still weighing on a Friend’s mind, but they have been reluctant to speak.

In the broader context of either Friends meetings (worship, business, fellowship) or clearness committees, worship sharing, or other conflict resolution processes, the same principles apply. They all lead us to ask whether we are clear, in our individual lives or in community.

At the end of a clearness committee, we don’t say “are friends clear?”, but we do check-in with the person seeking clearness, to see if they are any clearer on their issue or their path forward.

The same applies to business. The Clerk composes a “minute” based on discussion of an issue, and after reading the minute, pauses for reaction, and then may say something like “are we all clear?” When heads nod yes, we proceed to record the action.

Likewise, in a worship sharing session, where a query is posed, followed by silent reflection, and Spirit-led responses by the participants, the convener will try to discern the sense of the Meeting over the issue at hand. When appropriate, a summary of that perceived sense of the Meeting may be spoken. Then, are Friends clear? If not, perhaps another query is posed, re-framing the issue in a way that may lead to greater clarity.

It may be clear that Friends have expressed themselves and others have listened and have gained better understanding, but there is no need for more than that. In this case, “are Friends clear?” may have more to do with whether they are clear in their own hearts. This may be an acceptance, even embracing, of uncertainty, of a mystery, and yet we are at peace. All is well with our souls.

As in all we do, the goal is not perfect unanimity or agreement, but rather a sense of peace and “unity in the Spirit,” an overwhelming sense that this is where we are, and where we are going, as a community, and that all is good – Friends are clear.

Rooted in Grand Rapids – Our Quaker Meeting as a Garden

Over the past few weeks our Meeting has experienced various leadings to more deeply consider our place and role in the broader Grand Rapids community. How does the Grand Rapids Friends Meeting bring light and blessings beyond the walls of our meeting place?

These leadings have emerged as vocal ministry from Meeting members during worship as well as during planning and business sessions. In fact, our two Seeker’s Meetings this spring (March 29 and May 31) are both devoted to group discernment and discussion as we seek the Light in terms of our way forward.

The Grand Rapids Meeting has been a presence in the larger community for over 50 years. Throughout those years our members and the Meeting itself engaged various outreaches, projects, and ministries that helped transform lives, touch hearts, and bring about positive social change.

Now, we are sensing as a Meeting that it’s time to ask again how can we serve others? How can we bring healing? How can we be bearers of light and love?

Our Meeting is small. Our resources are finite. Prudence and discernment will be required as we seek the way forward.

At this past Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, I compared our Meeting to a garden.

We are the plants within the garden and together we cultivate our Quaker soil and each other. Our primary responsibilities are to see that our members grow and thrive. The fruit we produce is used to feed each other.

But doesn’t our Meeting produce more than enough fruit that we can fed others, outside our Meeting as well? I’m convinced that our garden yields more bounty that we might realize.

There’s much merit to organic gardening and our Meeting’s discernment and way forward must be organic too, reflecting who we are and our particular skills, talents, and wisdom. We need to avoid artificial efforts and find the fruits that Spirit has encouraged and nourished among us. Those are the gifts we should share with those beyond our Meeting.

I hope you can join us as we discern together.

 

World Quaker Day / Homecoming Potluck 2019

16 of us gathered on October 6th for our annual Homecoming Potluck, and to celebrate World Quaker Day, along with Friends Meetings from all over the planet. This is a tradition begun by Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) as a way to recognize and celebrate our connection to all Quakers (and all kinds of Quakers) everywhere around the world. To learn more about FWCC and World Quaker Day, go to fwcc.world.

Adventures in Quaker Programs

In this week’s adventures in Quaker programs:

BOOK DISCUSSION – Thursday, 10/10 7:00 PM We’re discussing chapters 2+3 of The Quaker Way. Come even if you haven’t read the book. All welcome.

QUAKER DINNER GATHERING – Saturday, 10/12 7:00PM A casual opportunity to hang around with your favorite Quakers. And a great opportunity for many of us to get to know some of the newer folks better, and vice versa. It’s pot-luck. I’ll be making soup and will have some wine and iced tea. If you can, please bring a dish to pass. All are welcome, bring a friend! or a Friend!

Both events are at Gregory’s

3322 Devonwood Hills Drive, NE Unit D Grand Rapids, MI. 49525

Northwood Hills Condos – off Beltline, just north of 5 mile.

PLEASE – RSVP for both or either event. Email me at gregory@gregorygronbacher.com. OR text or call me at 616-710-0641. Or leave a reply below! Looking forward to see many of you!

Engaging the Quaker Testimony of Simplicity

Quaker testimonies are time-tested commitments to particular values that give witness to the world. We tend to talk about these testimonies using the acronym – SPICES – for Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Sustainability-Stewardship.

Each Quaker may consider these testimonies, finding how they might take shape and expression in their own life. No two Quakers will live these values in exactly the same manner, just as no two cooks will spice their meals exactly the same way.

Simplicity has been a value-discipline that’s been dear to me even long before I became a Quaker.

When I was in my early 30s, my career required a significant amount of travel, much of it international. While it was great to see much of the world, I could be gone at times for up to a month. That sort of schedule takes its toll and leads to an unsimple life of coordinating paying bills, scraping out little time with friends, trying  to care for a home – life felt like an endless cycle of meetings, conferences, hotels, and long flights, only to rush home exhausted to do a month’s worth of laundry, repack, and get on the next plane a day or two later.

After 5 and half years of living that way, I decided I’d had enough, and quit that job. I had a new position lined up, but which wouldn’t start for almost a month.

I woke up on my first post-travel Saturday and did as I done for years – running lists of things I had to urgently do that day in order to just keep up. After a minute, I stopped and realized that I no longer had to live that way – and that this particular Saturday I really didn’t have to do much of anything. I dropped back into the bed and laughed and laughed – savoring the freedom of simplicity for the first time in years.

Simplicity means different things to different people. For some of us, it means keeping our schedules light and enjoying free time. For others, it means disengaging from the consumerist culture with it’s pressuring messages of do more and buy more. And for others still, simplicity is about decluttering – which can include one’s personal belongings, emotions, relationships, and commitments.

I think for most of us, simplicity serves as a means to and end. We live simply, keeping clutter and complexity at bay so as to enjoy the freedom to engage what really matters in life.  In this sense, simplicity is about avoiding what’s not necessary or vital or life giving so as to focus on that which is.

In the twenty-something years since that happy Saturday, I’ve taken other measures to live simply. I don’t own a TV, I keep my screen time to a minimum, I refuse to over-schedule my life, and I strive to avoid accumulating clutter. It’s a never ending struggle in a world that grows increasingly complex and demanding.

What does simplicity mean to you? How do you engage this fundamental Quaker testimony?