Five Years Ago and Convergent October 2008

Martin Kelley has written a post giving a little back history to what happened five years ago. Five years ago he started reading Rober Weber’s book The Younger Evangelicals, a book that confirmed much of his thinking about liberal Quakerism and helped him verbalize what needs to happen in order to change a church he says is “floundering on issues of tokenism and feel-good-ism.” The post is well worth the read, it’s insightful, and helps give context to how ‘convergent Friends’ finally came about. He also has a helpful, “where do we go now?” section. His post reminded me of two things in particular: our own major move five years ago, and the upcoming activities for convergent Friends in October.

Five Years Ago

The first thing Martin’s post reminded me of was that five years ago Emily and I packed up our car and drove across the country to Los Angeles. I started my Masters of Theology at Fuller Seminary that fall, and she started her career as an English teacher. For the previous two and a half years I had been working as a youth pastor of an Evangelical Friends Church in Ohio. I was during my tenure there that I fell in love with the Quaker tradition. I saw coming to Fuller as a means to help develop my commitment to the tradition even further. While I, like every other student, entered Fuller that fall with loads of excitement and wonder, I had two burning questions in the back of my mind (questions I wrote in a letter to those overseeing my recording process back home). These questions, now in paraphrase went something like:

  1. What has caused a disconnect from the early missionary fervor and activism of the First Friends to us now?
  2. What do we do to reclaim this in our contemporary world?

It’s strange that five years later, entering my third year of doctoral studies at Fuller, I find that these these two questions still undergird my academic work. Granted much has developed from when I first pondered these questions, but they still motivate me to continue moving forward. I believe they were promptings of the Holy Spirit, and it seems Martin was having similar promptings of his own. But the work is not yet done.

It was three and a half years ago that I, through the use of google, found Martin Kelley’s blog post on Robert Weber’s book. We began a friendship that has helped enrich my own life in many ways, it also helped me extend my relationships into unprogrammed Quakerism a group of Quakers I hadn’t been in contact with up to that point. Many other Friends have had similar questions, and similar experiences of finding each other; this searching and discovery ultimately led to what we now term ‘convergent Friends.’ A cross-tradition, open-dialogical effort to imagine a ‘different kind of’ Quakerism in a new world.

Convergent October

Martin’s essay also reminded me to post the details of the upcoming, first ever, Convergent October. This is something a number of us having been working on, and it seems fitting in hindsight that we should kick it off on this five year anniversary. Here’s a description of what ‘Convergent October’ means from the convergentfriends.org:

It means that this month we’re inviting Convergent Friends everywhere in the world to make a concentrated effort to dream, discuss, and have loads of fun thinking about where Friends are and what the Future of Friends might be.

We’re planning parties, get-togethers, suggested reading lists, service projects, experimental worship gatherings, directed efforts at publishing in Quaker periodicals around these topics, and of course lots of blogging goodness. I’d like to invite all of you to join with us in the festivities however you see fit. This is meant to be something fun, relational, active (vs. just being heady), creative, and worshipful.

Jump over to the convergent blog for more suggestions, etc. We hope you all can join in, in your own ways. Let us know through blog, email or comment what you decided to do and how it went.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.