Mind the Fire, Fan the Flame: A Message of Hope for Quakers

I’m currently digging through my research on Freedom Friends Church and found a blog post Liz Opp wrote awhile back that got my attention. In the post Liz talks about hearing Peggy (FFC’s pastor) and Alivia (Clerk of the meeting) present on their church. She makes some useful observations including the creativity that gets incorporated into worship at FFC:

I liked hearing about the use of a box full of pieces of paper that have a significant quote, query, or advice on them, that worshipers could draw from, pick one out, and contemplate it during worship. I also liked that worship starts with a description of what Freedom Friends are about, especially since most attenders there seem to find the church through the internet. It takes the guesswork out of what these particular Friends believe and how they worship.

But what I really appreciated was the message that Peggy gave in response to Chris M’s query was very similar to a couple other messages I’ve been hearing lately. Liz Opp writes:

Towards the end of our time, Chris M. lifted up the question, Do either of you, Peggy and Alivia, have a message on your hearts for those of us here?

We fell into worship, and after a couple of beats, Peggy offered this:There are embers smoldering among us, and they need to be blown on.

We sat motionless and held that ministry for just a while longer before other comments were addressed.

Robin reflects a similar message given during extended unprogrammed worship at our convergent Friends this past February:

One Friend read to us the parable about the farmer who sows his seed on the road, in the weeds and on fertile soil. Another Friend said to us, “Mind the fire.”

In the middle of the two hours, I noticed that the fire that had been burning hotly in the woodstove when we came in was dying down. I tried to get up and put another log on the fire quickly and quietly so that we wouldn?t get cold, but not waste too much wood since we would be leaving in another hour. By the end however, I was given to understand that you can?t stoke a fire on the cheap. It may flare up but it will also burn out quickly. You have to lay the foundation properly and put in the time it really needs. A later suggestion from another Friend: always add two logs to the woodstove at one time. It greatly increases the chances of them catching fire.

I think the same is true with ministry.

And interestingly enough another message was given at the Northwest Yearly Meeting pastor’s conference last week was:

“Tend the fire.”

One interesting thing about these three messages is their context: one was given at an FGC gathering, one was given during a gathering of convergent friends representing a spectrum of Quakers, and the final one was given to a group of pastoral Quakers. Apparently, God is speaking to all Friends a similar message about how we Friends are to be working with our tradition and call to the Gospel. A second observation is that in each of these settings there were “convergent” friends present, that is to say there were Friends there who weren’t necessarily automatically assumed to be a part of that context or community. God is blessing the cross-pollinations, inter-visitations, and friendships these friends are encouraging. Rather than being unequally yolked, these friends are tending a fire all these groups have and need.

I feel that the Holy Spirit is continuing to be set forth before us this message and is addressing all Friends. This nicely summarizes what I mentioned a couple days ago in my post about the difference denominations and traditions: let us continue to run this race fanning the flame of the faith that has been passed down to us.

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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.