A Thought for Quakers on Change

I am preparing my discussion for our Sunday morning meeting for worship and am thinking a lot about what Kester Brewin calls “wombs of the divine,” and creating the necessary space for something new to be born over time (See his book Signs of Emergence) It’s kind of a preference for evolution rather than revolution, or rather it sees evolution as the slow revolutionary process of change. Then I came across this quote (which mirrors Mark 2:27): “Our structures must serve us, not us serve them.”

This is an appropriate quote for all of us in the church, but especially, I think, for Quakers to observe. With so much discussion recently on whether or not some of our more longstanding institutions, meetings, and publishing outlets up for grabs these days because of smaller numbers, smaller budgets, and less interest or energy. With so many looking at the bottom line, I can’t help but think that we need to step back, stop, and contemplate the point above. What does this really mean for us?

Brewin writes:

“Only if I am still. Only if I have stopped what I was doing to listen and hold my breath and enter some spiritual apnea and wait. The perception of the new step will come only to those brave enough to stop dancing the old. The realization that we must descend this low peak will come only to those prepared to stop and take stock of their position. We fear that if we stopped for a week, a month, a service, a moment, we might be forgotten, or lose our momentum, weaken our profile, appear ill-thought-out and failing. So we feed the ecclesiastic furnaces our burned-out wrecks: tired leaders, disillusioned ministers, fatigued congregations – marshaling them to dance longer, march faster, pray harder, cry loud in earnest for God to come, come, COME and batter our hearts into change.”

What Brewin is essentially calling for is that we return to our own practicing of silent waiting, but with a fresh perspective as to why we are doing it, what we are waiting and hoping for. Or conversely, maybe our stopping and waiting is the opposite of silent waiting, maybe we need to stop with the quiet and really say what is on our hearts and minds. In either case, something needs to give. Who has the courage to stop dancing the old?

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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.

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