Two weeks ago I was in Indiana for the book release party for the book I helped get published: Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices. I’ve written about Spirit Rising and the Quaker Youth Book Project over the last couple years. I was one of ten young Quaker editors on the board who all worked hard together to solicit material from the book from many countries from around the world and give what we felt was the best representation of at least some of those voices. The book is now out and it’s beautiful, it’s something I’m proud of, and it’s something I’m glad to have my name attached to. It was itself a labor of love, it was very difficult at times, and many of us on the editorial board wanted to throw in the towel at one point or another over that last two years. We labored through this process (yes, we also had fun), so this book feels in a way like it was really “birthed.”
A lot of people criticize this kind of ecumenical (or “interbranch”) work because they are afraid of it or because they so strongly dislike the other parties involved, a lot of people pay lip service to this kind of work but really are not involved in the “work” part of this, and many just flat avoid it. This book is unavoidable like hot embers in your lap. If you read it in the context of this cross-branch movement, it will strike you as contradictory, cacophonous, beautiful, amazing, troubling, worshipful, creative, peculiar, and one-of-a-kind. I believe this book is one of a kind because of the what went into it. I don’t think many of us are willing to deal with the difficulties this work entailed. I’m not trying to pat our backs, I don’t think any of us (?) really knew what we were getting ourselves into when we first started, I know I had no clue. But what does stand out to me about the ten of us is that people hung in there, learned to listen deeply, be honest about their feelings, respect one another and grow. Because of those qualities, this group was able to assemble a book that we all love and that we all have some discomfort around! What a great a testimony to really working things out.
Spirit Rising is a testament to the fact that young Quakers are letting their gifted voices be heard and that they are committed, not to their ideologies so much as to the Spirit of the living God. These young Friends all testify to the fact that the Quaker tradition is alive, and that they not only feel the Spirit moving, rising up, but that they are willing to testify to that. They are willing to be seen with other “programmed,” “evangelical,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “unprogrammed,” because those labels don’t mean that much too us. We are not invested in them, we are invested in learning from one another and learning how to work with one another.
All that said, I think “Spirit Rising” is one more signal to the movement of the Spirit sweeping across all the branches of Friends many of us have been attesting to among Friends.
Because of this I will continue to encourage and support any work that tries to embody the heart that was behind this book as well such as the upcoming Young Adult Conference, or the FWCC Youth Pilgrimage (which consequently is going to be spending a weekend with us at Camas Friends!). And will also encourage that these events, like the book, are themselves put on by, and organized by a cross-branch team. What has often made our convergent Friends gatherings so enjoyable for me is that we the planners are not just asking those who come to work out their differences, we have to do it as facilitators as well.
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