As far as differences that threaten to disrupt Christian harmony between members, it is instructive to discover that pastoral bodies are no better prepared to deal with this issue than are we unprogrammed Friends; indeed, when our elders and overseers are vigilant, we are probably in better shape, (Who, for instance, mediates when the disharmony is between the pastor and a member?)
In one of our neighboring Meetings here, the clerk of Meeting and the clerk of M&C called a session between two former lovers whose tensions were more apparent to others than to at least one of the parties; while the two individuals could not resolve their differences, the session permitted them to present their differences in a way that precluded evasive behavior that had kept the tensions brewing; through this, the two agreed to stay away from each other and make no further claims on the other. Even when the effort at peacemaking results in something other than an ideal healing, it is encouraging to see officials from Meeting taking the initiative in dealing with a tension such as this; in the past, we would have been too inclined to dismiss the conflict as a “personal thing” and thus steered away from any attempt at clearing the air and Truth would have suffered. Thus, I feel I can report some encouraging signs from New England and from FGC, too, although I won’t raise any false hopes there, either. But to hear one of the principal speakers present a detailed Biblical study of “Exile Into the Promised Land” and, at the end of another session, to hear the co-clerk of FGC proclaim the importance of Christ within each person and each Meeting, was nothing short of miraculous this, at the end of a lecture in which the speaker was chiding liberal Friends for the pains they’ve inflicted, often unknowingly, upon Christocentric Friends, even as we have done to the others.
There were many trials for me there, but also much service.
The best session was called for single Friends who are struggling with celibacy a gathering that differed sharply from the “safe sex” presentation earlier in the week, or what one person called the “love your latex” lecture. The celibacy discussion produced some precious sharing, ranging from the one young woman’s admitting how difficult it was for her to hug other women there after being accused by some of her leading them on, to the sudden discovery by another that celibacy doesn’t necessarily mean “for the rest of your life” but rather “for now,” to another’s discovery that abstaining from sex was one way for her to reclaim control over her own life, to recognition for the need of affirming hugs and non-sexual touches within the Meeting (widows, children, as well as singles), to the need for intimate friendships that are not sexual.
Oh, yes, and then I found myself sitting in a session called to respond to John Punshon’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet addressed to Universalist Friends. For a while, it was like being the lamb in a lion’s den, but instead well, could there be a more opportune place to proclaim Christ? Maybe I simply have a new appreciation of Daniel these days.
Can’t think of any other news to report from this end.
Except that during the drive across Vermont to get to FGC, there were moments when my thoughts drifted off and I looked out and thought I was in the Shenandoah Valley instead something about the mountains and green meadows and the dairy aroma in the air. And then, ten miles south of St. Albans, it really began to smell like Harrisonburg. Small world. In the Peace of Christ –
For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.