Friday, November 12, 2010

Announcing the Close of Valiant for the Truth

Dear Friends,

Back in May of 2008, I noticed that I had two main types of blog posts that I desired to share: Personal reflections, and reports on my travels and observations in the wider Quaker world. I was already publishing at The Lamb’s War, and I decided to reserve that blog primarily for theological reflection. I created Valiant for the Truth as a blog where I would share my updates and reflections as I traveled among Friends.

I have lately realized that my vision for two blogs with different foci was unrealistic. I now understand that one blog is enough for most people – certainly enough for me. From now on, instead of separating my posts between the two blogs, I will be putting all of my public writing onto The Lamb’s War. This means, of course, that I won’t be publishing on Valiant for the Truth anymore.

I will leave the site available online, out of respect to those who have linked to it. However, this morning I imported all of my posts from Valiant for the Truth over to The Lamb’s War. Any post that is available on this blog, is now available on The Lamb’s War (except, of course, this one).

Thank you for following me on Valiant for the Truth. I hope that if you are not already following The Lamb’s War, that you will subscribe. This will be the place where I publish all of my public writings from now on.

In Christ’s service,

Micah Bales

Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Membership, Growth on Capitol Hill, and Missional Faith–Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #24


Dear Friends of Jesus,

As the month of October draws to a close, and the daylight hours grow ever shorter, we here in Washington, DC are seeing autumn at its apex. The trees are in the final throes of their changes of color; soon they will be entirely bare. Winter is coming.

During this time of seasonal change, my wife Faith and I are experiencing our own transitions. This month, we became membersRockingham Meeting of Rockingham Monthly Meeting, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We have been attending Rockingham regularly, about once a month, since last November, and it became clear to us and to Friends at Rockingham that we were effectively becoming a part of the fellowship. At Rockingham's October meeting for business, we were formally accepted as full members of the Meeting.

Faith and I are pleased to become a part of Rockingham Meeting, and, by extension, of Ohio Yearly Meeting. This feels like a good fit for us, first and foremost because of the bond that we feel with Rockingham Friends in the Spirit of Jesus. We deeply respect their integrity, discernment and love for one another in the Lord. In the time that we have been among them, we have indeed come to feel ourselves a part of them, and them of us.

While it was sad for me to release my membership in Heartland Meeting and Great Plains Yearly Meeting, I believe that membershipGreat Plains Yearly Meeting sessions, 2009 in a Meeting should reflect real commitment and involvement. Because of the great distance between me and Friends in the Great Plains, coupled with my lack of plans to return to live in Wichita at any point in the future, I felt that my membership with Friends there was increasingly becoming a formality, rather than a lived relationship. I believe I am being faithful in changing my membership status to reflect the human and spiritual realities of my life as it is now.

I will miss being a part of Great Plains Yearly Meeting, and I do continue to pray for the Yearly Meeting as a whole, as well as for each local Meeting. The end of my membership does not signal the end of my caring for each Meeting and each person in GPYM. I pray that the Lord will present opportunities for me to be of service to Friends there in the future. More importantly, I pray that God raise up the local leadership that Great Plains Yearly Meeting needs to be revived. I trust that God will be faithful in leading us, if we will be faithful in waiting on the Holy Spirit and putting Christ's commands into action.

As new members of Ohio Yearly Meeting, Faith and I are getting the chance to become more deeply involved in the ways in which God isFaith on the Mall moving in this fellowship of Friends. The weekend after we were accepted into membership at Rockingham Meeting, we attended Stillwater Quarterly Meeting. Stillwater Quarter rotates its sessions in a two-year cycle, which allows each Monthly Meeting to host. This time, the sessions were held in Chesterhill, Ohio, at Chesterfield Friends' Meeting House.

Faith and I were honored to stay at the home of Richard Wetzel, who is mayor of Chesterhill. He was a wonderful host, and gave us a nice tour of the town and the surrounding countryside on the evening that we arrived at his house. The next day, we attended Quarterly Meeting at the meetinghouse. It was good to see many familiar faces, as well as some new ones, and I was pleased to be able to be a part of the answering of the queries as a Quarterly Meeting. At this particular gathering, the entirety of Rockingham's full membership was able to be present, which was truly a blessing to me.

I appreciate very much Ohio Yearly Meeting Friends' commitment to gathering together on a regular basis, despite the distancesFriends at Rockingham Meeting involved. The drive out to Chesterhill from Harrisonburg is about five hours in either direction (and six from Washington), but I do believe that Friends had a sense that the effort and cost of gathering together was well worth it. Stillwater Quarter is an immensely dispersed fellowship, ranging from Flint, MI in the north; Atlanta, GA in the south; and Lancaster, PA in the east. I believe there is a sense that Stillwater will eventually need to set off a new Quarterly Meeting, but Friends have not yet seen clearly how to divide the Meetings. The Quarter has been growing in recent years, and I suspect that continued growth may provide a clearer solution.

We continue to see signs of new life at Capitol Hill Friends in DC. Our meetings for worship in the downstairs conference room of the William Penn House have been well-attended, and morale is high. We have been greatly blessed by visits from Rockingham Meeting, as well as by a number of other Friends from around the country. We feel presence of Christ in our meetings for worship, and we have a sense that we are growing - both numerically and spiritually - as a small Meeting of the Body of Christ.

Seeing how this little fellowship of God's people is being drawn together is one of my greatest joys, and I am deeply grateful forMicah and Faith at the Jon Stewart Rally for Sanity everyone who has been praying for us and encouraging us in our ministry here in DC. Soon, I will be preparing a more structured request for prayer support, which I will be sending out to some folks by email. If you would like to be involved in intentionally supporting Faith and me in our ministry with Capitol Hill Friends, please get in touch with one of us so that we can add you to our prayer partners list. And, as always, I invite you to let me know how we can be praying for you, as well. We hold many of you in prayer already, but it is helpful to know how to pray specifically for individuals and Meetings.

I would like to mention one more thing before I close: I have recently begun to publish a series of essays entitled Missional Quaker Faith on my blog, The Lamb's War. In this series, I am attempting to sketch out a vision for what our lives and church communities might look like if we laid aside everything to be fully available for Christ's mission for us in the 21st-century West. I hope that you will join me in exploring these issues, and share your comments as you feel led. You can easily subscribe to The Lamb's War either by email or by RSS feed; just look at the upper right-hand side of the blog to see how.

I pray that you are experiencing the living power of Christ with you in your daily lives and in your Meetings. Trusting together in the Seed of God, who is the root and reward of our friendship, we will be remade in the image of Christ.

In the Love that is beyond the world,

Micah Bales

Monday, September 27, 2010

Emerging Leaders in FUM and New Life In DC - Micah's Ministry Newsletter #23

Dear Children of Light,

This past month has been one of transition. As summer fades into fall, I have begun to shift my lifestyle to focus my energies on the ministry that God has called me to here in Washington, DC. This past year, I was primarily focused on the world beyond Washington, DC; I travelled almost constantly, visiting Friends across the United States. This has been a fertile time, and I feel that I have grown as a minister, as well as having some positive impact on the Religious Society of Friends. In recent months, however, I have been increasingly under the weight of a concern to reorient myself to place more emphasis on mission in the city of Washington.

Capitol Hill Friends is beginning to show signs of putting down roots and gelling as a group. We have been encouraged by the loving presence of Noah Baker-Merrill, who is sojourning with us from Putney Friends Meeting in New England Yearly Meeting.Front lawn at William Penn House We have also been blessed by many visitors from area Friends Meetings to our Wednesday night meetings. At a recent meeting for worship, we were pleased to have visitors from Rockingham Friends Meeting, and we had a much larger attendance than we had experienced up until then. Our worship life feels like it is getting deeper, and overall we sense a remarkable up-tick in energy and group cohesion. The Spirit is moving in our little fellowship on Capitol Hill.

This moment feels ripe for growth, and I feel an increasing concern to be out in the Lord's harvest field. Consequently, I anticipate that much of my energy in the coming months will go into nurturing Capitol Hill Friends as it grows and develops into the  communityFriends in prayer that God intends it to be.  Faith and I will continue to host regular meetings for worship, and we will also be undertaking increasing pastoral care and outreach. Most critically, we will be empowering new leaders to share in the work of the church. Please pray for us as we seek to foster an environment of mutual love, service and accountability at Capitol Hill Friends.

As the gospel labor intensifies in DC, my professional work is shifting and finding new definition, as well. I will continue to be employed by Earlham School of  Religion this coming year, Worship at ESRand I have been in discernment with my colleagues as to how we can best collaborate to share ESR's vision for the Religious Society of Friends. ESR's ministry of teaching and discipleship of emerging Christian leaders is at the core of our mission as a Friends seminary, but ESR also has a passion to reach out beyond our current student body and to engage in shared conversationsGraduation at ESR in 2009 about the future of our tradition and community as Friends. We hope to make the wealth of wisdom, creativity and vision that is present at ESR more readily available and visible online, so that Friends around the world can engage in a conversation with us about what faithful leadership looks like in this young century.

In order to implement this new phase in my employment with Earlham School of Religion, I have been traveling regularly to Richmond, Indiana to be present with the residential ESR community. Being with my colleagues in the Richmond office is helpful in building working relationships; and being present in Richmond presents the opportunity to take part in a rich intersection of Quaker life and thought available in few other places. A good example of this is my latest trip to Richmond, when I was able to attend the Friends United Meeting Emerging Leaders Conference.

The Emerging Leaders Conference was outstanding. Colin Saxton of Northwest Yearly Meeting was our main speaker,  and his gentle, weighty presence provided a substantial core for our time together. He invited us to rest in Christ and to exercise leadership Colin Saxton at FUM Emerging Leaders Conferencein our communities by being a non-anxious presence. Colin spent much of his time speaking on responsibility and the difference between the personal responsibility we bear for our own lives before God and the responsibility that we bear to one another in community. He encouraged us to remember that only God has the power to effect deep change in the lives of others, and that as we accept this, our own personal responsibility and limits become clear. This ability to distinguish between our own responsibility before God and the responsibility that others must bear, he argued, is one of the marks of a gifted leader.

It is this clarity about personal responsibility to God that allows us to see how to exercise effective and responsible leadership in community. IMG_1193 When we acknowledge the limits of our own responsibility we are freed to empower new leadership in our communities; when we see that we are incapable of carrying the burden alone, we can invite others into the challenges and blessings of leadership.

Jay Marshall, dean of Earlham School of Religion, presented about the realities of leadership among Friends, and the potential for a workable model for Quaker leadership going forward. Jay pointed out that among Friends there are two sources of authority that remain in tension: A sense of divine leading felt Jay Marshall talking to Colin Saxtonby the individual, and the discernment of individual leadings by the community. This tension is healthy, helping us to hold both individuals and Meetings accountable to new motions of the Spirit. However, Jay explained that Friends sometimes risk suffocating the Spirit-led leadership of the individual, elevating community habits and inertia over fresh leadings of God. While leadings must be tested, it is crucial that genuine leadership be recognized and empowered by the community. We as Friends must learn to grant authority to individuals who have been called into leadership among us, taking care not to undercut the work of our leaders with passive-aggressive demands that they be "more servant-like."

Our presenters brought great depth and substance to the conference, but at least equally important was the quality of those emerging leaders who attended. We had Friends in attendance from most of the North American Yearly Meetings of Friends United Meeting, including a very hefty contingent from North Friends at the FUM Emerging Leaders ConferenceCarolina.  There were many Friends whom I already knew, but there were also quite a few that I had never met before. I felt very blessed by the opportunity to gather with other "FUMers," other Friends from both pastoral and unprogrammed Meetings whose lives and ministries are rooted in Jesus Christ.

This event felt like a realization - at least in some small degree - of my dream for Friends United Meeting: That we be a fellowship  that can proclaim the Christian faith of Friends to a world that is so desperately in need of the love of Jesus Christ. This conference was a time of unity, where Friends from a wide variety of backgrounds gathered in the name of Christ to explore how we can develop as leaders in FUM Emerging Leaders Conferenceour local fellowships and Yearly Meetings. For many of us, this was a precious time of finding that there is indeed a place for us to stand as Christians in the Quaker tradition. We found unity in Christ that overcame our outward differences: There was neither programmed nor unprogrammed, male nor female, Liberal nor Evangelical - we were all one in Christ Jesus. Praise God for that!

I hope that Friends United Meeting continues to organize these conferences in the years to come. It is so important that FUM be more than simply an abstract affiliation; we need to know one another, Jay and Darrinbecoming co-laborers with one another in the Way of Jesus. It is my hope that we will work with one another, pray for one another, and seek to strengthen each one in his or her ministry. As we come to know one another more deeply in Christ, the bonds between our local churches and Yearly Meetings will deepen, and we may truly become Friends United Meeting.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for me, for Capitol Hill Friends, and for the Body of Christ as a whole. Faith and I rely on your love and prayer support to continue the work that we are doing among Friends, particularly our ministry in Washington, DC. Please continue to hold us in prayer! The spiritual battle is only just beginning, and we need your faithful intercession now more than ever. Please let me know how I can best be praying for you, as well. We each have a particular ministry to which we are called, and through our prayers we can help one another live into that call, protected from all powers of darkness by the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Your friend in Jesus, the living Word of God,

Micah Bales