Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Dear Friends of Truth,
My travels in the ministry in the past weeks have been wide-ranging and diverse. I have been able to visit with brothers and sisters here in the Wichita area who, though sharing a common bond in the Spirit of Christ, are in many ways quite different from one another, and have in many cases have little contact with one another. I have also traveled in the wider region, to visit Friends in Oklahoma; and we've also been blessed to receive Friends from the wider region at Heartland.
On Saturday, 2 May, Heartland Meeting hosted a gathering of Friends from the wider region. In addition to Friends from Heartland and University Meetings in Wichita, we also had visitors from Great Bend and Lawrence, Kansas. We met at Heartland meetinghouse and shared a rich time of fellowship, worship, a potluck meal, and discussion about the state of our personal walks with God, our meetings, and our hopes for the future of Friends in this region. We agreed that more frequent regional gatherings would be a good thing, and we thought that it would be a step forward if there were four opportunities for regional fellowship each year. Great Plains Yearly Meeting (in early summer) and Missouri Valley Friends Conference (in early fall) seemed like good opportunities for Friends to gather regionally, and we considered how we might host winter and springtime gatherings for Friends in our part of the country. We plan to have workshops about this topic at both Great Plains Yearly Meeting and Missouri Valley Friends Conference.
The next day, I attended Sunday worship at Iglesia Evangélica Amigos, the Hispanic Friends church in Wichita. I was warmly received by the brothers and sisters there, and I took part in their Bible study and worship service. The service featured singing, with the lyrics of the songs projected onto a screen at the front of the worship space; and some of the young girls of the meeting danced and played tamborine at the front as we sang. The speaker that day was a visiting pastor. He was the founding pastor of the meeting in the 1980s, but had since moved on to shepherd another Friends church in Emporia. After the service, he told me about his ministry of teaching among Hispanic Friends in Western Kansas: He visits four different meetings in one day - one Sunday every month - and teaches workshops. It seemed he was doing the same thing at the Friends church in Wichita: After the worship service, he led a workshop on leadership for the brothers and sisters here in Wichita. I was very impressed with the meeting and leadership at Iglesia Evangélica Amigos, and wished I could spend more time with them. I suspect I'll be back.
The following weekend, I was invited to attend Mennonite Church of the Servant's annual retreat at Camp Mennoscah. I really enjoyed my time with folks there. We did scripture memorization (1 John 4:7-8), worshipped, and spent time discussing and discerning how Church of the Servant is to become more missional as a body. Church of the Servant is moving in the direction of becoming more in line with the New Monastic movement. They are seeking ways to be more intentional about their community life together, including seeking a cause/project that they can work on as a church. In my observation of this church, I would say that they are already more community-oriented than most congregations, and I am excited at their passion to continue to deepen their corporate life with God and to examine how they can live more Christ-like lives together. I felt grateful that they included me in their retreat. It was good to get to know them better, and spending time with them in the countryside was refreshing.
On a related note, I continue to assist with the Church of the Servant's Celebrate Recovery program. The main organizer of the group, Amy, has been very ill in the past weeks and has been unable to attend, much less organize, our weekly sessions. Jerry Truex and I have been taking up the slack. Given the circumstances, however, I think things are going well. We have a solid core group at this point, and I hope that we will soon be ready to start advertising the group and seeking a larger attendance.
My one real out-of-town ministry trip in the past few weeks has been to visit Friends at Council House Meeting, near Wyandotte, Oklahoma. I headed down on Saturday and stayed with Frankie Sue Johnson, the clerk of the Meeting. I got the chance to meet her daughter-in-law, and to see her three grandchildren again when they dropped by for dinner. Sunday morning, I was asked to give the message at meeting for worship. I invited the meeting to share a bit of open worship with me, and several people shared out of the silence. Then, I spoke about my own spiritual journey and about the importance of waiting on God's guidance in our hearts. It was a small group, so it felt silly to stand up on a platform and preach; I just turned around in my bench and spoke to everyone seated next to and behind me. Afterwards, we had lunch together before I headed back to Wichita.
I hurried home, because I had an engagement with the University Friends youth group that evening. Dave Kingrey, the youth minister there, had asked me to share about my ministry and experience. I spoke first to the high school group, and then to the middle school group. My topic with each was: "How does God speak to us?" I asked the youth whether God had ever spoken to them, and what it felt like. I led each group in a brief period of open worship and then asked them what their experience of the silence was. I was particularly impressed with how tender and spiritually sensitive the middle schoolers were. They had experienced silent worship before, but they had not understood what the purpose was. After sharing a few minutes in silence together, one boy said, "it was different this time, now that I know what we're supposed to be doing." I felt blessed to have this opportunity with the youth group.
I expect that the next few weeks will be fairly intense. For me on a personal level, the coming weeks will be a time of inward preparation for yearly meeting sessions, 4-7 June. Yearly meeting will be a time of discernment with Friends as to whether my ministry has been helpful, and as to whether we feel that God is calling us as a Yearly Meeting to continue this ministry. I am praying for God to grant me spiritual groundedness and peace as I go into this process, trusting that God is in control and will work all things for good for those who love God. As I do this inward preparation, I will continue my work. This coming weekend I will be visiting Friends in St. Louis, Missouri. The weekend following that, I hope to visit Friends in Manhattan, Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri.
I thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement, and ask that you continue to pray for me and my work of visitation and encouraging the Church to turn to its Inward Guide, Jesus Christ. I hope that you will join me also in prayer for the spiritual renewal of the Church in a world that is so deeply in need of Christ's presence, love and justice.
Yours in Christ's service,