Reflections From The Convergent Retreat 2009

Since Martin and Robin, the two co-leaders with me of this past weeken’s retreat, have already written their first I figured I better get on writing something because I’m already late! I really had a great time this weekend. Ben Lomond Quaker Center is up in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains, it’s a lovely place to have any king of retreat. I was really happy that Emily and L could join me on the trip, great childcare was provided freeing up Emily to participate in the weekend. I found the facilities to be welcoming, and the food (almost all Vegan) to be excellent!

This was the first retreat Martin, Robin and I have done together. We work together pretty regularly on ideas using a variety of online tools to communicate, collaborate and share thoughts but this was the first time we have all three been in the same place at the same time. I thought it went well working with both of them, though I do wish we would have had more time to hang out and just chat! I also missed the opportunity to connect with a lot of the participants. This was partially because there were a lot of people to get to know in such a short period of time (there were 30 of us), and partially because I am new to the retreat-leader role. Most often I am a participant at things like this so I always make extra time to hang out with people and get to know new faces but I found it much more difficult to do this while also trying to facilitate a program. I did feel like the weekend went at a nice pace though and wasn’t too packed full of stuff to do, which was a big plus.

I think the weekend really had a particular flavor or flair you wouldn’t get just anywhere, and looking back on it I think we had a good blend of Robin, Martin and my styles incorporated into the retreat. Of course, this is my opinion on the matter, others may see it differently! It was laid back and relaxed, with a lovely afternoon break for hiking, chating, etc. There was a lot of laughter and spirit’s were high, as well as challenged, throughout. On Saturday morning, Robin led a wonderful discussion on  how we might practice “Plainness” in our world today. I have some thoughts for future blog posts on this, but overall I found the conversation engaging and very stimulating (Emily and I had some good conversation on our 6.5 hour drive back home yesterday around this topic and how we might incorporate more practices into our lives).

We also did a short programmed worship service we called “Stations of the Lord’s Prayer.” I will post more on this shortly as well because I want to make the resources available to those who are interested, but basically we had five different stations setup that moved through the five petitions of the Lord’s prayer. Each of the small groups had five minutes at each station. These stations with their various activities added a strong embodied element to our worship.

In the evening Martin and I talked about “Convergent Friends of the Past.” He gave a great overview of a number of Friends throughout history who were convergent in one way or another, he included: Samuel Bownas, John Woolman, 1920-1930’s young Friends, Lloyd Lee Wilson and Lewis Benson to name a few. I then moved into discussing Everett Cattell’s ideas around a “missionary renewal” of Quakerism. The following conversation from this was outstanding and I couldn’t help but feel like people were able to find the substance they needed out of these talks. A lot of people were interested in struggling through what it meant to be “missionary” in our world, especially because in many  (liberal)meetings “missions” can be a dirty word. Finally, after dinner (and an incredible ginger cake and frozen banana dessert) we got back into small groups and discussed dreams for the future, tools we needed to take this all home with us, and what parts of primitive Quakerism we hoped to see reclaimed. Sunday morning worship was unprogrammed and done in the manner of Conservative Friends who read Scripture passages (as so led by the Spirit) throughout worship. Finally, after lunch we had a time to debrief and everyone headed home.

Above I mentioned that we had a great turnout, another thing that was really exciting about the people there was that it was truly an intergenerational gathering. If people were under the impression that renewal and convergent Friends stuff is just a younger generation’s thing this weekend showed differently. I was also really pleased to see how many unprogrammed Friends from the Pacific Northwest were there. There were also a nice handful of evangelical Friends represented. While theological differences were certainly present, I was very pleased to hear just how many Friends here are interested in the radical Christian heritage of Quakerism.

This interest, hunger and even passion for a Friends renewal really left a big impression on me. I told my story about how I was first introduced to Friends history and theology when I was 21-22 and how I found myself scratching my head, longing for the kind of passionate Christian faith George Fox, Margaret Fell, John Woolman and other Quakers exemplified. I thought I was one of the only one’s thinking about this stuff, and years later I am still just meeting folks who have been wrestling with these questions for years (even decades)! The Holy Spirit is really moving among all Friends and I felt reassured of that again this weekend.