Plenary Session # 3
To begin this session, Friends gathered in song and waiting worship.
2015.3.1 Introduction of our Friend-in-Residence Robin Mohr
Gayle Mattson introduced Robin Mohr. Gayle first met Robin through work with the Section of the Americas, Friends World Committee on Consultation (FWCC). Robin is Executive Secretary for the Section.
Gayle finds Robin awe-inspiring because she has the ability to remain both realistic and optimistic when solving problems, in times of crisis. Robin has been a pioneer in the Quaker blogosphere and has promoted the concept of convergent Friends, who are radically inclusive and who facilitate dialogue and movement of Spirit across various human divisions.
2015-3.2 QuakerCraft: Becoming the Quakers the World Needs (Robin Mohr)
Robin began by talking about visiting the Pacific Northwest in 2005 when she participated in Friends General Conference in Tacoma and met with Friends of Northwest Yearly Meeting in Oregon. It was a pivotal trip for her because it was then that she met Friends in this region who were indeed meeting the world’s needs.
She introduced the theme of her talk by defining the terms she used. Craft comes from empirical knowledge resulting from long hours of work and honing skills through repetition. Being Quaker is similar and involves coordinating the mind’s eye and hand, becoming skillful, working through a process. In this we are colleagues together.
Robin spoke about the power of establishing what kind of business we are in. Although sometimes a difficult question, defining our business brings everyone in the organization around what the organization does. She is convinced that our business is formation in the vocation of being the Quakers the world needs.
Formation means shaping something or someone to be useful or skillful. Vocation is the work we are called to do, our heart’s work. Being means what we are as well as what we do; this is an attribute that cannot be hidden.
Quaker is the name of the community that we represent. Others have expectations of who we are, how we act, as Quakers. We are in the world, part of the world at all levels of community. We are to discern what the world needs and to be concerned if what the world needs and what we have to give do not match.
Every Quaker meeting, organization, institution must be in this business or we are dying. Without this mission we are cut off from some aspect of living. She next considered how we carry out, how we do our business.
Real formation comes from real work. This means that becoming a Quaker comes from doing real service and being in worship together. The work may be simple. The hours in worship are essential, and so are the hours spent in meeting for worship with attention to business. Doing the work of the meeting is a source of Spirit.
We are to live up to the Light we have been given. Quakers are a people in pain because we know what we need to change, but we do not act accordingly. We must be willing to do what seems to be hard work and do it together. Robin believes that most people do not want to be part of this complex business. However, it is necessary to show up even if what is happening at meeting does not seem pleasurable.
Reflecting on our practice individually and in groups informs our practice. Reading books and articles widens the conversation and broadens our knowledge. Individual prayer and time in worship also allows formation. Honest, frank conversation about our ideas and knowledge is necessary, because engagement with others is key. We must welcome eldering; it is valuable. But, we must also reflect on whether the actions we take in our meetings are helpful or hurtful.
We should honor the rhythms of rest and recreation in our lives. There is a balance between enthusiasm for our own and others’ experiences and attention to the practical matters of our lives.
Being a Quaker, just like any other craft involves general skills as well as specialization; to hone our special talents while developing broad skills takes attention and training. This includes some level of social action as well as the articulation of our own theology. We must be able to talk and listen to both insiders and outsiders, to interact with groups other than our own. Such cross-cultural communication depends especially on listening and on speaking clearly.
We should ask ourselves what we each need now. What do we need to keep developing our Quakercraft? She finished by asking us to participate with a partner in either discerning where we are with our Quakercraft or asking for encouragement where we need it.