This weekend Jason and I got a break from our little Turbo Tyke while he spent the night at Jason’s sister’s house. Did we spend our time staying up late, going out to dinner, enjoying long strolls, dancing until the wee hours, going to hear cool speakers like Brian McLaren, playing video games until dawn? Not so much. Instead, we both attended our respective boards: it was Northwest Yearly Meeting’s annual MidYear Boards. Jason presented an introduction to the new Yearly Meeting website; I tried to keep Trey and Shawn from distracting Jason by praying to “Dear 8 pounds 6 ounces baby Jesus, new born, not even spoken a word yet” during the presentation.
I must admit: I had a bad attitude going into the weekend. Thanksgiving and gratitude were not the top characteristics of my demeanor. The boards have been reorganized, and very few folks know what’s going on, especially with regards to my board (Local Outreach). Seriously: we looked at the budget, trying to make budget plans for 2008, and could barely figure out what we were spending money on this year, much less try to dream about what sorts of funds we’d need in a year plus. We could dream up all sorts of programs and resources, but if it’s not what the faith communities *really* need, then what’s the point? Who are our faith communities we’re serving/representing anyway? A number of us questioned about being on the board: should we just go back home and work in areas we can actually be useful in?
But I think we can all be useful: we can share our stories from our worship gatherings, our local areas, our past experiences. We can call out themes and leadings we see happening locally and Yearly Meeting-wide. If only we can stay awake during our meetings (man, they’re long).
The conversation of “numbers” came up multiple times. For some folks, hearing “numbers means growth” is a practical, linear statement: healthy organisms grow. For others, it makes them remember attractional experiences when they were brought into the church and left out to dry: “They kept hammering, ‘Bring your friends!’ into my head, but why would I do that when *my* needs weren’t even being met? Why would I bring friends there to be hungry like me?” The communication issue grew with the folks who’ve had good experiences with growing numbers: “We bring them to Christ. We disciple them. We help them grow, in practical ways such as budgeting and in spiritual ways such as prayer and healing. They in turn bring their friends because needs are being met.” They were talking about the same thing, but the words cause major blockage.
One of my blockage markers: “We need to grow Quaker churches.” I know: how could that be a block for a ‘raised in the Quaker church’ girl such as myself? I must be honest: I don’t care about growing Quaker churches. I care about furthering God’s Kingdom, calling folks into Kingdom living, whatever that may look like. Again, the board was divided: it was somewhat fun to have the Area Superintendent in on our conversation at that point: he really cares about growing Quaker churches. Before the furrowed brows became too engraved, a friend spoke up, noting that he does enjoy the Quaker tradition, but he thinks of the distinctives “not as some sort of trophies or awards or plaques to display on the wall, but rather tools we use to indwell/embody Christ to others.”
And that made my weekend totally worth it.