The Great Flood

Steve’s post, January 26, 2016

I have had conversation after conversation here that have touched me deeply and will leave me changed in various ways when I leave. But I would like to relate a personal incident that happened that maybe characterizes the challenges that can be part of the FWCC experience.

Yesterday morning, I was in our home group, which is composed of a dozen people or so from all around the world, and from a broad spectrum of traditions. I mentioned about how deeply I had been affected growing up near the incredible beauty of the Rocky Mountains. I still felt stunned the day before by the magnificence of the landscapes we had passed through on our tour of the Sacred Valley.

trio_fwccI spoke about reflecting why these mountains are here. I described a vast mass of heavier rock stretching out below the Pacific, being pushed under the lighter rock of the South American continent, causing it to crumple up and then be carved into valleys by the rivers born from the precipitation that is forced to fall over the higher land as the air passes over. And what fuels the movement of this vast mass of rock? Residual radiation from elements cooked up the oven of an exploding star billions of years ago, heating the earth’s core, causing the molten rock to circulate up towards the surface. I said that this is utterly remarkable, and that if this was not a revelation of the creativity of the Divine, what is?

Immediately, a Bolivian pastor talked about how these mountains are here because of the Biblical Flood, and the talked about false teachers doing the work of the devil by leading the people away from the Bible which is the source of truth.

At first, I did not take it personally, knowing he was just speaking his own truth. But as the minutes passed, my heart grew heavier, and I had to speak. I said that I understood our intent in coming together was to create a safe home base by listening to each other, not telling each other how we are wrong or sinful. I told him I knew that he was speaking from a place of love, and from a sense of devotion to something that was very dear to him. I said that I did not know what his intent was, but that his words gave me the message that I was doing the work of the devil and that this gave me a very heavy heart

manuela_and_thuliTo close the session, I asked him to lead us in a prayer, which he did, and afterwards I thanked him for listening to my difficult words. I checked with others afterwards, and they assured me that what I said came across in a loving and non-accusatory way.

I was afterwards gently eldered by someone who talked about learning to just accept the Evangelical Latin American Friends where they are at—in other words, to not respond. But I wondered whether we lose an opportunity to build connection when we hide our own truth by assuming someone else is incapable of hearing it? I felt no anger towards him. I had no stake in making him feel bad. I was feeling hurt, and rather than pretending to be okay, and perhaps then feeling separated from him because of that hurt, I wanted to let him know what was really going on with me.

I saw him a little later near the lunch line, and we talked in a very friendly tone about how nice the pool was. And every time we have crossed paths, it’s been with a sincerely warm greeting.

I don’t know exactly what was in his head and heart when he spoke those words. I was not paying attention to how my response was translated to him and I don’t know how he understood it. And I cannot underestimate the vast gulf between our backgrounds. For him to be part of this kind of circle, and for me to speak to him the way I did, may have been very foreign to his experience.

I have included pictures of people of the conference (none of whom are in my home group).

steve_and_ruben

 

2016 CYM Nominations Package

Dear Friends,
It is that time of year again when we look at the needs of our Yearly Meeting and consider how we and those known to us may be of service. Each year Canadian Yearly Meeting names people from all over the country to serve on standing committees and in individual positions in the Yearly Meeting. We ask these people to carry out, on our behalf, the work of the Society, and to provide support to those Friends working in social justice, ecumenism, and wider Quaker and world affairs.

Please refer to the CYM 2016 Nomination Package for more information on this process.

Thoughts on Translation and Transformation

Post from Christina, January 23:

I arrived at the World Plenary late Wednesday night due to weather-related travel delays. I am so, so overjoyed and grateful to be here. The past few days have been an incredible opportunity to connect with Friends of so many different backgrounds. Since arriving, I have participated in plenary worship sessions, a Section of the Americas Meeting at which we received updates from various FWCC committees, meetings on consultation topics, smaller worship group meetings, Young Friends meetings, and many, many wonderful conversations. In many of these situations I hear this phrase:

“Bienvenido Amigos. Welcome Friends.”

It’s a greeting I’ve heard hundreds of times in my life; only this time I hear it twice, in both of my languages. Along with a diversity in cultures, age, and Quaker practices, the plenary has brought together a diversity of languages. There are at least five mother tongues present.

It has been a gift to be part of such a large multi-lingual gathering. As part of the minority that can speak both Spanish and English, the conference has it’s own particular flavor. In smaller groups I am often prepared to translate if there is no other bilingual person present. There are many things I am grateful for in terms of knowing both languages in this context; hearing ministry in its original language, being able to help when I can see there has been a misunderstanding, and if I miss one of the (many) announcements I get to hear it a second time. I have been able to make connections with many Peruvian and Bolivian Friends, laughing, sharing stories, and talking about the challenges we see facing our community. But perhaps most importantly for me, being a bridge between these languages has increased my attentiveness to Friends’ ministry.

Even in cases when I am not the translator responsible for the session, I find myself asking ‘What words would I use to help others understand this message?’ I’ve begun to practice this even when translation is not necessary.

At times it is necessary that I translate messages that I do not agree with, using language that I do not identify with. This too, helps me deepen my faith. In these cases, I am called not only to translate the language, but to look beyond the words to the meaning behind it, to find our common beliefs. Thinking about how to convey another friend’s message so that it carries the intended meaning has deepened my relationship to ministry. Faith translation, in quite a literal sense.

The other night, we had a Young Friends Meeting at which there were about 65 young friends in attendance. The energy was excited and enthusiastic! This was the first time I had been in such a large group of Young Friends, and it was hope-giving.

We played a game at this Meeting in which someone in the middle of the circle would call out a phrase that applied to them and all those in the circle to whom the phrase applied to would have to get up and find another seat. For example, “All those who have been to a Young Friends gathering in the past.” And anyone who that applied to would jump up and scramble to find another seat. There was always one seat less than the participants, so someone always got stuck in the circle. This was fun and chaotic.

During this simple game, it was necessary for us to translate what was being said by the person in the middle of the circle. However, those who had understood the message the first time often began to move before the translation had been finished. We stopped and reminded ourselves that it was important to pause until everyone understood the message before taking action.

This is a practice in patience and compassion. I find myself being asked to listen closer, to pause. Much in a similar way as when I listen for the Light while in silent worship, I find myself being challenged to open myself to truly listen to other Friends, especially when the initial message is not something that I feel I can fullyagree with.

This continual practice of listening is a process that generates transformation of my faith. When I translate a message, it continues to be the other friend’s ministry, but it is inescapable that part of myself joins their message. Though helping to share Friend’s messages, I not only become a witness to their ministry, I become part of it.

We are currently half way through the Plenary, and I can’t wait for the experiences and conversations that are to come in the rest of the week.

PS. The internet is too slow at the moment for me to upload any photos, will do this when the connection improves!!

A day of splendour

Post from Steve, January 22

Today was excursion day, and I chose the Sacred Valley. We headed north from Pisac, at one end of the valley, in the direction of Machu Picchu, which is at the lower end of the valley in the cloud forest area closer to the Amazon. We visited three different sites of Inca ruins. I could write pages about the wonders we saw; a day later I am still feeling a bit stunned. However, I will simply intersperse the images throughout this posting without comment. welcoming-africans

The arrival of a large group of Africans has been delayed by visa problems. Many of them arrived yesterday, just before we headed out on our various excursions, to the great joy of everyone. Later in the day, while most of us were away, a large group of Bolivians and Peruvians arrived to join us for the weekend.

As in previous gatherings, I find that spending time with Quakers from other theological orientations does not necessarily move me closer to their particular beliefs. In fact, I find that my own beliefs are often clarified and confirmed, and I grow deeper in my place in my own tradition and theological family. But I definitely grow closer in love to Quakers whose beliefs are very different from mine. I am making wonderful connections, having numerous heartfelt conversations both with new friends and friends I know from pervious gatherings. I know I will return home deeply changed and enriched. moray_1

I had a long conversation with an American Friend last night about how times of deep wounding can crack us open to be vulnerable to the Spirit, leading to a depth of Spiritual growth that would not have been possible otherwise. And he renewed in me a desire to let my life be more Spirit-led—listening to the still, small voice in all the moments of my life, engaging in an ongoing form of waiting worship.

I spoke to the British Friend with whom I co-led a home group at the world conference in Kenya. She is a theologian and talked about how although Quakers do not talk about the Trinity, in fact most of us do relate in some way to three different aspects of the Divine—the Divine as Creator, the Divine as revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus, and the Divine as indwelling spirit—in other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Almost all of us have some relation to God as Creator. The primary relationship of certain branches of Quakerism, such as Evangelical Quakers, is with Jesus. And for many Liberal Quakers, their primary relationship is with the Indwelling Spirit. I found this perspective very helpful in thinking about the diversity of our theologies.

I cannot say how much gratitude I feel towards Canadian Friends for helping me to attend this conference. To say I am being enriched by the experience is a huge understatement.ruins-5

 

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Fire

Post from Steve—January 21, 2016

It’s very hard to get a good Internet connection here, which is complicating my blogging.

I shared the following poem in the silent worship this morning. It was written when we lived in a small log house on a mountainside in the interior of British Columbia, where our children were born. At that time we lived an hour and twenty minutes from Vernon Monthly Meeting.

 

I wake to find the morning ashes glowing, barely red.

Too weak to draw a draft, the morning fire is almost dead.

I gather up the coals into a small compacted bed

And breathe on them until a self-sustaining flame is bred.

 

We, too—so scattered. Gather up your Friends like coals,

And breathe on us, Lord, ’til we light each other with our souls.

 

All ministry is translated into Spanish and French. The French translator added that if it were George Fox that was breathing on the coals, it would create a powerful apocalyptic fire! (And her addition was translated back into Spanish and English.)

There is indeed a fire growing here among us, the kind of fire that starts to grow when Friends gather in large gatherings like CYM and FGC. I woke up in the night and I felt like my heart had cracked open and was releasing healing tears.

This morning was the worship session organized by the English-speaking part of the Section of the Americas. The theme of the spoken message was the importance of nourishing the spiritual life of children. But the message that dominated the open worship that followed was a call to allow children to share their ministry with us. One woman compared it to the radical development among early Quakers of allowing women to also preach and asked if we can likewise give the ministry of children an equal and important place. And many Friends gave examples of how their lives had been touched by the ministry of the very young.

This is a message that our daughter Lilia would have resonated with, who has a gift with children and has dedicated herself to educating them with love and respect.

This evening I went to a fascinating presentation by a woman who is in the early stages of a research project of how Quakers helped Jews survive during the time of the Nazis. Please contact me if have any personal connection to this history.