My sister wrote for Your NFC last week, so if you have the time you can go back and read her essay, then come back and read mine and decide for yourself who the better writer is.
I don’t want to influence you or anything, but I am an English major and Kelsey studied history and peace building. So, you know… who’s the better writer?
If you don’t know who I am you probably know one or both of my parents.
If you don’t know my parents you probably know one of my grandparents.
If you don’t know my grandparents you probably know one or more of my aunts and uncles.
If you don’t know any of my aunts and uncles you’ve probably met one of my extended family, be it a Hampton, Ankeny, McCracken, Haworth, or other married-in families like Smiths, Minthornes, Burgs, etc.
If you don’t know any of those people it’s probably your first day at Newberg Friends, to which I say welcome.
Welcome to the family.
And it is a family, to me at least.
This is the church where I grew up and the church I still consider my home even though I haven’t been there in the last few months and even when I was going I wasn’t fully engaged in the church
Now some members of the church may be concerned that my lack of attendance these past months represents a decline in my spirituality, but have no fear. I paid all of my dues for missing Spiritual Life credits at Fox a few weeks ago. So I’m square.
While that last line is true (though cynical and sarcastic) the real reason I haven’t been to NFC is because I work on Sunday mornings, have been working on Sunday mornings and will continue to work on Sunday mornings for the foreseeable future.
Because I haven’t been in attendance, I’ve felt strangely disassociated from the church as we go through the trying times of shattering, discernment, and ongoing reunification. Even while I was among the people most heavily affected, I felt detached, like a tourist watching a conflict she doesn’t understand.
But maybe that’s how it’s always been. Looking back, my connection to NFC and to the wider Quaker world has always been familial, not personal. Over the years I’ve been relatively inactive as an individual in church and yearly meeting activities, always leashed by anxiety.
At the same time I’ve always taken great pride in the imperial reach of my family within the Quaker world. My opening “if you don’t know then you probably know” bit may be a tad hyperbolic for the sake of comedy, but honestly, you would be hard pressed to find someone who attends Newberg Friends who doesn’t know a single person in my extended family.
You can tell you have a big, well-connected family when the word “cousin” can mean anything from your father’s nephew to your mother’s first-cousin’s grandchild.
I’m a part of this community because I was born into it. I didn’t earn it, I didn’t work for it, and I have turned down multiple opportunities to serve in leadership; like a few months ago when I was asked to join the NFC nominating committee.
I consider Twin Rocks to be part of my extended community and extended home but I only attended “camp” (as a “camper”) once in middle school and I hated it. But my mom had family and friends at the camp and she had worked at the camp when she was younger and my grandpa was the camp director for a period and my great-uncle was a donor and supporter, and so on.
My sister Jessy has been gone for two years and upon her return has already spoken to a Sunday school class about her time abroad.
I’m not saying that I don’t deserve to go to the church of my family. I think I have a place by my own right, and I also don’t believe one must necessarily earn their spot in a spiritual community. I just find it interesting that so much of my connection to NFC is through relatives and not through my own labors.
This realization does, however, provide me the opportunity to change this streak, maybe not at Newberg Friends, and definitely not now with school starting and work being demanding, but eventually. When I have the time and the place to work toward community and not take for granted the community I’ve appropriated from my parents and grandparents.