Yearly Meeting Representatives
One of the things that drew me into the Friends church as a young adult was the idea that the Holy Spirit can speak to us as a group, moving us forward in community to do God’s will. Over the years, I’ve seen that happen many times at our local business meetings. For the last four years I have had the privilege of representing Newberg Friends Church at business sessions at Yearly Meeting. It has been a great time of connecting with other Friends from meetings across Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. And again, I’ve seen how the Holy Spirit can work in a group to bring people of diverse backgrounds and ideas into a place of greater humility and dependence on the voice of Jesus.
In the last couple of years, Yearly Meeting representatives have been asked to participate in small “listening groups.” Here, we do not practice discussion, analysis, or debate. We do not even give advice. We simply practice listening to the experiences of our brothers and sisters in Jesus.
Sometimes this is hard. As a person with gifts of “teaching,” I want to share what I know, especially when I know more than the person talking about a topic. Or if someone has a problem, I want to help by giving advice. That is why sometimes it is good for me to practice just listening. It gives me a chance to really hear not only what my friend may be saying, but what God might be saying to me through that friend.
My experience in these listening groups has been the highlight of Yearly Meeting for me. To see how God speaks and works in people’s lives in an endless variety of ways has been comforting, encouraging, exciting, amazing. It would not have happened in the same way if I had been thinking about what I was going to say in response or trying to figure out what kind of advice to give. It has given me a new respect and love for those who shared in the small groups of which I was a part.
Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.” James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,….” As a Yearly Meeting we are facing many challenges as we seek to be friends of Jesus to those around us. Listening well is a skill we need to help each other cultivate, so that we can both listen better to Jesus and listen better to those around us.
At our September 8 business meeting, we will have a chance to listen to/read a set of queries presented to the Yearly Meeting by the youth. These queries will help us in thoughtful self-examination in times of disagreement.
The queries are as follows:
Recognizing human imperfection, how do I strive to follow Christ’s example in the way I love and respect others? When confronted with a conflict, how do I actively show Christ with a compassionate and grace-filled heart? How am I leaving space for change? How do I value other persons when charged with their reputations, remembering that they, too, are children of God? How do I build up the individual in the light of God?
Let us gather together on September 8 ready to do business in a spirit of prayer and worship, ready to listen to God and to each other!