A note from Valerie: Andrew Wright, an ESR Access student and member of North Carolina YM (Conservative) attended yearly meeting. I asked Andrew if he could share his reflections on the annual sessions, and he asked if we could share the epistle, feeling that to be a good reflection of the annual sessions. Micah Bales also shared his thoughts on attending this yearly meeting a few weeks ago. I found these words to be lovely and poetic, and (with the permission of Andrew and the Clerk of the meeting) am glad to share them here.
To Friends Everywhere –
How can we become the blessed community that we aspire to be? In these 314th Yearly Meeting sessions we have lived into some of the answers to this question which has been our theme. In our query responses, state of the meeting reports, and times of worship we have shared experiences of all the facets and phases of life. We have held each other as we have mourned, struggled, and grieved together. We have celebrated new life, rejoiced in success, renewed old friendships and discovered ever growing love among us. We have found ourselves held in the hands of God, protecting us, healing us, and knitting us together into the blessed community.
We have learned from our children as they are tender with each other, as they enjoy and play well with each other. We watch as our children rejoice in the mystery and wonder of the present moment. Playing at the beach with Young Friends is like swimming in an ocean of light. One Friend noticed that even the salt in the water works to lift us up together. The elements have conspired, along with the laughter and play of our children, to lead us toward the blessed community.
We are aware of our dependence upon God’s support, because we see evil around and within us. We are mired in it up to our ears. We have witnessed decades of war, and we see violence in our communities – and we feel the effects of both in our own lives. We watch with sadness as our way of producing, consuming, and working destroys the life giving capacity of our earth. Our economy is driving greater and greater inequality between the richest and poorest people of our world community. These things stand against our deeply held beliefs, and yet we find them both within us and infused in our way of living. What little we do to change the world often seems small and ineffectual, and we sometimes feel paralyzed by discouragement. We recognize that this discouragement itself is a symptom and part of the evil we oppose. At times the effort to sustain our belief in God’s power for good is the largest part of our struggle. Yet God is with us, even in these troubled times. We remember that Friends in our history faced systems of enslavement and an economy of radical inequality that seemed just as intractable as our present systems of domination. In their simple and peaceful ways, these Friends found new ways of being in the world that moved beyond what seemed impossible.
In our Bible studies this week we have been reminded that there is still good soil for God’s seed, and that seed can yield a hundred-fold harvest. God is very much with us, caring for our welfare and intervening on behalf of the widow, orphan and alien in a strange land. The women of the Exodus story – Shiphrah and Puah, Moses’ mother and sister, and even Pharaoh’s daughter – model for us the courage to risk faithful acts in dark times. Over and over, we see that God gives us the tools, the strength, and the courage, at the right time, to do what must be done to advance the Kingdom of God in the face of the evil that opposes it. And so we send you, dear Friends, a message of hope in these dark times. The Kingdom is here – already here among us.
On behalf of the yearly meeting,North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
Richard Miller, Clerk
Richard Miller, Clerk