This weekend was the long-prepared New Monastics and Convergent Friends weekend at Pendle Hill, co-led by myself and Wess Daniels, with very helpful eldership from Ashley W. As I posted afterwards on Facebook, “I feel we served the Lord faithfully, navigating the hopes and fears of the members of the church who gathered into this short-lived community. Not the conversation we expected, but the conversation we were given, which is enough (always) and for which we feel gratitude.”
Wess and I have often described Convergent Friends as a do-it-yourself culture. But this weekend I realized that there’s something more to it. There’s what you might call a “don’t get stuck” ethos.
On Saturday afternoon, the conversation turned to what our local monthly and yearly meetings aren’t doing well. This is a pretty standard phase of any Quaker gathering thinking about renewal. We had asked for “signs of life” and “what does New Monasticism and Convergent Friends look like at meetings” but this quickly became talk of spiritual sickness and meetings that seemingly want to die. Fine enough, these exist and a half-session feeling sorry for ourselves might be cathartic, but I’m not sure the workshop ever fully got out of this funk. Pendle Hill was also hosting a “Grieving” workshop this weekend and I wanted to ask if all of the participants were sure they were in the right building.
Part of the shift of that amorphous group we’ve been calling “Convergent” is not getting stuck. We use the official structures when they’re in place and healthy and helpful. When they’re not we find informal ways to fill in the gaps. This has been happening for a long time in quasi-official networks, but the internet’s accelerated the process by letting us find and communicate with minimal cost or organization. Most of us are working official and ad hoc techniques for spiritual nurture, oversight and pastoral care.
My guess is that this informal bootstrapping will feed back into formal process as time goes on. But more importantly, we’re learning and spreading a culture of spiritual friendship and support that is flexible and spirit-led and not process-dependent. Praise God!