Do it yourself and don’t get stuck

NMCF Pendle HillThis 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!