Several months ago, Thomas Swain of Middletown Meeting, had a sense that a Quaker conference happening in Great Britain would be an opportunity for Friends in our Quarter. The Kindler's, a Quaker group in England responsible for Quaker Quest, had put together a conference titled "Visioning New Fire, A weekend conference working for Quaker Renewal", and through Thomas' connection with the group, they were making 3 slots available for Friends from our Yearly Meeting.
At the April Quarterly Meeting held at West Chester, Friends enthusiastically approved the Quarter supporting a Young Adult Friend's attendance at this important gathering. However by the July Quarterly Meeting nothing had been done to organize a support effort and it looked like no one would be attending. The Quarter again minuted its support for this effort by approving an ad hoc committee that would have authority to choose and support 3 participants for the conference. Three Friends, Ed Dunlop, Thomas Swain, and Elizabeth Varley, stepped forward to assist the clerk, Rich Ailes, to seek some Quarter Friends to attend.
Within 6 weeks the committee had found 3 members of the Quarter willing to participate, had secured half the funding for the trip and booked transportation and conference overnights with funds fronted by the committee members themselves. With this remarkable effort, Brigitte Burger of Concord Meeting, Zac Dutton of Wilmington Meeting, and Todd Krasnai of West Chester Meeting flew into London on October 10, stayed overnight at Woodbrooke Conference Center in Birmingham, and participated in the weekend event with 88 other British Quakers, returning to the States on Monday October 14.
As you will see from their report posted below, the conference had a profound effect on all of them. Many thanks to Brigitte, Zac and Todd for making this journey
----------------------------------- Kindler's Visioning Conference Report ---------------------------------
Visioning New Fire
Weekend conference 10/11-10/13 2013
Report from Participants Sent on Behalf of Concord Quarterly Meeting
Brigitte Burger (Concord Meeting), Todd Krasnai (West Chester Meeting), and Zachary Dutton (Wilmington Meeting)
From Friday October 11 to October 13 2013, 91 Friends from three continents gathered for a conference at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham, England titled “Visioning New Fire.” The conference was led by the Kindlers, a project of N.W. London Area Meeting of Britain Yearly Meeting. Three Friends from Concord Quarterly Meeting were nominated to attend the conference, Brigitte Burger, Zachary Dutton, and Todd Krasnai.
The Kindlers were created by a small group of Friends seeking to rekindle the power of Quaker worship by renewing and deepening our spiritual practices. Many of the Friends who founded the Kindlers were also founders and organizers of Quaker Quest. This group of Friends discerned to cease their “whinging” and seek concrete solutions to renew and deepen Quakerism now. Everyone attending the conference was sent four queries to contemplate before the conference commenced. These queries were:
- What is needed to deepen the worshiping life of our meetings?
- How do we nourish our own spiritual lives more fruitfully?
- Are the times now urging us to look again at the roles of traveling Friends, elders, teachers and spiritual enablers?
- Is there a way for us to come to terms with contemporary religious insights and to share these more widely though out our Society?
Attenders of the conference were treated to talks by five different speakers, who spoke to the themes of “Where we are now”, “Visioning were we could go” and “Visioning how the Society can move forward given our current resources”.
Geoffrey Durham, one of the founders of the Kindlers, identified a shift in thinking as a result of a collective spiritual hunch. He spoke of the importance of outreach and how it can lead to inreach. He also commented that mistakes made through experimentation are a vital source of growth for our spiritual enrichment.
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Britain Yearly Meeting, reminded us that we cannot continue as a church of retired middle class people run by retired middle class people; we need to cultivate an inclusive religious community across class, race and age boundaries. He challenged us to discern and articulate not only our own ministry, but also that of our wider Quaker communities.
Richard Summers, General Secretary of Quaker Life at Britain Yearly Meeting, asserted that for Quakerism to flourish we need to become wholly ourselves and share from the depths of our beings with each other. We need leadership that empowers, facilitates and encourages rather that instructs.
Helen Rowlands, Head of Education at Woodbrooke, shared with us the vision and the study schedule of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre.
Simon Best, Woodbrooke tutor Nurturing Friends and Meetings, said that we are all ministers fulfilling ministry and not just filling jobs. He suggested that present structures be reevaluated to meet the needs of our current fellowship.
A series of workshops were held dealing with the Fruits of the Spirit and Experimenting with Light. Following these workshops Friends participated in a “Lucky Dip” that divided everyone into threshing groups. These threshing groups were the crux of the conference. Each group observed a formal business practice with a clerk and supporting elders. In these groups Friends firstly threshed ways in which Quaker renewal might happen and the forms it might take. Secondly, each group discerned a minute of their vision for a new fire within Quakerism.
At the conclusion of the conference, the writers of this report wondered why there are no groups similar to the Kindlers in the United States. This conference energized and excited us, and we have a sincere hope that something like this can be implemented and light a fire within the American Quaker community.
The three of us who participated are very grateful that Concord Quarter enabled us to attend the conference and bring home fresh ideas and inspiration. We are also grateful for the British Friends for welcoming us so warmly into their community.
PDF's and Links: This Report in PDF - The Kindler's Visioning Conference Epistle - Original Conference Web Page - A British Participants Reflection on Quakerism in England - Zac Dutton's Lead on Western QM Website