“Those of you who are kept by age or sickness from more active work, who are living retired lives, may in your very separation have the opportunity of liberating power for others. Your prayers and thoughts go out further than you think, and as you wait in patience and in communion with God, you may be made ministers of peace and healing…” London YM, 1923
This week I was able to experience those “prayers and thoughts” made manifest in the beloved faith community of New York Yearly Meeting. I have had a close and growing relationship with many Friends in NYYM – perhaps it is in part its similarities in was to my own Yearly Meeting, perhaps the closeness. I think it is more than that – I’ve experienced an opening of relationship and the affirmation that we Friends of these Yearly Meetings (and others as well) are a help to each other.
I had no formal role or task while here, and my daughter opted to stay home – I was totally free to simply be present as the Spirit moved me. I was often headed for a particular group or meeting, and would get “sidetracked” by a Friend wanting to share some news or reconnect. Those sidetracks WERE the Holy work for me this week – being in community and reminding everyone that we are all connected.
I joined with hundreds of folks being faithful, doing hard and holy work. Making effort to listen and see different points of view around thorny issues of discernment. Making space in the dining hall for younger folks who couldn’t see over the counter to get their meals. Group singing – sometimes in tune, sometimes in rhythm, ALWAYS in love. Small pockets of worship in early mornings, over meals, in late night conversations supported not only the attendees in the moment, but the body as a whole.
We heard news of God’s work being done, on the streets, in prisons, in our meetinghouses, on the internet. We wrote notes and cards and prayed for Friends who were absent, and Friends who struggled while at Sessions.
A significant time for me was sitting on the porch. Silver Bay has an expansive, inviting porch. It is filled from early morning to late evening with folks chatting, and visiting, and connecting. You may sit with Friends you have known for years. You may make new ones. In every instance, whomever I sat down next to had a story to share, a word of tender advice, a question about others I’d seen in my travels among Friends.
For me, Friend Beverly captured the spirit of the week and its people. She had struggled with significant health issues, and might not have been able to attend. She asked all she knew to pray for her – and her health improved enough to attend. I’m aware that prayer is not the only “cure” for difficulties (if you have a doctor – please go!) but Beverly embodied the prayers, the prayers, and told us all how she was carried by God this week. That holding is available anytime to us, in any place. We were all held in that space at this gathering.
And now we go out – back into “the world” of our mission field. We are still held. We are still the beloved community. It has no walls of exclusion – just a deep, expansive center that calls us into community. My prayer is that we all have had the directions to that place written on our hearts. We must seek it for all, and create it as we go.