Society of Friends Family Tree

From our Pastor, Daphne Clement

“I would like to see us (the Religious Society of Friends) turn our family tree upside down,” I said.  And Margaret Cooley, Director of Woolman Hill, immediately saw what I was envisioning and responded: “The branches would then be our roots.”[1]

Our family tree turned upside down?  The branches now the roots?  If this were so, would it mean that Friends have learned from the mistakes of the past?  This version of the Family Tree would surely portray a mature Society of Friends in which real Christian love of God, of the Light and of each other would help us to be tolerant and respectful of difference.

Here in New England where so much of American Quaker history originated, we have had lots of opportunities to practice and nurture this sort of tolerance and love of each other; throughout our 350 year history, we have at times done this well … and at other points, when it came to bearing with diversity among Friends … we fell quite short … short on Love.  The problems among us have reflected the larger human condition and are illustrative of how we humans tend to think and act when we are not centered in the Light.

It is so easy to be swept up in controversy and be swayed by the warmth of emotion generated by strong opinion.  It is the real work of elders and ministers in the face of such controversy to hold fast to the Light … allowing the Light to transform and make room for a potential “new thing” to be wrought among us.

I propose to you that since George Fox abolished the laity … making us truly the “priesthood of all believers” … we are all ministers.  And because we Friends are all ministers now, this is our task: To trust in Light of God and in the awesome diversity of God’s creation, knowing that really, there are as many ways to worship as there are people.  And because we know this, let us join together, as kindred: Friends General Conference (FGC), Friends United Meeting (FUM), Evangelical Friends International (EFI), Conservative, Independent, Programmed and Un-programmed … let us value each other … let us love each other … letting go of divisive judgment  … let us turn our family tree upside down. 

[1] Several weeks ago we, the Durham Friends Meeting, hosted a Woolman Hill Board Meeting. Before worshiping together they presented a slide show portraying the beauty of Woolman Hill Retreat Center in Western Massachusetts. Part of their presentation was an opportunity for us to respond to their inquiry about the ways Woolman Hill might better serve the program needs of New England Meetings.

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