Monday, December 30, 2013

Yearly meetings and useless debates

In my archival research for the Bolivian Friends history project, I constantly sift through the rhetorical styles of years gone by. Some of it strikes me as funny. For example, in one of the annual minutes of California Yearly Meeting during the 1920s, the introduction to the document contains the recording clerk’s surprise and delight that in all the sessions that year, “there was no useless debate on boring topics.”
Imagine that, if you can. And consider it as a negative ideal to set before us as we gather in our own yearly meetings. Of course, it is possible that those 1920 Quakers experienced useless debate on several fascinating and pertinent topics. Or, even more probable, that they debated quite fruitfully on numerous mundane items of business.
I chuckle at this reminder of our humanity. The Quaker ideal of gathering to listen to God as a community committed to following the voice of Jesus is right on. It’s one of the aspects of our identity I love the most. It’s a vision we need to continually hold before us and ask the Spirit’s help to live into. But because we happen to be human, sometimes in our gathered meetings we uselessly debate boring topics.
This January Hal and I have been invited to speak in the evening sessions of the Bolivian Yearly Meeting, January 9-12, in La Paz. We board the plane tomorrow. Hal will preach on one of his favorite topics, the tension between Gospel and culture as experienced in the Aymara context. I get to preach on the biblical foundations of our history project. We are now in the process of waiting on the Lord, praying and preparing around those topics.
With the Spirit’s help, may the results be neither useless nor boring.


  1. I'm sure your input will be full of wisdom, love and stimulation. Thank you for preparing so diligently and for sharing so winsomely. May your trip be blessed in multiple surprising ways.

  2. Thank you. As ever, your prayers will be part of the blessing.