I recently attended FUM’s emerging leaders conference. I enjoyed a weekend talking with about 30 people who have a passion for the future of the Society of Friends. Most, but not all of us were in the age range called Young Adult Friends (Under 35). I do believe that instead of age, the people were chosen based on their ‘convergent Friends’ credentials. While it was a FUM meeting, there were also guests with membership in EFI or FGC only.
One might comment upon the quality of the ’emerging leaders’. To be honest, several of the students seemed quite emerged to me, having been active in leadership and ministry for years. Some of them seem recognized by sight everywhere they go. I might consider it somewhat intimidating to be among such giants, except that I know some of them socially. In the room, there were several new, experimental meetings represented. We enjoyed lively discussion about where faith meets practice outside of the various parts of the program. If the passion and intelligence stays alive, Quakerism is looking to grow deeper in the 21st century.
If these are the new leaders, the future of Quakerism is likely small worship groups (often house churches, worship in coffee shops, et c.) with a strong volunteer ministry. The future will recognize that there are multiple ministry gifts and ministry models as well as a variety of needs. Most likely these new worship groups will be tightly networked, and interdependent upon one another. It is interesting that there are a such a variety of people with compatible dreams.
To be honest, what impressed me was not the quality of people I already knew to be people of quality, but the FUM’s desire to prepare for our dreams. Yes they provided lectures and workshops but they also asked questions. Staff wanted to know our dreams, what they did that helped, and what they did which was harmful. They wanted to know our vision and our frustrations with Quakerism. They also asked for suggestions on building a support system for leadership and new ministries. I am excited, not only because we have passionate people but, because the wider body wants to support this new passion.
It is difficult to predict what will happen, but I am deeply optimistic about the future of the Religious Society of Friends.