Intervisitation holds us together: A reflection for World Quaker Day
Tim Gee, General Secretary, Friends World Committee for Consultation
My understanding of a Quaker approach to life is that we seek to live in the spirit of the earliest followers of Christ, in obedience to the living Christ – who is returned already in every person’s heart – and in anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven which is both here and yet to come.
Each of these alone is a huge concept, even before trying to hold them all together at once. Transformed into practice though a recognisable picture of Quaker faith in action shines through:
We live like the early church in our attempts to live in communion with God and as equally as we can with one-another. We follow the living Christ through prayerful discernment to inform our decisions, individually, in groups and globally. And we anticipate the Kingdom through our work for a more just and peaceful world.
None of this is easy. I gain strength from remembering that it never has been. Letters from James, Paul and Peter to the early Jesus followers begin with acknowledgements that times are hard, but encouraging perseverance nevertheless.
There have also always been differences which the wider community has always tried to reconcile. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul affirmed “you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” clarifying “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
Our global Quaker community is part of that living body today, and the love and care we show through intervisitation is the connective tissue, as it always has been. At one time that involved long journeys by foot, horse and boat. Now it is possible to share minutes, epistles and letters of greeting by email, and even join one-another virtually thanks to online and hybrid worship.
Access to the internet however is not equally distributed, neither in the world nor in world Quakerism, and sometimes we will be called to travel in person as well. This October, I plan to worship with Friends in Kenya, the country with the most Quakers in the world.
On 2 October – World Quaker Day – I hope you will join us with a livestream from Lang’ata Friends Church in Nairobi, or if the times don’t work well for you, one of a number of other Quaker gatherings around the globe also hoping for international online visitors. Likewise if you feel led to visit or welcome in person, do let us know, and we can help make introductions.
If the Kingdom of Heaven describes a time when all live in full communion with God, I see our gatherings for worship as being like rehearsals for that – moments when we live the Kingdom that is with each of us and feel it among us, ready to break out into the world, as it sometimes does through our social action. No-one knows exactly how the Kingdom will be, but we have some clues, including those offered by Luke:
“They shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of God”.
To take part in World Quaker Day, visit www.worldquakerday.org