My partner and I recently heard we’d been unsuccessful in our application to volunteer for a year with Quakers in New Zealand. Naturally we were disappointed but we trust that NZ Friends discerned the right names.
We were left with a large question hanging over us – what now? We both feel that, as much as we love our jobs, it’s nearing the time where we should move on from our respective employers. Do we settle down in London? If I wish to pursue our careers, London is the place to be, although we have no hope of buying a property without sacrificing our part-time lifestyle, something that has contributed immeasurably to our quality of life. If we leave London, where to? Talking the matter over one night, Adrian said “I still want to have an adventure.” I replied “but it has to have some purpose. It can’t just be a holiday.” A purposeful adventure is what we craved, although we didn’t know what it would look like.
A couple of months ago I wrote my experience of Britain Yearly Meeting and my conclusion that trusting in the Spirit involves putting your trust in others. Putting this into practice, last week my partner and I entrusted the elders of my local Quaker community with our question. I requested a ‘meeting for clearness’. My suspicion that this is a greatly underused process was confirmed when elders confessed that they had never conducted one before. I am pleased to say that we were respectfully listened to and all of us were grateful for the experience.
What emerged for us from this meeting was a strong sense that our search for intentional community is our main priority. My priestly vocation is tied in with this search and may be revealed more fully through it. Despite our anxieties, we are in a very fortunate and flexible position with our jobs, money and time, for which we are hugely thankful. We already have some visits to different communities planned, firstly to Mount of Oaks in Portugal, and then to the Othona community in Essex. We will spend the next 12 months testing the water, visiting at least three more communities in the UK by Easter 2014. Then we will take the plunge, move out of our flat, leave our jobs and spend perhaps up to a year living in different communities both in Europe and the U.S.
This will take a lot of planning and if you have any recommendations, contacts or invitations then please get in touch! We are looking to spend time in communities Quaker and/or Christian, ideally where a same-sex couple wouldn’t cause a scandal (although I would love to spend some time with the Bruderhof and witness their radical economics).
Micah Bales most recent blog post on settled ministry expresses perfectly our longing to put down roots in a local community. Paradoxically, we feel that to learn what our settled ministry might look like, we have to do some traveling first. A source of inspiration for us is the writer Tobias Jones who was led to set up a community after visiting a variety of communities in England and Italy, documented in his book Utopian Dreams.
Another important outcome of our clearness meeting is that my partner and I are going to start worshipping together with the Quakers. I feel this is a large sacrifice for Adrian, who currently worships in the Church of England. I’m grateful in a bitter-sweet sort of way. Change always involves loss. I hope our worshipping together is a positive and strengthening experience.
We look forward to documenting the progression of our purposeful adventure on this blog.
Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another? Advice and Query no.27