Living Fellowship Needs Fresh Forms

By Daphne Clement. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 471), 2021. 30 pages. $7.50/paperback.

This is a lively and useful pamphlet. The author brings curiosity, historic research, literary knowledge, and worshipful experience to a robust exploration of living fellowship among Quakers. During the pandemic, Daphne Clement, retired hospice chaplain and coordinator of spiritual care, began each day in worship on Zoom. For 19 months, waiting worship transformed COVID-19 lockdown into a life-sustaining spiritual retreat for Friends who gathered in collective connectedness. “Six days a week has such a different feel,” wrote one. “It strengthens my capacity to deal with situations, medical and political. It helps me stay in worship throughout the day.”

Living Fellowship Needs Fresh Forms begins by quoting Parker Palmer: “Truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter.” The author’s queries extend the conversation:

  • Can a Beloved Community created in a time of crisis be sustained when things change?
  • What are the future possibilities for this sort of communion among Friends?
  • Might this be a way of gathering Friends from far and wide?

Clement shows how differing views on the Bible divide Friends. Old Lights adhere to tradition; new Lights seek continuing revelation. “The Religious Society of Friends is not alone in experiencing tension. We have been witness to deep tensions between authority and freedom in our country as well. There lies a great gulf between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ . . . Animosity abounds!”

Seeking to understand this animosity, the author revisited the Greek myth of Narcissus. She retells the old wisdom story to reveal loneliness and loss of essence as causes of a narcissistic condition that numbs our souls.

What, I wonder, might Narcissus’s experience have been had he been sitting at the pool’s edge regularly with a community of wise and weighty Friends?. . .  Perhaps their presence might have kept him more real. He might have been more able to recognize the difference between his reflected image and his genuine essence.

I trust her assurances: “More than many faith groups, the Society has the capacity to adapt to change. We can be fluid to meet the needs of a changing world.” “We are witness to the formation of an amazing technological society that has risen to meet the need for communion among Friends during the past year and a half of the pandemic. And we morning worshipers are so grateful for the innovation.”

She wonders about the future, inviting Friends to reflect on their own circumstances: “So, will our everyday Zoom worship endure?” Clement asks. “Is digital worship the new way of life?”

Thanks to Ben Lomond Quaker Center in Santa Cruz County, Calif., I, too, began each pandemic day by sharing expectant, waiting worship with Friends around the globe. It nourished me for more than a year, but I stopped attending once restrictions eased.

What canst thou say?

Judith Favor worships with Claremont (Calif.) Meeting, Southern California Quarterly Meeting, and Pacific Yearly Meeting. Her most recent book is Friending Rosie: Respect on Death Row (Page Publishing), also available as a shorter Pendle Hill pamphlet, Friending Rosie on Death Row.

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1 thought on “Living Fellowship Needs Fresh Forms

  1. I feel the imminent fuel shortages will create a situation where if you can’t walk, or ride a bike to Meeting, your only way to share MfW will be via Zoom. Some Friends are reluctant to admit “technology” into MfW. I feel the visual & audible connection provided by Zoom, tho less intimate than elbow-to elbow sharing, is far better than each member worshiping alone, in complete isolation.

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