Reaching out

I walked off the plane and into the gate lounge. Standing by the escalator was a man, floppy grey/white hair, tall, looking around as if he expected to see someone he knew. “Kevin” I said, and he looked at me. I shook his hand, then on impulse gave him a hug. Kevin (and his wife) introduced my parents to Quakers when I was nine years old. It was three years since I’d seen him last, and then only briefly. Kevin was over from Brisbane, travelling to Nelson to see his daughter who is two years younger than me, whom I haven’t seen for years.

Caught up in the catching up on career, friends and family with Kevin in the few minutes we talked, I didn’t think to thank him. Every once in a while I get a feeling of incredible good fortune, and ask myself “how, out of all the myriad possibilities in life did I get lucky enough to have found Quakers?” Mum and Dad were seeking something new at the time, and Kevin and Valerie reached out, told them about Friends, and (I imagine) invited them along.

In our non-evangelical brand of Quakerism, how much outreach is OK? Preaching on television is probably out, but if we don’t communicate who we are and how to find us, isn’t that being exclusive? How do we know what is acceptable? Maybe it’s not so much the ‘how’ or the ‘how much’ but the intent behind it. If we seek to convince, persuade others to join by our words maybe that’s going too far.  Spreading messages, pamphlets, going door to door all seems geared to ‘change’ people, to force them to see our way is right. Opening the door, welcoming people, and answering questions when they’re asked seems common practice though. How though do we make ourselves easier to find? How do we get it so that those seeking know there is a door to peer around?

George Fox said:

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.

So maybe it’s more about what we do, than what we write or say?

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One Response to “Reaching out”

  1. Anna D Says:

    Similarly I came to Quakers because someone suggested to my Mum that she might like to try them when she and Dad were looking for something that ‘spoke to their condition’ some 25 years ago.

    Given the enormous part Quakerism has played in my life since it’s hard to imagine what it would have been like if Mum hadn’t gone to the Zen group that met in the Meeting House and met one of the Meetings’ stalwarts there.

    I don’t know that I’ve done much to help people actually ‘find’ Quakers (other than during my 5yr stint on the British YF Outreach Committee!) but more to keep in touch with people and help us hang on to some of those who are drifting off and bring some of them back when the time has been right. Otherwise it’s more a case of being open about being a Quaker and all the discussion about that on Peggy’s blog about proslephobia! (www.sillypoorgospel.blogger.com – sorry, too technologically incompetent to know how to put links in your comments box!)

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