Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Stories of God's Love and Power

Workshop Number: 
Marcelle Martin
Who may register?: 
Open to All (adult & high school)
Experiential Activities: 
half gathering attenders welcome
First half (Monday-Wednesday)

Come learn in a worshipful setting about the radically transforming spiritual journey of the first Quakers, grounded in their understanding of scripture, and explore our experiences of God's transforming love and power.  We'll craft and tell stories that have the power to encourage the faith and faithfulness of others.

Workshop Description

My intention for this workshop is to create a worshipful setting in which to learn about the radically transforming spiritual journey of the first Quakers, which they grounded in their understanding of scripture.  We will also explore our personal and communal experiences of God's transforming love and power.  Working with these experiences as well as with stories from the Bible and Quaker history that inspire us, we'll craft and practice telling stories that have the power to encourage the faith and faithfulness of others. 

Each session will begin with about half an hour of presentation, followed by 30-45 minutes of unprogrammed worship.  This will be followed by opportunities to remember, reflect, and write or tell about our own related experiences.  Sharing on some days will be in small groups.  At the end of the week, each participant will have the opportunity to tell a story to the group. 

Monday: Living the Bible Story

            Early Friends understood the Bible not just as a history of what God had already done, but as a map for the spiritual journey.  They, too, were called to a purifying wilderness journey like Moses; they, too, were called, like Jesus, to journey through death of the self-will to perfect faithfulness to God's will for them, filled with the same power that inspired the prophets and apostles.

            During this session, small groups will act out Bible stories that illustrate God's love and power, and then participants will write a midrash, a retelling of any of the stories from the point of view of any character, with unlimited creativity allowed.

Tuesday: The Refiner's Fire

            Early Friends used many Biblical metaphors to describe the process they experienced once they turned to the Inward Light.  The Light showed them all the ways they participated in social norms that maintained deception, inequality, and oppression.  Their controlling fears, addictions, cravings for conformity or social status, and all other blocks to the Light were gradually melted  or scrubbed away, cleansed in multiple baptisms.

            A short version of the guided meditation called Experiment with Light will be an opportunity for participants to invite the Light to illuminate something within that is waiting to be understood, transformed, and/or healed.   This will be followed by an opportunity for journaling.

Wednesday: The New Birth

            All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, (Romans 8:14) The transformation process lived by early Friends led to what they called the New Birth, the death of "the old man" and the spiritual birth of the being they had been created to be, a son or daughter of God faithful to divine leadings. 

            Participants will have the opportunity to remember and write about experiences of their own or that they have witnessed of people or communities who spoke, lived, or acted in prophetic ways, following the leadings of the Spirit.  These stories will be shared in small groups.

Thursday: Living in the Cross

            Faithfulness to God's leadings often led early Friends to the experience they called "the cross."   This ranged from scorn and mockery for becoming Quakers, to loss of goods and property after refusal to pay tithes, to beatings and imprisonment for attending public meetings for worship or public proclamation of the Quaker message.  Persecution and suffering bonded the group more closely together.  In the process, identification with the self and the personal ego was further stripped away as they embraced participation in God's work of healing and transforming the world.

            Participants will have time to reflect and write about their own experiences of sacrifice or suffering in service to Love and Truth, and to reflect on whether or how that experience may have led to greater insight, compassion, and freedom to live fully for God's purposes.  This will be shared in small groups, and each person held in the Light of God's great love.       

Friday: Joined with the Fountain of Love

            The radical spiritual transformation experienced by early Friends led increasingly to what has been called in the Christian mystical tradition union with God.  We will look at how the first Quakers described this experience, which they often did by speaking of being joined with the divine Fountain of Love.  Some of them felt rivers of living water streaming out of them towards others.

            Participants will have the opportunity to read, perform, or tell a story they have developed during the week.

Suggested Reading

Reading posts of my blog, A Whole Heart, would be good advance preparation for participation in this workshop, but not required.  Daisy Newman's A Procession of  Friends is a wonderful collection of inspiring stories from Quaker history, many of which could be the basis for inspirational storytelling.

Elder            I am grateful that Elaine Emily of Pacific Yearly Meeting will serve as elder for this workshop.

Leader Experience

Since 1996, I have led three FGC Gathering workshops, as well as dozens of workshops at Quaker meetings, Pendle Hill, Powell House, and other settings.  My workshop style is highly experiential.