31 August 2009


Just the word summons one to mindfulness. Pictures of people returning to an old homestead, carrying food, waving and shouting words of welcome. Quietly taking in the surroundings, pondering what has changed. Such was the opening of Hopewell Centre's homecoming celebration.

Myself, I had been whirring and stirring inside for several days, to the point a friend had to remind me, "Be STILL and know that I am God, Be still and KNOW that I am God, Be still and know that I AM God..." I was filled with expectant longing and fear of the unknown...would we have enough food, would there be enough chairs, would enough people show up, would they be entertained, all the stuff that is none of mine to worry about. God had it all under control.

We were so pleased that the Winchester Star gave us a front page coverage on Saturday. A lovely piece that detailed homecoming, but also gave wonderful recountings of why some of us became friends. Pictures of the peaceful interior and the waiting exterior (that's how I always see our meeting as I approach it: waiting for our entry, holding the space for us). The article's author was a kind and thorough person, with curiosities of her own.

Saturday night, when the chicken salad was made, and my truck was full of the chairs from Centre, I finally fell off to a sound sleep, and I dreamed of Finney, that wondrous welcoming personage of her as I had entered the building before, too many times to count. Though Finney's body would not be with us, I felt her hands holding mine and felt her warm smile on me in my dream, telling me she would be there in Spirit.

Entering early, I knew they were all there. All the souls of all the members who'd sat here for so many homecomings, and even the ones from the times before, when every Firstday return to meeting was a homecoming. I was anxious to sit and enter worship. I wanted to commune with them, those who are always there and available, but to whom I often pay no mind. I'd had visions driving down the road (almost the same road they traveled), of the wagons and carriages, packed high with belongings, children restless on the bench, quieted by the mothers, fathers driving on, almost brooding, in their expectant pondering of what lay beyond.

How they must have felt when they arrived. The vast wilderness of the Shenandoah Valley stretched out before them. On this hill they saw the tips of the Blue Ridge beckoning them, and it was a fertile land of fields and forests. Surely this was home!

What of the first time they entered their log cabin meeting house? As they sat silently in the rough hewn benches, did they, as I, ponder the amazing work of God to draw them here to a community in the woods? Did they marvel that God had provided for them all the things necessary to make this home? Were they thankful for the logs and the lumber, the food they set out for each other, the fruits of their labors made possible by the beneficence of their Creator?

Yes, I heard silently, all that and more. They believed beyond belief that this was the place God had planted them, and that it was for a reason. Their history unfolded just as it should, and generations and generations proceeded with the business at hand, leading up until today.

250 years ago, they sat for the first time in the stone expanse that is our building now. Friends had grown so dense in the valley, that this was one of many meeting houses, and it would be home to the greater gatherings of the region of Friends, the place they came to gather together. Hosts of small communities linked to the original group, worshiping close to their homes, gathering for business and worship here at periods deemed appropriate.

I envisioned the carriages approaching, the expectant chatter and laughter of the children, about to see long time friends. A respite from the work of the farm, this day of rest, when farmers compared notes and wives compared recipes, and children released from their chores were free to play.

I imagined the wall returned to the center of the meeting, when Orthodox and Hicksite Friends worshipped separately. I thought, at least one from each side held the other in the Light. Finally, when the older side of the building was falling in disrepair, Friends released their differences to God and worshipped together in one side, while repairing the other. Sometimes the practicalities of life bring us together more than our emotions ever would.

All this came to me in worship yesterday. Then, as a Friend rose to speak of the children, and the need to have them to carry on the message, my own sweet journey flooded in on me. I was only 14 when I attended my first worship with a friend whose family were Friends. I had no idea what that meant except that in the 1960s it sounded like a "nice" way to worship. I had no clue my own journey would draw me through to where I landed at Buckingham Friends in Bucks County, sure that I had always been a Friend in my heart.

This rich community, the Society of Friends, the friends of Jesus mentioned in the Bible, has called me to be more of myself than I ever realized existed. So, I am sure, felt many others yesterday. Friends shared their journeys to that place, that moment in time. Some were new to worship, drawn by others, or by the news. Some were old Friends, who traveled the road home many times, and now once more returned. Some had not been Meeting for a long time, but somehow felt summoned to celebrate.

In the vibrancy of celebration, it was clear that Friends have a message for the traveler. Come home! Here is where you can find rest on your journey. Come home! Here is where your heart will be refreshed and your soul nourished. Come home! Here is where you will find the answers to your deepest questions, and more questions to beckon you further.

Yesterday, Friends came home to Hopewell Centre, and they were not disappointed. Home, and all the souls before them, were waiting expectantly for their arrival.

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