TAKING UP THE CROSS
2011 FGC Gathering Workshop
Margery Post Abbott
“The cross of Christ, which is the power of God.” These are the words Margaret Fell wrote in True Testimony in 1660. In their willingness “to take up the cross” – to practice radical obedience to God — Friends have done much to turn the world upside down. Today, Friends’ response to “the cross”, is scattered at best–some may see it as a central symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection; others may find it irrelevant or even part of a damaging theology. Few Friends now would say, as Margaret Fell did, that obedience to the cross is “the power of God” in our lives.
This workshop will be a time of exploring in our hearts, spirit and bodies, what “taking up the cross” meant in the lives of Early Friends and what it might mean in our lives today. We will prayerfully consider such questions as:
– What might it mean to take up the cross?
– How are we called to change outwardly and inwardly?
– Can we help each other to take up the cross, to heed God’s particular call to us?
– What can we learn about the meaning and power of the cross from Early Friends’ experience and from Christian theology?
– What does taking up the cross have to teach us about being with, and not fleeing from, the suffering in the world?
– What might contemporary Friend Bill Taber have meant by his often-spoken phrase, “the cross of joy?”
Our approach is one of awe in the face of mystery, even as we are perplexed by the many incomprehensible and sometimes offensive meanings which people attach to the concept of “the CROSS.” We ask many questions and offer only tentative answers other than the reality of our experience of Love which knows no bounds. We come together as individuals with different understandings of and different levels of acceptance of the Christian way and find the early Quaker experience of taking up the cross to have resonance with Buddhist and other teachings: a place where it is possible to step aside from the demands of the ego and touch into the intersection of eternity and the temporal.
This workshop is a collaboration of four Friends who participated in the Way of Ministry Program at Pendle Hill in 2008-2009 and who have continued to meet regularly by phone since that time. In our shared engagement with taking up the cross, we hope to share our experience of working together as Friends: in this we know that leadership arises not from any person but from a motion of Love.
Our format will be primarily extended worship, experiential exercises, journal writing, and worshipful sharing, although there will be some presentation. The four of us will share leadership in a fluid manner, each of us bringing significantly different approaches. Marge or Emma will normally take the lead in the sessions. Ken and Allison will be present as elders for all of us.
We would suggest that you read in advance one of the following (all are available at the FGC bookstore):
• Margery Post Abbott, To Be Broken and Tender: A Quaker Theology for Today (www.westernfriend.org);
• Brian Drayton, Getting Rooted: Living in the Cross. A Path to Joy and Liberation (Pendle Hill Pamphlet #391, 2007)
William Penn, No Cross, No Crown (Friends United Press, 2007)
Margaret Fell “True Testimony” in Terry Wallace, A Sincere and Constant Love (Friends United Press 2009 ).
Bring with you your journal. Bring images of the cross if you wish to share them.
FOLLOWING IS A ROUGH SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK
MONDAY: What can we learn about the meaning and power of taking up the cross from Early Friends’ experience and from the Bible?
• What “cross” do we bring with us? Checking our own assumptions, prejudices and faith experience through journal writing and worshipful sharing.
• Reflection on the words of Scripture.
• Engaging with early Friends’ understanding of taking up the cross to self-will, and “obedience to the cross is the Power of God.”
TUESDAY: What might it mean to me and to my faith community to take up the cross? How does taking up the cross call us to change inwardly and outwardly?
• The transformative dimension of taking up the cross. Experiential exercise to engage with transformation in our own lives and in our community. Reflections on “obedience” – to God, to the heart, and to leadings (both its dangers and its richness); “being a channel for God’s love”, “being an instrument.” Also Buddhist “emptying” and “non-attachment.”
• How the cross opens us to love, not punishment, and how it is an expression of our hopes and fears about our relationship to God.
• Taking up the cross as life by concern.
WEDNESDAY: What does taking up the cross have to teach us about being with, and not fleeing from, the suffering in the world and in our own lives? How does love transform suffering?
• Exploring full engagement with life, rather than seeking to avoid pain.
• Reflecting worshipfully in response to art developed in response to George Bush’s War on Terror, environmental damage and the message “abide with me.”
THURSDAY: How can we help one other to take up the cross, to hear and heed God’s particular call to us jointly and individually?
• Holy accompaniment and spiritual accountability; what experience do we bring to this?
• Exercise: walking with others who are in suffering or in pain. Queries: Where do I need accompaniment?, What is nurturing/valuable even if difficult to hear?, What kinds of words or behavior make me withdraw or reject accompaniment?, What makes accompanying others difficult for me? What causes me to say “I can’t do this”?
• What healing and support is needed for me to address the concern that I am given?
FRIDAY: The Cross of Joy – one paradox of being a Friend.
• Knowing the joy and liberation which come with taking up the Cross
• Obedience to the cross as loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself
• The joy possible in this life and the expectation of joy in the next life.
• Writing Exercise and Sharing: Where do you feel life and energy arising? What might you bring back to your community?