Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
New Foundation workers and supporters gathered at Ellis and Rebecca Hein's property near Casper, Wyoming, for an annual gathering in Seventh month, 7th through 10th. Seven people attended, two of them new to our gathering. Those attending were Kevin Anderson, Casper; Patricia Dallmann, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Rhonda Fuller, Lansing, Michigan; Ellis Hein, Casper; Rebecca Hein, Casper; Rae Lawrence, Milton-Freewater, Oregon; and Ron Sirkel, Lees Summit, Missouri. On the first evening of the gathering, we met for worship and introductions.
Each day began with extended worship, followed by presentations: one each on Sixth-day morning and afternoon, and one on Seventh-day morning. All were recorded by Kevin, who then made CD copies, which were distributed to attenders at the end of the gathering. Each of the three presentations was followed by good discussion, and on Seventh-day afternoon, we enjoyed discussing Edward Burrough's writing found inThe Works of George Fox, III, 11–14.
On Sixth-day morning, Ellis presented an excerpt from his book in progress titled The Early Quaker Gospel and Modern Christianity. The excerpt was chapter 15, titled "What is wrong with man-made religion?" Through references to both testaments of Scripture, Ellis illustrated the difference between the way God would have us live--in relationship with Him through his Son--and the alternative that assaults humanity and would deprive us of our rightful, intended life. The relationship of faith for which we are created consists of hearing and obeying the Word of God, and is an individual as well as corporate obligation of the Church, the unified body with Christ "as its active, functional head."
In the afternoon Rebecca spoke on the topic, "Hearing the Voice of God: From the Inside and the Outside." Whether God speaks to us directly (from within) or through another (from the outside), the fruit of hearing his voice is the same: clarity, gratitude, increased trust and confidence in his guidance; and the knowledge of what he requires along with the power to carry it out. We do not possess these results and can never command them because our own efforts to help ourselves don't work. We may exhort or lecture ourselves or each other, but all it creates is guilt and a sense of being overburdened. No amount of human reasoning or effort can lift us out of our condition.
At times, the number of voices that assail us—inwardly and outwardly—can become overwhelming and too loud. In addition, many people ask, "How do I know which is the voice of God?" If we are listening with a whole heart, undivided in our allegiance, we will be able to distinguish the "word that reaches…[us] with absolute authority…and which evokes a response of humble unconditional obedience." Lewis Benson, "George Fox's Message is Relevant for Today," in The Quaker Vision (NFF Publication #4) .
The following morning, Patricia presented a paper titled "Partaking of the Sufferings," which featured early Friends testimony of their inward life prior to knowing God, the time of their hearts' preparation for receiving Christ Jesus. Testimony of Friends' early life was contrasted to a diametrically opposed ethos manifested in a worldly group of 19th c. Roman Carnival revelers, who embodied a self-aggrandizing drive that is grounded in fear and worship of death.
These two opposing orientations illustrated the choice that confronts all people regardless of century or culture: a choice for which each bears personal responsibility and endures consequences. Partaking of the suffering that accompanies a personal perseverance toward truth is the preparation Friends have discovered to be necessary; whereas opting for the world's way of self-deluded autonomy and aggression is not.
As the gathering was held outside, we felt the ample sun and wind of a Wyoming summer, and we benefited from a large canopy that Ellis and Kevin had constructed beforehand. Meals were ample and delicious and added to our enjoyment of one another's company. During our socializing, we inclined to Quaker topics, and Ellis shared some unpublished writings of Lewis Benson and also a book of Stephen Crisp's writings. Nature was also a frequent topic, and we enjoyed the song of birds and views of rugged landscape. One evening three Friends climbed to the top of a nearby hill to see a night-blooming Ten Petal Blazing Star (Mentzelia decapetala), and were also given a beautiful sunset.
On First-day, we met for worship in the morning and were favored to receive gospel ministry. After lunch, we had a lengthy conversation about future gathering sites and times that would enable more workers and attenders to participate. Several possibilities were suggested, and we intend to investigate them. We said good-bye and parted mid-afternoon.
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