by Participants in Immersed in Prayer
Greetings to Friends everywhere, from the participants in the Immersed in Prayer: The Fourth Annual Gathering of Friendly Mystics. The gathering was held September 30 – October 4, 2016, at The Cenacle, Chicago, Illinois, organized by What Canst Thou Say? (WCTS), which is a journal for Quakers and others who have mystical experiences. WCTS is a meeting for worship in print.
At our third gathering at Friends Center in Richmond Indiana, we felt a call to move the gathering to a transportation hub in hopes that it would make traveling easier and less expensive. We chose the Cenacle Center in Chicago, on the recommendation of participants from the Chicago area. We found the energy of the Cenacle very helpful. We arrived with nerves jangling because of Chicago traffic; we walked into the quiet, serene Cenacle space and almost immediately re‐centered.
By blog and email we discerned that the name of this gathering would be Immersed in Prayer, the title of our upcoming book. (See our website whatcanstthousay.org for the invitation to write for the book.)
The first two days repeated the structure of previous gatherings, sharing our stories, with an extended worship on the morning of the third day. Each day included worship, small group worship sharing, and interest groups spontaneously initiated by participants. The gathering provided a safe space to share our mystical experiences, which some felt was not always comfortable in their home meeting.
Our first query was, “What is in your heart and soul as we gather?” Other queries included, “How have you been wounded when sharing your mystical experiences?” There were no plenaries, committee meetings or meetings for worship for business. Instead, we focused on sharing our stories and
supporting each other. Meeting each other has built relationships among mystics from coast to coast and made old friends more dear.
Interest groups included: Making Quakerism go viral, living as a public mystic, living the Quaker peace testimony, Heaven on earth, Quakers who were formerly Catholics, and healing ourselves. We celebrated holding a spontaneous clearness committee for a participant with a strong leading.
A highlight of the gathering was an open mic night that featured original poetry, stories, singing and harmonica. The performances inspired a circle dance during worship, inviting us to spread the joy of a mystic life.
Group worship sharing in response to queries such as, “What mystical experiences are you reluctant to share?” ran over because the Holy Spirit called us to share deeply from the heart about hard stuff:
The loneliness of being human and mystic both, in our culture.
We laughed together about being slow and fast learners. We hungered for mentors to help us avoid and not repeat our mistakes.
We would start to share something difficult to share and see nods of agreement, encouraging us to speak for others who had lived the same hard truth.
We witnessed the Holy Spirit working among and between us in many ways. Each evening we were all invited to help plan the next day’s agenda. We experienced the potential for this small group of Friends committed to the mystic path to support the spiritual lives of Friends everywhere. We shared a desire to invite others in our culture to the mystic life. We agreed that in our culture there is a need to teach minilessons on how the spiritual life can grow and develop, before expecting people to sit in silence for an hour and ‘get it’ by osmosis. How can we teach our methodologies for going deeper, when we haven’t articulated it ourselves? We were left with the challenge, What are our gifts? How might we use our gifts to share the good news that Jesus is here now to teach his people himself, and how to listen for his voice?
We look forward to gathering in Chicago next year and are seeking ways to extend our invitation more widely.
by Participants in Immersed in Prayer