I've been studying the Quakers more than usual lately. Not just the Friends General Conference -- the main fellowship for liberal Quakers, including many who aren't necessarily Christian -- but others, including the Holiness pastoral Quakers, and the Conservatives, with whom I would likely be most at home, should I ever go to the Friends. (No plans, though.) They're a interesting continuum, and I suspect offer many lessons both personally and for the institutions I care about.
A friend -- not a Quaker -- pointed out QuakerMaps.com as a resource for finding Quakers in North America and Europe, and its a good ministry worthy of emulation. And one with an actual funding model. (Perhaps not by a U.S. Unitarian Universalist, who are almost entirely in a single fellowship in the UUA; thus causing a duplication of effort.)
But before I saw that site, I downloaded a PDF of the world map of Quakers, by the Friends World Committee forÂ Consultation. Take a look.
The thing that touched me was the implied seriousness with with Jesus' promise that Â "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20) The lone worship group in Croatia has (or had) two members. Also in Lithuania. The one in Greece has three; Estonia's lone group has four. Denmark Yearly Meeting, in essence a national body, has 29 souls meeting in three different places. And I wonder how many more tiny groups are hidden in the statistics of relatively larger groups.
Which isn't a romantic impulse toÂ tininess. Perhaps members of these little groups are frustrated by their small numbers. Or not. And it must be more work per capita to keep small meetings going, though it isn't like faith is a wholesale business. And while some may be dwindling, legacy groups, I gather that others are much newer.
I could go back and forth like this all day, so suffice it to say that there's a recognized place in the Friends environment for the smallest gatherings -- even those that have no settled space and meet far less frequently than weekly. ("By arrangement" seems to be the mode of choice in some European countries.)
Recognition and respect -- that's worthy of emulation, too.
With this post, I open the category Quakers.