Uncovering Hope

 

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Not long before Donald Trump announced victory, early on the morning of Wednesday, November 9, my brother Kento died.

I was in Italy, meeting him for the first time just days before he passed. There in the hospital, he was unable to speak or move much at all. But he squeezed my hand. And it meant the world to me.

Our hands touched.

And then he died.

It’s been a hard month. Hard to know what’s real. Some days, I find myself curled up on the floor, crying, not always sure about what. Other days, most days, I’m numb. Tired. I’ve been struggling to pray, talk, write. It’s hard to make sense of these things. Of anything.

A few days after Kento died, my family flew back to Trump’s America. Nothing makes sense.

On the other hand, it feels familiar.

I remember sitting on floors in New York, in Brazil, in South Korea. Always, my legs were crossed, as I listened to our self-proclaimed savior, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church and revered Second Coming of Christ. He talked for hours about how we should live, about the people we should avoid, about his own perfection. Hours and hours and hours. Of talk.

Much of it was hate – for gay people (“dung-eating dogs”), for women (American women were sluts), for black people (“little by little the color of black people will gradually become lighter”) – in the name of “peace.” His message took root in people like my parents, discontented idealists whose hurts and hopes he used to his own advantage.

People gave their lives and all they owned to serve Moon and his church.

Moon’s evangelistic successes made him feel powerful. Entitled. There were affairs. Sexual abuse and assault. Human trafficking. He arranged a marriage between two of his own children – half-siblings. In Moon’s mind, people were objects to be manipulated and used for his own purposes. His own successes. His own pleasure.

He was a deeply selfish man. And we worshiped him.

When I see Donald Trump or read his words, I think of Moon. The language he uses, his posture, his tone, the way his face moves. Trump thinks he’s better than other people. Trump believes he is our savior. Only he knows best. Only he counts. He is impulsive, controlling, demeaning. He takes advantage of people’s hurts and hopes in order to radicalize them, in order to get what he wants.

I know what one man can do with a religion. I don’t yet know what one similar man can do with a country.

And yet, somewhere deep in me, there’s hope.

My brother, Kento, was surrounded each day in that hospital by people who knew him and loved him – people who were also strangers to me. His kindness drew people in – they all had stories.

He squeezed my hand, and I am reminded of all the ways I’ve been held together by those who love me. I’ve felt God’s hands. God’s arms. I know what it is to be held by love.

Our hands touched, and then he was gone. But the rest of us. We’re still here.

Nothing makes sense right now. Except this.

We’re still here.

I’m still here.

And I need you. To help uncover the hope in me while I help uncover the hope in you.

Maybe that feels like drinking beer, watching as much Gilmore Girls as possible before the new mini-series is released, praying even though we’re not sure how or what for. Maybe it feels like church. A community of wounded healers.

Because strong men can’t take everybody captive. And others – once used up and thrown away – will need us more than ever. Maybe this is why I still believe in church, even though I’m disappointed by so much of it. We need each other. And as we show up for each other – even as we ache, even as we feel destroyed – we testify that love is worth it. We are worth it.

I can’t promise everything will be OK or that justice will prevail. We can already see that things are going to get a lot worse before they can get better. But I can promise you this: you don’t have to be alone. Come, sit down next to me, and I’ll hold your hand.

“Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.”Junot Diaz

Thoughts (and excuses) about my church attendance

I have a confession: I don’t regularly or actively participate in a faith community. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, as somebody who works for a religious organization and as somebody who has a (self-proclaimed) high ecclesiology, but… honestly, church has been a much more more draining experience than a life-giving one and I’m done trying to make it work.

At least for now.

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Church ought to be a sanctified brunch.

Perhaps my idealism sets me up for such disappointment, and perhaps this decision reveals the individualistic nature of my “millennial” faith, and maybe that’s all true. What I know for certain is that church, as I’ve experienced it, is unhelpful to me.

That isn’t to say I’ve never had an edifying experience in church. In times of discouragement or discernment, I often return to the promises prophetically uttered by lay ministers in the charismatic church or hear a Friend’s vocal ministry bounce throughout my head and lead me into Light.  But time after time, I’ve tried to find my voice in such spaces, I’ve tried to find ways to serve and grow in such communities, and it’s been pretty fruitless. And I like to think that I’m a friendly, personable guy, and somehow I’ve found it impossible to get grounded in a spiritual community.

So, again, I’m done for a little while. And I’m really okay with that.

I wasn’t always. In fact, I have spent a lot of time condemning myself for not living up to my Quakerism, or my Christianity, by being “out of community.” At a certain point, though, I just didn’t have the emotional energy to care any longer.

I still attend Quaker meeting to stay connected to Friends and to enjoy the power of corporate silent worship, but I probably pop in once a month. And I also go to various churches, to hear the Bible read and to sing hymns sung by thousands, if not millions, of saints before me. I do that even more infrequently.

Can I still claim to be Quaker, or even a Christian, when at the core of our faith is the Church? Can I still claim to follow Jesus when I am out of touch with his body? I think it’s a good question. I don’t know the answer and I don’t know if I ever will. I still dream of being in a house church, where tongue-talking, poetry reading, deep silence, delicious food, and political demonstrations are on the agenda, and I’m somehow confident that I’ll someday have that. But in the meantime, I will continue to try to bring and be the church wherever I go, and hopefully, sooner than later, I’ll find a way to sustainably, functionally, and joyfully be in community.

That being said, I know I love Jesus, and I am even more confident that he loves me. I know that I encounter the presence of God in staff meetings, when I mutter in tongues while making spreadsheets, when I see people make friends with strangers on the bus, when I watch my nephew play on my brother-in-law’s lap, and while I sip genmaicha and listen to my mother’s spiritual reflections each morning. Maybe that’s not enough, but for now, it’s what I can handle. It’s what I can do.

 

Last One Standing: A More Thorough Update on My Life

A picture my [former] roommate, Carson, took at the end of the year QVS retreat

A picture of my house’s altar that my [former] roommate, Carson, took at the end of the year QVS retreat

Two days ago, QVS ended, and today I am leaving the QVS House. I’m the last one to move out and I already have seen all five of my roommates pack up and leave. My heart has been broken five times, as each roommate left the house, taking more and more of our house’s spirit with them. I have a lot of things on my mind and I am currently feeling a lot. But I feel satisfied. I am at peace. A lot happened this year, and it was difficult, and it was confusing, and often I’ve come to more questions than answers, but I’ve received a lot of wisdom, support, and love, and can say I have learned a lot. I would even say I feel more fully me.

Through my internship with AFSC, I have been able to learn from experienced organizers and activists. I have been primarily assisting AFSC’s Peace Program, which is focused on community peace-building and empowerment, as well as Project Voice, an immigrant rights program. I have been given opportunities to be on committees, planning for city-wide events like the May Day march, as well as speak at conferences and write grant proposals. More importantly, though, I was able to help with a program at Jefferson High School where I got to witness youth seeing the need for non-violent action and living it out in their communities.

In Portland, a Convergent stronghold, I’ve seen cross-branch cooperation unlike I’ve ever encountered before. The willingness for Liberal and Evangelical Friends to fellowship and learn from one another is a beautiful gift that the QVS house has been able to benefit from. The diversity of theology and spiritual practice among the supporting meetings has been the perfect space to explore what Quakerism means to me.

And, of course, I lived with five others I am proud to call my housemates—Ally, Carson, Rachel, Emily, and Kathleen—all of whom are brilliant, hard-working, compassionate human beings. These people are my community. I will not pretend that living in community has been easy. We have had to work towards being a community, and it remained a work in progress till the end. I will say that it has been worth it. I’ve had a ton to learn about communication, especially as somebody who avoids confrontation at all costs. Quaker values have undoubtedly held our community together, as we sought to not just co-exist in a house but dealt with hurts and misunderstandings with sincere intentions of peace-building.

We ended our year together on a retreat near Hood River, deep in the country. All around us were orchards, the forest, and a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. The time we spent together was meaningful, to say the least, and one of the deepest experiences I’ve had of “feeling seen”. I can confidently say that our retreat was beautifully crafted by both our local coordinator Sarah Klatt-Dickerson and the Spirit. Those moments will undoubtedly be defining for my experience in QVS.

I need to say thank you to everybody who has held me in the Light, prayed for me, encouraged me, and donated to me. You made this experience of QVS what it was. I still need to raise about $1,500, for the sake of paying off loans (which was included in my fundraising goal) and finishing my QVS payments. Any and every donation counts. You can donate on my GoFundMe or on paypal (sungis@gmail.com). That said, I cannot deny that I have been blessed immensely and I know I will look back to this year in the future and see it as formative and vital to my story.

As much as this transition hurts, I am ready for my next chapter. Hold me in the Light as I settle in Philadelphia and figure out my next steps. Also, I have a special prayer request for my family as there have been some painful repercussions from my post a few weeks back, “My Strange Relationship with the Mooniverse.” I do not want to go into details, but I know my actions, namely coming out as the founder and administrator of How Well Do You Know Your Moon, has put pressure on them. It does not help that last week I posted a video of one of Moon’s concubine’s sons telling his mother’s story, as well as sharing some of his own. It has been reaching the Unification community, reaching 3,000 hits in five days. Pray for me as I discern what my role in this work should look like and figure out how to be prophetic and in line with the Spirit.  Thank you, Friends. 

A Brief Update: Ending My Year With QVS

This is an extremely brief update (if the title didn’t give that away) and I could go into more detail about the work I have done with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the work QVS Portland has done together, but that is not where my mind or heart is, so excuse me.

My year with the Quaker Voluntary Service is coming to an end. And it is starting to hurt.

House dinner on my birthday.

House dinner on my birthday.

During meeting this past Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel emotional as I sat next to three of my housemates. The realization that our year is coming to an end has been trickling in slowly but surely, but as I sat beside them and worshiped in silence, the mourning process accelerated quite a bit. I am going to miss these people. A lot. Even though I wasn’t always the kindest person, and conflict had a very real presence in the house, I love my housemates. We worked through a lot and we shared many sweet and even powerful moments and simply put, they’re great. All five of them.

Since that moment in meeting, I’ve been hit pretty hard with this realization over and over again. Though I have complained a lot about this year and every so often feel like I somehow failed my QVS year, the truth is that this year has been incredible. I did good work with AFSC, I met many brilliant F/friends, lived with five earnest and passionate individuals, experienced both the Liberal and Evangelical branches of Quakerism, discovered what Quakerism means to me, received some insight into my future and calling, and lived in Portland, Oregon—which is a glorious thing in so many ways. I’ve been very blessed and I cannot deny it.

July 29th, my last day of QVS, is approaching, and I have to clean and pack and figure out some logistics for my next step, which is moving to Philadelphia. Other than the moving part, I have little idea of what is next. I am glad that I will be near my family (who keep reproducing) and many of my friends, and I’m ecstatic that I will have a Friends of Jesus worship group nearby. Also, being in the heart of American Quakerism is pretty cool. I will miss Mt. Hood, Burgerville, kombucha on tap, my office, and all the children of God I have encountered here, but I’ve received a lot of confirmation and clearness that it is to move on.

As much as it hurts, I think I am ready.

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My Strange Relationship with the Mooniverse

Long time no see. I had hoped to keep my blog updated as I went through my year with the Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), but work got busier, life took many twists and turns, and I just couldn’t find the time to put out a post. And now I’m at the very end of the year. Whoops. I feel terrible about it, as I imagined blogging to be a powerful spiritual discipline and an engaging way to show off the brilliant work of the QVS. I apologize for those few readers who actually looked forward to my posts.

A somewhat recent picture of the Portland QVS Fellows

A somewhat recent picture of the Portland QVS Fellows

In all honesty, I also didn’t have much to say. I started this year hoping to explore Quakerism for all that it is, and to some degree I was able to do that. I read plenty of books on Quaker theology and practice, I experienced the worship and communities within both the Liberal and Evangelical traditions, and I was able to connect even deeper to the Friends of Jesus Fellowship despite our distance. In many ways, I’ve discovered what Quakerism means to me. But really, that hasn’t been the query I’ve been all too concerned about the past year.

What I have been reflecting on and wrestling with kind of took me by surprise… and I’ve actually been blogging daily, despite my absence on this blog—I’ll get to that bit later.

You see, before I was a Quaker, and before I was speaking in tongues, and waaaay before I had come to have faith in Jesus, I was a Moonie. I was born and raised in the Unification Church; a Second Generation member. This is a topic I’ve always struggled talking about, even with those close to me. Sometimes my zeal against the Unification Church can be a bit overwhelming for those listening, and there have been many times where I have attempted to mold my past in the Moonies to simply be something strange and funny, but most of the time I try avoiding that conversation at all costs.

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Praying at a UC event in Newark, NJ.

For those who know nothing of the Unification Church, it is a cult. Of that I am confident. As somebody who has been critically researching the Unification Church the past six years, and as somebody who was born and raised in the Movement, I am constantly surprised and appalled by the corruption I keep discovering within it. The layers of deception and tragedy really seem unending.

Long story short, the group was founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claimed to be the second coming of Christ and established a religious, financial, and even political empire for him and his family to live off. He displayed very real signs of being a sociopath and his rule over the Moon Kingdom was absurdly nonsensical and cruel.  I bowed to his picture every morning and believed he was the messiah. He was my messiah.

I have a hard time sharing about this part of my life because it is so foreign to people and often times people’s reactions are disappointing. Perhaps my expectations are too high for how people should react, and perhaps sometimes I make my delivery of this part of my story a bit too light-hearted, but somehow, after being out of the church for the past six years, I still do not how to talk about it.

After reading “In the Shadow of the Moons” by Nansook Hong, I had finally become convinced that I could no longer associate myself with the Unification Church. I had been exploring my unbelief in Moon and his teachings for a year prior to this decision but continued my affiliation with the church. I had hoped to keep my ties to the church strong despite my lack of faith. After reading Hong’s account of her abusive marriage to Rev. Moon’s son and finding out that much of the church’s corruption is rooted in and endorsed by Moon, I knew I had to leave.

It was around that time I started writing a tumblr-blog called “How Well Do You Know Your Moon” in order to process my departure from the faith. It was meant to be a anonymous personal journal, and I didn’t find it necessary to publicize or advertise what I was writing. My entries were mainly about the inconsistencies in Unification theology, but I wrote on other matters such as the forming denominations and splits in the Unification Movement. Within a few weeks, my blog was discovered by church leaders and a witch-hunt ensued. The blog has been up for six years, though we temporarily took it down for a week at one point, and dozens of people have contributed and helped build the blog to be a constant whistle-blower of church corruption and a major resource on UC history. We’ve had several legal threats thrown at us from the Moon family and the church but luckily such threats were empty.

There were many months, if not several years, where my moderation of the blog died down a bit and I took a more hands off approach, blogging only when most convenient or urgent. Recently, though, I have found a renewed sense of passion and have made it a goal to daily report on the injustices of the Unification Church, including fraud, human trafficking, sexual abuse, etc.

My lack of activity with the blog was my way of “getting over” my experience in the church. I was constantly told by members that I was “bitter”, “resentful”, and “negative,” and I half-believed them. I’ve found that even among my friends, there is a hesitance to discuss the church we left behind. Many claimed to have moved on and feel no need to dwell in the past, and I’ve often shut down my own concerns and struggles because I didn’t want to waste my time thinking about the church.  But maybe I am bitter, resentful, and negative, and maybe that’s not that bad of a thing. I’m still on the road to healing and forgiving, but I also feel that an anger towards the viciousness of the UC is not simply just but also necessary to do the work needed to eradicate these injustices.

I can’t continue suppressing what feels like the burden of my identity. I need to embrace it, and not just for my sake, but for those living under the oppression of the church. I carry the weight of my history, yes, but also, to some degree, I carry the weight of the history of all those who have experienced being exploited by the church, as well as the weight of those who are still being abused and exploited by the Moon empire. I have not experienced the level abuse that thousands of other Moonies have, but these people are my people and their stories fuel this passion for justice.

These past few months have been eye-opening, to say the least. I have reconnected with old friends from my childhood in the church and made new friends who share this experience, and I’ve been discovering more and more that there is a need for advocacy and for the church to be exposed fully for what it is. I’ve felt guilty for awhile for not engaging more with theology and Quakerism, because that is a big part of what I had in mind for this year, but I’ve found myself tripping into what I see as an “opening” from God. I’ve accepted what feels like a responsibility but also a fire in my soul.

Though I committed myself to following Jesus at sixteen years old and have long-disconnected myself from much of the Mooniverse (at least socially and organizationally), the Unification Church is still very much a part of my identity. I’ve come to see it, at least for myself, as a gift and calling. When I think of Christ’s “mission statement” in Luke 4:18-19—“the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”—I cannot help but feel that I am where I am supposed to be, or at least going in the right direction.

Soon enough my wordpress here will once again quote George Fox and I will give you an update on my QVS experience, I promise, but I felt a need to share these things and ask for prayer. I don’t think anything like a profession will come out of this, but I do consider the running of my blog as a ministry. I know that this ministry is not simply about a blog and may evolve and look differently throughout my life, but I trust that the Spirit is with me in this work to bring justice to the Unification Church. I’m playing a small part in a big, scary game, but I still believe that such a call needs humility and to be nurtured in the Light. I ask for you to hold me in the Light, as I continue to discern what being prophetic with such a call looks like, and even as I sort out my own identity as an ex-UC member.

Thanks, Friends.

For more information:
The Fall of the House of Moon by Mariah Blake (The New Republic)
Mike Wallace interviews Nansook Hong on 60 Minutes
How Well Do You Know Your Moon

A Short Update

Some friends at the GCN Conference

Some friends at the GCN Conference

Hi Friends,

It’s been a busy month—from the holiday season to friends from afar (and a boyfriend) visiting, and to the Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference, where I worshiped, tabled for Friends of Jesus, and reconnected with and made many dear friends.

So there has been a lot going on.

I am sorry for writing less, especially for those friends looking for updates on my life, but the truth is I haven’t had much to say. I have much to be thankful about—really, I do—but somehow, in one of the most blessed seasons of my life, I have been eaten up by my future’s ambiguity and by my own insecurities.

The GCN conference was glorious! There were so many loving, sweet, eloquent, and brilliant speakers. Everybody glowed with peace and looked so huggable and beautiful, and I think all who attended could agree. The conference was such a profound celebration of the unity and reconciliation that is found in Christ. And really, I found a deeper faith and hope there; I came out of the conference more excited about the gospel and more hopeful for the Church.

That being said, the heaviness of this season followed me into the conference and I was a bit distracted. My mind was sidetracked by the existential crises that kept popping up. I felt like I couldn’t soak up all the blessing and love that were so present and tangible at the conference, and that makes me a bit sad. Lord knows that it would have been a ton worse if I didn’t have my partner beside me the whole time, listening to me rant about my insecurities and continually praying for me.

And perhaps, this conference was needed. Perhaps it was the perfect dose of hope and faith I could have in a season like this, and perhaps I was supposed to be confronted by my insecurities and hurts. I say ‘perhaps’, but I am pretty confident that I needed these things.

So I thank God for sustaining, refining, and leading me and the Church as a whole. And I thank God for the blessing that is QVS, the Quaker community in Portland, as well as all the friends and family that have been pushing me and revealing the love of God continually. I often sense the support of the Spirit through the intercession of others, so I thank you for holding me in the Light and praying for me. I am still processing the GCN conference, and I have a lot to discern these upcoming months, so I ask for you, Friends, to continually hold me up in prayer. Lord knows I need it.

Light & Love,
Hye Sung

My Quaker Pilgrimage So Far

A photo from the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Fall Gathering, shot by Micah Bales

A photo from the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Fall Gathering, shot by Micah Bales

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
 They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.”
Psalm 84:5-7

I have encountered a good number of recovering Evangelicals who have expressed that they vaguely consider themselves Quaker or would potentially become Quaker. I have been consistently annoyed at how little effort they put into exploring this faith they somehow feel connected to and I get especially bothered when they act like Quakerism somehow does not exist anymore. But the more I have thought about it and explored Quakerism for myself, I get why they feel Quakerism is unapproachable.

I came to QVS with a fairly open-ended idea of what Quakerism was and in love with the little I had grasped for myself. I knew that some of the core things I have come to believe the past few years were in harmony with what the early Friends taught, and I felt empowered by that. It was comforting to be so in line with an established religious tradition, and I’ve seen it as an honor to be connected to a group with such a rich heritage of cultivating a spirituality that takes action. Friends of Jesus Fellowship, my long-distance church family, confirmed to me that the message George Fox carried was still alive today, being preached and manifested.

Living in Portland, the heart of the Convergent Movement among Friends, has been an incredible blessing and opportunity in my life. I am thankful for the beautiful cross-branch interactions in this city. I am thankful that I was able to attend two different parties this weekend with Friends from 5 different Friends meetings/churches, Evangelical and Liberal. And I am thankful that I know people who serve and love Jesus from very, very different meetings.

That being said, though… I still feel a bit isolated. The Quakerism I fell in love with, and the Quakerism I desire, seems to be a variety that is hard to find. And finding the Quaker community I need has felt impossible. Often I am confused about what Quakerism even is.

At times, I am confused on the point of meeting. I am confused on the point of worship. I am confused because I do not really understand what binds a meeting together, or what really makes our worship distinct.

Is it our testimony of peace, or S.P.I.C.E.S. as a whole, that binds us together?

Is it actually the Light?

Is it mere communal meditation?

Is it, dare I say, Christ?

…Or is it simply being Quaker?

I am scared by how often it may be just that. We are Quaker because we are Quaker, and we practice being Quaker by being Quaker. And yes, that may very well be hyperbole, but does it ring true in some sense?

So for my friends who expressed an interest in Quakerism but did not feel they could pursue Quaker community, I sympathize. I get it. Quakerism is a personal experience of the Light, but it is also just as much, if not more, a communal faith. The community and flavor of Quakerism you need and long for may not be found in institutional Quakerism.

That is a reality I have been coming to face myself.

I long for a community that is not simply centered on Christ, but is consumed by and in complete surrender to Christ. The Quakerism I am looking for takes the radical implications of the gospel very seriously, and I desire action fueled by the Spirit’s power.

And I think there are others out there who are also hungry for such a Quakerism, but, again, it is hard to find.

Much of Quakerism, both Evangelical and Liberal, can be spiritually beneficial for these sorts of folks and can fill a need for some form of community, but it is often not enough.

I am reminded of something my friend Micah Bales wrote a few years back on his blog:

What if we stopped trying to be Quakers? What if, instead, we put our energy into being communities that truly reflect the love, joy and peace of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What if, instead of trying to preserve an heirloom faith, we cast aside everything except our determination to be God’s holy, chosen and beloved people, here and now?

I think the way of Christ was never meant to be confined to a single tradition. I think it is a lot bigger than a set of spiritual disciplines. And it is much, much bigger than Quakerism. It is about the Kingdom of God and the extension of Christ’s reign. It is about being committed to living intentionally with those who have also come to follow Jesus. And of course, it is about following Jesus, our Friend, Savior, and King.

And I am scared that there is little room in institutional Quakerism for those who desire to follow Jesus communally, living out the Sermon of the Mount as a people. I don’t think there is much space for those “lowercase e” evangelicals and “lowercase c” charismatics in Quakerism.

From where I stand, I see glimmers of hope in Quakerism with the Convergent Movement and different meetings/churches that believe and worship Christ, are passionate about the gospel, seek justice for the oppressed, are LGBT-inclusive, and are not stagnant in their Quaker identity.

I also find hope outside of Quakerism.

I find hope through the growing number of Evangelicals whose view of the Bible lines up with what Quakers have been preaching since the mid-17th century.

I find hope through prophets and teachers like Bob Ekblad, a Presbyterian who actively works for the liberation of the imprisoned and the undocumented. He is also training others to be ministers of reconciliation at the People’s Seminary, marrying liberation theology and the charismatic gifts of the Spirit.

I find hope through pastors and leaders like Brian Zahnd, who take humanity’s God-given dignity and the authority of the Christ’s words seriously when he claims that one cannot support torture and be Christ-like.

I find hope through my spiritual family, Friends of Jesus Fellowship, who are faithfully serving Christ and are not bound by their Quaker heritage, but enriched by it.

I find enough hope to believe that the Church is moving forward, that the Spirit of God is still working on this earth, and the mission of Christ is more alive than ever among us.

It may be hard to believe sometimes when taking the suffering of the world into account and when we see all the brokenness in the Church, but the fact that we can see these things may reveal that we have been healed of blindness and are being prepared to bring Christ’s healing power into the Church and the world.

As of now, I feel a bit like a wanderer, jumping from meeting to meeting, seeking out of fellowship wherever I can find it, but still not grounded in a community. I believe the burden that I have to be in a community that is grounded in Quaker values, LGBT-affirming, worships and follows Jesus, is led by the Spirit, and is preaching and living out the gospel, is not to go to waste. I sense a call to create the space for those who long for the same thing, and I am thankful that I have a body, though currently distant, that believes in the same mission. Yes, I’m still discerning what that call is and what it will look like, but I can no longer numb the tug of the Spirit. I am accepting God’s invitation into ministry, though I admit hesitantly, but this alone is undoubtedly a step forward. Perhaps I was really placed here for such a time as this.

I don’t think this is a message just for me, but I think this is a very special time for the Church as a whole.

As Christendom breaks down, as global violence and warfare escalates, and as the corruption of the world’s systems come to light, the unhelpful ways of the Church and her fondness for the empire becomes more apparent and the Way of Christ becomes more distinct. The Way we have been called to is radical and requires making decisions that are risky and taking action that is not in line with the way of the world. It seems that life and death, blessings and curses, are set right before us to choose.

Will we cling on to the comfortable ways of religion, are we going to blindly serve the empire, and are we going to choose the cycle of violence, or are we going to follow Christ, the crucified God, and the Way to peace and life abundant?

I have been confronted by the gospel of Christ over and over again as I have discerned where I belong in Quakerism. I’ve gotten worked up and anxious over how exactly I fit into this gloriously peculiar, wildly divided, and truly anointed, spiritual family. Often times, in the midst of this wrestling, I remember there is a Church and world outside of Quakerism; a Church that needs to be “be built up until…all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God… attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13) and a world that desperately needs the reconciliation and healing offered by Christ.

As I’ve written before, the label of Quakerism is but a label. If my Quaker faith is simply for the sake of Quakerism, then it is futile and worthless. I think my Quakerism’s purpose is much bigger than that. I would hope it is for God,  the Church, and for all God’s children and creation.

This pilgrimage of mine is not just for the ideal Quakerism; it is for Zion, it is for the Kingdom of God, and it is for Jesus.

This pilgrimage can wear me down, and at times I feel so alone in this, but I keep going because I see others, though very often far away and with very different callings, also seeking Zion. I keep going because I know that such a pursuit is a grace and gift. I sojourn on because it is worth it and I trust that I will go from strength to strength till I appear before God in Zion.