Some of my most favorite people live inside my computer. There, I said it and it is true. Some days, I think how wonderful it would be to gather them all up to be my neighbors. Yet I know, God has set me in this place for a purpose and them in theirs and so I must enjoy these friendships for what they are and be content. I cherish the connectedness and find it is another area in which God has blessed my some times small life here.
I’m amazed with God’s creativity and surprises. From faithful and frequent notes in my e mail box, blogging friends and to precious people in online studies like the ones here. I’ve had several people offer help with my allergic food elimination diet when I’ve been at my wits end and give loving advice for treating my daughter’s Lyme disease. I have even come to know my family history more since the new year, from a online friend who freely offered to do my family genealogy 'just for fun’. There are some I’ve come to love as family and learned that one can choose them if you need to. And as Friends, there are some that have gone quiet for a while, but the connection we’ve shared remains valuable in the silent times even. After all, us Friends are good at silence...
Perhaps the most significant change this little screen has given me is the opportunity to exchange conversation on faith and to be where ‘two or three have gathered’. This has occurred for me in various forums and in online worship. Never did I really plan or expect to meet anyone face to face, but God had other ideas, as always, and much bigger than mine. Last year my family was afforded the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania and experience a conservative Friends meeting. This was a good opportunity to grasp in physical life the broader scope of Friends on the internet with some like-minded faith. It was a gathered meeting and unapologetic in it’s sharing of scripture as vocal ministry. Then this past month I had a request to meet up at my meeting, Buckingham Friends, here with a recent internet contact. This came as a sudden surprise and how fun it was to meet and raise our voices together in song! (Yes, that’s right-my unprogrammed meeting here does have a hymn sing for 15 minutes prior to our expectant silent time.) Then, the highlight of our summer thus far has been for our family to meet a Friend and his family from the Netherlands who was vacationing on the East Coast of the US who we share a much longer history together.
Wim N. and I met online about three years ago when at that time, I had completely stopped attending any worship out of my home due to illness. When The Online Meeting for Worship shut down suddenly, we relied on a few e mail addresses we had along with other vital and instrumental Friends that formed Quaker Faith and Fellowship so we could continue on with our small group fellowship. Since then, the forum has slowly and steadily gained an international membership of 131 members and has a core group of committed members from various faiths and branches of Friends that worship together weekly. It has turned into an e-community, and has combined efforts with others to worship once again. As each member came and initiated taking on different roles, the contributions added up to where we all are today, all sharing this special place together where all are valued as equal and welcome. Kind reader, you are welcome to follow the link to QF&F, but encouraged if you do so to take the time to register, which is very simple, as then one is able to see a much larger forum than what is available to see to the general public, including blogs and the way we are slowly making more community planning decisions as Friends. Included there, also, is a much more in-depth history of our website.
So, for my husband Dave and I, meeting Wim for the first time at the train station here was like watching him walk out of our computer. After what has seemed like miles of correspondence over the net, I cannot fully put into words the happiness and memories that it has given me to meet in physical life after all this time and share a weekend together and to worship at the Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia. We discussed that we consider our internet lives to be ‘real’ as we connect with others and share in that which is eternal, but agreed that to get to meet in person is very special and I’m humbled he would give up vacation time and allow me to meet him and his beautiful family. Our family was blessed and hopes that many more physical meetings will occur from our ever-evolving community as well as other ones on the internet. The world seems enormous to me at times. However, every so often God graces me with opportunities to see that while it is large and we are all so different, we have much in common and the world of Friends meeting Friends is not so impossible.