Monday, April 20, 2009

Church Experiment #16: Quaker Community

I knew almost nothing about Quakers until I met one in early 2009. Maybe I assumed Quakers were a lot like Mormons (and maybe some are), but her explanation of the religion was way off from my expectations. So, it seemed like a good stop for the Church Experiment.

Plus, I love their oats. (Oh, thank God … I have been dying to write that joke all week. It felt sooo good! That is comedy, my friends. That’s the good stuff.)

After visiting several churches way outside of my comfort zone, I no longer experience much nervousness on my way to each week’s destination. But Sunday, when I pulled up to the Quaker Community Friends (www.communityfriendsmeeting.org) building, I realized it was just a big house in the middle of a neighborhood. That had me worried. I have realized over the past sixteen weeks that the smaller the venue, the more nerve-racking the experience is for newcomers.

I was greeted at the door by a couple of nice gentlemen and then walked inside their “living room” to find my seat. Yes, it was literally a living room with about fifty chairs; thirty of them were filled. Everyone was white, and I was clearly the youngest person in the room [I was 32 at the time]. Most were over fifty years old, and a large percentage seemed to be hippie-types. There was a palpable “free love” vibe in the air.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

49 comments:

Martin Kelley said...

Hi Steve: as a Friend, let me say thank you. It's always useful to hear how an observant outsider experiences Friends Meeting. I'm passing this around and posting it to http://www.quakerquaker.org so I suspect you'll get some good comments.

Delonna said...

Great post! I've been to a wide spectrum of Friends meetings/churches. You might want to visit more than two (programmed and unprogrammed) types to really experience the variations. Of course, you only have 52 weeks. Let me know if you want to head to Tacoma and I'll take you to a few! :)

sta┼Ťa said...

Dear Steve,

Good for you! I wish you much rich spiritual experience during your experiment.

I think you'll find both differences and samenesses between unprogrammed Friends' Meetings and programmed Friends' Churches. There's also some variety between unprogrammed Friends' Meetings, depending on affiliation and size. Some Meetinghouses look much more like very plain churches.

Not to make your brain explode, but... while most Quakers are Christian, not all of us are.

If you truly want to widen your experience, I highly recommend attending a Pagan Pride Day event in your area in the fall. More info at http://paganpride.org/where/ohiovalley.html#ky.

Blessings on your journey. And thanks for sharing it!

A Modern Ancient said...

Three things.

1. Great post... especially your comments regarding the value (and awkwardness) of silence. One of my favorite verses, and most challenging, is Psalm 46:10 > "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (NIV).

2. However, a few years ago someone quoted that verse to me when I was stressing about some things so I went to Psalm 46 and was shocked at how misinterpreted that verse is. It is not about silence or even a meditative and comforting 'stillness' but a rejection of war. The NASB version reads like this starting in verse 9 > "He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. 10'Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'"

Over the past few years I have become a fairly rabid pacifist (or a "violent pacifist" as Stanley Hauerwas describes himself). That is one of the aspects of the Quakers that I love... their commitment to pacifism.

Although, I must admit that I was a bit surprised by Stasa's comment about not all Quakers were Christian considering that it is a Christian denomination. Of course, I am not so naive to think that every member of a Christian church is actually a Christian, but I do think that they believe themselves to be (for the most part). I have never heard of a Christian denomination or sect that has active members who profess to NOT be Christian. It sounds more like Unitarian Universalist than Quaker.

3. About the snake handling... you need to go to Appalachia for that. They are not easy to find since they really don't advertise and usually only consist of an extended family. Your best bet is to contact a religious studies scholar who has studied them and has contacts for visitors don't just show up.

Maybe you should ease into the snake handlers and instead look for a tent revival. It's getting to be better weather and the season for itinerant preachers and back country revival meetings. The only thing is, most revivals happen during the week with Sunday being the culmination. I do know that many take place just across the river in Kentucky.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,
Enjoyed your post again today. If you want to find a snake handling church just contact a toxicologist. They usually know where and when that is going on, since they often have to provide anti-venom.

Russ Nelson said...

How hard can silence be, anyway?

Pip said...

Good luck with the snake handling. It brings to mind an old country song that says: "Daddy was moved byn the Spirit to pick up a snake. In a moment of doubt the Spirit won out and Daddy was bit by the snake."

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I have come across your blog and am very interested in it. You have very insightful thoughts and feelings. Thank you for sharing these experiences. You made mention in this post about wondering if Quakers were like Mormons. I wonder if you plan on visiting a Mormon church service? Do you know any? Do you have to know one to go their service? Just wondering.

Lee Bressler said...

Hi Steve, I look forward to your church post each week. You may remember me from Alpha at the Springdale Vineyard. I am an older man who loves your talks. Anyway, I became a believer after 30 some years raised as an Orthodox Jew and my first Christian Church continued membership was with a little Messianic Church in Pleasant Ridge called Beth Messiah. It is now located in Loveland off of Montgomery Road. It might be worth one of your Saturday nights or Sunday mornings to see how Jewish believers in Jesus (Yeshua) worship. Lee Bressler

meMonica said...

First off - thank you Steve. NOW I can see why my minister keeps telling me that I should be a Quaker (though "Methodists are extremely open and I can believe whatever I want to and they'll accept me til I come around").

I've heard of a church in North Carolina that has a snake handler for a minister but that's the closest I can get you.

And Russ - have you tried sitting in total silence for more than half and hour?

Anonymous said...

Contact this blogger... he has experience with snake handling churches: http://dontprintthis.blogspot.com/

Roxane said...

I am totally fascinated by this experiment of yours. I have been doing something similar, seeking and looking everywhere I can.

Some other commenter asked about a Mormon church and if you had to know a member to go to one. You don't- in case you didn't know. I went to one in January after calling a head office and they hooked me up with a time and meeting house.

I look forward to reading your thoughts and experiences each week. Thank you.

Olivia Wilken said...

Steve, another great post and great insight into how other people meet with God.

I was especially challenged by your comments on sharing joys rather that woes - I immediately thought that my current facebook status was lamenting the fact that I had a cold instead of praising the good things that had happened today.

I also agree with you about silence - it is not easy, especially if you have a mind that struggles to be quiet and a complete inability to sit still.

I look forward to next week.

A Modern Ancient said...

Since the Mormon church has been brought up...

There are two that I can think of right off bat:

1. On the corner of Cornell Rd. and Snyder in Montgomery (where 275E hits Montgomery road you go north and turn left onto Cornell).

2. In Ft. Mitchell on Buttermilk Pike. Just take 71/75S into Northern Kentucky, take the Buttermilk Pike exit and turn left. It will be on your right hand side.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, I am really enjoying reading your blog. I belong to a 4 square church in NC that actively practices meditation. We have Wednesday "Meditation Practicums" where we gather in small groups to meditate, practice listening to the inner voice of God that is within us all. We also share how God has touched our lives that day, that week, that month.
Our God is Love - he loves us he loves us he loves us - we just need to listen and obey, listen and obey.

callie said...

Steve,
Thank you for sharing this experience. I especially agree with you that many Quakers (of whom I am one) have tended to make God into a projection of ourselves at our nicest. You say it well. This is a concern of mine.
Silence, especially if you unexpectedly find yourself in the midst of it can be really unnerving. After nearly forty years of Quaker meetings for worship, I still find myself sometimes fighting it. What works best for me is to remember we are "waiting in expectant silence upon the Lord" (an old Quaker phrase). Then I sometimes find myself in a pool of quiet, in which I only ask of myself that I be open to hearing what God may be offering.
It is also important to me that we are not simply individuals worshiping, but that we are a corporate body in that silence. If we are faithful, one of the fruits is community. Jesus was not speaking to just one sheep, but to the flock.
Thank you, again, Steve, for your insights into one of our meetings for worship.

Liz Opp said...

Most Quakers who worship without the more familiar structures of clergy, hymns, and liturgy also know that we often fail mightily with how to "introduce" our form of unprogrammed worship to newcomers.

Is it enough to say we strip away all empty outward forms so we might listen for and hear God's guidance more clearly?

Should we let the experience speak for itself and hope the visitor will return?

How do we share with the visitor that after the Living Presence gives us some "instruction," we then may feel burdened to carry it out in service to bringing the kindom of God on Earth...?

I'm guessing you've been aware of the "out of context" experience you have each week, week after week. My hope for you is that you find both the outward form and the inward Way that brings you into greater gospel Love.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Reg said...

Steve, I enjoyed this post, having been an "attender" at my local Quaker meeting for about 6 months.

It suits me down to the ground for a lot of the reasons which troubled you. This meeting is definitely unprogrammed, and nothing is said about religion or belief, except that newcomers are invited to ask questions if they wish.

I would suggest that it's our responsibility to do some homework in advance if we don't like surprises, or if we want to have some understanding of what we're going into before we get there; and there's information all over the Net. That the interest should be internally generated was important for me. I don't want people selling me their beliefs like detergent.

Sitting in that quiet, from which I too often distract myself, I have a chance to think about what I believe. I am not a Christian in the theological sense, but I regard myself open to any spiritual promptings available, which is why I need to calm down and open up.

As to God bbeing simply "A projection of us at our nicest", that happens to be how I experience him/her/it on the rare occasions when I do have such experiences of infinite unconditional love.

I have no particular reason to put anyone else's experience above my own, because I can see no reason for someone else's God being more valid than mine, simply because their God is more demanding, angrier, less unconditional, or more prone to damn me for not believing certain things written down unreliably many centuries ago.

I find the peace of this community can help me when my own peace fails.

I may discover a more rigorous faith, I may not; but, for an hour on a Sunday at least, I'll be listening.


Blessings


Reg

forrest said...

Have you considered that, rather than God being a projection of our good sides, "We at our nicest are a projection of how God really is?"

Reg said...

Forrest, Thank you. I thought something similar, but decided I had gone on long enough. I also should perhaps have made clear that, just as I can see no reason for regarding someone else's experience or view of God as any more valid than mine, I certainly don't expect my experience to have any validity for someone else, other than the provocation of thought and constructive discussion, for both of which, Steve, thank you.


Reg

Annie L. Bodnar said...

forrest,

Does the reverse hold true? We, at our worst, are a projection of how God really is? Why must we take the good and not the bad as informative?

eric said...

Hi, Steve. Thanks for your observations. I've been a Quaker for some years now, and it clearly is difficult for first time attenders to know what is going on.
I particularly liked your question as to whether we, in our frantic and noisy world, don't hear God because we are not listening. I think that gets to the heart of what we as Quakers (and visitors) do in Meeting for Worship.
If we are making God into what we want, I don't think we should be. Quakers have a lot of different ideas about what God is, but the Friends I have talked to do a lot of discernment, trying to really puzzle out what God is, and what our relationship to the Divine is (and what it can be). I don't think that God is purely subjective, even if we can't help but see Her/Him through our own imperfect eyes.
Good luck on your journey.

Steve Fuller said...

Thanks for all the great comments. Especially from all the Quakers out there. It is humbling to see how kindly people reply, even when I write some difficult things about your church community.

Dave,

Interesting thoughts about the "be still" verse. I have never heard that before.

Anonymous,

I do plan to attend a mormon service. I had a good friend in college who was a mormon, and although he has moved out of the state, I will probably attend his old church.

Lee,

Good hearing from you! That is a good suggestion. I would love to check out a Messianic Church.

Reg,

Interesting thought about doing homework before attending a church. I am purposefully trying to avoid that so each experience is more interesting, but yes, under normal circumstances, I would learn as much about a place as humanly possible before attending a service (which is why an internet presense is so important these days as well, and why I always link the church's web page in each post).

Anonymous said...

Newport Free Pentecostal Church Of God
225 E 4th St
Newport, KY 41071-1640
(859) 261-5610

or

House of Deliverance
626 Washington Ave
Newport, KY 41071

Every time I see these places I swear I hear banjos.

One of these once had a sign outside that read, "Dusty bibles lead to dirty souls"

pablo said...

As another Friend who got cc'd your post, i have to agree with the variety of discussion you provoked: the problem comes with thinking that any one Quaker meeting is like any other. The Religious Society of Friends (our formal name) grew out of a rejection of outward forms in a search for inward sacraments. We see outr job as "bringing people to the Light and leaving them there" in the trust that "that of God within everyone", a.k.a. "The Inner Light," The Inner Christ", the Holy SPirit, etc. will teach you everything you need to know --as Jesus said in Gospel of John 15, from which we drew our name.
THe Society of Friends is perhaps the most diverse denomination --and yes "ranterism" (the old name for letting anyone set their own standards and creat a god in their own image) is always a temptation in Friends Meetings--which is why we have elders and Counsel and structure for discernment. Over 75% of Quakers are evangelical and pastoral, but traditionally we are non-creedal, open (silent) in worship and universalist in accepting God's guidance. And a significant number of unprogrammed, "liberal" Friends are not Christian and fit just fine into the Religious Society.
An old story from teh 17th C. when Quakers were persecuted and thus worshipped with their windows and doors open (unlike most hidden sects): a man walks into the Meeting and sits down and waits. Noticing everyone's bowed head, he bows his and prays, finally looking up waiting for something to happen. This continues for a while until he elbows his neighbor and whispers, "WHat time does the service start?" THe Friend responds: "In here is the worship; the service starts when we go back out."
God will love you and forgive you whether you start 1000 congregations or make 1000 errors, as long as you make listening the first step to doing the Divine will. (Read A.J. Heschel...)

Steve Fuller said...

Pablo,

Thanks for the comment. I know the limitations of only spending a couple hours in a church, so I really appreciate people like you who are willing to comment and add perspective to the discussion.

One of my favorite parts of this experiment has been interacting with Quakers, Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. - all who get negative publicity, but are all just regular people doing their best to make like work (just like everyone).

Reg said...

Thanks Pablo, for the post in general, but I was particularly struck by the Heschel quote.


Reg

Bill Samuel said...

There is a portion of Quakerism which was greatly influenced by Unitarianism. There is another portion that was greatly influenced by the Wesleyan holiness movement. And there are various other influences. There is an extremely broad spectrum in Quakerism today.

Steve, I appreciated the insights you received about yourself while in Quaker meeting.

-Bill Samuel, Webservant, QuakerInfo.com

Kristi said...

Interestingly, I read that Wimber was a leader at a Friends church in California, and later founded the Vineyard movement.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest Orthodox next? Or perhaps Seventh Day Adventist? Oh, or Mennonite? Man... so many choices. I love this series.

Bill Samuel said...

Wimber indeed was a Friends pastor. The particular Friends church he was at raised problems for him because at the time it felt that "signs and wonders" were from the past and not to be practiced in the present.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

Very enlightening-
I didn't realize the Quaker denomination was still around-and I loved reading all the comments from other Quakers. It sounds very earthy, and "natural".
Sitting in silence for 35 minutes would be uncomfortable for me, but beneficial.

Rachel E. said...

Thanks, Steve, for your thoughtful post. I was a bit nervous to read your interpretation of my community, but I thought you were fair and balanced. I wasn't surprised that you found the silence difficult -- it is certainly something that takes getting used to. Now, though, I look forward to having that space in my life every week to contemplate what's important. And to really listen. When I go to services for other faiths, I get frustrated by all of the noise and words coming at me. I get distracted and don't leave very satisfied.

I also enjoyed reading the comments from other Quakers on your post. Because of the unprogrammed nature of meeting, visitors unfamiliar with Quakerism don't learn much about the philosophy and theology underlying the silence. The history of the Quakers is rich and deep and, for me, meaningful. To just sit through meeting without any of this background is, of course, quite strange. I was glad to see some other folks offer you some context, because I have been so tempted to give you the Quakerism 101 lecture, but held off.

The part about creating a God who looks just like us is a valid critique, I would argue, but it also isn't the full story. (Many) Quakers believe in both continuing revelation and individual access to the divine truth. This means that the full story of who God is wasn't set in stone 2000 years ago. We're still learning and open to figuring out who God is and how to live in our modern world. Also, every individual has the light of God within and the ability to discern truth through the waiting worship. In this sense, the Quaker experience of the divine is very intuitive. For some folks, sure, this means believing in whatever is most comforting or easy. For others, being Quaker is very challenging. There is no pastor doing the interpretive work for you or mediating a message. To face the silence and whatever comes out of it can be rough. And the theology of Quakerism can be quite challenging, too. What does it mean to live with integrity in our lives, to really act in ways that reflect our values? Or to practice peace? Or to really respond to the light of God in all others? These questions can seem fluffy OR they can call us to take difficult stances, to love our enemies in ways that are painful or nuanced, to recognize and respond to the impact of our lifestyles on our global brothers and sisters, to question things that are comfortable or common. These are the issues I personally tackle every week as I face this silence that puts me alone with God.

Let me know if you'd like to talk more about it.

David M. said...

What an excellent post. I think your experience as a "seeker" is a valuable one. One thing that you may not know is the RSOF was founded my just such a seeker, George Fox, who went about the English countryside asking spiritual questions of every learned person he could find. Not finding answers to his quest, he received what one might regard as a spiritual awakening. In his words "I heard a voice which said, 'There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition': and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy."

Things have changed a lot, in the world, and among Quakers, since the 1600's but we still try to listen for the collective moving of the Spirit.

http://www.qis.net/~daruma/g-fox-1.html

Hystery said...

Others have commented on the value of silence and on the difficulty of understanding Friends from just one visit to just one meeting. So I will point out that despite their silence, Friends are far from passive. If anyone is looking for a community of "doers" then the Friends are a good place to start. Their effects on social justice are out of proportion to their small numbers. One sees their influence at the heart of historical movements such as abolitionism, women's rights, peace activism and civil rights. A short list of noteworthy Friends includes Lucretia Mott, Bayard Rustin, the Grimke sisters, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Julian Bond, and Alice Paul.

This commitment to social justice, to peace and to community is partially a result of the emphasis on the light that burns brightly in the individual combined with a process of community discernment. There is tension between the individual and the community among Friends but it is a creative tension and worth the trouble it sometimes causes.
You notice that there are also non-Christian Friends. Friends are non-doctrinal and recognize the "Light" or inner Christ within all people. To me, the words we use to describe this "Light" are far less important than our experiences of it so we can afford to welcome metaphors and spiritual expressions from beyond the dominant western tradition. The lived results of our love for the Divine and for each other are far more important to us than any statements of orthodoxy. Ideally, ours is a faith of life and action rather than of words and dogma.

To understand us fully, you would have to spend a good deal more time with us and participate in our communities' process and discussion (including our squabbles and debates.) :-) You would have to follow us through our history and our activism. I imagine this is true of all the other communities you have visited as well. First impressions, despite the popular cliche, are not really that accurate.

Nevertheless, good things come from openness and a willingness to listen to that which is at first foreign to us and your readers benefit from your endeavors. I wish you blessings and peace on your continued journey. It seems a worthy adventure to me.

Bill Samuel said...

Friends are historically non-creedal, but not traditionally non-doctrinal. There are voluminous doctrinal writings by early Friends. At one end of the spectrum of Friends today, perhaps they may be called non-doctrinal.

tjh said...

Hmmm Steve- you have unwittingly started quite a Friendly discussion!

Thankfully, as Friends we don't have to discern the qualities of God alone. We have the Scriptures, which 'testify of Him.' We have the writings of the early Friends about their experiences with Christ. We have our meetings, which if they are ministering effectively should be saying a lot of good things about who God is. More than anything we have Jesus, in whom we are shown a God whose life, teachings, self-sacrifice, and living presence often do go against our own desires....but his Spirit gives us the power to overcome them. As Friends / Quakers we must follow the light of Christ Jesus, 'each in our measure.' There are people who follow other paths, be they pagan, atheist, etc., who call themselves Friends. I have to lovingly disagree...actually with no disrespect to those paths- that's just not who Quakers are.
-Tyler.

A Modern Ancient said...

Steve,
What sort of negative stereotypes could Quakers possibly have attached to them??

As pointed out by others, they have an extremely strong record of struggling for justice for those with little or no voice. They seek peace and reconciliation above defense and retaliation (in a sense, they value others above themselves). They are known for their incredible hospitality.

Oh, and there has even been a Quaker President... Richard Nixon! So come on, stop trying to make me believe people have negative stereotypes about Quakers.

;-)

(Does the 'wink' make my bad joke okay?)

Jamie said...

There is a Mormon church on Clough right by Grandma and Grandpa's place.

Lee Ann said...

I am enjoying your visits to the many different churches. I look forward to reading your posts after each visit. My question for you is, how soon after the church visit do you post your observations? I find that your search and thoughts concerning connecting with God are touching me mightily and I am using your observations of worship to focus my own worship ( both corporately and personally).

igotoxtremes said...

Steve,
I'm still loving your blog. Silence is a powerful tool. I try to take regular silence sabbaticals. One way to do you "noise fast" is to do what I call an "electronic fast." It is pretty self explanatory.

I was particularly impacted by the early section where you said that the smaller the church, the more uncomfortable it was for you as an outsider. Given that, what would you tell a church planter with a small congregation to do to mitigate that?

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve: I love your blog, and you experiment. After 45+ yrs as a Catholic, I've been attending a (liberal) Quaker meeting for a few months.

I love the silence of "unprogrammed" meetings, the silent "waiting on the Lord" that Quakers do, and often find that God speaks to me in the silence. One of the most valuable things we can learn when we are trying to get in touch with God is to shut up and listen.

Since you're in Ohio, and since you have 36 Sundays to go, I have a possible suggestion for one of your future excursions: a Conservative Quaker meeting. Ohio Yearly Meeting (OYM) and Stillwater OH Monthly Meetings are examples of Conservative Friends. I have been curious about Conservatives, but the only meetings in my part of the country (NJ) are liberal meetings like the one you attended. Conservatives emphasize the primacy of Christianity, and while the silent worship may be the same format as the one you attended, a Conservative meeting may not give you that "amorphous spirit blob" sense that you had with this meeting. I'd be curious as to your reaction to it.

Steve Fuller said...

Lee Ann,

I go to the church on Sunday, come home, process for a few hours, and then write the post which is published the next day.

Anonymous,

I do plan to attend a more conservative Quaker service, and I believe there is at least one in Cincinnati, but will probably wait a few months to visit.

igotoxtremes,

Honestly, I have no idea what I would say. We faced that dilemma at the church I helped plant. When you are small, it feels weird, especially to outsiders. So in order to grow, you need a bunch of people? So how do you get the people in the first place that attract other people? No idea.

If I did know, church planters would be beating down my door! :-)

It's like when you go out to a club or bar. If you walk in and it is packed, you think it's cool and want to stay. But if you walk in and there are ten people there, you assume it's lame and leave. But even the cool places have to only have ten people at some point in the night, right? So how do you keep people coming in at those early stages?

Hmmm...would it be unethical for churches to hire actors to pretend like they are attending the church? What do they call those in movies? Extras?

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the friendly observation and evaluation of a Friends meeting. As a Friend myself, I wanted to respond to your experience and various points, but instead feel called to comment on your "church planting" comments and questions. I used to be part of a church plant (sounds like horticulture doesn't it;-)or maybe a reference to the vine and the branches in the book of John?

I also have been a youth pastor, elder, blah blah;-) in the past so have mulled over this for years. Here's my own obervations:

>>would it be unethical to hire actors...
I guess you are joking here, but did you know that some Christian churches actually use "human plants" such as during altar calls?
A few Christians intentionally get up and start down the aisles which then (like priming the pump) allegedly encourages the "unsaved" to get out of their seats too.

>>so how do you get the people in the first place that attract other people?

I am a planner (though maybe not as much as you). And I do think God has called us to use our rational minds, and that movements in church history did come about after much seeking such as in the case of George Fox, Wesley, etc. But in my own observation "church growth" is a move of "spirit" or the Holy Spirit (some of the "spirits" of growth don't seem God-guided but human or even evilly induced).

Here's one example from my own life: I was teaching the Sermon on the Mount to a youth group one Tuesday night. It wasn't even at a Quaker meeting since the closest Friends Church was 21 1/2 hours away from us. All my dligent plans for the youth failed as my day had been bad, dealing with misbehaving students and I had lost my temper. Then when I got to the church I discovered I had forgotten my detailed notes I had diligently prepared, etc.
Also, my presentation was weak. I thought what a lost cause the evening was turning out to be.
Yet toward the end of the service--God's Spirit came in a miraculous way. A gang-wannabe teen seriously asked how anyone could really love his enemy and not seek revenge. A shy girl suddenly started to weep and said how she and her parents were having fights, another student then spoke, etc.
I almost literally looked around. How was all this happening? I certainly had botched the meeting. The church wasn't a Friends meeting or a charismatic church, yet the meeting was experiencing a Spirit-filled time with the young people deeply moved. Just thinking of that wondrous evening still gives me spiritual goose bumps.

By the way the church plant I was later involved in failed. Though we tried so hard, and 'did all the right things,' nothing seemed to go right and we couldn't get past about 25 attenders. Why not? I don't understand either.

Thanks very much for your blog. I plan to go back and read of your other visits.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

christianne said...

Wow. I appreciate this post so much. This sounds exactly like the kind of church I have been looking to join. It helped to get your thoughts on the down-side of the experience (ie., no reference to Jesus, perhaps making God into our own image like an imaginary passive friend) because otherwise I would have seen no shortcoming in your description. You've given me much to think about in your sharing of this Quaker experience. Thank you.

cubbie said...

what a great experiment-- and thoughtful post! thanks!

my first quaker meeting, i had the sniffles. i sniffed and sniffed and sniiiifffffed, and felt more and more embarrassed as time went on. i was in england at the time, and at the end of the meeting, the woman next to me turned and asked if i was okay, and said that she would have offered me tissues but they were in her sleeve and she didn't want to offend me. so sweet. i didn't go back for a few years because i was focused on unitarianism/unitarian universalism, but now i've been a happy quaker for about 2 years.

one of the things that really helped me get my bearings when i first started going to quaker meeting was the joke that if you ask 4 quakers a question, you get 5 different answers. i think this joke exists for other faith traditions as well, but i liked the idea of quakerism as that space between all those human answers.

one last thing, in response to a modern ancient-- not only can we claim richard nixon as a quaker, but herbert hoover as well. man oh man, are we successful in american politics or what!?

amy said...

I would check in the back roads in the Tri-State area around West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. Rumor has it some live near where my relatives grew up. Marshall University may be a good source of information.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
I would love you to visit a Seventh-day Adventist church please- if you can handle goiung to church on a Saturday rather than a Sunday. I'm half afraid of wht you will think of "us", but also verrrry curious!
I really enjoy reading along with your church experiences. I hope that God shows Himself to you this year.
Thanks
Rebecca, (in Brisbane, Australia)

Anonymous said...

I'm still chuckling over the idea that Quakers are like Mormons (Later Day Saints). Wow! Nothing at all alike. I have acquaintances who are LDS, and that's fine for them, but as a Quaker, I know we are poles apart. LDS has many rules and rituals, many "requirements," and only certain people are allowed in their "Temples." Quakers, whether Conservative or Liberal, whether programmed or unprogrammed, are open to all, and we have no creed, dogma or doctrine. Yes, the silence takes some getting used to. I love your question regarding whether we do not hear God because God is silent or because we are not listening. Good question!