I've come home this evening feeling energized and elated about the new Christ-centered Quaker worship group. Attendance is growing: Ten of us met Sunday evening in Baltimore, a jump from the four who worshiped together at the first meeting in December. Our group is a mix of young and older, surburbanite and urbanite, male and female, black and white, gay and straight, married and single. People seem to be brimming with grassroots excitement and the sense of being part of a bigger movement that is bubbling up in our culture with Christ at its center.
Kevin led us in singing Shaker songs and Rachel, with her guitar, introduced us to two songs by emerging church leader Brian McLaren. One lovely McLaren song spoke of how we are Jesus's hands and eyes in the world, and as such should be kind. It was such a simple heart message that I was almost moved to tears. The Shaker music, with its simplicity and stress on humbleness, was also perfect.
Rachel learned her songs at Brian's "Everything Must Change" DeepShift conference in Vienna, Va. last week. We had silent worship between the singing, shared joys and concerns, and discussed ties between the emerging church and Quakerism. We noted the synergy and affinity between Christ-centered Quakers and the emerging church. Both hunger to "possess what they profess," (orthopraxy), to live in simplicity, and to shed the nonessentials to get to the core of what it means to follow Jesus. And as a sign of the "way opening," the pastor of the Metropolitan Church near Kevin's house has offered us free use of his building should we need it. We are also talking about expanding to meeting twice a month.
What I like best about the group has been experiencing the intense sweetness--or to use the Quaker term, tenderness--of the worship. I felt I was not "sitting in silence" on Sunday but in the palpable midst of Christ's presence. I was worshiping God with my whole heart, soul and mind. The sense of love's surround brought me to a place of gratitude and joy.
I also am feeling hope. Homewood Meeting appears to be supporting rather than suspecting Kevin in his leading to start this group. While Christ-centered Quakers (including me) still speak of feeling the sting of some Quakers' hostility to Christianity, and of a tendency to stereotype all Christians as fundamentalists, our group shows little or no paranoia about being attacked for gathering together. I may be overly optimistic, but I am praying that more and more individuals are discovering the growing swell of Christians who are gentle, caring and loving people trying to form a new kind of Christian identity.