Yesterday, I went with my friend Sally to East Richland Friends Church, an Evangelical Friends congregation about 15 minutes from Barnesville.
It's a treat to live in a place with such a variety of Friends worship available--Conservative Friends, Evangelical Friends and in Pittsburgh, Liberal Friends.
The congregation was warm and vibrant, with a sense of spirit pervading the sanctuary. The church, which has a 1,000 members and 800 attenders on a typical Sunday, is growing and thriving.
East Richland reminded me of Cedar Ridge Community Church, a nondenominational emerging church begun by Brian McLaren. Like Cedar Ridge, East Richland has stage at the front of a large sanctuary flanked by two big view screens, a rock band and praise music. No donuts and bagels in the atrium, however, and no communion.
I didn't see--admittedly I've been to all of one service--any signs of Quaker distinctives. We sang praise music and listened to a sermon, but there was no period of silence, no opportunity for people in the pews to speak and no mention of such Quaker testimonies as simplicity, peace or equality. I was told that the church offers communion four times a year, which would also put it outside historic Quakerism. The service was simple and non-liturgical, but if the word "Friends" was taken from the name, I would have assumed it was a non-denominational "low" church.
It was a contrast to Stillwater, where the demographic skews much older and where a sense of sacred quietness prevails. My first thought : East Richland seems more "alive,"more a-crackle with energy, and I pondered, longingly, how can we capture this vitality and export it to our silent meetings?
But now I wonder: Is crackling energy the only sign of God's spirit? Of course not, and the somber stillness of a silent meeting can reach much more deeply into our souls. And God can work through the small often more effectively than through the large. But still I find myself poised, wondering: Do our silent meetings need an infusion of energy and vibrancy and a period of growth? Are they dying or is that my lack of faith? What is God's plan for them and how can we forward that?
What do you think?