Monday, May 12, 2008

Two evangelical Baltimore meetings

Yesterday evening, Ken, Sophie and I attended not one, but two, Evangelical Friends churches in Baltimore.

Oh what an adventure! Luckily, almost everyone in the initially large group that hoped to attend punted. This was fortunate because I had googled the wrong address and hence published the wrong directions. Ken and I had quite a debate about where to go while in the car driving. I was convinced that the Latino meeting was in the city; he was sure it was in Baltimore County. He was right: It was outside the beltway on Liberty Road. Moreover, the weather was miserable, at some points pouring rain, so I'm glad people weren't searching the wrong address in bad conditions. (Apologies again to the Furths!)

We were surprised to find a two-month old Kenyan Friends church having a service in the basement of the church were the Latinos meet. We spent about 20 minutes in the Kenyan service, listening to a female preach about 2 Peter. Then we went upstairs. The Latino Quakers sang praise songs, led by a rock band up front. Then a preacher wearing a tie talked to us about God's promises to us and how we need to have humble hears and pure hearts to receive these promises.

We left early because I had to get to my reading group, but nothing that we saw resembled the unprogrammed Quakerism with which I am familiar. I was told by Lukas, our "translator," (the Latino service was, of course, in Spanish) that the Latino congregation doesn't like silence, so it's not used.

Both services seemed indistinguishable from a straight non-denominational evangelical Christian service. There was no set liturgy and nothing beyond singing and preaching, so the proceedings were very low church, but not different from, say, a Baptist service.

As with other non-Western European services I've attended, the Latinos started late and were open-ended about when the service would finish. Being an uptight, Westernized alpha woman, this drives me crazy! I feel entitled to know when things begin and end, and I like them to start on time! However, all these experiences help me to understand that the box out of which I function is smaller and more culture-bound than I like to think.

Now that I know where to go and what to expect, I'd find it interesting to go back, stay longer, and really try to understand what makes these churches Quaker.

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