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?
Got us thinking/reflecting again:-)
I think we Friends need a revival of Howard Brinton's key chapter in his book Friends for 300 Years. We need the four-sidedness of Friends/all Spirit-inspired religion: the mystical, the evangelical,the rational and the social.
Notice how the various wings of Friends tend to focus mostly one only or maybe two of these key characteristics. When I was a member of California Yearly Meeting (now Southwest part of EFI), we were involved in evangelism--great! And the vibrant music is wonderful. But the other three were hardly ever present:-( Leadership didn't want more than a few minutes of open worship for fear something Pentecostal might happen.
I've been a member of Pacific Yearly Meeting, and I love unprogrammed worship. Living in the presence of God's Spirit right here, right now! But then other key characteristics are missing, even to the point that some are saying there is no God to worship:-(
And the rational is so important, well at least to me. While worship and outreach and peacemaking are so very important to me, I also want to love God with my mind.
Let's all get together and have a Quaking before the Lord:-)
Thanks for the comment. I too think the different branches of Quakerism all have something to offer.
I wish we could transcend our differences.
I am very encouraged that you are undertaking visits to other church meetings in this way. I know that for me such visits have been enriching, both for me and for those I visit. I trust that you are having a similar experience, and I would encourage you to continue visiting your neighboring church meetings, as the Lord leads.
I have been pleased to notice in my short time among Ohio Yearly Meeting Friends that OYM is growing more actively evangelical, while maintaining its mystical commitments. This makes me excited for the future.
God bless you and Friends at Stillwater.
Your friend in Christ,
Thanks so much for these questions...it resonates with me to think about whether "crackling energy" is the only way to determine whether a meeting is "alive" or not. I don't have much more of substance to offer, but I just wanted to thank you again for opening the door.
I'm sorry dears---ick, just ick
why "ick?" Is it the character of East Richland?
I lost a comment to you but I hope you are well!
Thanks for the report, Diane. Your desire for a more "energetic" component to worship reminds me of something I read recently by Guilford College's Max Carter. He was writing about two Friends from the post-revival years, Allen Jay and Mary Mendenhall Hobbs. Both of them had concerns about how to bridge the schisms that for them had only recently occurred.
I think it was Hobbs who cautioned against "emotion" over "conscience."
What I like about the word "conscience" is that it combines morality with reason. If we left it all to the "rational," I fear we would stay in our heads and intellectualize our faith away. But the "moral" component brings in the heart--the concept of caring for those around us, and of feeling God's care for us...
I also believe there is a place for emotion--even during unprogrammed worship (horrors!). In fact, as I understand it, the earliest meetings for worship were often filled with the emotion of the Living Spirit breaking into the hearts of worshippers, who openly cried and emotionally spoke to their immediate conversion by the Spirit.
And there have been times when I have been part of a covered meeting for worship, where the "crackling energy" was palpable for me, even in the Holy Silence.
Thanks for writing.
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up
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