Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Let's Get Rid of Church

Our pastor gave a sermon recently centered around some reading he'd done about why the younger generation (from my viewpoint, almost everybody younger than me fits into that!) like Jesus but hates the church.

If the research he read is true -- then Gen Y, Gen X -- are fine with the Gospel (as they understand it) but not too happy with the institution of the church.

This struck me as a wonderful "marketing" opportunity for us Convergent Quakers. Except, we (all Quakers not just the Convergent types) if not adverse to advertising our existence, are not very good at it.

Which is understandable at one level -- how do you capture on a billboard or bumper sticker a spiritual experience as deep as Quakerism offers?

This made me think that one small step might be by undoing a name change that many Friends adopted in the 19th and early 20th century -- the name "Church." As in Podunk Friends Church.

If Gen Y et al like Jesus but don't like the church -- let's get rid of the "church."

By that I mean the name on the front of many a Friend's congregational edifice. Let's drop Podunk Friends Church and go by Podunk Friends Meeting -- and alert the local media to why we're changing our names.

Name changes are all the rage in mega-congregations and those who want to be -- just in our county alone we've got things like Connection Pointe, LifeWay, and all sorts of things that used to Podunk Christian Church or Southern Baptist of Podunk or ...

So let's go back to Meeting and invite folks to Meeting. For one it sounds a bit more hospitable than church. We could emphasize that what we mean by meeting is "gathering" -- we're getting together for worship.

And then we invite people to the second meaning of meeting -- encounter. We come to meet other like-hearted people. People searching for the sacred. Some having found more than others, some of us just learning the way or beginning to think about the Divine seriously.

I say like-hearted, notice, and not like-minded. We don't all have to think alike -- which is a good thing, since few of us do. Sometimes I'm of two minds about things all on my own!

Besides meeting other like-hearted people, we come to meet God. To encounter the Divine. Not just to be told about the divine through story, sermon, song, and silence, but to actually gaze into the face of our loving God and listen for God's words to our souls. What more winsome invitation could there be than, "If you like Jesus, but not the church, then come with us -- come to Meeting and meeting."



Yvonne said...

It's not just church that people don't like - it's also penal substitution theology, exclusivity (the Scandal of Particularity), and the evangelical view that Jesus is the one true way to the one true god. I don't understand the difference between a Convergent Friend and an ordinary Friend (despite reading numerous posts on the subject), but I assume most Friends don't subscribe to the unpleasant doctrines listed above.

But you see, if religion is described in terms of computers, Quakers and Unitarians are basically Apple Macs - everyone thinks they're cool but no-one actually owns one / is one.

Leaf said...

Greetings Friend,

Unprogrammed Meetings do retain the word Meeting. I actually look for Church or Meeting to tell me what type of Friends are likely to meet together in that space. Meetings tend to be Unprogrammed, Spirit-centred, non-Christocentric, while Churches tend to have belief in Jesus pre-requisites. I prefer Spirit centered Meetings, but I have enjoyed the worship in Churches as well.

I enjoyed reading your thoughts,


Tom Smith said...

I know of West Hills Friends in Portland, OR that has neither Meeting or Church attached. It may be urban legend but I heard that it was because the congregation could not agree which message to send. It is a member " church" of NWYM of EFI. Somehow this group of EFI seems to intentionally retain many Friends testimonies, such as the stance on physical sacraments, peace testimony, etc.

Laurie Kruczek said...

I love West Hills Friends! They are such a breath of fresh air in the Evangelical Quaker realm. We occasionally drive an hour and a half just to attend. It is a wonderful meeting.

Or church.

Or whatever.

I personally like the idea of the use of meeting. I don't think many Evangelicals would agree with you though, Brent. Too bad because it is a cool way to mark a convergence between all the different Friends groups.

Thanks for suggesting it.

Laurie Kruczek said...

BTW, our family leans more Conservative/convergent than Evangelical, and our local meeting is a "worship group" with no Friends, meeting, or church in the title.

nemo said...

I have always been impressed with how Meeting for Worship is held in a circle. That way no one Friend is the focus, only God. And so many more faces are visible.

Maybe we should call ourselves Friends' Circles?

Brent Bill said...

I sorta like Nemo's idea about circles being a good name, but still like "Meeting" better -- I think "Meeting" inplies some sort of possible action -- as in, we might (there's the possibility?) of "meeting" Jesus there...

I know our Friends in Fellowship group meets in a a kinda amoeba shape -- depending on who shows up and whether we meet in the living room or on the porch...

Anonymous said...

It depends on what you mean by "church". If it's the lifeless, often politically manipulative institution, then, yes, get rid of it. But wasn't it originally supposed to mean the Body of Christ? Isn't the church the community of like-hearted believers, in whom God dwells? It would be nice to reclaim the word with that meaning.

- a twenty-year-old Quaker attender