Wednesday, October 06, 2010
A Modest Proposal: Part 8 For the Revitalization of the Quaker Message in the United States
This is the final installment (I think) in my modest proposal. There are lots of specific proposals that I could make (about outreach, use of new media, and more) but they are really outside the scope of this series, which was to paint some big ideas with fairly broad strokes and to invoke the art critic in people who care about the future of the Friends message and get them to respond.
So, to that end, one more probably improbable proposal. Let's change our name.
YIKES!!! He can't be serious???
Ah, but he is. While I dearly love "Religious Society of Friends" and am even proud to be a humble Quaker, I'm not sure that either really help us share our message.
I'll concede to keeping "Quaker." It has a homey, friendly appeal -- thanks in no small part to a certain breakfast cereal conglomerate and a nostalgic view that folks outside our Society have when they hear that word.
But Religious Society of Friends says ... um... nothing to people outside of our little group. So let's dump it in favor of some simpler, more descriptive phrase.
How about "Friends of Jesus?"
Well, as I recall, we took the name Friends because a certain Biblical figure uttered some words that we liked -- "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:14 & 15, KJV).
And who was the Biblical personage who uttered those words? Hmmm ... Jesus!
Now, before I am accused of being totally ignorant of the breadth of Friends theological thinking and language and some Friends dislike of the name (if not the person) of Jesus, I know that this will stick in some Quaker craws. It does in mine just a bit -- especially during those times that Jesus words bug me. And I'm pretty sure some members of my family won't like it. But, it does get back to the intent behind the early Friends calling themselves Friends. They were -- or at least hoped to be -- the friends of Jesus.
Think of how it would simplify how we identify ourselves to outsiders -- or those we hope to attract? What would it be like to invite someone to visit the Friends of Jesus in Plainfield instead of Plainfield Friends Church? Or Plainville Friends of Jesus instead of Plainville Friends Meeting?
Sounds sort of fresh and new and Biblical and ... um... George Fox-y, doesn't it?
I think it could have a special appeal to those folks who say they like Jesus and his message, but just aren't too sure about the church.
Of course, changing the name will not make any difference if the Friends of Jesus are just the same old church/meeting dressed up in a new moniker. But the name itself is an invitation -- and a challenge. Do we wish to live up to the potential of the original intent of our name? Do we, individually and corporately, want to be the friends of Jesus? To live and move and have our being in the same Spirit that inspired the women and men who founded our movement? To do whatsoever God commands us? To live our faith daily within a community of belief and seeking God, held in a soulful tension of learning and growing?
Ah, it's only a name.
Or is it?