Friday, February 04, 2011

The Revitalization of the Quaker Message for Today: Report 3 on the Recent Retreat

Following the presentation of my four proposals for revitalization, the group (again -- consisting of Friends from a number of states and pastoral and unprogrammed (Conservative and FGC) traditions), the participants then self-selected which topic most interested (or irritated!) them and joined a group to address that topic.

Below are the notes (unedited or commented on by me) from the four discussion groups. They are rough -- but should give you an idea of some of the groups' thinking. The "Unprogrammed Programmed or Programmed Unprogrammed" and "Where to Sit" were the smallest -- 2-5 participants in each one. The "End of the Pastorate" and "Seeking the Seekers" were the largest, with about 15 participants each.

Unprogrammed Programmed: Group Notes
Having a bulletin is okay if there is plenty of time for meaningful open worship.
• Announcements on paper are helpful
Involve kids by having them help with offering, children’s message, reading scripture
Begin worship with period of silence
Remember, the Spirit works during the week (in planning), too! Not just “in the moment”
Having no bulletin means pressure on the organist
A challenge will be how to get people to go through the initial anxiety of not having a bulletin/order of worship
• Also is a challenge for the worship leader (if you have one)

Where to Sit: Small Group Notes
Sitting in the arrangement proposed in “A Modest Proposal”
• This setting promotes engagement
• Promotes the atmosphere of the equality of all believers
• Individual seats would provide more flexibility than pews
The current forward facing seats (of most Friends churches) promote passive observation of worship
• Forward seats promote a desire to be entertained or “fed” or disengaged critique rather than full engagement
• Forward facing makes hearing and sharing/vocal ministry difficult
o Speaking to backs of heads
o No dialogue or feeling of interchange
Meetings members will be highly resistant to change
• Perhaps short term experiments in new seating arrangements might overcome resistance
Some Meetinghouses’ architecture would make reconfiguration difficult – sloping/angled floors

End of the Quaker Pastorate: Group Notes
Unprogrammed Friends – yes to “released minister”
Survival is dependent on local people
Empower people in worship/care
Too many rules in open worship (what can be said/not said/how said)
• Some Meetings don’t have so many rules
Released minister
• Courage to say Spirit did not guide me to give the message today
• Congregations would have to trust the minister
o People want their “money’s worth” – what do you do w/ rest of your time???
Other examples
• Baltimore YM – Meeting Coordinator
• West Richmond – “Pastoral Minister” (not always charged w/ preaching)
Fifth Sundays could be opportunities for unprogrammed worship and encouraging members to minister
• Fewer people come on Fifth Sunday
• Try to break tradition
o 5 or 10 minutes of silence to start
Spend more time in prayer arising out of silence
Empower more small groups
Have to be more externally centered (not so inward)
How do we heal churches and communities from division
• Overcoming judgmentalism
• Love quietness and hear God’s speaking of love
• Listen for Christ’s example of forgiveness
What do you expect of worship?
• Inspiration
• Worldview expanded out of narrow-mindedness
• It’s not theology – it’s loving everybody
Speaking out of silence
• Different window to look through
• Speak from experience
• Worship is a process
• Train congregation HOW to hear ministry
o There is an art to listening
• Train ministers to affirm ministry by the congregation
Need more “teaching meetings”
• Where mentoring of ministers can occur
Acquaint congregations with what is coming out of ESR
• More mentoring of current ministers by ESR?
• Most denominations have problems with their seminaries
When people leave a congregation, minister by talking with them and learning why
• No one calls to see why people leave
Remember – absolutes don’t work.
Church of the Brethren is facing many of this issues, too

Seeking the Seekers: Group Notes
Regarding using “social media” we don’t know what we don’t know. Need more training.
• Suggested Indiana folks could attend a workshop social media held by the Indianapolis Center for Congregations on either May 19 or May 20 (depending on their location
Get training on what makes for a good website
Should look for outreach opportunities (i.e. QuakerQuest, etc)
Investigate other times than Sunday morning for events/worship

Following the small group discussions, each group had someone report their discussion and notes to larger group. The total group then engaged in asking clarifying questions, offering comments, and so on. It was a very energizing time -- with much positive language and feeling.

Next up was the conversation between Katie Terrell and me about new monasticism, house churches, and worship groups. And then participation in a positive change activity -- that's all in the next report.

-- Brent


Todd said...

i would like to hang with you all some day..


Brent Bill said...

i'd enjoy that, too, todd!