Monday, October 22, 2012

Quakers and ... um... the "E" Word

I must admit I feel just delighted to be in my new position as coordinator of Friends General Conference's New Meetings Project.  The projects goals are something I believe in and have written about for a number of years -- most recently on posts here and some other blogs.

As part of this position, I've been doing a lot of reading and research.  And I'll be sharing that reading and research here and (hopefully!) elsewhere.  On my shelf (in place of my usual stack of novels and short-story collections) are titles such as Planting Missional Churches, The House Church Book, Organic Church,  Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts and more.  Many of these have at least some information helpful to Friends -- especially if we're willing to wade past some assumptions (you can decide what they are) and look for the nuggets that are helpful.

While I do think that a Quaker model of starting new congregations and/or worship groups will vary in methodology and practice from most other denominational models (I mean, if we want to be true to our Friend-ly roots and theological understandings of congregations as being comprised of people of faith called and led by the Spirit to do God's work together and not organized and/or presided over by ordained clergy*), there are some things we can learn from others' efforts.  And one struck me this evening whilst reading Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by by New Church Starts.  The authors say:
Our experience has confirmed that over 80 percent of those who visit a church and return to that church and gradually become enfolded into that faith community do so on the elbow already connected to that church.  So work on making your your church the most loving and inviting place in the area so when people do show up they are loved.

Hmmmm.  Two thoughts occur to me.  If 80% of those who visit, return, and become involved do so because someone has brought/invited them, then perhaps we had best shed a bit of our Quaker reticence to let others know that we are Friends, and friendly, and would welcome them.  Yikes! Invite a friend to Friends?  Well, yes.  In a Friend-ly sorta way, of course -- a mere invitation would suffice.  Either personally ("Um... err... I'm a Quaker.  You wouldn't want to come to Meeting me with me, would you?" probably isn't the best approach, though) or corporately through Facebook or Google ads or the like.

The second is that "loving and inviting" line.  What I noticed when I read that is the lack of of specific theological position mandate.  Evangelical.  Liberal. Programmed.  Unprogammed. Middle of the road.  Nope, the theological mandate is love.  Reminds me of something I read in a certain pretty important book -- "the greatest of these is love." 

Loving, inviting Meetings, filled with people of Spirit.  Perhaps that's a sort of Quaker E- E- E- En-vitation we can embrace.

-- Brent


Robin M. said...

I'd like to cautiously recommend another book for your shelf, "The Tangible Kingdom." Here's my review from a few years ago:<

Wim Nusselder said...

What "E" word??
Hoped you would write about e(lectronic)-Quakerism more explicitly...

Brent Bill said...

I'll check out "The Tangible Kingdom," Robin. And Wim, the "E" word is Evangelism. I will be writing more about use of electronic media as I go.

pablo paz said...

Brent, I like your musings, even if your FUM roots are showing (maybe you can get them re-tinted?). This business of inviting friends to be Friends is so simple and natural if your religion is clearly an important part of your life. I've never understood many Friends' unwillingness to admit their religious life or their spiritual leadings outside the meetinghouse. At one point in the 80's i was shocked to realize that 9 if the last 10 members we had taken into MM were persons I had either invited to visit with me or whom i had welcomed and talked with after they stood up and said it was their first Friends Meeting during introductions. I'm not shy but i (like many liberal Friends) am an introvert. If i can wlecome newcomers and share with them so they get a positive start on our path, why can't everyone?