Monday, November 04, 2013

"Silence and Shots" -- A New Way of Planting Quaker Meetings?

A friends of mine sent me an article on "Church-In-Pub" from NPR the other day with the question, "New idea for New Meetings Project? Just kidding, . . . maybe!"   Since she's the clerk of her meeting, she didn't feel like posting it publicly, though she did note, "I have noticed that the rum soaked cranberry salad always disappears quickly at pitch-ins!"

As I read the article I was reminded a photo my brother-in-law Paul sent me a few months ago (on the left).  "Spiritual Shots" in Frisco, TX.

The article reports "With mainline religious congregations dwindling across America, a scattering of churches is trying to attract new members by creating a different sort of Christian community. They are gathering around craft beer. ... Some church groups are brewing it themselves, while others are bring the Holy Mysteries to a taproom. The result is not sloshed congregants; rather, it's an exploratory approach to do church differently."

Doing church differently is something that Quakers have been doing for years.  Well, differently from other Christian congregations.  Perhaps, though, it's time to begin to do something differently from where we've been doing it.

Notice I said "where," not "how."

I think we've got a good bit of the "how" correct -- when we do it right.  But lately we've been largely locked into worshiping in the sort of place that our founding Friends railed against -- a set building.  A "steeple-house" as Fox referred to the churches of his day.  I wonder what he would say about our meetinghouses today?  True, few of them have steeples, per se, but have they become a hindrance rather than a help in being Friends?

Now I admit, I truly love our little meetinghouse.  There's comfort there.  Community there.  Deep worship there.  But I also note that there are few visitors there.

And so when I read the NPR article, I remembered John Camm and John Audland preaching where ever they could -- including the pubs of the day.  They went to where the great people to be gathered were already gathering.

Hmmm, that's a thought.  To take the Quaker way to places where people who would be sympathetic to our way of faith and life are already present or disposed to visit.  "Quakers at the Co-op"?  "Spirit at Starbucks" (whilst Starbucks may not be thrilled w/ a bunch of coffee-swilling Quakers, that's who they're named for (Starbuck in "Moby Dick")?  "Silence and Shots" at the local craft distillery?  Well, we're probably not ready for that or to serve Old Quaker Whiskey.

But what are we ready for?  And where are we ready for?  Is it time to go where "they" are rather than wait for "them" to come to where we are?  Where we are may be fine for us already gathered.  In fact, it may be the perfect place from which to launch an outreach effort at the natural foods cafe, jazz club, playhouse, bookstore, etc.  And where we are may be ideal for folks who are attracted to the Quaker way through our efforts at those public places -- it may be just perfect for entering a loving, caring, worshipful community of faith and going deeper spiritually.

Where is Spirit calling you?

-- Brent


Julie said...

When we do it write?

Brent Bill said...

That, too. But meant "right" of course. One should never be thinking of a writing project while righting. I mean writing. ;-)

Bill Samuel said...

This is something we are struggling with in Friends of Jesus. We think pubs, coffee shops and the like are good venues, and probably will use them for certain types of gatherings. However, they don't seem well suited for waiting worship.

One thing that needs to be considered is that we do need different types of gatherings. This is actually something that early Friends understood. In addition to the "silent assemblies of God's people" (Robert Barclay's words), they had "threshing meetings" which were a form of evangelistic meeting and probably didn't feature much silence.

One of the things the FoJ Leadership Team has read is Halter and Smay's The Tangible Kingdom. The thesis here is that we need to be Christ's body in the world, which will attract folks. This means parties, pub gatherings, helping your neighbors, etc. where people can see Christians as neat people to hang with, and can be drawn in thru natural conversation rather than a church-type setting. Jesus mostly encountered people "on the way to" places, and only occasionally in explicitly religious settings.

Brent Bill said...

Well put, Bill. I agree that a pub may not be the best place for waiting worship ... but there are other possibilities. The new Jackson Friends group in Jackson, MS held a "Meet the Quakers" event in a natural foods cafe -- and 20 people came.

The "on the way" places is a great phrase -- and good reminder.

Viv Hawkins said...

Brent and others, yes, even "where we are" is not always in the Meetinghouse (which is sometimes very much a steeplehouse in spirit). During Occupy Philadelphia, as many as 50-60 people worshiped in the center of the occupation each Sunday. We met in an area below but open to the main concourse. People exiting the subway passed by and some stopped. Others witnessed us from above. After the first week, we had large pieces of cardboard laid on the ground reading "Quaker worship." One of us greeted people with pamphlets explaining Friends waiting worship. We had Friends from up to 15 different meetings some weeks. The worship was some of the deepest and most profound I and others have experienced.

When the occupation was disbanded, Friends attempted to recreate the worship experience at the 30th Street train station but were chased away by the local mass transit police.

Worship in the Meetinghouse has seemed flat to me without the sound of trains and street bands, the sight of the courthouse and flags waving, the smell of humanity in the crisp wintry air. Hmmm, maybe it's time to resurrect that raw worship experience!

Viv Hawkins said...

P.S. A friend and I suggested that we might have a Bible Half Hour Happy Hour in the afternoons at a pub nearby FGC Gathering 2014. One in official authority discouraged it. Another person in authority is game. It's hard to know how to proceed. Any ideas, Brent?

Brent Bill said...

I like the idea about a Bible Half Happy Hour, Viv, but I can see where it could be problematic for FGC in the sense of an international organization embracing a wide variety of Friends (including some who might be AA members). But, certainly, as an ad hoc sorta thing at home, it would be a good idea. I wonder if a Bible Coffee Hour at a local java shop might be cool -- and a way to include locals in it? A sorta "Meet the Quakers" thing...