Here is an invitation to consider another way of building Quaker community, and a way of reaching out to the community at large with a meeting house centered happening.
Go out and treat yourself to the Beatles Live At The BBC...
(The_Beatles_album) and listen to it a few times.
Recently, as we were planning our move from a cottage in the woods in Fairmount Park to a small house next to Haverford College, I approached Haverford Meeting with an idea about having a weekly Guitar Night. We, as a family, both need and want to be a dynamic
part of a vibrant
meeting community, and Haverford MM was not only very close to where we were going to live, it also had an embracing relationship with the college that could use a little rekindling.
Besides that, the surrounding neighborhood is no stranger to art and music. Imagine a weekly get together where those who know how to play well and those just learning could come together and learn (or at least attempt in a supportive and fun gathering) a new song every week. LOTS of people have guitars and ukeleles gathering dust, much to their horror and niggling shame.
People want to come together and have fun. The Beatles At The BBC is fun. Big fun. They cover their own early music, but they also cover everybody else's, in a way that clearly shows how much they loved playing, and how much they loved Smokie Robinson, Chuck Berry, Burt Bacharach, Lieber and Stoller, Phil Spector. and lots of others.
My experience with Quaker meetings is often centered around any number of admittedly worthy causes and endeavors being pinned to the wall like a target, and seeing how many folks will hurl themselves towards it like darts. I would rather feel I'm part of a community whose energy is there like a fully charged car battery. Then that group, who is strengthened by having learned together, screwed up and triumphed together while laughing together, and eventually made beautiful music together, whose bond is so much more than the sum of its parts... THAT group then starts to wonder where else we might steer some of this fresh and seemingly boundless energy.
Other who have come out for guitar night who are not with the Friends, will start to associate the idea of joyful energy with the Friends and with the meeting house which, guaranteed, most will have never crossed that threshold before. Those among them who are seeking will see a community that comes together for weighty causes, but dares to have fun.
Dares to have fun.
Now, add a food element. People love to cook, and strangers quickly become friends while stirring a pot or bustin' suds. If participants in guitar night know that there will be a pot of fabulous spaghetti and a genuinely interesting salad, that only adds to the fun. Then folks are not rushing in late after rushing off to eat first. Folks are relaxing and enjoying each others company, with food as both nourishment and ice breaker.
Folks who do not wish to play can still come and enjoy the social mix of cooking, eating and cleaning up, and stay on to enjoy the cacophony of group song learning. Friends who know they are coming to play can invite friends to come and hang out with them, even if they are not playing.
Quaker teens and young adults often leave the Friends because they rightly see a general self imposed greyness to the community, and are unwilling to cast aside the brilliant colors of youthful energy and joie de vivre. If our community is to have relevance for me and my young family, we need more Johnny B. Goode and less Kumbaya. We still want and need ol' Kumbaya in our souls, but there has to be a groove balance.