Hello Friends,

I'm new to this website, but I have a question that has been stirring inside me for awhile, so I'm going to be presumptuous and ask it right away.

First a bit of background about myself... I grew up in the Churches of Christ (an extreme fundamentalist religious tradition, the branch I was from saw itself as being the "true church" as opposed to "the denominations" which were not part of the true church). 

As a young adult, I moved away from the exclusivity and legalism of the COC's and in the direction of charismatic evangelicalism.  Most of my early-mid 20's were spent in this religious tradition, with some failed time spent trying to reconnect with my COC roots again. (it was during this time, that i began to embrace the idea of Jesus' teachings being pacifistic).

In my late 20's, I started questioning a lot more and in the end found myself in a very small liberal Mennonite church. This has been my primary church home ever since. By now I had embraced a universalist theology, but thankfully had found a church that was tolerant of these beliefs. In time, I was called by the congregation to be their Minister of Peace & Justice (a bivocational position).

A few years ago, I was asked by the local Quaker meeting to attend their regional Yearly Meeting to share about the work of a peace organization that I work with. Attending the yearly meeting was a life-changing experience. I felt a sense of peace and connectedness with the divine there. I came home from it wanting to know more about the Quakers, and started attending the local Quaker MfW. After a good while of being a regular attender (while at the same time being a part of the Mennonite Church), I felt a call to want to be a member of the meeting. I talked about this decision with my Mennonite Church (they were supportive of it) and so I asked for a clearness committee from the Quakers. In the end I was accepted as a member.

Since that time, life has become more complicated. I got married and am now a father to a 5 year old. Due to family obligations, it has become almost impossible to participate in worship regularly with both the Mennonites and Quakers. I have a longer and deeper connection with the community of the Mennonites (on the human-to-human level) but I long for the time of collective connectedness with the divine that I felt in Quaker MfW.

I don't have any answers right now. I'm trying to take some time out for silent meditation/contemplation in my day but it doesn't feel the same. I would appreciate any words of wisdom for my situation.

Thanks,

James

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I am holding you in prayer, Friend James.

 

James,

I'm glad you raised this issue. My spiritual path has also been circuitous. I "discovered" Quakerism and became convinced while I was active in an Anglican church. After about 10 years of juggling between church Services and Quaker Meetings and trying to definitively opt for one or the other, I realized that I was probably never going to be able to do that, for a number of reasons, some of which you can probably guess. People from both MfW and the church assured me they were absolutely fine with the option of dual membership, and so eventually I asked to be formally accepted as member in RSoF while keeping my name on the church electoral roll.

Many Quakers in Europe seem to have dual membership, retaining their previous denominational affiliation like that, certainly quite a few of the Friends I personally know. I don't know how common it is elsewhere in the world. In any case, I'm quite happy with the arrangement now.

Nenad

Dear James Branum, thanks for writing. I'm also married, with a small child, and involved with both Quaker and Anabaptist communities. A thought that crossed my mind is whether a group of either community (or maybe even a mixed group) would be willing to come to you - would you be open to say, asking some people to your house one evening a week to pray/worship and eat together? I have found the Anabaptist group here particularly keen to include and very gently involve my small daughter so I can come to their meetings. Not that it solves the discernment problem for the future - best wishes with that - but a supportive prayer group might help whichever way you feel led?

James, I was interested to read your post. Your situation is quite different from min in some ways, but I too have moved to the place where I feel called to be part of two religious communities. For me the two are the Catholic Church and my Quaker Meeting. I wrote a book about my journey - Leadings: A Catholic's Jurney Through Quakerism. My "witness," such as it is, is that the obsession with establishing a church that was the True and Original intention of Christ has only led to division and pride. There are aspects of Christ's presence and truth in all the different denominations, but the Body of Christ is cross-denominational. The important things for me are to keep a contact with a tradition that goes back to the time of Christ; and to keep to a more personal relationship with Christ that I can share with a smaller community of people who are committed to living out God's call as best they can, and who wrestle with the doubts and uncertainties that are part of our faith life. 

Thanks!

Paula Deming said:

I am holding you in prayer, Friend James.

 

I really like the idea of the home meetings. My wife and I have both wanted to find ways to be more hospitable than we are now (both of us can be a bit reclusive if we don't push ourselves to not be) so this might be a really good thing.

And I like the idea of maybe a bit of hybrid thing. This really is the issue, because I love the anabaptist emphasis on community (my little congregation does that well, eating together most Sundays, and often getting together during the week) but also love the Quaker emphasis on direct connection with the Divine. Maybe we could have a meal together and then some time for MfW?


Alice M Yaxley said:

Dear James Branum, thanks for writing. I'm also married, with a small child, and involved with both Quaker and Anabaptist communities. A thought that crossed my mind is whether a group of either community (or maybe even a mixed group) would be willing to come to you - would you be open to say, asking some people to your house one evening a week to pray/worship and eat together? I have found the Anabaptist group here particularly keen to include and very gently involve my small daughter so I can come to their meetings. Not that it solves the discernment problem for the future - best wishes with that - but a supportive prayer group might help whichever way you feel led?

This discussion is so contemporary and typical of our lives today!  

Intellectually and spiritually, Quakerism answers a need that is not addressed by the more evangelical and fundamental churches that draw my family and friends in the culturally Deaf community. 

Perhaps one of these days I will find a universalist type of church attended by the Deaf community.  For now, it can be a challenge to share religions that expects a more structured outlook  in order to be with the people that speak my language. 

Hi,

I grew up attending Methodist & Anglican churches - I ejected from these in my early twenties and took up a loose affiliation with the Unitarians, and they kept me within the Christian faith as I questioned things.

In recent years I have become increasingly drawn to the Quakers - indeed, that one passsage, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." often brings tears to my eyes as I think it reflects how I feel with the Quakers I am coming home, how they are helping me grow towards a new understanding.

But then again, it's hard for me to leave the Unitarians and declare myself convinced. The Unitarians, for all my frustrations, are a welcoming bunch with a great intellectual tradition behind them (Martineau, Channing, Parker et al). So I exist now in a half-way or eclectic state. I've decided that if / when the time comes that I become a  Friend, in the fullest sense, then this is what God wants. I've decided not to over-think it or forcibly push it.

I tend to call myself a 'Free Christian' (look it up on wikipedia if you're curious) - the Unitarians provide me with a religion of the mind, the Quakers a religion of the heart. I think this state has made me more tolerant and less sectarian, less concerned with finer details - I've even attended a traditional Catholic mass and an Anglican charismatic service in the past six months!

james, is the problem that you feel you must choose one and abandon the other, because anything less than full commitment is flawed? what if neither set of beliefs or practices is complete, according to god?

in the bhagavad gita, krsna has this to say to arjuna:

Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.

does your dilemma concern an undecided understanding of god, or an undecided choice of human communities to join with?

since you describe yourself as a universalist, i'm not sure exactly what the difficulty is.

Kevin speaks to my condition.

kevin roberts said:

james, is the problem that you feel you must choose one and abandon the other, because anything less than full commitment is flawed? what if neither set of beliefs or practices is complete, according to god?

in the bhagavad gita, krsna has this to say to arjuna:

Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.

does your dilemma concern an undecided understanding of god, or an undecided choice of human communities to join with?

since you describe yourself as a universalist, i'm not sure exactly what the difficulty is.

Thanks James for sharing and thank you Friends for all your inspiring reflections (a shloka from the Bhagavad Gita on Quakerquaker! That must be a first time? Great :-) ).
I can relate to many of your thoughts. My own path has been very diverse, and enjoying the aesthetics, like sounds, smells and devotional expressions of different faith traditions somehow became a life purpose in itself for me. I also have small children at home which prevents me from finding the time to commit to my local MfW. I try to raise my children as multifaith as possible, hoping they will choose the right path for themselves when time is ripe. At times I can feel a deep longing to identify with a community in a more structured and organized way. But when I think about it, this urge and the frustration about it is more sociological than spiritual. I don't think I'm a Universalist in an absolute sense, cause I somehow feel that the Living Christ-experience, expressed in the language of Christianity or not, somehow distinguishes true religious experience from others (not necessarily false, just other). My Quaker identity and membership is a safe haven to capture this complexity, regardless of how active I manage to integrate it in my life as it looks right now.

James, it is interesting you ask this.

There was a time when my YM (Phila) 'legislated' against it. (The Faith and Practice said you could not.) 

In the 1980s, I learned that England has a very different practice.  There is not the 'forbid' - in fact, there are Catholics who are members.

In our last (1996) version of F&P I brought this forward, and thought we simply said:

Requests for dual membership
Membership is a major commitment to participate in a particular community of Friends, and full participation in two religious bodies at once is usually impractical.

However, this was added in the process -  Except in unusual circumstances, a member of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting belongs to a particular monthly meeting and should not hold membership in any other religious body, including another monthly meeting.

I hope we soften this a bit.  We had a marvelous 'member' who every week went to the Church of the Advent in Swarthmore on the bus, and on her way back to her apartment, she would stop in and worship with us; she attended our potlucks, our events, and in her 80s was more active than many members - and she contributed to us and to the YM.  As far as we were/are concerned, she was a member.  She felt very much like part of the Beloved Community - which our Meeting feels is what it's all about.

So keep praying and discerning, Friend! ;o)

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