Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
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.
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)
Thanks James. When I saw the title of this thread my heart leapt a little, as this is a subject very much on my mind at the moment.
I came to Quakers when I was 17, and was an experience of 'coming home'. At that time I wasn't a Christian. My reason for originally exploring Quakerism was that I new they'd welcome me as a gay man and I didn't have to 'believe' anything. Since then, 12 years later, I've come to a point where I identify as Christian. I'm still in love with Quakerism in theory, but in practice I'm becoming a bit disillusioned by the liberal-humanist outlook that is becoming more commonplace in British Quakerism. I want to hold on to Quaker insights and practices, but be in community with others who retell and re-live the Christian story. Being a Christ-centred Quaker in England is increasingly difficult. My dilemma is of a different nature to yours I think, but I feel for you as someone pulled in two directions. All the best with your search for answers!
i am multiply engaged with a number of traditions, and i think it's all right. the question that i think i am avoiding is-- what tradition do i want to struggle in? so i engage as i can, and avoid some of that struggle. i know that at some point this will change, though my personal practice may not change. Friends speak to my condition in many ways, and more explicit traditions and rituals make sense for me at different times. until i am powerfully moved, i don't think i will join a meeting just yet.
Ah, Friend, I too will hold you in the Light.
I have the opposite problem. I want to be only in a liberal Quaker Meeting, but there are a couple of terribly contentious people (one of whom has literally "picked on" me, yes, I would call it bullying) in the local Meeting, so I've simply withdrawn. I've had to become a Quaker Hermit as it were.
As to your own problem, the role of parenting is a demanding and rewarding one. The time and energy it requires is incredible, but remember, they are only children for a short while. Consider this time as a sabbatical! You must focus on your duty to family, and squeeze in Community where and as you can. Do the best you can do, and don't beat yourself up for that which just cannot be done at this time.
Before you know it, the fledgelings are gone from the nest, and in that "empty nest" situation, feel assured, you WILL have time and energy to resume more active roles in your spiritual Communities.
peace & blessings,
Offered in solidarity --- I'm appreciating in particular comments made by Mark Russ and Victoria Pearson, above.
I have been through exactly what Mark is describing when he said "I'm still in love with Quakerism in theory, but in practice I'm becoming a bit disillusioned by the liberal-humanist outlook that is becoming more commonplace in British Quakerism. I want to hold on to Quaker insights and practices, but be in community with others who retell and re-live the Christian story. Being a Christ-centred Quaker in England is increasingly difficult."
Through roughly 10 years of being at that place and exploring many mainline Christian traditions, I felt God keep telling me that I was and am still a Quaker.... I discovered that at some point this thing had awoken in me that Victoria is referring to: a solid sense that it was the Quakers who I was to love and struggle with from here on out. The sense: I am no longer looking for a community that meets my needs -- none of them do. I am just going to be me, HERE with the Quakers, and they will just have to deal with that! Followed by a greater sense of love for them than had previously existed.
AFTER my heart was resolved and months into my re-establishment in a Friends meeting, I found that when I spoke during meeting one time about the pain of this "dual" longing, my love of God, and how hard it was to speak out of that and feel the knee-jerk reactions of others... people responded to encourage me to share from this place again, and one person described it as a gathered meeting. I didn't expect this response -- I and they all felt ministered to in some way. Slowly I am finding that the Friends have room for all of me, and that I also have room for all of them.