I know that I am a Conservative Friend. That is my spiritual home even though I have not even been to one single gathering of Conservative Friends (yet!). But I have been pondering/struggling to discern whether or not God wants me to be a part of a Quaker meeting, a Christian fellowship, or "just" to worship at home alone, which I do every day anyway. I am wondering what other isolated Friends are doing about this, and whether there is some value/validity to worshiping alone rather than feeling "forced" to join meetings or churches that are not right. I have found recently that by far my deepest worship sessions, and when I learn the most and feel God's presence most strongly have been when I am here alone, just Him and me. I know there is a commonly held Christian belief that community is essential to the Christian life, but what if that just isn't working? As long as I am growing in my relationship with God and he isn't clearly leading me anywhere else isn't that the right this to do?

I appreciate input from all isolated Friends on this.

Barb

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Hi Barb, I and my wife and two children are Concervative Friends down here in Australia. Being isolated has been a problem for many years although we have done what we can to meet with other like minded people. We use to have a thriving Concervative Friends meeting in the town we live in but because of various things like people moving away for work, the meeting is now down to about six of us attending. My wife and I were sitting down this morning doing a query and were talking about this very question as to is it enough just to meet with each other or do we need to be part of a larger group of like minded Christians. There are many distractions in this life and we feel that the Meeting certainly is a place where we can feel at one with others and be encouraged by others in our walk with Christ, so in this way we do feel attending a meeting is a good thing. Like you I often feel Gods presence very strongly when I am alone. because we live in the country I often go out into the woods to be with God, the closeness out there is pretty amazing. So, while Meeting is important in my eyes I do feel God will connect with us with or without a Meeting, just because we maybe isolated from a Meeting, we are never isolated from God, He is with us 24/7. I feel being involved with a Meeting has it's pluses in the sence we can sound our thoughts and questions off on others and also in a community of believers within a worship for meeting setting, but if that's not available then it just has to be you and God. You are certainly not alone Barb and our prayers go up for in finding the right balance for your life. Shane
Shane and Jenna - I should wait for other replies before jumping back in, but almost as soon as I hit send last night it came to me that as you said, Jenna, I am indeed part of the greater faith community of God's people wherever they are, and so my limited definition of community is just that, limited. It is the spiritual community we are to be a part of, not necessarily a community that meets weekly in a building! As George Fox emphasized the church is not the building, it is the people.

This is warming my heart.
Barb

It has been my practice to ask the Lord each weekend where I should attend worship, giving over the back of my mind, and some outward time, to trying to sense his Guidance. This has resulted in attending 14 different churches of 17 different denominations (rarely more than once) and also to sometimes worship with the local liberal meeting and sometimes local liberal worship groups and sometimes local Friends churches and sometimes Quaker meetings and Friends churches in other towns. I have a time for Conservative worship that is held at an Evangelical Friends church building and a time reserved at the liberal meetinghouse. It has been a fascinating journey, but sometimes, oh sometimes, I am allowed to just stay home and rest in his Presence. That is my favorite.

We lost our membership in a nearby Conservative meeting for alleged "lack of interest in Friends".  The truth is that we lacked interest in being part of that particular meeting, where our input was discouraged and discounted for many years. Ironically,  we had been part of the fellowship before any of the people who put us out!

Around that time a new conservative Mennonite fellowship was getting established in our county, and they welcomed us into their community.  I sometimes say, with tongue in cheek, that we were founding non-members.  They continue to encourage and nurture us ten years later, even though we haven't joined because we are still committed to Conservative Friends as our religious tradition.  We have found in their group honesty and unqualified love for us despite our many weaknesses and problems, such as we had not known in the meeting we were "released from".  We have also learned much from them about how a healthy church should function.

I would encourage you to find a faith community such as this to support your Christian pilgrimage, until such time as you find a Christian Quaker meeting that you can be part of.

Another option would be to network with other Christian Friends on a less frequent basis.  I have no idea of where you live, but there are often Christian Friends within traveling distance who might be happy to meet monthly, quarterly or even less frequently.

A further possibility would be to relocate where a viable Christian Friends group already exists.  To prevent disappointment, you should thoroughly investigate such a group before you make too heavy a commitment.  This would mean talking to several others who are knowledgeable about the meeting, but do not belong to it.

I see now that you are located at Lodi NY.  It should be possible to find others in that general area who would be interested in meeting with you, perhaps on a less than weekly basis.  I suggest that you appeal for help on this thread about how to make contact with parties in your area who are interested in Christian Friends.

I signed in to comment on this thread before I realized it was specifically in the Conservative Friends group. I still don't feel that I understand  Quaker labels very well, so if I am out of place posting here forgive me.

I am a Quaker, a Christian, and an isolated Friend.  With the help of my Meeting back in ME I discerned a leading that brought me out to work and worship in a Catholic Worker farm community in upstate NY, far from the nearest Meeting.  I do share waiting worship daily (for half an hour) and weekly (for an hour) with the other two folks I live with.  I do crave a wider fellowship for support, accountability, example... but the fact is that i do not have one, and when I have visited nearby churches (and when I spent some years trying a moderately distant Qr Meeting) I haven't found a way forward. I don't mean people disagreed with me, I mean I couldn't find my way into a fellowship with them that helped us both to deepen our faithfulness. 

What I do find is one-to-one connections with neighbors and guests who travel with me for varying lengths of time, who are also engaged in the process of trying to work their faith thoroughly into all aspects of their lives, and who don't find my way of living totally crazy. 

And, of course, the reminder in the silence that we are all members one of another at the root, we are all one, whether it's obvious or not. 

It isn't all I want, but it seems to be all I need for now. I hope I am keeping clear enough to notice if I am being led otherwise.

Thank you so much for this post.

I don't know where you are located but, from past communication, I think that it is not all that far from Barbara Smith at Lodi.  The two of you could offer to host a day of sharing and fellowship, and ask for the help of the northeastern Christian Friends organization to make it happen.  Contact Herb Lape and ask for his assistance.  (His wife posts frequently on Quaker Quaker)

I have many thoughts on all that has been written here. First, thank you all for your input and suggestions. At this point, though, what I am feeling led to is a questioning of the need for me to find Quaker, or even Christian, fellowship as it is commonly conceived in this day and age. In other words, while I have desperately felt an urgency to connect with others of like mind in the recent past, partly because like Jenna I felt a need to be affirmed in my path, now that I have been thrashing a bit trying to satisfy that perceived need I am suddenly feeling at peace with not finding it. So here are a few of my thoughts:

1. I can now legitimately call myself a Quaker even though I am not connected with any meeting just as I can call myself Christian even if I don't currently attend any church. It is what I am, where my heart lies, and I have earned the right to use the word because God has led me here.
2. I questioned a lot whether my desperation to find a meeting was because of my own needs or because God wanted me to be part of a meeting. I realized it was mostly because I felt it could strengthen me in my presentation to the world rather than in my own faith journey (that does not seem to need a meeting at this time). And attending a meeting so I could wear that badge does not feel like a good reason.
3. God may very urgently call us to NOT have a meeting or church fellowship so we will rely on Him and not on other humans! Here is a quote from George Fox written at the very beginning of his ministry: "During all this time I was never joined in profession of religion with any but gave myself up to the Lord, having forsaken all evil company, taken leave of father and mother, and all other relations, travelled up and down as a strange in the earth, which way the Lord inclined my heart...For I durst not stay long in a place, being afraid both of professor and profane, lest, being a tender young man, I should be hurt by conversing much with either. For this reason I kept much a stranger, seeking heavenly wisdom and getting knowledge from the Lord and was brought off from outward things to rely on the Lord alone." I am not suggesting this as a permanent condition (though it may be if God wills), but at some times in our journeys it feels right to accept that kind of total submersion in God's Presence and guidance instead of looking around for others.
4. Our culture is big into groups, clubs, organizations, etc. and I'm not sure that is God's plan for humans. Christ asked us to follow Him, not to join a church.
5. I have a secret fantasy of having a community of like-minded Christian Friends around me (we live in Amish country and I am envious). But that is my personal fantasy and I have to stretch my definitions of community to include everyone I come into contact with instead.

Thanks for all your thoughts.

Barb

PS Joanna - It's fine to reply to posts in other "belief" threads. I never know where to post something on this site. It confuses my simple brain. Also, I am close friends with the Gradys here in Ithaca, I assume you know them? Where is your farm? If you're ever in the Fingerlakes stop by - we are 1/2 hour north of Ithaca on an organic raw milk dairy farm!

I belong to a liberal Meeting, but have become very much a conservative Friend.  The closes OYM to me is Lampeter, PA -quite far.  I have been worshiping with some Dunkard Brethren for a few years now and like the support immensely.

Paula

Dear all, 

Whilst an old post, I speaks to me at the moment. Whilst I am only Conservative influenced (a self-labelling Convergent Friend), I can definitely understand some of the comments made here. I am active within our Churches together in the city and I really do love it.  However, my local Quaker meeting is extremely liberal and I realise what a drag it is on my spiritual life.  Am I avoiding conflict, maybe but I have tried many times to try and spiritually reinvigorate the Meeting.

However, I have since found comfort in a small "UK" based group, The "Friends of the Light (FotL)" that has experience  and draws from Conservative Friends, without wanting to be part of any Conservative YM.  I note many liberal Quakers see me as too "c"onservative, and looking at various Quaker Faith & Practice / Books of Discipline I am too liberal for many "Conservative YMs".   I have often wondered am I "spiritually" isolated, occasionally yes, am I at peace with this condition - rarely.  I am thankful for the FofL community.

Whilst I maintain links with my Mennonite Friends and the  occasionally attend their Church services, I also know I am not a Mennonite, but I do like being amongst fellow Christians, and grateful that God has given me the opportunity to be ecumenically active.

I think this is where I need to be at the moment.

I wonder if other contributors have seen changes over the last few years (since the last posts).

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