What is keeping YOU from coming to Christ-centered Friends gatherings?

Hi, Friends! My name is Adria Gulizia, and I'm the "new media" coordinator for "Follow Me," this year's Annual Northeastern Christ-Centered Friends Gathering, which is happening at Powell House in upstate New York over Labor Day Weekend. I want to not only invite people who are curious about or committed to Christ to join us, but I would also like to know, for those of you who will not be joining us, why not?

I'm hoping Friends will tell me:

  • If you have come to Christ-Centered Friends Gatherings in the past and you aren't coming to this one, why not?
  • If you have never been to a Christ-Centered Friends Gathering, why not?
  • If you've been to Christ-Centered Friends Gatherings in the past and you ARE coming back, why do you keep coming?

Please be candid, Friends! I really want to know what you are thinking.

Thanks,

Adria

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Friend Stephanie;

 

I've never heard that phrase before, "listening in tounges".  That's wonderful!

 

May we all be given the gift of Listening in Tounges.

 

Peace and Hope!

Stephanie Stuckwisch said:

We Quakers (and I'm aiming this mostly at unprogrammed liberal Friends) are not immune to our own forms of stereotyping and prejudices.

In this discussion, I've sensed an underlying thread of  'it's OK as long as it's not too evangelical'.

I live an a section of the US where we only have the two most extremes of Quakerism. At furthest edges of each group, there's little communication. For those of us who've ventured across the divide, it's been overwhelmingly rich.

I'm currently part of a small group almost equally divided between liberals and evangelicals. We include a bisexual woman who speaks of the Goddess and an evangelical who praises Jesus Christ her Lord and Savior.

We study together, challenge each other, pray for each other, support one another and hold each other accountable. We come together with all our vulnerabilities and we "listen in tongues".

This is a spiritual depth I have never experience in any of the meetings I've attended in 4 countries and 5 states.

Yes, sometimes I need to be among those who closely share my beliefs so that I can be supported and recharged without needing to constantly explain myself. And yes, I also need to go into those borderlands where the sharp growing edges challenge me and keep my stretching.

You were the most direct, but certainly not the only one expressing the sentiment. The statements that I found most bothersome were the assumptions that a Christ-centered gathering would not be welcoming.

I understand painful memories from childhood churches. I'm fairly certain at least one of my brothers thinks I bound for hellfire. I know his wife already has me burning and probably has marshmallows handy.

I also know that not all evangelicals are fundamentalists. And most Christocentric liberal Friends wouldn't even qualify as evangelical in many circles.



Jane Stokes said:

Stephanie, I realize that I am probably the person who has expressed the most concern about "not too evangelical". That does stem from some really bad experiences, both personal and professional, with evangelical Christians and therefore I am very wary. That is my personal baggage - however Adria was asking for our personal reasons for not attending such a gathering. Prejudice and stereotypes - well perhaps yes as any assumptions about particular persons that we have not met yet will involve some level of prejudice.

There is a creative tension I think for more than just me between those of us who are...- I am realizing as I write this that the labels and groupings that are used by Friends in the US are not a great fit for me here in Canada so I am struggling with trying to find a way to explain. Trying again...those of us who are Christ centred most of the time in our worship and who are universalist , believing that our way is not the only way or even the best way for all and who not only don't feel the need to evangelize but even don't agree with the practice and between those who genuinely feels called to evangelize, believing that their faith in Jesus Christ requires them to spread the Gospel and bring others to Jesus not matter what the cost to themselves. How do Friends handle this amongst themselves? I have a loving family full of Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals who do not evangelize towards me because" they understand that I am a Quaker" but somehow I am not sure how that tension would look between Friends. Again not something I have encountered in Canada where even in our united yearly meeting I have never personally met any Evangelical Friends.

On a completely side note as I write this I am remembering a family story (for those who may think that a discomfort towards evangelism is a modern liberal Quaker affliction). My grand father and his father in law, my great grand-father, were both sidesmen (responsible for taking up the collection each week) at their Church of England Church. (This would have been early 1900s, pre WWI). One Sunday a year the collection was to go to an evangelical group "The London society for the conversion of the Jews". These two gentlemen would walk up the aisle each year with the collection plates and refuse to hand them down the pews. They were both so against the idea of Christians trying to convert persons of other faiths.  

Yes sharp edges can be good and stretching for all involved. Thank you for the conversation and the ideas.

I first heard the phrase "listening in tongues" from Jon Kershner,  an Evangelical Friend here in the NW USA.  I'm not sure whether or not he was the first to use it. He challenged a gathering of Liberal and Evangelical Friends to come together, speak our truth and listen in tongues.

Randy Oftedahl said:

Friend Stephanie;

 

I've never heard that phrase before, "listening in tounges".  That's wonderful!

 

May we all be given the gift of Listening in Tounges.

 

Peace and Hope!

Stephanie Stuckwisch said:

We Quakers (and I'm aiming this mostly at unprogrammed liberal Friends) are not immune to our own forms of stereotyping and prejudices.

In this discussion, I've sensed an underlying thread of  'it's OK as long as it's not too evangelical'.

I live an a section of the US where we only have the two most extremes of Quakerism. At furthest edges of each group, there's little communication. For those of us who've ventured across the divide, it's been overwhelmingly rich.

I'm currently part of a small group almost equally divided between liberals and evangelicals. We include a bisexual woman who speaks of the Goddess and an evangelical who praises Jesus Christ her Lord and Savior.

We study together, challenge each other, pray for each other, support one another and hold each other accountable. We come together with all our vulnerabilities and we "listen in tongues".

This is a spiritual depth I have never experience in any of the meetings I've attended in 4 countries and 5 states.

Yes, sometimes I need to be among those who closely share my beliefs so that I can be supported and recharged without needing to constantly explain myself. And yes, I also need to go into those borderlands where the sharp growing edges challenge me and keep my stretching.

I would not assume that a Christ-centered gathering would not be welcoming. To be honest I find it hard to get my head around all the various "groupings" and labels in the US. We are all mixed in up here (which has its rewards and challenges). 

I know and understand that many Friends do carry painful burdens from childhood churches. That is not my situation. I do own that I am wary of evangelical groups as once in my university life and at least three times in my professional life (when I was screening/booking entertainment for the large pediatric hospital I worked at) evangelical groups mis-represented themselves "We're just a community group that likes to do puppet shows" in order to gain access to the children and then ten minutes into their visit it would turn into evangelizing. They felt so strongly that the seriously ill children needed to be saved that the end justified the means. One group even brought colouring books that worked on the same principle - a cover and first ten pages that looked like any colouring book and then it turned evangelical. Takes a long time to go to each patient room to retrieve the book and offer a personal apology. We regularly had visits from other christian groups, Mormons, Buddhist service organizations, Muslim groups, Jewish etc all of whom respected the privacy and beliefs of the children and families. Do I have  positive experiences with friends and family whose belief system is evangelical? - yes absolutely. However I will be wary with an unknown group and one gathering advertised on facebook presented itself in a way that made me very cautious and uncomfortable. Adria was asking for candid discussion about why individual Friends would or would not consider going to a Christ-centered Friends gathering.

Goodness this sounds like a rant. Perhaps some of it is cultural too. Husband grew up Southern Baptist - he is a long way from that now but he seems much more skilled at asking the right questions!

Thank you for the conversation



Stephanie Stuckwisch said:

You were the most direct, but certainly not the only one expressing the sentiment. The statements that I found most bothersome were the assumptions that a Christ-centered gathering would not be welcoming.

I understand painful memories from childhood churches. I'm fairly certain at least one of my brothers thinks I bound for hellfire. I know his wife already has me burning and probably has marshmallows handy.

I also know that not all evangelicals are fundamentalists. And most Christocentric liberal Friends wouldn't even qualify as evangelical in many circles.



Jane Stokes said:

Stephanie, I realize that I am probably the person who has expressed the most concern about "not too evangelical". That does stem from some really bad experiences, both personal and professional, with evangelical Christians and therefore I am very wary. That is my personal baggage - however Adria was asking for our personal reasons for not attending such a gathering. Prejudice and stereotypes - well perhaps yes as any assumptions about particular persons that we have not met yet will involve some level of prejudice.

There is a creative tension I think for more than just me between those of us who are...- I am realizing as I write this that the labels and groupings that are used by Friends in the US are not a great fit for me here in Canada so I am struggling with trying to find a way to explain. Trying again...those of us who are Christ centred most of the time in our worship and who are universalist , believing that our way is not the only way or even the best way for all and who not only don't feel the need to evangelize but even don't agree with the practice and between those who genuinely feels called to evangelize, believing that their faith in Jesus Christ requires them to spread the Gospel and bring others to Jesus not matter what the cost to themselves. How do Friends handle this amongst themselves? I have a loving family full of Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals who do not evangelize towards me because" they understand that I am a Quaker" but somehow I am not sure how that tension would look between Friends. Again not something I have encountered in Canada where even in our united yearly meeting I have never personally met any Evangelical Friends.

On a completely side note as I write this I am remembering a family story (for those who may think that a discomfort towards evangelism is a modern liberal Quaker affliction). My grand father and his father in law, my great grand-father, were both sidesmen (responsible for taking up the collection each week) at their Church of England Church. (This would have been early 1900s, pre WWI). One Sunday a year the collection was to go to an evangelical group "The London society for the conversion of the Jews". These two gentlemen would walk up the aisle each year with the collection plates and refuse to hand them down the pews. They were both so against the idea of Christians trying to convert persons of other faiths.  

Yes sharp edges can be good and stretching for all involved. Thank you for the conversation and the ideas.

I think there is a self-selection process that goes into cross-branch Quaker gatherings that makes it unlikely that those who do show up would be made to feel unwelcome.

It is my understanding, for example, that Evangelical Friends are unlikely to go to events that are planned in large part by Liberal Friends. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but at the YAF gathering in Wichita in 2008 (wow, five years ago already!), I believe there were fewer than half a dozen Evangelical Friends - including someone from the planning committee and her brother.

Similarly, with a "Christ-centered Friends Gathering," I think that Friends with a "my way or the highway" mentality are unlikely to find the idea of a theologically vague, cross-branch gathering appealing, even if it is explicitly Christ-centered. The people who actually show up are less into labels than they are into following Christ. And it's a pretty awesome group of folks, in my experience.

I realized the YAF gathering was in 2010. Irrelevant to this conversation, but it makes me feel better!
I guess I am fortunate to belong to a liberal Quaker meeting where a proclaimed atheist and a proclaimed Christ centered Friend are able to worship beside each other. And should either be moved by the Spirit to utter a message, they are encouraged to use words that are meaningful to them. And we love the diversity within our fellowship.

I think Friends in my meeting appreciate that the Spirit that IS, unites us. Friends at my meeting seem to grasp that that Spirit can truly manifest itself to each of us in a manner that is meaningful to our human mind. Yet we all seem to recognize that our Quaker faith is based on the truths of love, peace, and forgiveness that were so embodied in Jesus of Nazareth. And it is those truths that first drew us to the Religious Society of Friends. So, what's not to like about Jesus, even if we do not utilize him personally?

Most of the meetings I've encountered in Baltimore Yearly Meeting honor the advice in our Faith and Practice to speak with words and experiences that are spiritually meaningful to us. By doing so, I've discovered that a self-proclaimed atheist sitting next to me at meeting lives his life in Spirit as much, or perhaps more, than I do. I've discovered that what he calls "nature", I call "God". We are having the exact same spiritual experience.

My hope and wish for Friends is that we can get beyond words and what they imply to our different minds. I do believe that all Jesus wanted/wants for us is to live in Spirit and Truth, as he did. And that Spirit and Truth is what will unite us.

Thank you!  I think it is wonderful to promote Christ-centered Friends gatherings.  Individuals are hungry for this.  I miss the Stillwater Meeting in Barnesville, Ohio.  I now live over 800 miles from there. I now worship with Mennonites due to my heart needing to be in fellowship with Christians.  Keep up with your work to gathering Christian Quakers together for fellowship.  Thanks.

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