Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
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.
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 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.
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).
I wonder if, after an interlude of a year or more, what has changed in the circumstances of those of you who say you can't find a group of like-minded Christian Friends within convenient traveling distance to meet with on something more than a casual hit-or-miss basis. I am now located in my home area in the lower Champlain Valley, in NYS but just a stone's throw from Vermont.
When the Covid situation eases, I expect to meet with a few others in this area interested in Christian Quaker worship and fellowship. It wasn't difficult to find a few such people. It also appears that Protestant churches in our community are at low ebb right now, except for Bible churches and an evangelical church which represents stereotypical Evangelical culture. I see an opportunity to gather a group if I don't push the "Quaker brand" too heavily. Can one advocate a Quaker-inspired kind of Christian fellowship without trying to push others into a Quaker-church membership which they are probably not ready for??