I feel like I should put a big ìDRAFTî stamp across this post. While Iíve been sitting with these thoughts that Iím about to throw out to the World Wide Web for a while, Iím nowhere close to being decided. Theyíre just some things that have been poking at noggin and tugging at my spirit, and much like my kitten whoís currently sitting on my lap despite many attempts at getting him to leave – theyíre not going anywhere.
Sometimes being in the middle is a grand place to be: one is balanced and has clear sight of both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes it really sucks because you just feel like gray mush (and not the good Quaker gray). ðŸ˜‰
Two experiences of recent:
1) Andrew Jones came to town. Bob Hyatt kindly organized a gathering up in Multnomah Village. I had been reading a lot of ìemerging conversationî blogs and thought, ìIím going to meet kindred spirits: folks who will understand exactly where Iím at!î – that church is a way of living, not a weekly activity or social club. I met some amazing folks – people who were willing to be transparent to a stranger in their midst. I got into a discussion with Bob and started explaining some of my background and how I came to be there. Words started coming up like ìYearly Meetingî (which is nice and confusing in that itís the term for our denominational district as well as an annual gathering in July) and ìBoard of Evangelismî (I love and cringe at Bobís response: ìYou have a board that does evangelism?î). Communication was not as easy as I imagined; kinship was not instantaneous.
2) When I began this blog, it was important for me to work my denominational upbringing into it. I love having been raised in Quaker tradition. While I greatly resonate with the core beliefs and distinctives, I mostly appreciate the people I worship with – those that are drawn to the same worship expressions and beliefs as myself. Through my blog Iíve come into contact with other amazing folks who also claim the Quaker faith: weíve been able to discuss how some things look different, but many things are the same – responding to that God-placed ache to be in deeper intimacy with Him.
But while reading blogs and trying to get to know the background of other bloggers, Iíve hit a block. Folks mention terms such as ìHicksiteî or ìWilburiteî traditions; Inner Light; Conservative; Evangelical; Christ-centered or . . . ? Quakers have had quite a history: sometimes they were uber-active, sometimes they were uber-silent; some look like a community church full of special music and meet & greet times and a pastor preaching a message of ìGod loves you and has the perfect plan for your lifeî even though Iíve never been able to find those exact words in the Bible, some look like a bunch of very solemn people sitting in a room waiting for some unseen moment when they all of a sudden rise from their dormancy and begin spastically shaking hands. And generally when asked, either branch feels the need to throw in a disclaimer of ìwell, Iím not one of *those* Quakers.î ðŸ™‚
I donít know my Quaker history, to tell you the truth. Yes, I went to a ìQuakerî college; yes, I took ìHistory & Doctrine of Friendsî on Tuesday and Thursdays from 8:00-8:55. If you will note the time of the class, itís not a surprise that I retained very little (I say with much love in my voice, having expressed to the professor (and father of one of my best friends) that if we were getting paid (i.e. scholarship for Quaker students) to take this class that itíd be in their best interests to offer it at a time thatís conducive to sleep-deprived students: save that time for ìWorld of Musicî). As I read other blog entries, I find myself stumbling more over the language than understanding the true message of the post (ex. now when you say ìConservativeî, Iím assuming you donít mean Red State).
So after my ìEmergingî experience, I thought Iíd find comfort in a ìQuakerî experience, except I donít really find total understanding there. Talking with Bob I felt like somewhat of a boob; my thoughts were convoluted in terminology – Iím not emerging enough to leave behind definitions. Talking with other Quakers, I feel like an ignoramus and a bit ashamed to ask ìHuh?î – I’m not Quaker enough in knowing history and why Quakers stood for certain things. Hence my feeling of wading in gray mush.
I know Greggís said over and over (yes, Iíve heard you): Both/And. Both/And.
But I wonder what sorts of blocks my terminology and definitions give to other folks. Sometimes words can clarify; sometimes they can muddle. Is my language enabling folks to encounter Christ, or are their minds spinning over something like what type of evangelical I might be?
Part of me has thought of shedding my Quaker pin. How can I use it?: have I ever quaked with the power of God? Shedding my differentiation label certainly would support the idea that ìthereís really only one church, but lots of meeting places.î Particularly in this town where the Quaker college is perceived as pretty insular, would I have different interactions with folks if I simply said ìIím a follower of Christî rather than a ìFriendî? What would I miss out on? What would be gained?
I can hear the theologians going a little bizerko: how can I ignore [insert some word like eschatology or transubstantiation or Argumentum ad verecundiam (yes, I had to look that one up)]? I guess Iím making it rather simplistic (or for theologians out there: reductionist ðŸ™‚ ): I donít see Christ talking a lot of theology, but rather loving, teaching practical stuff, and healing folks.
Like I said, this statement should have a big ìDRAFTî stamp across it – the thoughts arenít necessarily coherent or well-founded: just some thoughts from recent life experiences, and it seems that I find Christís transforming light more readily in those than thinking about our area Faith & Practice.