For the past few years I have been a member of the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Churches’ Board of Evangelism. Sounds a bit odd for someone who spouts off about doing church in new and creative ways, eh? When I was in a very much seeker phase (not fully connected with my church, not sure if I wanted to be connected with a church), a friend advertised openings on the board. He was employed by the board, and since I really respected the sort of stuff he was doing (discernment, leadership development), I figured: hey! This could be interesting.
And it has been. The glow and infatuation with my first foray into the Adult Yearly Meeting World turned to confusion with bits of frustration and apathy thrown in for good measure.
“Yay! I’m in a place where I can be effective and helpful in offering gifts and really doing God’s work at a bigger level!”
“Wait. We just sat through eight hours of meetings, and I can’t remember ever really noticing where God’s moving. How many times do we have to look at the budget, and why can’t I tell if we’re in the black or red?”
“Simple church does not have to be a house church! And no: numbers aren’t huge. Missional is in for the long haul: it takes time! When have you done anything recently that begat big numbers? Hmmm?”
“Another meeting. Another budget. Is this last year’s agenda? It looks familiar . . .”
It was interesting a) being one of three girls, 2) being the only young adult and iii) being Joe Gerick’s kid: three strikes, you’re out! I figured I could say whatever I wanted – the only way for me to go was up. And so I did talk. Folks used my token young adult status to question why young adults no longer went to church. Some actually saw a compassion in my sharings and encouraged me to continue seeking. I heard stories about folks working outside of the box, truly living in the Spirit; but I also saw how poorly we were equipped (or willing) to support them.
This past week members of the Yearly Meeting approved a restructure of the organization: positions, moneys, boards. Duties were shuffled, combined, created, and eliminated to create brand spankin’ new boards. We’ve been asked not to say things like, “The Local Outreach Board, i.e. the old BOE and Board of Peace and Social Concerns”: we’ve been asked to look at them as new entities. That’s hard to do.
I wasn’t a part of the approval process: I heard about it at MidYear Boards, but I didn’t attend community meetings or the business meetings – the notion of the potential squabbling over details made my stomach crunch. I do have a concern that I see no obvious place where out-of-the-box ministries and callings will be affirmed and nurtured: I never said anything because I sensed that a pat answer would be provided (Oh, it will fall under here or over here). But, it doesn’t seem that obvious to me.
I also didn’t speak up because I’m at peace with what’s happening. It appears that these types of works, if they are to take place, will have to occur on the local level. Maybe that’s where it should’ve been happening all along. Just like many Quakers fear having a paid pastor because the congregation might slack on their individual ministerial duties (oh, we’ve paid someone to take care of that stuff), I wonder if an atmosphere of apathy towards being relevant in our cultural context has been created due to thinking, “Oh, the Yearly Meeting takes care of those callings.” But now: it doesn’t seem obvious to me that it will be happening at the upper level: local meetings are going to have to step up.
“However, there are other voices that express real hope — not in the reconstitution of Christendom, but in the idea that the end of this epoch actually spells the beginning of a new flowering of Christianity. The death of Christendom removes the final props that have supported the culturally respectable, mainstream, suburban version of Christianity. This is a Christianity expressed by the “Sunday Christian” phenomenon wherein church attendance has very little effect on the lifestyles or values or priorities expressed from Monday to Saturday. This version of Christianity is a facade, a method for practitioners to appear like fine, upstanding citizens without allowing the claims and teachings of Jesus to bite very hard in everyday life. With the death of Christianity the game is up. There’s less and less reason for such upstanding citizens to join with the Christian community for the sake of respectability or acceptance. The church in fewer and fewer situations represents the best vehicle for public service or citizenship, leaving only the faithful behind to rediscover the Christian experience as it was intended: a radical, subversive, compassionate community of followers of Jesus” (Exiles, Frost 7-8).
I can mourn the “loss” of the board I participated in . . . or I can look around to see how God is redeeming this change to move in new, incredible, hopeful ways.
God’s moving: there is no doubt of that. The question is will we join, or will we be too busy rearranging our organizational furniture to notice?