My dad gave me my first personality test when I was sixteen: it was one of those Myers-Briggs type indicator things. I’m an INFJ – one letter off from perfection, according to my father (who is an INTJ). My brother wanted to take the test, but Dad said he didn’t have a personality to test yet. 🙂
In college I really got into looking at personality types. Perhaps it was the selfish side of me, or perhaps I was so confused about what to do in life that if I could figure out my self, then I could figure out the rest. One night, probably after working too late at a coffee shop and then coming home to a household consisting of twelve other embodiments of estrogen (far above what is healthy for any human being to endure), I came up with a theory: religious denominations are not so much about theological agreements, but personality types. Quakers – introverted/contemplative. Nazarenes – service-oriented. Baptists – extroverted/social group oriented. Pentecostal – demonstrative. Etc., etc., etc. With that thought in mind, each denomination would have a lot of the same strengths *and* a lot of the same weaknesses: the lack of personality diversity leads to one-sidedness, lacking the “shadow side”. I know: lots of problems with the theory, but there may be some truth to it.
I’ve been thinking about that more this week as I’ve been hearing feedback regarding the Next Steps recommendations. Yes, any change is generally perceived as loss, but I’ve been amazed (not in a good way) at the amount of difficult feedback that’s been expressed. Some people feel in the dark about the implementation of the recommendations; understandable – hopefully something will be shared from up front once the logistics are figured out. Education needs to happen: what does “fasting” mean, and what will happen during this time? Why do we think it’s important? What was the journey of folks coming to the Two Services recommendation? Etc. All legitimate questions.
These things have been brought to the business meeting: they have not been kept confidential. And folks on the Next Steps group have been more than willing to share with those who were interested (my poor husband and small group are probably now having to feign interest: they got to hear updates whether they wanted to or not :)).
But hearing questions at this point in the process like:
- Well, why was this committee appointed at all?
- Who appointed them?
- Where is this coming from?
- Why do we have to change?
- How long has this been going on?
with an overtone of suspicion is really surprising (and frustrating).
What I’m recognizing is a lack of trust in authority in our faith gathering. And I wonder where that comes from. I don’t sense that our hired pastors have done anything to deserve a lack of trust: they lead in very open and transparent ways. The elders have been fair and thoughtful and intentional as far as I’ve known. So then I start to wonder: do Quakers have a problem with authority in general?
My husband comes from the Nazarene tradition which is much more hierarchical than Quakers (well, almost *anyone* would be more hierarchical); I don’t sense that such a recommendation would be an issue for them (but I could be totally off). It seems that if elders (i.e. people the church has trusted in having a sense of leading and leadership for the faith gathering) felt the need to appoint a committee, and the folks on that committee spent a lot of time and work and prayer and thought and conversation and passion and tears and self working hard to discern the next steps, and then that committee made their recommendation to the elders (who are supposed to be some of the wise folks of the church), and the elders approved that recommendation — it would seem that perhaps the recommendation should be considered to be a good thing and acted upon without having to prove it’s legitimacy and win over every.single.individual.
Yes, I know there are exceptions to the rule; yes, I know it’s wonderful that an individual’s voice is considered in the Quaker business meetings. But good Lord: how ever will we get anything done if we don’t trust?!! What’s the point of having elders if we don’t believe they have our good in mind? Why bother listening to the leaders for a Sunday morning message if they don’t have a sense of where we’re going in the first place? Is that why Quakerism is dwindling down? I hear that the message our denomination contains is refreshing and freeing and life-giving: so why are our meetings dying? Is it because we can’t submit – to one another, to leadership, to the Spirit, to God?
I told Jason I felt uneasy bringing this up because I know I have a problem with submission. My parents didn’t call me “No Nap Gerick” for no reason. 🙂 But perhaps my inability to lay down my preferences for others enables me to see it more clearly in other places in the world. I’m telling myself that I don’t have to prove my experience or my belief in what I hear God calling us to to anyone: if I feel manipulated to have to prove myself, I am choosing to feel manipulated (hurrah for CBT).
Initially I felt that Next Steps was about discerning where NFC is called to go. Now I wonder if it was more about dealing with embedded sins and dysfunctional dynamics that must be named and repented of before we can even think of stepping into a new revelation that God has in store for our faith community — and denomination. That’s not easy work. But I’m excited to do it, and I hope and pray that others might engage on the journey as well.
Spirit: unite and ignite us.