The whisks have been rescued, and the boys are fitfully slumbering for the moment (kinda like our weather: all blusterylike).
Meeting the folks nominated to be on the Next Steps group was similar to meeting folks from any newly-formed group. Some of them I knew, some of them I didn’t. Some of them I’d never met before and had no clue that they attended my church (probably at a different service gathering). A few folks had been on the previous committee, and others had no clue that there had been any sort of group exploring a sense that God was calling us to something different in the area of worship.
Mark Ankeny had offered to clerk. I grew up with his daughters, and my dad had worked with him previously with yearly meeting business, so there was history. However, I hadn’t known his personal story: that he felt called to start a sort of alternative service a few years ago and did not receive a blessing or encouragement. This (and job changes/moving) led to him exploring other faith gatherings. To me, this was huge: Mark had been our Yearly Meeting business meeting clerk *and* he’s an Ankeny (who seem to be an old time Friends family) . . . and he’d been attending a non-Friends gathering?!! And had been frustrated by our faith community to the point of attending elsewhere? His sharing of this really set a tone of transparency and creating a safe place to question and discern.
The first meetings were really hard for me: I felt like I was spinning wheels. Part of it came from having thought about this type of stuff a lot, while this sense of an itching frustration was totally new to others: they sensed NFC was in a good place, and why would we need to change, and just scratch the itch and move on! We explored our values, as a church, as Quakers, as Christ-followers, and were supposed to come up with some statements. Of course, in my group, we came up with questions (because I’m difficult like that): we didn’t know that we were even asking the right questions to begin with. The idea of having a task of looking at models of worship seemed so off the mark: so what *should* we be looking at? What was bringing this task force together? What was at the heart of the issue? If we could figure out what the *right* question was, perhaps the answers would fall into place — or at least we’d know better how to equip to embark on the journey.
And so we shared our stories — about community, about true worship experiences, about the ideal worship experience for us personally, about places we felt worshipful, about ways to prepare. We started to read — books like Permission Granted (if folks at NFC would read this, I think that would really help prepare us for the road ahead), The Shaping of Things to Come, Present Future, etc. We attended other worship gatherings: some Quaker, some non-denominational, some young adult-oriented, some multi-generational.
As we read and pondered and talked with our spouses (who are probably all honorary members of Next Steps) and questioned our small groups and prayed and listened, we began to notice threads —
- of wondering what true hospitality is
- of thinking about what elements of worship truly are important
- of noticing that we don’t have a good space to congregate
- of recognizing that we desire to be together and hear each other’s stories
- of feeling moved to be more present in our community
- of wanting to repent of spiritual pride that holds us back from worshiping fully
- of wondering how our Quaker distinctives can be tools to help us and others encounter God more fully rather than plaques on the wall
So, what to do with all of those threads . . . .