Category Archives: Articles

Connected in the Northwest

I like to write, I think.  Somedays I’m not so certain, as I stare at a blank page, forgetting all the witty ditties I’ve composed in my head, wishing I could just think and things would pop up on the page rather than having to put pen to paper and physically write.  There’s also the issue of releasing writings Out into the Wild:  letting others in on my thoughts, ponderings, funny moments.  Like my children, I wonder:  will these words be treasured, seen for what they are, appreciated; or will they be seen to be too rambunkous and can’t you get a better handle on those things running amuck?

People ask me to write pieces for them.  So I do.  Often it’s a whirl of energy motivated by procrastination.  I write; I revise; I submit; I rerevise.  And then I forget.  Off to the next activity, which is often evaluating the state of my house after not being supremely attentive to my wards (usually it’s a bit chaotic).  So when I actually see the words in print, I’m a bit surprised:  “I wrote something?”  And then my melancholy response:  “Uh oh, what did I write?  Was it any good?”

Yesterday when I got the mail, I received my Yearly Meeting’s newsletter (The Connection).  I faintly remember writing something for it, thinking it would be a little piece in the middle amongst notes of missionaries coming and going and quiz meets happening and to come.  But, whoops:  it was on the front page.  And my melancholy nature said, “Uh oh.  What did I write again?” followed by “methinks I’d write something different if I knew if was going to be front-page material.”  Probably best I not think about those things, anyway.

Here’s my article.  The online piece is longer than the printed because there wasn’t enough room (or I’m just a wordy, wordy girl).  A snapshot of growing up in Northwest Yearly Meeting.  It’s not perfect, but on that day at that time when I wrote the piece, the words were true:  and I’m choosing to rest in that truth.  (And the belief that if the piece were less-than-ideal, the editor (and friend) would have said so).

For the early LD on YM, catch me at the BP

The 114th annual sessions of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Churches are coming to a close today. I’m pooped.

Barclay Press has been very gracious in extending an invitation for me to write for their Daily Journal: apparently they didn’t get enough “How to Find God While Your Son’s Diaper Explodes” stories. :) At first I thought Yearly Meeting week would be too crazy to write during, but then I thought, “Hey, crazy fodder to write about! Sweet.” When I ran the idea by them, I was given nothing but affirmation to write about what took place. So kind.

I’ll write more about my Yearly Meeting experience, but for the early lowdown, check this out.

Reflecting on the Church

I participated in a roundtable email discussion on doing church. Here is the article posted at Barclay Press.

Many people are talking these days about the emerging church. In fact, Amazon.com has an emerging church store for resources on the topic. We can read as much as we could ever want about the definition of the emerging church in this postmodern age or the right styles of worship to engage this culture, but what about the people who are supposedly being reached by this movement? What do these first citizens of the postmodern age think about the church?

In the following roundtable discussion young adults tell about their experience of the church, both the joys and the frustrations. All the participants are on the leading edge of this new culture shift. They are ambassadors, trying to build bridges between the church and a new culture, to communicate truth in both directions.

All have been a part of the church most of their lives, so they give an insiders view of who we are and where we might be heading.

What good memory do you have about the church? What provided a sense of connection and made you glad you were involved?

AJ: My favorite memories as a child are of church potlucks: the adults standing around socializing, the kids running amuck. I come from a small family, so my church gave me that sense of big extended family that others get from blood relatives.

My favorite memory as an adult would be the Sunday that Judah, my son, was dedicated: All of our family plus high school and college friends as well as those whove been important in my single and married life (youth leaders, small group friends, etc.) were there, recognizing our desire to raise Judah up in the ways of Christ and offering their support to both Judah and us.

Jamie: The best memories are those that revolve around the sense of community that the church offers. Just recently Erin and I were stuck with a difficult decision we had to make, and our conversations with each other were cyclical, and really going nowhere. It was not until we began to involve our small group from church in the process that we started to sense clarity in the issue. They walked with us through each grueling step, and really became the voice of God to Erin and me. To go through challenges and suffering as a community provides the deepest connection possible with the larger community.

Willis: After months of youth group hopping, I had given up on finding a youth group I wanted something real, not a show or popularity contest. One friend continued to invite me to his youth group; finally I just went to shut him up, thinking it would be the same as all the rest. To my great surprise, the leaders seemed sincerely interested in me and even more surprising the other youth seemed to care. There was something different about this group and I was hooked.

Wess: The first six months of pastoring, we faced great adversity to the whole idea of a youth pastor. The good part of the memory is that my senior pastor showed true empathy for me and my to-be wife. He told me that he was there to help me get through it, andthat he believed in me as a minister, trusting that God had sent us to that body. His empathetic support has shaped the way I understand Christian ministryand has challenged me to be Christlike in the way I lay my life down for my brother or sister who is in need of the compassionate love of Christ. The willingness to struggle with one another, the longsuffering of the community has for me shown the most promise, or the most failure.

Sandy: When my husband left my girls and me, the people in the church really put their arms around us.they didnt give us answers, they just pointed us to Jesus and loved us. I was glad I was in the Friends Church at the time, because many other churches would not have let me continue to lead or teach. When I think about connection, I also think about being in each others homes.

Michael: I have lots of good memories about my past in the church. Most of them have to do with family and friends; relationships. Music too I supposesinging, playing my horn. I have some important memories of being made aware that people in the church were praying for me; sometimes people I didnt even know well. It is easy to feel connected when you feel loved. Hearing you are being prayed for is hearing you are loved.

Jill: One memory that comes to mind is a church meeting in the rural Mexican village of Teita, where my parents work as Bible translators. Juan played guitar and he and his younger sister sang with mics, and at first I was just cringing at the loud, off-key singing. The people around me were singing and clapping joyfully, and I realized how much my music knowledge was hindering me from truly enjoying worshiping God like these people. I felt pretty stupid, and finally was able to give that up and just sing. The whole meeting really challenged my ideas of what a church service should be like, as opposed to the American performance-oriented idea of looking and sounding good.

Joseph: I always enjoyed it when our pastor would dress up as a Bible character to give his sermon. I also have fond memories of having company over for lunch after church or going to another familys house for lunch after church.

What is your ideal definition of church?

AJ: Church isnt the building. It isnt the steeple. It is the people. Wherever Christians gather together, thats church. Its a lifestyle, not an activity. Its a way of living, not a once-a-week event. I desire actual community. Id like to be in a community where no topic is taboo. Where we can discuss and engage in the hard topics (sex, drinking, gay rights, other religions, all the American cultural hot topics) rather than seeing them in black and white this is good/this is bad categories.

Id like to be in a community that cares about people other than themselves: proactive in getting into their immediate community and helping to meet emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Id like to be in a community thats okay experimenting with things in worship: lectio divina, emerging church style worship, traditional, etc. (when we cling to our worship styles, we worship the style rather than Godits become an idol). Id like to be in a place where I can study and learn from othersa place thats really into reading the Bible as a means of learning about God and being in relationship with God. Id like to be in a multigenerational community where the elders offer to mentor the youngers, and the youngers are given the ability to equally participate in the community.

Valerie: I think church is ideal when it is smallerfor example, Bible studies or small groups. This is not to say that bigger church bodies are not good, but it has been my experience that spiritual growth is best nurtured in a small group of peoplesay between 4 and 12 people. I think it is where people are intimately connected both spiritually and personally, and show grace toward each other in that they allow each other to be who God made them as unique individuals.

Jamie: My ideal definition includes biblical teaching, with time to mull how God is leading us all to a further understanding of himself. We would be well-served as the church to understand the entire body of Christ, i.e. the communion of saintsthose that have come before… as well as those of the present. And finally, we need an ability to look forward, to address the future needs of the church and culture, to be continually looking beyond the borders of the church.

My wife, Erin, and I just experienced church-searching about three years ago, so it is fresh in our memories. We wanted a place where we both could exercise our gifts and passions, a place that had need for the areas we felt we could assist. We also wanted a place that had biblical preaching, varied worship styles, and a wide variety of people involved in the community. And we wanted a place that felt like a community, where we felt welcomed, and where we felt we were a part of something greater than a weekly meeting.

Sandy: I think the church is the whole body of those who believe in Christ. Ideally, we would trust Christs work in each other, remembering that it is Christ in us that leads us. We would work together in our different giftings, we would really believe that God gave us new, good hearts and that we could trust each others hearts, even when we made mistakes. We would be vulnerable, real, and humble.

Wess: The church is to be a people who listen, who live in mission, who worship Christ, and who are hospitable. Like AJ said, the church is a people, not a building, not an event, it is when my wife and I have friends over for dinner, eat and drink together, and share stories with one another, encouraging, challenging, and shaping one another.

I am looking for relationships within a small body of people, where people know me, where there is mutual trust and love, honest conflict and reconciliation, where we submit ourselves to the deeper narratives of our own tradition within the narrative of Christianity as a whole, where we not only study the scriptures, but the fathers and mothers of faith who have gone before us. I am looking for a body that is willing to gather in a living room, a bar, a coffee shop, a backyard, or even skid-row, people who are willing to get their hands dirty for Christ, who embody his mission statement located in Luke 4:17-19.

Jill: To me the church should be full of love, encouragement, challenge, and discipleship. It should be a place to learn my gifts and to use them, a setting in which to grow closer to God. It needs to be a community that gets past the outer show and traditions of the church, and seeks a true relationship with God.

AJ: I guess my desire is summed up with the idea that church should be a culture: something that defines my lifestyle, rather than just fills a Sunday morning.

Tell us more about church as culture rather than as a weekly event.

Wess: Jesus taught us to pray give us our daily bread. So the church community might seek a lifestyle change by saying hey, if we expect God to provide our basic needs, how can we make sure that we are providing for those in need around us? How can we make sure we are not taking the daily bread of others? It is this kind of discourse and interpretation of scriptures into our daily context that helps us discern how the Spirit wishes for us to actually live out Christs teachings.

In my own experience, we tend to engage culture, but reject much of its value systems. For instance, our small group of 10-12 people understands God to be in all aspects of culture, so we dont create secular vs. sacred categories. We listen to Christian and non-Christian music, we watch movies of all sorts, we enjoy moderate drinking, we read non-Christian literature and look for God within the stories, we hang out in placeswhere there are many questionable characters and certainly much more questionable behavior. We try to have friends who are not believers, we look for God within all people, and the truth within all types of faith. Our critique of culture comes not just from what we say, but actually how we live. We feel we can best critique it from inside. This is a different approach to culture than much of American Christianity, which tends to buy into American values of individualism, patriotism, materialism, and capitalism, while vocally rejecting cultural morality.

AJ: I read a great book, The Continuing Conversion of the Church, which talked about the church being a culture, describing things I hadnt thought about before. By looking at the Old Testament we get to read about a culture created by God. This culture, or church, dictated every aspect of their lives. While they wandered and didnt seem to have much of a national homeland they remained true to the culture, the way of life that God gave them. However, the way I do church today fits into my American culture; my American culture has taken precedence over my Christian culture. It goes along with all the Barna statistics saying Christian Americans and non-Christian Americans live pretty similar lives (with divorce, how they spend money, etc.). Id say I mostly think of myself as a Christian American when I should be thinking of myself as an American Christian.

How do we break our addiction to the weekly gathering as being the fulfillment of church?

Wess: Partially this can be broken just by the way we talk about it. When I go to my favorite bar with my Christian brothers to have a fun but serious time of reflection and accountability, we talk about it in church ways. We are meeting as an act of being in community together, bearing one anothers burdens, and listening to each others stories, giving the love of Christ to each other. These things to me seem to be what is more important, rather than the time and location of where these things take place. Another aspect of this is when the church gathers to do something missionally, serving with one another. So we are doing church when we march for peace, when we speak out against systemic injustices in our own cities, towns, and neighborhoods, when we invite the homeless over for dinner, when we buy clothes for a single mother who doesnt have a job, etc. Naming these activities as church helps train us to see it that way.

Valerie: Our attitude about the church, how we view it, makes a difference. Do we see it only as something to be consumed, so to speak, or do we see it as a way we give of ourselves?

AJ: It is apparent that God wants us to go out. Christ spent most of his time teaching and healing othersmoving among the people. He gathered folks together for times of community (usually eating)but the goal seemed to be encouraging and equipping them to move out.

If a church is rooted in Scripture, is practicing the spiritual disciplines, is spending time one on one with God, I think itd be hard to stay internalthered be a restlessness, a discontent.

I think Gen X/Y recognizes that there needs to be more than an addiction to inward-focused worship gatherings; that theres more out there, like helping neighbors and making a differencebeing an advocate. In churches where the addiction isnt broken, these generations tend to leave the church.

Where does your current church experience fall short or even frustrate your attempts to be part of that ideal church?

Willis: From my perspective the traditional church appears, to the postmodern Christian, to be non-transparent (hiding the undesirable), where the emerging church seems too feelings-based for the modernist. While there may be truth to both sides, I feel confident that there is a middle ground. Unfortunately, I dont see much of an attempt from either side to be vulnerable to the other.

AJ: I feel like many of our resources are used to maintain the church: keep the building going, pay for staff, offer Bible studies and groups that never go outward. Its not a natural cultural structureits a business structure. I feel this style isnt necessarily the best or most efficient use of our resources, but folks feel frightened or threatened bydealing with an unknown structure. Also, the generations are segregated: children in childrens church, youth in youth group, college groups arelacking, and adults (usually families) do adult/family stuff.

I dont always feel comfortable sharing or being honest. I have that whole gotta look like I have it together pride thing going on. I dont necessarily feel like theres a place to talk about the hard stuff, for me or other hurting people. And Im not sure people feel like they can be healed up at the church: they feel like theyve got to have [it] together before they walk in the door.

Sandy: It is always a battle to be vulnerable with one another. Even though our group is small, it is hard to make time for everyone to share when they need to.

Jill: One thing that has frustrated me is the churchs outward emphasis on performance, especially regarding the music programs (which Ive been very involved in and enjoy). A lot of times they seem to take the place of the congregation worshiping together.

Joseph: There is a lack of connection at my current church. While Ive been attending for close to two years, I still feel like a visitor every Sunday unless I am somehow involved in the service.

Wess: We could do much better about seeking to live more missionally within my city. Though we try much more than any church I have been a part of, there is much to be said for a church that corporately makes a stand within a city for issues on things like poverty and justice for immigrants. Also, we could be much better about discipling and gathering people to the body, creating disciples who are committed to being a part of the community and a radical vision.

Where do you sense hope regarding your definition of churcheither in your church or in the culture in general?

Joseph: Actually, I am not very hopeful. I dont believe the church was meant to exist in a cultural context in which it was not in tension with the society around it. In America, the church often seems to align itself with the government and/or the culture, striving to fit with these structures. I find myself drawn to churches that do not use their surrounding culture as a measuring stick of their success, such as home churches or the Orthodox church.

Willis: I see God working within individuals lives. I hear peoples testimony to the call that God has placed on their lifeto help the church transition to meet the needs of a changing culture. I see lives being transformed by the power of Christ, and those people banding together to serve, perhaps in nontraditional ways and with nontraditional methods but to the glory of God.

AJ: I sense a desire in my church to be more transparent with each other, to share openly and honestly: in open worship, in small groups. People are beginning to share their honest stories and experiences, adding it to the collective wisdom. One of the most treasured experiences Ive had in church came from my participation in a small group called Companions in Christit was a 28-week course going through spiritual formation material. We took about eight months to get through it, a multigenerational group from all walks of life. I connected with folks that I never wouldve even said hello to, and we walked together through some pretty important times of our lives.

I sense a desire for folks to continue worshiping and living this out through their weeknot to be event based, but to make it a lifestyle.

Jamie: I see hope in the fact that churches can bridge cultural gaps in a way that is hard in ordinary settings. Culturally, I also carry a lot of hope. I feel that Christians are beginning to infiltrate certain sectors in which they have had little influence in the past. Academia, arts, and politics are just a few.

Michael: It seems like the institution of my church is intentionally designed to allow people to find where they fit. Thats a good thing. There are many opportunities for folks to minister through their personal gifts. I play my horn with the brass group. I help with the Alpha program. I build supportive relationships in a small group and more.

I think we are just starting to realize that our place in the world is to build loving relationships, and that one role of the church is to enable each other to do that. These loving relationships are often the worlds first glimpse of a relationship with Christ and they take many forms. I am encouraged to see us realize that what weve always done may not be what the Spirit wants us to be doing now.

Sandy: I see a desire for shared life in our home meeting, which seems to be the only way to learn each others giftings and hearts. I see a group of people who are choosing to allow ourselves to need each other.

What could your faith community do better to connect with its surrounding culture?

Willis: Develop programs to actually make contact and begin relationship buildingas well as deliberately learn the cultures around the area.

AJ: I think my faith community could work on being a resource, both for the community of folks who need help (physically, emotionally, and mentally) and for the folks that attendequip them to be missionaries in their daily lives. Perhaps provide specific times to use the spiritual disciplines in seeking Gods will for the church or individuals to move.

Wess: There are many things we could do better, we could be more faithful in our own lifestyle, we could be less wasteful, we could share more, and be more generous with those around us. I struggle with hospitality, and letting people be who they are without wanting to force change upon them. But one big struggle we deal with is the need to be around more non-Christians.

Joseph: The first step is to understand our surrounding culture and to invite it into relationship with us. We must step out of what we are comfortable with in worship and in outreach and shift our focus to meet others needs rather than our own. I think prayer is a significant first step. As a church prays for the needs of those around it, not only will they be led to action but they will be connected with one another in their pursuit of this action. If churches were willing to be less Sunday-centered and more outward focused in worship and ministry, then I think changes would occur.

In summary, our roundtable felt that

* church is more than an event. It should be a lifestyle…a way of interacting with others and a way of viewing the world. Meaningful gatherings, regardless of the time or location or size, are crucial.

* church is a place where we should be needed. Not to fill a slot that any warm body can fill, but a place where the uniqueness of each person fills a unique place in the Body.

* church is about relationships, which includes confrontation, healing, fun, vulnerability, authenticity, longsuffering. Post-boomers have a deep need for family…and are redefining what that looks like.

* church includes food and eating together! Actually, table fellowship was a huge part of the early church and had more significance than just a potluck. There seems to be a growing desire for sharing food as a way of celebration and connection.

* church does not require a specific style of worship. A specific style wasnt even mentioned by our interviewees. Perhaps much of the current energy being focused on postmodern worship styles is misplaced. Not only is the church service less significant in their overall definition of church, but the tempo didnt seem to be an issue.

Todays emerging generations want healthy, authentic relationships that integrate the whole of their lives: spiritual and secular, serious and fun, work and celebration. They are drawn to gatherings that are less scripted and allow for good interaction and sharing. They have a loving heart for Christs body, and desire to see it be vital, making an impact in the lives of those involved as well as those outside its web of commitment. Format matters less than authenticity, even traditional approaches meet their needs if there are caring relationships and good communication.

“Reflections on ‘Doing Church’”

From the Barclay Press Conversation Cafe:

Allez! Cuisine! my husband, Jason, exclaimed. On a Sunday evening this could mean only one thing: Iron Chef was on! This Japanese knock-off program pits Food Network chefs against guest chefs in a cooking competition. The Secret Ingredient is revealed (eggs, mushrooms, buffalo, etc.) and must be incorporated into four courses prepared within one hour of the utterance Allez! Cuisine! (French for Go! Kitchen!). As Battle Trout began, I plopped down on the love seat; but rather than wondering how to incorporate fish in a dessert, I was thinking about Doing Church.

Where have all the youth gone?
These thoughts began percolating a few months ago while I sat in church. I looked around and noticed I was one of the youngest folks present. My high school youth group had had a number of attendees: Where did they all go? I contacted a few and heard a number of explanations: Im too busy or Oh, I used to be spiritual, but my beliefs have changed or I cant find a church that I like. One thing remained clear: My peers no longer attended church. Ten years ago we all were passionate about Doing Churchwhat happened? Was our excitement just a hormonally induced phase that passes away like acne and lack of coordination? Or is there a deeper problem?

Jason voiced his desire for a grill pan while my thoughts drifted to a recent sermon series looking at Acts. The Founding Fathers of the churchPeter, Paul, the earliest discipleslived difficult lives, but lives of giddy joy and constant activity. Their testimonies are bold, passionate like a Pancetta & Parmesan torte, particularly compared to my current lackluster experience of Kraft Easy Mac. How did they stay so upbeat, so energized while Doing Church? How did they balance worship gatherings, committee meetings, school, home, worklife? Did they not become churched out? I sure did.

My early experience with church
My childhood church bustled with activity with my family in the middle of the action. My parents participated in Sunday school, potlucks, committee meetings, bell choir, backpacking trips. I loved congregating after service: Adults gabbed while kids ran around hopped up on sugar cookies and red Kool-aid. Like going to school, the library, or the grocery store, Doing Church was a regular event in our week.

Parents of adolescents joke about sending their kids off to a remote island until the hormone roller coaster subsides; if their church has a youth group, this wish is granted. In high school I was shipped off to Do Church with my friends. In this segregated state we mimicked Doing Church the way our parents had: participating in camps, mission trips, and Bible studies while balancing school, family, and life in general.

Once through the leprous state of adolescence, I assumed Id rejoin the larger church collective. This never happened; there wasnt a reason to. Spending time solely with my peers left me unfamiliar with participants in the larger church gathering. Weary of trying to fit in the multitude of activities with my already bustling life, I burned out and barely set foot in a sanctuary for eight years.

The early church
What was different between my experience and that of the disciples? I thought about the early church in Acts.

* They worshiped, focusing on Christ rather than on themselves.
* They taught and equipped the congregation, both spiritually and vocationally.
* They lived in community, pooling their resources, helping the poor and wounded.
* They ate together (all ages and walks of life), sharing in each others daily journeys.
* They discerned Gods will through the use of the spiritual disciplines.

I did many of these things: Was it something deeper?

The television blared outfive minutes remained. As the chefs creatively plated their courses to gain presentation points, I realized I could never be an Iron Chef. Creative cooking is a recreational activity: Im not familiar enough with the culinary world to improvise recipes. But for the Iron Chefs, cooking is their culture, their way of life, their everything.

Then I realized the difference between me and the apostles. Their actions didnt stem from Doing Church; they flowed out of Being Church.

The apostles culture was uniquely dictated by Godnot just worship, but the nitty-gritty everyday details of life: how to live, eat, take care of the land, treat each other. Church wasnt a weekly activity; church dictated their culture.

Ive experienced the opposite. American culture is driven with activities: A productive life is marked with checklists for work, family life, free time. The church, as a part of a culture based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, looks much different from the church of a culture centered on loving the Lord your God with all your heartsoulmind andstrength.

God created an elaborate plan for worldwide redemption through the creation of a very specific God-centric culture. Has his intentional and detailed plan changed? Has God released me to incorporate his teachings, his light, his love into my nation-oriented culture? Or does God desire that I continue in the tradition of the Jews, living a God-directed holistic life as exemplified by Christnot a way of doing, but a way of being?

Reentry for me
My reacquaintance with the church came through participating in a small group testing spiritual formation material. Folks from all walks and ages of life made up our group, meeting weekly to discuss our experiences with the exercises and to engage in different spiritual disciplines. I no longer felt segregated to a group of peers, but rather incorporated in a group with layers of wisdom and depth of experiences. We shared snacks, our life journeys, our daily joys and hardships. Using the spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, and meditation among others) enabled God to equip us in engaging culture in our practical, everyday lives.

Like the early church, we worshiped, taught, committed to being in an intergenerational community, engaged in daily activities like eating together, discerned Gods direction for our individual and corporate lives. For the first time my activities were a result of being connected and anchored in Gods love, being Christ-centered rather than self-centeredBeing Church.

I felt called to go outward and share this news with others. First I reimmersed myself in traditional church by attending Sunday service. Then, I found an internal desireto share that we dont have be burned out by Doing Church. I wanted to let others know what I had found, what the apostles had found: a joyful renewal in having our actions flow out of Being Church.

Time was up, the announcer exclaimed; all kitchen utensils were laid aside. The chefs stood next to the judges as their creations were tasted. Responses varied: yummy noises, scrunched-up faces, curious looks as the judges sampled unusual tastes and textures.

The Iron Chefs final dish was trout ice cream. Trout ice cream! That cant possibly be a dessert, I thought. But its true: The commentator listed the requirements for a dish to be called ice cream: cream, milk, sugar, and a certain percentage of fat, frozen to a particular consistency. If it contains those elements, it can be ice cream. But you wouldnt find me trying it (and I really like ice cream).

A similar attitude can creep in regarding different forms that Being Church might take. God is so amazingly creative: He doesnt do the same thing twice. Being Church naturally follows in that vein. From simple house churches to megachurches to traditional institutional churches, a million different ways abound to which God could call his people in Being Church. Each manifestation will not resonate with me. If it contains the critical elements (a particular consistency modeled by the early church), its church; just a different church for different taste buds.

The Iron Chef won as he tends to do. Battle Trout came to a close, and I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord that he wants to Be with me; that I might be able to Be Church to my friends, my peers, the rest of the world; that God shows me how my Christian-cultural need to Be Church can supercede my American-cultural predisposition to Do Church; that I could eat coffee rather than trout ice cream.

Queries

* What activities do you associate with church? Which ones do you participate in? Do they fit within the criteria, the particular consistency, modeled by the early church?

* Why do you participate in activities within the church? Are they a habit? A cultural expectation? A call from God? Do you find joy in doing them?

* Do you feel like you are Doing Church or Being Church? What would Being Church look like to you? Have you spent time discerning this, both individually and corporately?

* Do you have a spirit willing to accept that not all expressions of Being Church will resonate with you? Will you allow God to show you how to recognize and respect these different styles for different taste buds?

“One More Thought”

From the March 2005 Northwest Yearly Meeting Connection

Its Sunday morning, and a young woman arrives to worship earlier than usual. Opening a case, she pulls out her instrument to warm up with the other worship leaders. She attends a progressive, nondenominational church in an urban area.

Elsewhere a person briskly walks down the cold Midwest streets to unlock a studio. She turns on the heat, pulls out mats, and plays calming music just as her first student arrives. She leads a weekly yoga class to pay her way through graduate school.

In another part of the world a young man and his bride wake up to the sounds of the open market bustling outside of their window. They rise, quickly eat a simple breakfast, and begin again their quest to find local jobs. They head up a nondenominational missions outreach, working and living aslocals rather than being supported as missionaries.

What do these folks have in common? Ten years ago they attended the high school level of Samuel School, a retreat opportunity for youth who have been noted by their local meeting to have leadership potential. Some Samuel School attenders worship at a Friends meeting; these individuals do not. Has that training, the investment of the Friends church, gone to waste?

What if the worship leader introduces quiet, introspective songs learned at Youth Yearly Meeting?

What if the yoga leader voices the idea of making room for Christ during the meditative times rather than emptying the mind?

What if the young man ministers by practicing the Quaker values of gender equality and social justice as he works in his tentmaker occupation? These individuals are Christian Quaker leaders: they may not look like pastors/teachers, and it may not be at a Friends meeting, but they daily live out Christ-centered Quaker values they hold so dear.

These leaders moved to where they heard a need. Have you, as a local meeting, voiced your needs in a way that challenges such leaders to hear and respond according to their unique talents and worldview?