Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Visit with the Quaker Pastor

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Quaker Pastor wanted to meet with me. We had our meeting on Thursday. It was very pleasant, very low key. Pastor Dan told me a little more about Quaker history and the current "structure" of the "church", such as it is. The Quaker "church" is a very loose organization with beliefs ranging everywhere from Evangelical Christians to downright Atheists. (And I use the term organization loosely). We shared our stories about how we got to where we are today. His story, like everyone's, was fascinating. He explained the silence of the worship services a little more to me. And how almost everyone struggles with it at first (if not for a long time). He also told me he thought the conversation here at my blog was interesting. We talked about how people view God and why the belief in hell seems to be so important to some people. I explained how damaging I think the view is not just in terms of just being wrong but because, for sensitive people, it hinders a true loving relationship with God that is not based on fear or coersion.
One thing that he said that really struck me was (and I can't recall the exact words. So I'm paraphrasing) how it's sometimes a good thing to stay in relationship/community with people with whom you have differences because in this way we can truly learn to love our "enemies". We live in artificial communities, in artificial neighborhoods where we never really have to interact deeply with people and share deeply and deal with real differences. In the church, we have this opportunity. So, in actuality, he gave me one more ticky mark in my "Stay" column.

But, (there's always a but), it doesn't make sense to stay in relationships just because there's tension. One of the tests the Quakers have to determining if they're hearing from the Spirit concerning doing a thing is "Is it something I wouldn't want to do?". So, people were walking around naked thinking it must be the Spirit leading them since they wouldn't normally walk around naked. So, wanting to leave the Vineyard, in and of itself, is not sufficient reason to stay.

The Quakers believe that anyone can hear from God. As one person on the CD they gave me put it, that God is love and that God is accessible. They believe in continual revelation. God didn't stop talking when the last gospel writer put down his pen. The Quakers believe we are all ministers (called to service). The point of silence in their meetings is everyone is qualified to hear from God and anyone can have a message from God for the Meeting. The Quakers do not force conformity of beliefs although they do hold community very dear. They have a system to balance the desires of the individual with the needs of the community. Pastor Dan gave me some information on it that I haven't had the opportunity to read yet. Because Quakers don't force anyone to believe certain creeds, they might appear to be disorganized. I have to admit it's a bit unnerving to ask a "church" what they believe and to hear that members in good standing can be Atheists or not have any particular belief about Jesus. But, in a way, it's refreshing. BTW, I guess the "Friends" are the Christian subset and they do believe in Jesus. Quakers have confidence that God will deal with each individual in His own way. That's several steps ahead of any church I've been to so far.

I really enjoyed my talk with Pastor Dan. I'd like to talk to him some more. He's a soft spoken, intelligent and sensitive guy. He mentioned nothing about joining the Quakers, until I brought it up. So, it wasn't a recruiting meeting. I won't be joining anytime soon. He said most people visit for six months to a year before joining. I think that is an excellent idea. But, I would like to visit them again. The Quakers have a lot of things right.


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