Monday, December 11, 2006

Rolling Up The Sleeves

Last week, I screwed up my courage and told my husband that I have had a leading to start up a church. Not exactly a church, because I'm not going to call it that, but a thingie instead of a church. Sort of a thingie like a meeting except not really a meeting, and not as noisy and hyper as a church, but cleaner and honest and transparent-like. Pastored, but without a pastor. You know what I mean? Something kind of like that.

"It's about time," he said, without looking up from the book he was reading.

I blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

"Church is TSFW [family code word for Too stupid for words]. Meeting is insipid. You could do something better than that." He looked up then. "I want to be in the band."

So I guess there's going to be a band.

He wasn't finished. "You always do what you think you're supposed to do. That's not living. The work you do during the week is not you, that's just what you do to help the family make money. All this Quaker committee work, that's not you either. You have to have passion about something that you do. You've been pulling toward something for a long time and not doing it. This church thingie thing is more like the real you. It has that ring to it. So just do it."

He still wasn't finished. "Don't try too hard getting it all together. Way will open."

This from the man who never attends meeting.

So okay then. I guess I'm doing it.

Ideas always come to me as a whole, beginning and end and middle, all at once. Usually, there is a long period of nothing, like an unrest, but then, it coalesces all at once. It's apparently a personality type-- intuitive thinking as opposed to linear thinking. This is always difficult, because nobody else can see what I see, and there is not much transition zone to it.

It's this way with the church thingie idea. I've been trying to make notes on what I see so that I can communicate it to others when the time comes. Finding words for the concepts isimportant.

I ordered two books from Chapters to build on this. First was Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, because it was recommended by Aj on some website somewhere. And Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus. I got some language from them, and some ideas became more clear as I compared one thing to another.

The next step looming ahead is to tell my meeting. I get kind of a cold sick feeling at the pit of my stomach just thinking about it. I am clerk of two main committees and two other committees. I know that my donations to the meeting make up over 10% of the revenues, and I'm going to need that money to start up my own church thingie, so I can't continue it. Also, my kids currently make up 25% of the children's program.

I'm going to have to screw up my courage again.


At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Shelley said...

WONDERFUL NEWS! I'll be pulling for you, me-who is going to retire from nineteen years in the pastorate in three weeks--and thinking, "Good for you, Nancy!"

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Rob said...

hey Nancy,

Cool stuff. I guess I'm sort of in the same boat. It feels very accidental. I don't think my faith (or Quaker identity) is nearly strong enough to start a worship group and yet here I am trying to broker rides to Quaker worship and pinning people down to play the piano. If you have any great insights, we're all ears. Let it unfold--that's my advice.

Take care and God be with you,

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Peggy Senger Parsons said...

Nancy I have SO got to find the time to write to you. BA before Africa. You are in my daily prayers.

it's ok to call it a church
walks like a
talks like a
prays like a...
might as well call it a...
at least people won't be confused.

At 12:16 AM, Blogger Chris M. said...

I'm glad Rob commented, because if you haven't read his latest blog post, you should:

Also, I love what your husband had to say; Way will open. And could this perhaps give the meeting a chance to grow, to not depend too much on too few people?

In peace and friendship,
--Chris M.

At 12:57 AM, Blogger Robin M. said...

Congratulations. I think.

Folks are going to be confused anyway. Call it whatever you want. I think I've seen Aj use the phrase, "my worship gathering". Would that fit?

Last summer I screwed up my courage and told my husband that I didn't just want to go to the FGC summer gathering for the first time ever, I wanted to go to Newberg, Oregon too while we were up there. And worship with the evangelical bloggers there. I almost didn't say it, I already knew the ten reasons why he would say it was too much. But I got the same kind of calm, reasonable, shocking response. How do they do that?

Does it have to be a completely non-Quaker thingie? I'm going to be really disappointed (not that what I think should matter so much to you) if you decide you can't be authentic and passionate and Quaker.

Holding you in the Light and looking forward to reading much more,
Robin M.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Shelley - um, if you're, like, retiring, maybe you'd have some time to advise a newbie?...

I looked at Rob's posting (which was beautiful). It's more food for thought to see what others are trying, but I don't feel pulled to go in that direction.

Peggy, I sent an email to Alivia yesterday. I figured you were too busy packing your bags and remembering how to talk your way out of dicey situations, etc. etc.

Robin, it will be a Quaker meeting in every way except the name, except that many Quakers will not recognize it. All the types of Quakerism have fallen into ruts that have turned into forms and formulas, in some ways helpful for structure, but in other ways limiting. What we're going to do is more of an adventure in religious practice.

Because we live in a post-denomination time and younger people don't care what flavour it is (as long as it's not TSFW), it will only have one name: whatever we decide to call it, and no "church" or "meeting" appended to it. These words have too much burden built into them and aren't good descriptors of what I have in mind.

Thanks for the little pep talks, though. It's good to get fortified by these comments before I (gulp) face my Meeting.

I told a friend of mine that I'm going to build a church, while watching my kids' swimming lessons last night. She laughed. When her father-in-law gets back from the Philippines, she's going to send him over to talk to me.

Which is why I told her. I know who I need on my team.

That was the first person I told. So I guess I'm starting now.

My husband says we have to build the band first. But of course, he would: he's a rocker. Yet in a "The Commitments" and "The Blue Brothers" kind of way, it makes sense. We start with what we have and what we know.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger QuakerK said...

Hi, Nancy,

I'm very interested to see how this develops. I only recently started following this storyline, and I was wondering what exactly you objected to in your Quaker meeting--it might help me understand what you're looking to build. Can you refer me to any of your old blog posts, so I can do some background reading? I'd like to hear more.

I kinda like the idea of calling "it" neither church nor meeting--by avoiding old words, perhaps you can avoid preconceptions? New skins for new wine, as Jesus said. Was "meeting" that sort of an alternative to the word "church" in the 17th century?


At 11:18 PM, Blogger Robin M. said...

David, Nancy may have more and better explanations, but I'd start with her November bla post.

At 7:03 AM, Blogger david said...

Well now. This is an interesting development.

I hope this creates something really mud-luscious wonderful. I've been feeling this tickle to visitate TIMM the last month or so and not knowing quite why. Perhaps this would be an incentive to get off my rear.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger forrest said...

"Meeting" in the old days was probably an attempt to get back to original meanings as Fox et al understood them. "Church" and "synagogue" meaning something like "assembly" and not at all a particular building--while Fox liked to reserve the word "church" specifically to refer to the congregation.

It's ironic that "meeting" has come so much to resemble the usual idea of "church": a nice place to take the kids Sundays and get a little peace.

The something-"gathering"? The Studio of Spirit?
"Thingie" won't do; I'm sure you realize that! A Thing Without A Name? I'll be back if something ideal pops into mind, and if you prefer another name ($%###^!&!) it'll be all right with me :>{ !
God's Thing? No, that could be taken wrong! Soul Lab? Humans Anonymous? Joyful Noise? Submergent Unchurch? (Oh help oh help oh bother!!!)

Anyway, good luck with that! Anything you want to do that bad is probably your next assignment, and whatever results will be what God makes of it. Don't expect whatever you're expecting, and the reality will be something better.

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I'm soooo with you. (I'm sure you're very surprised!)


At 6:36 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I'm soooo with you. (I'm sure you're very surprised!)


At 6:41 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I'm soooo with you. (I'm sure you're very surprised!)


PS: I've tried posting this four times, hoping that only one of those four attempts will "take."

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I'm soooo with you. (I'm sure you're very surprised!)


At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came back to Quakerism after leaving to join a mega-church where my then-fiancee attended. I got burned by their evangelical/fundamentalist mindset so I left the church (and anything that smacked of church) for two years before joining a "church-thingy" as you call it. They didn't call it church, but that's what is was and we all ended up calling it church anyway. It crashed and burned in a little over a year due to poor leadership that was not set up in the beginning because they felt that setting up leadership made it look too much like "church". It was discouraging and heartbreaking when it ended, as there were only about 10 families that attended and we had become close. It may sound as if I am a wet blanket on all these praises and congratulations for your new idea, but I don't mean to sound that way. I just encourage you to think this through and plan wisely.

I have not commented on your blog before, but I read it "religiously" (hee-hee) and will hold you in the Light.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Thanks, Johan.

Anonymous, this is the type of feedback I really need to see. I wonder, though, if failure it such a bad thing. Didn't Rufus Jones say something about if an act of love fails, it's just as much a part of the divine life as an act that succeeds? There are going to be a few car wrecks in this sort of thing. We have to expect it.

However, it does point out the need to set up an organizational structure to provide stability. We can end up being so ideal that we aren't quite real, and then just evaporate. I think Quakerism has some pretty good structures that we could use.

I have been drawing up lists of risks and staring at them broodingly.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

Let's see if I can avoid four-posting this one!!

I agree with your comments about failure not being such a bad thing. A sense of proportion and stewardship is good to have, but sometimes fear of failure springs more from concern about appearances than from faithfulness.

The two essential ingredients are love and visibility. The first ingredient invites God in, and the second ingredient invites people in.

To blend these two ingredients, I'm sure you need other inputs as well--creativity, energy, lists, and so on. But an anxiety about success might not be one of them.

OK, I'm going to push "publish" ...

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Brent Bill said...

Nancy, I've been wrestling with some of the same things. We have a former Conservative Friends Meetinghouse just a couple of miles from us. It's been restored by the historical society and open for tours, etc. A number of us have talked about beginning a new Meeting there -- a cross between our predominate conservative pastoral meetings and too liberal unprogrammed ones. A place where pastoral care is provided and you can talk about Jesus, but sans a paid pastor or anything else. I'll be looking forward to reading about your further "adventures" in faith in this regard.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hi Nancy, Sounds cool. I'm glad you're trying to move away from the blahs to find something real. This could potentially get TSFW itself if it sinks into non-denominational mush but I trust that the Spirit will guide you away from those shoals. I like the idea that it will be Quaker except that many Quakers wouldn't recognize it. Good luck & God bless.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...


I've been a bit too busy to read and reply with anything in depth, so I'm glad to see so many warm and encouraging replies to your post.

I realize you're not necessarily asking for what others may have experienced, so first I'll say that because of your post and Rob's concurrent "parallel" post (which Chris M references in his comment), I took some time to flesh out my own thoughts in response to the idea of "starting a new thingie."

Apart from that, here's what resonates for me, given the 3-year short history and experience of the worship group in which I participate:

1. It was started before we knew what we were starting.

2. We didn't have a name when we started, in part, because we didn't know we were starting anything.

3. People wanted to come anyway.

4. When we realized and accepted that indeed we had started something, we went nameless for about a year. We simply identified ourselves as "an as-yet unnamed, Conservative-leaning worship group."

5. People wanted to come anyway.

So maybe you might start off identifying this new faith experience as "an as-yet unnamed creative, emergent, Quaker-influenced faith experience." Or something like that.

It may be a mouthful, but that is part of the witness that needs to happen. The naming of it will come later, out of your collective experiences, if you and your fellow worshipers are faithful and are rooted in love and care for one another.

6. I think the worship group is still going because we have an intention for knowing one another well and lovingly; discovering, calling out, and nurturing one another's ministry; and talking openly about our faith, our worship experience, and our wrestling with God. It maybe has helpd to take away the occasion for assumptions and individual (mis)interpretations of who we are and what we do, which in turn has helped us build on and articulate a shared experience.

I'm sure you will find your own way, with the Living Spirit. Thanks for keeping us posted.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up


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