Immediately following Yearly Meeting sessions was a ministry conference with classes discussions and periods of sharing. Following are a few thoughts about how this all went.
The idea of dividing the business of the church from the act of sharing, learning, and fellowship is a rather new idea in our area. The basic result is what used to be one unified meeting that consisted of both business sessions and opportunities for worship, continuing education and fellowship became two separate events back to back — first, going through the motions of business, next everything else.. Yearly meeting had to end so the ministry conference could begin. The primary advantage of this disconnect is that I can judge each event according to its own merits instead of as parts of a whole. The disadvantage is stated in my report on the Yearly Meeting sessions. I was amazed to learn that my thoughts anticipated the messages I heard during our classes.
Ministry conference went very well. The keynote speaker was Dave Olson who is involved in the ministry of the Swedish Covenant Church in the United States. In his lectures, he focused on Church planting, and the need for the church to have a better understanding of the ‘gospel of Jesus Christ’, and apply the gospel the needs of the community. Short version is that the gospel is all about healing. Olson spoke about how our society does not know how to speak the language of love, For him, the gospel is about not only ‘forgiveness of sins, but also the healing of relationships, of communities, and personal growth and healing. The gospel is that God is healing the world, including individuals, through the work and ministry of Jesus Christ — and Christians have been given the opportunity to not only enjoy the healing, but share in the ministry. (Olsen gave five areas where the gospel affects the ministry of the Church, which allowed for a ministry that both meets the needs of the community while remaining Christian, and criticized recent American Christianity for limiting the gospel, and making Jesus an after thought. I look forward to getting a copy of the transcripts, because I have been looking for ways of better understanding a Christ-centered ministry.) Olson of course also sold his book, which gives an overview of his experience working with church planting. It was wonderful to learn from him and hear his ideas, even the ones that do not seem applicable.
One thing he did in a small group that was very enlightening is he named three things that Church people take with them in their approach to their involvement. He named spirituality, social aspects, and the planners. He separated us into the three groups, based on these ways of interacting with the church, and spoke with the groups and the whole about working together and the dangers of tunnel vision. This provided the scary idea that I might have to work with those crazy people who are always needing a new project, though I cannot see why, or even worse those intimidating people who are always making a party. Personally, I think every attempt to pidgin-hole people is an oversimplification, however, the basic thought that I need people who are strong in places where I am not is most helpful. It is helpful to know that #1: I cannot do it all, and #2: not every one needs to have my strength [spirituality] as a qualification for sharing his strengths as well.
I greatly appreciated that Olson considered both the theological and the practical side of Church Growth and planting. He pointed out that a person can build a community that has fellowship, and does a lot of good work, but is not Christian. It is an open secret that I listen to passionate people, and I consider possibilities. As of today, it is an open secret that I’ve wanted to be involved in a church plant that focuses on the needs of people who might otherwise join Mycroft’s Diogenes club. Part of me has the unrealistic hope of getting them more connected with the wider community, but the big hope is to provide a safe place with trust, openness, perhaps a majority of the time would be precious silence but a true fellowship that includes sharing and building relationships. Churches tend to treat individuals as if they must be just like everyone else, but the fringe members of society need Jesus too — my heart wants to look for a way to both provide a place for them within the realm of the Christian community, and help bring healing and dialog and God willing, acceptance.
Brad Carpenter, brother to Jeff Carpenter who is on staff at my home meeting and “missionary” to Rwanda gave another presentation that taught us that the Gospel that Paul taught and that Jesus brought is a healing of society, the earth, the individual and relationships. We spoke a lot about Jesus, and his interaction with people and how he brought healing and social restoration to the outcasts of the world, to foreigners, to everyone. He gave healing, and he praised faith. Brad talked about how sin has damaged the world around us, sin has destroyed our relationships, sin is the root cause of our environmental damage, sin is the cause of our relationship problems. Christs healing can restore individuals, relationships, and the earth itself. We discussed our responsibility, the love we had for each other [ideally], and the need to find healing that takes down the divisions between us. Brad mentioned the challenge of working with the Hutu and the Tutsi. The Friends in Rwanda have decided that the meetings would be integrated, this means that part of shared worship is learning to forgive neighbors for past arguments.
Of course, there was social time, more workshops, discussing theology, philosophy, friends family, looking at baby pictures, and sharing general love and passion. There were more sessions, talking about living simply, Hinduism [did not attend, I listened to Olson instead], and of course the ever popular discussion on how to live the Quaker testimonies of integrity, peace, community, simplicity, and equality — also the relevance that these principles have on living in this world. Over all the process was valuable, and I have a lot that I brought home with me. The most important thing I brought home with me is the sense that I had the opportunity to share faith with a community of Christians, this fellowship warms my heart and strengthens my resolve to continue my path to salvation and healing.
This is a resume of guests who shared their work and faith:
Related schools with representatives:
The ever present Political Action committee
and the boarding house in Washington DC