What if Friends were their name?
A religious society of Friends —
Not a church, not a sect
A group of laymen hoping to enrich Christianity
Not seeking to redefine and rework doctrine
Not seeking to tear down the establishment made
Not competing to draw the disillusioned away
Creating space for growth?
A religious society, not a church —
Focused on people and shared disciplines
Not asking people to choose one way or the other
Offering enrichment without replacing
Putting aside all debate on Eucharist and baptism
A gathering of laymen leaves such things to clergy
A place to make faith personal
A place to share how faith is personal
Friends listening to Christ and one another
Friends encouraging and trusting each other
Friends in a safe place, ready to grow
Can we be a religious society of Friends?
I recently saw a new book title by Friend’s minister Philip Gully If the Church was Christian. The title itself brings conviction, and I hope to read the book someday — by the way, if anyone feels obliged to buy me gifts, you can find things I want here.. including this book.
I have grown a great appreciation for the tradition of Friends worship – first, philosophically through reading Barclay, then through attending meeting and practicing. I have felt our tradition is undervalued by many Orthodox Friends. As I have often found Sundays too busy to attend a meeting for worship (I often work Sundays), and I have a friend that has worked almost every Sunday for the past 15 years — I have a concern for people who cannot worship on Sunday morning. I keep thinking, if I plant a meeting — out of respect for the concept of “Religious Society”, our meeting would NOT meet between 9 and noon Sunday morning. — perhaps a worship group would meet from 8-9 AM, perhaps 12:45-1:45 but not in the period that most churches hold their main meeting — and certainly at a time when interested parties can attend. I envision a “Religious society” where pastors could, for an hour, take off their vestments — and enjoy the status of a layman in a group of people seeking Christ… as I was once called pastor, I know that pastors suffer because they cannot actually “Go to church”.
For this vision to work — I would have to be a little free in interpreting tradition… Orthodox Friends use writing of Fox, Barclay, and others to demonstrate that Friends are within traditional Christianity. At different times, some meetings have insisted their members follow Barclay (personally, I would fit in), or some joint statement, such as the one made by FUM, or by the Conservative Friends, as a group, and in many Yearly meeting, after the Holiness revival, the unspoken standard that all must conform to Wesleyan Holiness theology and teaching. As much as Friends are proud of our openness, and inviting all to see God… as much as we are proud of not having a creed — would our meetings today be stretching the truth if they tried to suggest we live up to that ideal?
If Quakers were a Religious Society serving the greater Church — while, we would have theologians, and theological discussions — we would not have our own creed or enforced doctrine. A definition of Christianity in general has been defined since, some would say the days of primitive Christianity [statements are found in early writings] — and, crystallized in Nicea and Constantinople. It would be out of character for Friends to ask individuals to affirm any orthodoxy test in order to participate in worship, or to exclude them because they disagree — however, it would be consistent with history for elders to regulate spoken ministry. The Ecumenical Creed would be a less sectarian test than those used in the past… not to mention — if the intention is to serve Christians, it would be rude to speak against a statement made, in consensus by the whole Christian world.