Home > Christianity, Church, Quakers > We Are Not Cool – Or Are We?

We Are Not Cool – Or Are We?

One of the blogs I follow regularly is kept up by Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town. A few days ago she posted about a desire for an un-cool church. According to her, it generated the greatest amount of feedback she has ever received, which means something because her site gets a fair bit of traffic.

I enjoyed reading it and afterwards was especially thankful that the Friends church, at least those I have experienced in the Northwest, has not succumbed to the cool church phenomenon.

It is my firm belief that the Friends church can be a current answer for a lot of what young people are looking for in a church – participatory, concerned about social justice, and in the scheme of life, not really too cool.

And I think what I love most about that last line is that, as someone who has grown up in the Friends church, I have never heard people who plan church ever talk about an attractional model of church – of doing things that are perhaps not in line with the tradition of the church in order to attract more people.

It seems to me the Friends church has always held to a bottom line of making Christ known to others through a particular tradition that has always been just a little bit weird. Joseph John Gurney, in the 19th century referred to the Friends tradition as peculiar.

And if I learned anything in middle school, peculiar is not cool.

What are your thoughts on this? Does the Friends church need to be more cool? Does it have the ability to speak into a current void in the church? What would it look like to position the Friends church in such a way to make it more known to those who are seeking for an un-cool, peculiar church?

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Categories: Christianity, Church, Quakers
  1. Pat
    June 18, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    “…I have never heard people who plan church ever talk about an attractional model of church – of doing things that are perhaps not in line with the tradition of the church in order to attract more people.”

    Then you’ve never been in an evangelical Friends church that has embraced more of evangelical church growth practices than Friends’ tradition. I, for one, can tell you that it does happen and it’s sad.

    • June 18, 2011 at 9:12 AM

      Pat,

      My context is an evangelical Friends church in the Northwest – and my comment, which I should have clarified more carefully, is about the people who plan church in this context. I imagine that there would be Friends who would say our church does engage in an attractional model of church, though I am hard-pressed to see how that could be claimed.

      One of the things I think we do need to reconcile, especially in the evangelical wing of the Friends church is the growth that Fox and his earliest followers (Valiant Sixty, among others) pursued – it certainly was a part of what they did. But their message was not one of – here, we have what will entertain you – but rather, here, come experience a living Christ.

      Good things to think about!

  2. forrest curo
    June 18, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Nobody since the 60’s knows what’s “cool” anymore… that “peculiar _is_ cool!

    But then, there’s another meaning of “peculiar”, ie “Mine!” as in “peculiar to some person (or larger entity: My peculiar (== ‘chosen’) people.”

    Chuck Fager’s thing on this is pretty cool! ( http://www.quaker.org/quest/peoplehood-1.htm )

    More to your actual question: Stephen Gaskin used to say that people were turning to fundamentalism because they felt the need for real religion– & for lack of the real thing, were falling for counterfeits,

  3. Karen
    June 21, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Sadly, I would like the Quakers in my area to be a little less “cool”; a little less obsessed with praising the fellow who wore his Birkenstocks all year round, even in three feet of snow; a little less concerned with pashminas and dangly earings that send a culturally diverse message; a little less into artfully worn and torn jeans and bulky hand-knit South American sweaters; a little less smug about their out-group/ in-group status and ultra-nerd status; a little less trapped in the culture and ideologies of the 1960s and how much cooler that generation was compared to every other one that has walked the earth before or since; a little less into highly visible statements about exploitation at the societal level and a little more into behaving in less exploitive ways at the personal level; a little less worried about belonging to the “right” organizations and movements and more about just quietly doing the right thing; a little less about dissing the traditional middle class and all its values and a little more about accepting how very affluent, educated and middle-class they actually are. Not to diss the wonderful values behind all that (a desire to be just, tolerant, open-minded and knowledgable) but less “coolness” would literally be a godsend.

  4. Karen
    June 21, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    Peculiar may not be cool in middle school but by highschool it’s quite in vogue and by university it’s very nearly a pre-requisite….as long as it’s the right kind of “peculiar” that is. Being peculiar in the “wrong” way is unacceptable everywhere, including (in my experience) among Friends.

  5. Chris
    June 22, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    @ Karen, ouch! Truth hurts! Coolness seems to imply an affectation of detached and superior “knowledge” – a sort of bemused tolerance (or a condescending frustration) for those who aren’t in the know. I’ll take humility and honest enthusiasm any day. But it’s hard to find and harder still to do.

  6. Meg
    June 23, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    I had to laugh when I saw the comment of “cool” Quakers. I am on the east coast and attend a meeting that is Hicksite. My meeting – in a small “uncool” dying post-industrial town away from the “cool” cities of the east coast is made up of Friends who really are uncool and who really don’t fit that Birkenstock mentality that I too have seen at Yearly and Interim meeting – where all are so absorbed in their importance that they end up ignoring to those of us who are “uncool’ – sort of like in high school where the cool kids ignored the uncool kids!

    I am afraid that for a multiplicity of reasons I will never be one of the truly “cool” Quakers but I don’t think I’ll come to any harm by it – my little corner of the Quaker world isn’t either. Do we attract a lot of new people – not really – new people come in one by one as they become curious – some stay and some don’t. Our average age is not very young either siince we tend to attract middle aged and older people, but what we do – with our little ways of love and peace and faith makes a difference in our little uncool corner of the world and in the long run – isn’t that what really matters?

  1. October 26, 2011 at 4:28 PM

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