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An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 3

January 24, 2013 2 comments

Here is the third installment of these open letters from youth to the Northwest Yearly Meeting. Please also read Letter 1 and Letter 2. I welcome any insight or feedback you may have.

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Dear Northwest Yearly Meeting,

We hope you all find yourselves doing well and blessed in life.  We are coming to you with this letter regarding our thoughts on bettering our perspective of diversity in our yearly meeting, which will help us become a more welcoming community.

We believe that if our community were to be more welcoming of different opinions, we would also become more openminded and accepting to others.  Having a the same views on life should not be the main focus of our meeting.  Our focus should be on God and on loving each other while worshiping together.  A relationship with God is between that person and God, and others are in no place to judge someone else’s relationship.

Throughout our studies of Quakers in this course we have learned that throughout history Quakers have been a leading voice of radical and welcoming movements.  For example, Quakers were one of the first to put women in leadership and provided assistance in the underground railroad.  From the beginning of the early Quaker movement it has been deeply in our roots that everyone is equal.  Equality has played a strong role on how we relate to others in and out of the church.  Quakers believe that the Light of God is in everyone and therefore everyone has the ability to have God speak through them. We believe that this should in fact include everyone.  People who have opinions that differ from our own still have the Light of God in them and therefore we should still hold them with the same respect.

We hope you will hold this close to your hearts and discern on this deeply.  As a yearly meeting that believes in equality and that everyone can have God speak through them, our main goal should be to love and worship together and we should not let diversity in opinion get in the way of that.  We should still be able to be in community together without having unity in all of our opinions and views on life.

Peace,

Quaker students from George Fox University

An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 2

January 23, 2013 6 comments

This is the second letter in this series. Click here for a description of this project. Thank you for joining in the conversation!

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Dear Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends:

In our current Yearly Meeting, we need to consider the evolution that Quakerism has endured to see what has changed and ultimately judge whether we are going in the right direction or not.

The early Quakers centralized their faith on the leading of the Holy Spirit. They were so much endowed with the vision of the second coming of Christ, they believed themselves to be the true church of God; and that only through them could salvation be attained. Quakers were extensively focused on open worship; in fact it was their only form of worship. The first Quakers had no pastors or churches; instead they held spiritual meetings at the houses of members.

The early friends, as we know, wore simple clothing; spoke in an obviously different manner than was normal to the time. They were a counter culture of their era. Nowadays, Friends have been modernized. We sing, we dance, we meet in big brick buildings, we have pastors, we wear colors, and we give very little time to open worship. Many of these things are good changes because they make our faith more acceptable and relevant. It is unwise to hold on to archaic beliefs when there is no cultural basis. But, some of these concepts are still very relevant, but we don’t give them much thought, one being the idea of simple, plain dress. Not that modern Quakers should be made to only wear grays and browns, but the idea of putting importance in simplicity, and trying not to be materialistic. It would be a good sign of faith to follow the teachings of Jesus and be clothed in the spirit, and allow us to not worry about appearances. We seem to have no stake in this idea, or we don’t make it prevalent.

Before we move forward, we should look back to see the changes we have made. And then ponder these changes and decide if we are becoming something that is more or less Quaker and more or less Christ-like.

We should not allow modernization to jeopardize what makes us Quakers. Today, Evangelical Quakers are Christians that happen to have Quaker tendencies, not Quakers that happen to be part of the Christian community. In other words we have sacrificed that which makes us distinct to be more like other faiths. The original Quaker church barely resembles what Evangelic Quakers are today.

In order to maintain our identity we must harken back to the original Quaker missions, of social justice and peace. We should find modern equivalents of old Quaker practices. What can we do now, that represents ideas like early Quakers freeing slaves, standing up to oppressive authorities. The first Quakers were willing to go to prison or their faith, what are we willing to do for ours? The first Quakers broke social barriers. They weren’t worried about political repercussions. How can we be like them? How can we be progressive and Christ-like in our day? The first Quakers allowed women to preach and be equals. How can we replicate this type of doctrine? How can we live into the Quaker tradition? I believe we can be more than the original. That we can fight for the oppressed, stand up to the corrupt authorities and bring up social change.

An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 1

January 22, 2013 6 comments

At the conclusion of the fall semester, my Quaker Seminar class wrote open letters to the Friends Church writ large. I will use this space to post their letters, one each day, for you to get a sense of how a portion of the youth in the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends are looking towards the future with hope and also concern.

Readers should know the prompt given to each group of students: If you were to write a letter to the members of the NWYM, what would you want them to know?

Here is the first submission:

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Dear Friends of the Northwest Yearly Meeting,

God is at at work. God is moving and things are stirring. And it is messy and it is beautiful and it is the heart of our Yearly Meeting. It is the recognition of this action of God that has driven Friends forward since the beginning of the Quaker movement. George Fox’s sensitivity to the ways that God was speaking to him was the very foundation of his seeking and ultimate foundation of Quakers.  In the past, this has been seen in ways that Friends have stood up for social justice, accepted and brought forth change, and continue to press forward as a body and accepting our differences all in an effort to do as God leads.

God’s speaking and the “inner light of Christ” in each of us as believers is the central reason that we as Quakers have arrived to where we are today. Our deep value in hearing God speak has shaped our worship practices, grounded our beliefs and theology, and has been why we have moved in the directions that we have felt that God led. A recognition of God’s action in our world and in our individual lives also has been a binding and lasting thread, constantly present and leading us as a body.

For hundreds of years, Friends have listened to and depended on God’s speaking. It is crucial to remember that Friends have always responded to how God leads to arrive at where we are today. We are writing to encourage you to continually strive to be sensitive to how God is working in our individual lives and in our direction as a body of believers.

Trust God as we always have and believe that each one of us has the power to hear God speak. God has a plan for our yearly meeting and we encourage you to listen and depend on his provision as he leads.

Sincerely,

Quaker Youth

From P-Yoo to Pew, Post 2 (by Vicky Scott)

July 17, 2012 2 comments

This is Post 2 for the series, “From P-Yoo to Pew.” As always, you are welcome to submit your own!

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I love the Church—do not be deceived; God and I have had several knock down drag out fights over this one.  The Church has been the catalyst for countless tragedies. People have died in the name of Jesus. Others have been exploited for God’s honor. The Evangelical Christian Church has laid the foundation, built the walls, and reinforced the “us and them” barriers between those who are in and those who are out. The place you and I call home, the place where we have been compelled, convicted, and changed—has caused hundreds, thousands, and even millions pain.          

I would argue this same place, on a micro or macro scale, has hurt your loved ones.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but I bet, you, too, have been hurt by the church.

I have too.

And I have hurt people in the name of Jesus.

And I bet you have too. 

The reality is, the brick buildings, the organs, the pews, and the hymnals have not hurt us.

The people who enter those buildings, play the organs, sit in the pews and sing from the hymnals have hurt us. The people who hear our hearts and our hurts, the people we see the ugliest, parts of ourselves. Those we admire who speak words of distorted “truth,” the words that pierce our hearts and make us feel inadequate and unwelcome at the Table.  

This is a tragic reality.

Though it’s sad and messy, I choose to trust that those initial wounds were not caused out of malicious intent, rather a desire for us to know Love, Peace, and Grace in the deepest, purest, truest sense.

            I can claim that to be True and good, and I can extend grace to that.

I know God’s heart breaks when we intentionally or unintentionally hurt one another.

But I think God is enraged when we choose to avoid or to ignore those hard conversations. Those awkward silences. Those tears. And, if you are me, the swearing.

We suck at apologizing.

We are terrible at reconciling with one another. 

I will be the first to admit, I am guilty of this.

I was infuriated as I sat at my birthday dinner looking across the table, to see my step-mom, a woman I haven’t spoken to in years. The woman I hate most was at my birthday dinner. (Pretty selfish eh?)

Mid-meal, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, this is what heaven’s going to be like a meal, a celebration of sorts, my step-mom on my right, and another woman who I have not reconciled with on my left.

I was filled with compassion.

And when we recognize, we are all just trying to figure life out, we too will be filled with compassion. 

And God is funny, this we know. 

I would not be surprised if those we disagree with, those we have treated like shit, and those who we have said are unwelcome at the Table will be the people we will be sitting on our right and our left.

For all eternity.

We can celebrate, reminisce, and enjoy our meal, with one another, or we can listen, apologize, and reconcile during our time together around the Table.

How do you want to spend it?

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Vicky is a young adult who loves iced coffee, dance parties, peanut butter and conversing with friends.

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Toy Story and the Disposable Church

June 29, 2012 1 comment

One of my favorite scenes from an animated movie occurs in the bedroom of the evil neighbor Sid, a troubled child the viewer is introduced to in Toy Story. Sid collects toys, tears them apart, and then puts them back together in hideous creations that cause fear in the hearts of every healthy toy. Yet something surprising happens just when Woody and his pals are confronted with these toys as Woody tries to rescue his fellow toy, Buzz Lightyear. It’s this scene that comes to mind as I think about a conversation I had over coffee today.

As I talked with this friend today, the subject of church came up (always seems to happen when I’m talking…) and our conversation was centered around the consumer mentality engrained in humanity’s collective psyche.

As we talked, I spent a fair amount of time talking (always seems to happen when coffee is involved) about how the consumer mentality breeds in us a disposable mentality.

And as I talked, I realized that perhaps part of the issue behind a lack of involvement by men in the ministry to youth and children is that we are afraid of people seeing how much we are broken. We are afraid that if others see our brokenness, it won’t be long before we are thrown away.

Because, you see, that is what we do. My shirt gets a hole in elbow (which all of my shirts always do!!) and I throw it away. The soles on my shoes get a bit worn down, and its time to find a new pair. My computer runs a little more slowly than it should, so I buy a new one.

And I realized that the less time I spend serving others, the less people really know me, the less they see my brokenness, the longer they are apt to keep my around.

When I choose to serve in the classroom of a child, or to speak to a group of middle school students, or lead worship for some high schoolers, it won’t be long before they see my brokenness. They’ll notice my analogy was a bit weak. They’ll hear me play a wrong chord – once, twice, even three times! They get bored of my speaking. This will happen. This has happened.

I am a broken person, and I don’t want people to see that. But the more I try to hide it, the more I pull away, the more I stay uninvolved, the more I pretend as though the opportunity is just not the right one.

Health in the church, in the world, will come when we are not afraid to say, “I will mess up, people will experience my brokenness, they will come to see my weaknesses.” And that as we say this, we still choose to engage, to become part of the fabric of a community that, like a baseball glove, is healthiest when it broken in, when it is pliable.

Back to Toy Story – its here, confronted with the maimed toys, that a paralyzing fear enters into Woody’s heart, and he is certain he has seen his final moments as a plush pull-string cowboy. But to his surprise, the broken toys come together and help Woody retrieve and re-assemble Buzz. It is a beautiful scene interrupted only by the reappearance of Sid. (Don’t worry, toys, you’ll exact revenge on Sid soon enough!)

Let’s stop disposing of broken things, and instead embrace our brokenness. For as you see my brokenness, I hope you’ll allow me to experience your brokenness. And together, we’ll come together like the toys in Sid’s bedroom, to serve each other, to bring each other into wholeness, to send each other off into service in the church and in the world, all for the glory of an unbroken God who longs to bring us into wholeness.

Is Jesus a River or a Wall?

March 14, 2012 11 comments

Over the past few days I have been posting various status updates on Facebook in order to flesh out some ideas of who Jesus is and who Jesus is not. Statements like the following were only met with approval: 

“Things Jesus never said: Make sure your theology is correct before you follow me.”

“Things Jesus did not say: If you are to really follow me, just continue to meet with you friends and study the Bible. That is all you need to do.”

But today I wrote one that received more comments than likes. This is what I wrote:

“Jesus never said: You are wrong!”

Most people who know me know that I do believe the Bible mandates a certain ethic/morality and that to follow Jesus means a life set apart, a life of holiness. I believe that when Jesus said one must die to self that he actually meant it. 

But I also realized that a chord of dissonance was struck in that post. And my question is this, “Why do we feel the need to be right?” What is it within us, and I ask this honestly, that so strongly desires to be right? 

I like to win arguments with people. I like to have my idea chosen, and I like when I am stated as the expert. I like when my friends quote me. And I think this is unhealthy about myself.

I’ve been meditating on Mark 11 this month, in preparation for preaching in chapel in a few weeks. This passage details Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem, often called the Triumphal Entry.

Perhaps you know the story – the people lay out their coats, wave palm branches and shout out, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And it is their full expectation that Jesus is coming into town to overthrow the current political regime. They see before them a warrior, a fighter, a man who will finally save them from the oppression they have experienced under Roman rule.

And we also know the end of the story. Jesus is brutally killed. He does not fight back, but allows his captors to end his life. Yet death does not prevail, and three days later Jesus rises from the dead. Amen!

But here is the thing – while Jesus was parading through these people praising his coming kingdom, they were proclaiming something that was not true about him. Their perceptions of who he was were wrong. 

Yet he did not correct them.

What?!? He knew what they were proclaiming, and he did not correct them. He did not tell them they were wrong. He did not stop the parade, stand on top of his donkey, and proclaim, “No! Do you not see who I really am? I have told you all these things, and yet you do not get it!”

Instead, he allows them to praise him in their false perceptions of who he is.

This has been challenging for me to ponder. What are your thoughts? 

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A Holy Spirit Ambush

January 9, 2012 1 comment

Yesterday I experienced what I’m choosing to call a Holy Spirit ambush. It’s nothing that was overly dramatic – in fact, in was in small episode that came to life from the spoken words of a 2nd grader.

I get the privilege of serving every so often in a first and second grade classroom for Sunday school at Newberg Friends Church. I really like working with grade school aged children. They are joyful, fun-loving and have short-attention spans. (What was it I was just now doing?)

This is great, because if something is not working, you just stop doing it and move onto something else – and they just think its normal. Talk about grace!

We were having one of those moments in class this past Sunday. I was fumbling around with an activity where they were sitting and answering questions I was asking. No matter which question I asked, the only two answers I got were Jesus and Prince Caspian.

And so, since we had been talking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, I had them get up and begin a game of follow the leader. I spent time appointing each different student as the leader and giving them time to lead the actions of others.

I was just about to end the time and then ask them some questions about how the game paralleled a life of following Jesus, but it turns out what needed to be taught was going to be taught through one of the 7 year-old followers.

As one of the kids was leading, he got stuck behind one of the other adults so that a portion of the line could not see him, and therefore could not follow. A few of the kids just stopped moving at all, waiting for the leader to reappear.

But he didn’t. He stayed hidden behind the adult, and those who could not see began to get a little impatient.

The conversation which came from this is what has glued itself to my heart. It went like this:

Girl: Why are you guys not following the leader?

Boy: Because we can’t see what he is doing! 

Girl: That’s ok – just follow me – I can see him and I’ll show you what to do.

A simple spoken word, a profound truth for what it often means to be a follower of Jesus.

Because sometimes my view of Jesus is skewed or blocked. Sometimes I can’t see him because I’m stuck in self-pity, or I’m blinded by my own pride, or someone else’s actions or words are blocking me.

And when this happens, I have a choice:

Either I stop moving, assuming that at some point it will get better.

Or I listen to the voices around me, those encouraging me to just follow them because at this moment they can see Jesus.

My life as a follower of Jesus is not just about me. It is also about us, and how we point each other towards Christ. This is something that I (and many others!) think the early Quakers were right on about – and something we need today in the life of the American church, perhaps more than anything else.

Sometimes we will be those who are blocked, and sometimes we will be those who need to bring others along to a place where even if they can’t see Jesus, they are not left out in the darkness.

I’d encourage you to listen to this sermon by Gregg Koskela. It actually happened after this little God sighting in Sunday School – see what I mean by a Holy Spirit ambush?