From Callid Keefe-Perry, a vlog entry on the apparent discrepancy between what Friends think they want to be doing (outreach) versus what they think makes for a healthy meeting (deep worship), as indicated by a just-released survey from Friends General Conference, the umbrella organization for many of North America’s Liberal Friends.
there’s a disconnect between deep worship as a mark of health, and outreach as the most important thing to do. We try as people to make things happen that are beyond our control. If we really attended to deep worship, if we attended to rooting our communies in a sense of discipleship and discipline, then outreach and care for community, and leading by example would come from that. Those things are fruits; their root is living in the presence, living in gospel order. I’m concerned that in the hustle and bustle of outreach and making things work we might miss that still small voice. [Loose transcript, lightly edited]
There is much we can do to promote community awareness of Friends (aka “outreach”), but I suspect the greatest effect of our efforts is internal–raising our own consciousness about how to be visible and welcoming. Friends are always getting free publicity (just this morning I finished Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, whose final pages are practically an ad for our religious society, and there’s the seeker-producing mill of the Belief-o-Matic Quiz). What if visibility isn’t our biggest problem? Callid’s post reminds me of something that Robin Mohr said when I interviewed her “Eight Questions on Convergent Friends” for Friends Journal:
Though it may be different in other places, San Francisco always had people visiting; there was no shortage of new visitors. The key was getting them to come back… I don’t think the Convergent Friends movement is necessarily going to solve our outreach issues, but it can absolutely change the retention rate.