A few weeks ago I got a bulk email from a prominent sixty-something Friend, who wrote that a programmed New Age practice popular in our branch of Quakerism over the last few years has been a “crucial spiritual experience for a great many of the best of our young adult Friends to whom [Liberal Friends] must look for its future” and that they represented the “rising generation of dedicated young adult Friends.” Really? I thought I’d share a sampling of emails and posts I’ve gotten over just the last couple of days.
Amanda, a twenty year old New York City Friend with a powerful gift of ministry, wrote about “how teens are forming their own worship groups and young adults are starting a mid-week worship at Fifteenth Street Meeting”:http://www.nonviolence.org/martink/archives/000418.php#c4638
bq. We are going to organize a young friend’s meeting for Weds nights, with older seasoned friends attending and being open for questions afterwards… A visiting friend from another meeting said that they had just discovered that that the teenagers in her meeting were not attending the First Day meeting but were quietly arranging and holding their own meetings — and she was shocked at how “hardcore” and faithful they were. “I think we are too ‘tame’ for them.” she said. Another young friend, also in his early twenties, who was in attendence and myself acknowledged that we too have a desire for something deeper, and for the traditions and fire of the first Friends. Amanda wrote “Buying my Personality in a Store”:http://www.nonviolence.org/martink/archives/000438.php
James Chang, a convinced Friend who attends college in Philadelphia, found the Quaker Ranter site and wrote about it on a young adult discussion board, saying:
bq. we have degenerated into a timid company of refined people who are too nice to tell the world that it is covered by a sea of darkness (as opposed to those valiant men and women who would strip themselves and walk naked in markets, telling the astonished crowds how they must repent and turn to their Inward Teacher.) Anyhow, I have to confess that I became a Friend because George Fox has truly spoken to my conditions in his Journal… Are we turning our backs at these just and good people? Are we going to become dry trees like the “professors” and priests in white surplice and black cassock next door to my Meeting and wither away? James has a great blog called “Just Curious”:http://curiouspenn.blogspot.com/
A thirty-something seeker in New York State sent me a private email:
bq. I want to thank you for your articles on the BLOG Quaker Ranter. I am an Ordained Deacon in the Episcopal (Anglican) church. Before my ordination, part of my spiritual journey included attendance at a number of Friends meetings. I still consider myself a “Closet Friend” and have struggled with a formal return to Quakerism. Part of my reluctance to return to the fold was the pervasive PC, liberalism of most Friends meeting… After reading some of the articles on your BLOG, I now have hope.
And finally, two comments left on the site from the developer of the programmed ritual that I was told represents the future of Quakerism. He apparently discovered Google this week and “called me a racist with small ideas”:/martink/archives/000396.php#c4649. I respect him for having put together one of the few youth ministries programs in liberal Quakerism, though I don’t think we need to abandon unprogrammed worship to keep the kids’ attention or that his workshop is an appropriate form of Quaker religious education.
Who exactly is the rising generation? Why are all the younger Friends I hear from really excited by ideas of Quaker renewal but so many older Friends making excuses why the kids need a carnival show to pay attention? Why are we so shocked that twenty-something Friends are “hardcore and faithful” and interested in getting deep with their Quakerism? I get new emails from excited, committed new twenty Friends every week – newly convinced Friends who I can tell you are a core part of the real rising generation and our real hope for the future. So why are they so invisible?
Sometimes the daughters and sons of Quakers want spiritual experiences that Quakerism can’t offer them. That’s okay. We can give them a kiss on the cheek, wish them well and keep the front door unlocked for them to come back and visit. But why can’t we see that the many of the “best of our young adult Friends” are strangers come to our front door because of the powerful Light pouring out through the windows of our faith. These seekers are ascending the front stoop because of who we are and what we believe and how we practice our love for one another. They come to us wanting to learn our ways. The spiritual experience they seek is the power of the living Spirit, that same Spirit that taught Fox, Fell, Barclay, Fry, Penn, Mott, Jones, Kelly, Brinton and thousands of Friends, Christians and humans throughout time.
The age of the apostles is now. Christ has risen and speaks to our hearts. It is up to us to be fishers of souls, open to the new brothers and sisters of the Spirit. We can speak the experience of 350 years of Quaker testimony, a future that is built from the rock of the past. The Great People are still waiting to be gathered. Will we turn them away because we can only see the yawns of our sons and daughters? And wouldn’t some of those same sons and daughters be brought back into the fold in if they heard about and experienced the power we’ve known?