Questpost 1: and we’re off!
Of course, I wax eloquent about Quaker discernment when it goes the way I want it to. In other words, when submitting to the will of God feels like a gift and not an obligation. It felt like a gift to last Sunday, mostly because I am so enthused about Quaker Quest, and, vainly, because it is a program I brought to to the meeting’s attention.
Quaker Quest (QQ) is a comprehensive Outreach program developed originally by Hempstead monthly meeting in London, England in 2002. Born from a leading felt by members of that meeting, the program was so successful that now there are many monthly meetings in Britain offering Quaker Quest. The program comes with a printed action plan developed through experience.
In brief, QQ are a series of stand-alone information, discussion and worship meetings held around specific and repeated Quaker topics, and offered at the same location on a sequence of weeks. Each session presents three speakers to talk on the given topic, and each session is a mix of speakers, discussion and hospitality. There is always literature available for seekers to take away with them, and there are always experienced Friends present to guide discussion and answer questions. Possible session topics might be “Quakers and Worship”, “Quakers and God”, “Quakers and The Bible”, “Quakers and Peace”. The Core Group will choose the topics. They may chose a series of individual topics, or three which repeat once, etc. In London, there are Quaker Quest sessions offered 50 weeks out of the year.
An essential aspect of any Quaker Quest program is the creation of a “Core Group” within the meeting offering it. These are Friends and attenders who are committed to Quaker Quest and ready and willing to attend all the sessions and do whatever is necessary to make Quaker Quest a successful experience for the meeting and for the seekers who come to the sessions.
Another essential aspect of Quaker Quest is well-organized and high quality advertising. The bulk of any Quaker Quest budget will be spent on banners, flyers, ads and other innovative means the Core Group can think of to spread the word about Quaker Quest. QQ PR is built around a marketable slogan, such as “A Spiritual Path for Our Time”.
This is the part that makes most old-school P.Y.M. Quakers queasy, mostly because of the mistaking of advertising for proselytizing. But also, I believe, because so many of us are afraid of change. How ironic this is to me, that in a religious society founded on the belief that God is presentso much than past or future, in other words, a society fused to the ever-changing, always transforming now, that we in this society should be so stubbornly attached to forms and feelings from the past. But this is human nature. We fear the new; we are comforted by the familiar. And so often we seek to make our spiritual nourishment comfort food. But in my experience God is not always comfortable.
Quaker Quest, with its commitment to 21st century P.R., well designed glossy posters and brochures, and assertive marketing is a way to draw new and “frightening” people to us; people with novel ideas and a lot of potential energy, energy they may use to assist in that continuing revelation I was describing before. People who may ask difficult and inconvenient questions. People who may want to become close to us, and so we may have to open ourselves to them. QQ is a direct affront to the Quietest pall which has been hanging, smog-like, over my Yearly Meeting for too long. It is, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air.
But it is also an enormous challenge to those of us committed and enthusiastic about our society. For what will do with these new people who may appear and be quite alarmingly interested in how we worship and what we stand for? How will we welcome them? And what will we tell them of our expectations, our testimonies, our principles? Will we be able to invite them into something we have already created, and witness their transformations into Quakers, as we also allow them to transform us?
In other words, will we be able to move from us and them, to just us? And will that “us” still be something powerful, Spirit-led, transforming . . . Quaker?