[This is a compilation - with slight editing and correction of some errors, and a few parenthetical updates - of several email messages written to a small, private Friends (Quaker) list in September 1995. Please excuse references that may have been clear to all those on that list but not to non-Friends readers. The compilation was too long for one article, so I've broken it into three parts. If you have not read the prior parts, I suggest you start with Part 1.]
[This part of the story overlaps chronologically the last part]
About 7 years ago, a group of Christians in our area began meeting together. It started with two Friends who were at a silent retreat together, and afterwards talked about the need for Christian fellowship. They set a time and a place, and started calling around to Baltimore YM Friends who might be interested. I think there were about 15 the first time we met. We found it very refreshing to be able to use the "J" and "C" words without any fear of negative reaction. We worshipped, ate together, and shared from our own journeys. It was a rich time, and we knew we needed to continue. So we started meeting every month in this fashion.
Because about half of us were from the Washington area, we caucused at the 2nd gathering and decided to meet more frequently than the YM group could. We began meeting every two weeks for worship, sharing and prayer. After meeting a few months, we decided to call a Lenten series. We met every Sunday evening during Lent for worship-sharing around the Biblical Lenten story. We also met on Good Friday evening, and for a sunrise/sonrise service on Easter morning, followed by a potluck breakfast. Before the series began, we visited area meetings in pairs to invite Friends to join us. We got some new people that way. One of the purposes of the Lenten series was to unite us more closely with the wider Christian church - the body of Christ. Our group tends to put greater priority on being part of the body of Christ than of being part of a particular denomination, much as we are drawn to the ways of Friends. The Lenten series was another breath of fresh air - an opportunity to share with fellow Christians about the meaning of the crucifixion and the resurrection in our lives. We have held such a series every year since. Our Good Friday gatherings have varied, but most years have included the Lord's Supper.
In 1993, we used A Lenten Journey by Larry R. Kalajainen (Upper Room), which included daily devotional exercises for us each to undertake as individuals. One day, we were to picture ourselves standing with Jesus. That day, I was at Quaker Hill. I did indeed feel Jesus' presence there in my room. I waited to hear what profound words of guidance Jesus would offer. He said just three words to me, "I love you." What a wonderful gift is my savior's love!
Every year, the wider group has also held a weekend retreat towards the end of the year. One year early the only weekend we could get was the 2nd week of December, while we had been looking for an earlier date. So we called it an Advent Retreat, and found it a wonderful time to retreat, and have held it as an Advent Retreat that weekend ever since [no longer held now]. These retreats have also been incredibly powerful spiritual experiences, in which we experience the wonder of the new creation that is ourselves in Christ.
The group has also had many other gatherings on varying bases through the years. Twice, we have sponsored a Friends Gathering in Christ at Sandy Spring, modeled on the General Gatherings of Conservative Friends and drawing Friends from all over the country. These have given us a rich sense of Christian community with those beyond our regional fellowship. For several years, we have held a Traveling Meeting most months with Ohio YM Friends. The Traveling Meeting is a group of us who go to meetings to which we are invited, mostly in Baltimore YM, and joining the meeting for worship. We then have a potluck lunch, a Bible reading in the Conservative tradition, and a time of sharing. These have been rich and powerful occasions, drawing us closer to Christ. [Traveling Meeting no longer active now.]
After Ohio YM adopted an affiliate membership status for those feeling spiritual ties with Conservative Friends, but not located near their meetings, I applied for affiliate membership in Rockingham Meeting, near Harrisonburg, VA. I first sought clearness from my own Meeting, Adelphi. The clearness process at Adelphi was most rewarding, and Friends were very supportive of this step in my spiritual journey. I subsequently went through a clearness process at Rockingham, and was accepted. Initially, this was very important to me as a formal means of having ties with Christian Friends. But it is also true that I have problems with more narrow interpretations of Conservative Quakerism, which reject other than their own form of worship and sometimes look down upon other Christians. This view is more widely accepted in Rockingham Meeting than in Ohio YM generally, where I find many much closer to my own understanding. It is, however, important to see in practice a non-pastoral tradition of Friends that holds firmly to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The upholding of some of the valuable older traditions of Friends has also been instructive to me. I didn't really understand the term "meeting for worship for the conduct of business" until I first attended the sessions of Ohio YM.
In 1993-94, I participated in the On Being a Spiritual Nurturer program of the School of the Spirit. I found this a very valuable grounding in Christian traditions of spiritual nurture, although I felt somewhat isolated within the student body, most of whom did not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. I had a feeling during that course that I would be drawn into a new ministry, but had no idea what it would be. Not long after, I discovered the Internet. It seems that I do have a ministry there, both of proclamation and of nurture of a number of people I've "met" on the electronic highway who are looking for Christian nurture, encouragement and support. Another new direction, responding to a challenge from our YM General Secretary, has been to be the coordinating person for an effort to establish a semi-programmed Friends worship group in our area. Where this will lead is as yet unknown. [See Friends in Christ for outgrowth of this.]
Right now [fall 1995], I have been considering how my own leadings mesh with my involvement in Adelphi Meeting. I now serve as Recording Clerk of my Meeting, a position I accepted largely out of a feeling that I needed to give a gift to the Meeting in appreciation for all the support it has given me over the years. While many in the Meeting do not understand where I'm at spiritually, let alone share my position, the Meeting has been very affirming of me, for which I am deeply grateful. I also serve on the Adult Religious Education Working Group. I am moving in the direction of not serving in any formal capacity with the Meeting, so that I may be released for the ministry to which I am called. I serve on spiritual support committees for three Friends in my Meeting, which I do see as definitely a part of my ministry (and also a great joy).
July 2007 Update: In 2005, I dropped my membership in Adelphi Friends Meeting and joined Cedar Ridge Community Church. This decision is explained in On Resigning from Friends Meeting. I still keep some connections with Friends, seeking particularly to foster crossfertilization between Friends and the emerging church. I also sometimes attend midweek meeting for worship at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. In another arena of my life, I have been serving as President of Consistent Life since early 2005.