My first programmed meeting

As some of you may remember, I've been thinking for a while that I need to get off my duff and across the Bay to the closest programmed meeting for worship, at Berkeley Friends Church (BFC). I had been in their building once before, like 10 years ago, but never for worship. (I've never been to either of the unprogrammed meetings for worship in Berkeley on a first day morning either, for that matter.)

So when I heard that the teens from College Park Quarterly Meeting (CPQM) were going, I thought I have to go now. What am I waiting for, a written invitation? How about a chance to support our young people and not have to go all by myself and probably get to have lunch with them afterwards too? And then my youngest son had a cough and my husband decided he was going to keep the boys home anyway, so I was really free to do what I wanted.

So as I said briefly before, it wasn't that different from my unprogrammed meeting. It's really a pastoral friends church and all, but it's also Berkeley. And they're quite different than some other Friends Churches in California.

The clerk of their Ministry and Counsel committee opened the worship by reading a prayer. There was a period of open time for folks to offer words of praise or requests for prayers. There was a "musical offering" - a guy playing a song on his guitar, and then there were 30 minutes of open worship. During which the pastor spoke eloquently, but so did several other people including one of the CPQM teens and a young woman who spoke at length about spreading the love of Jesus, or something like that. Almost a popcorn meeting.

During the service, I was worried about what the teens were thinking. Would they laugh when the guitar player made a mistake? Would they look down on the young woman who was struggling to give her strongly evangelical vocal ministry in English, clearly not her first language? The ministry that came to my mind was "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I was thinking about how often we/I come to worship imperfectly. But I didn't hear any snickers. I need to give them more credit. I realized this message was for me, and I just sat with it for a while.

After worship, we went upstairs to have some lunch together. A few people had made an emergency trip to the store to be sure there would be enough food for double the number of people they usually have, many of whom would have teenage appetites. Does every church say "we're known for our food ministry/great potlucks"? It was all fine.

Some of the best things for me:

One of the teens came and sat next to me at lunch. I've known him since he was seven, I think, and he still plays with my little boys at Quarterly and Yearly Meeting from time to time. But he came over and told me about the movies they'd watched the night before. (He shares a Monty Python obsession with my husband.) I know him. And he knows me as a real person, not just some foreign grown-up friend of his mom. I look forward to knowing him as a grown-up too.

I had a chat with some of the folks from BFC and the adult FAP's (Friendly Adult Presence) from CPQM. They were each curious about why I had come. I explained a little about my conversations in the blogosphere - especially with folks from Newberg Friends Church, about my interest in Convergent Friends, and feeling like this had been God's written invitation to finally come to BFC. I had heard Max Hansen, the pastor at BFC, speak before, but this felt like more of a connection. I liked the guy. And I expressed my gratitude (not enough probably) to the FAP's for all their work and making this morning and the whole teen program possible.

I met the guy who runs the youth programs at BFC and encouraged him to bring his group to visit our Meeting and got his name and contact info to give to our youth class leaders so that maybe they can visit BFC too. This feels like a real possibility. One of the main reasons that the CPQM teens went to BFC was because of the connections that were made at the World Gathering of Young Friends. But we don't have to go halfway around the world to meet the other branches of Friends. They are right here in the Bay Area. And together, we have hopes of having a critical mass of teens to create a dynamic group. Maybe. Perhaps.

At any rate, I'm still in love with my own Meeting. (which reminds me of another post I have to write) But that doesn't mean that I won't want to visit with my Friendly cousins from time to time. I still have to go back sometime when they're having their more programmed services - every other week or so.

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Blogger Liz Opp said...

Glad this was such a positive experience for you, Robin. A few things come to mind, as usual.

1. Another opportunity for high school Friends of different branches to come together on occasion--within North America, at least--is FGC's Young Quakes program, though they haven't held a weekend since Fall of 2004.

2. Of course, there's also Youth Quake, which I know even less about and happens once every 3-5 years, I think. I'm sure other readers can correct me and speak more to what Youth Quake is and how it might difer from FGC's Young Quakes...

3. While reading Friend Brian Drayton's new book, I was reminded that intervisitation used to be considered the life blood of Quakers, that such visits helped "[connect] all parts to each other, and [carry] nourishment to every extremity" (p. 150). I now can understand the value of such intervisitation, given my travels for committee service for Friends General Conference and the opportunities I've had to meet Friends from all over North America.

My hope would be for OAFs (Older Adult Friends) to catch the fire that YAFs (Young Adult Friends) have for traversing their state, region, country, continent, or ocean in order to visit and worship with one another.

Thanks for helping restore this important practice, Robin, in your own way and as Way opens.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

1/19/2006 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report back!

Our Friend John sometimes asks us the question, "Can you imagine your life at this point without Quakerism?" And Robin & I usually answer, "No, of course not." We all agree it's been a truly transformative experience.

And it's taken time. It didn't happen one day On the Road to 9th Street in San Francisco. It is the product of 15 years' of faithful attendance at meeting for worship, and ongoing engagement with Friends in person, on committees, and in writing (books 'n' blogs).

Somewhere along the way we found the Way, or a Way, whichever you prefer. And it has spoken to our condition.

Thanks for sharing the journey, Robin.

1/20/2006 1:50 AM  

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