For those that visit this site every Sunday to see what new post might be there, I am sure you quickly realized that there was a void. There is a reason for this void.
Willow Creek Friends Church, and as extention Jared Warner the pastor of Willow Creek and the author of this Blog, is a member of a larger religious society (denomination). This larger group is the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting.
I know that the name is a mouthful, but there is a reason. Friends Meetings, often but not always unite into larger Meetings to pool resources for greater ministry. A Monthly Meeting or local church is often part of an Area or Quarterly Meeting. Thes Quarterly and Monthly Meetings also partner with a larger cooperative of Meeting to form a Yearly Meeting. If you noticed the names Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly are there for a purpose. The time element of the name is when we have a specified time to meet for the expressed purpose of how and where we will invest the resources that have been given to the Meeting’s care.
Each month the Monthly Meeting, or local church, invites those that participate in worship to a Meeting for Worship in which Business is conducted. These meetings are unique in the Friends Church because they are not conducted like many governing organizations, we do not seek a majority, or even a super majority. Instead we seek a sense of the Meeting. Many would look at this from the outside and think that we are wanting unanimous consent, and they would not be completely incorrect. There is more to it than unanimous consent. As Friends, we believe that the Spirit of God is our ever present teacher and guide. We believe that if we seek the Spirit and listen, we will be guided toward the places we need to go.
Yes it sounds strange, at times it is strange, at times it seems impossible because to get to that collective sense of the Spirit, we as a group must lay aside all those opinions and personal agendas we might hold and actually live a life of faith. We have to entrust to this unseen divine light, all those resources we as individuals gave and not maintain control. We must trust that every member in attendance around us is also doing the exact same thing.
Needless to say this process can take time, because as each person speaks and as we all seek, we are able to lay more of our own control down and trust what God is and will do. As we seek answers to the questions raised and as we pray eventually we all come to a place where the direction is clear. The process can be filled with many feelings but when that process is directed with care the results are powerful. (If you would like to learn more about this decision making process I encourage you to read this book. Practicing Decernment Together by Lon Fendall, Jan Wood, Bruce Bishop.
This process is conducted in some form at each level of these Meetings. And this past weekend, our Yearly Meeting gathered at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas to meet for Worship and business. Over the years some of the decision have been entrusted to committees to respect the time of those that attend but the process is the same. Each Quarterly Meeting or area has a representative that is appointed by the area to represent their area, these representatives are chosen because of their wisdom, passion, and discernment in those areas of ministry. I have had the privilege of serving on some of these committees over the years. These committees will do much of the decernment and then bring what they sense to the Yearly Meeting representatives (a person that is chosen from each monthly meeting to represent that meeting).
If the decisions presented by the various committees are accepted by the representatives, we as a collective group move forward. At times there is a sense that more discernment is needed and those items are taken back to the committees to be considered and prayed about more.
What could we possibly need to do for so long? These committees discuss things like budgets. Other committees will then take their portion of the budget and consider how to invest those resources. We use those resources to extend ministry invarious ways, opening new Meetings, encouraging educational organizations, supporting various projects within our region or even in countries outside of our region. And we also share with the representatives how the investment of those resources has assisted those it was entrusted to.
I will not go into great detail, but to see there change in people’s lives has been remarkable. This year we had the privilege of accepting into our Yearly Meeting a new Monthly Meeting. But the interesting thing about this particular Meeting was that they came to us because of the work people have done in countries on the other side of the world.
The point of all this is to let you all know a bit more about the unique aspects of Friends, and to let you know why I did not post a message like I usually do. In our weekly Meeting for Worship, we live streamed the closing meeting of the Yearly Meeting.
In this closing Meeting we recorded three ministers. Recording is something that may sound odd from the outside as well. As Friends we believe that everyone is a minister in some manner. Meaning each of us should be living our lives obedient to the leading of the Spirit. But there are some people that exhibit a special giftedness. Some people that have an ability to encourage and equip the church to do the ministry they are called to do. These people are recommended to the Yearly Meeting for recording. Some might say that it is simply and ordination service, but that is not correct. Friends believe God ordains, God empowers, and enable. We only record what God has done.
We as a Yearly Meeting recorded three ministers. All three of these individuals are amazing and have encouraged many people. They are pastors but more as well, they are teachers in colleges, and they assist the students in our areas to find their place in the world and in the ministry of God. All three of the individuals recorded today have been encouraging in my personal life, and it is odd to me that they were recorded after I had been recorded.
That is the uniqueness of Friends. We do not seek recording, but the monthly meetings recommend them. We encourage everyone to do what they are called to do where they are at. Some may never be recorded while others are recommended right away. This does not really mean anything other than some equip quietly over time and others are sent out, but all have a place.
I am rambling, but I do love the Friends Church. I encourage you to learn more about us. And want you all to know that you can contact me if you want.
Recommended books and websites:
The Heart of Friends: Quaker History and Beliefs by Glenn W. Leppert
Practicing Decernment Together by Lon Fendall, Jan Wood, Bruce Bishop
Evangelical Friends Church MidAmerica Yearly Meeting
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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