Hubby and I attended worship this morning at a nearby Episcopal church that can only be described as crunchy-liberal and Dipped In Gay.
The up side is that there was no problem with a kiss during the Peace. But it reminded me of Philocrites’s description of C Major worship. The canon was, of course, the “where no man has gone before” Eucharistic Prayer C, which should never be used unless you sing “Earth and All Stars“. Lord’s Prayer was the “sins” version that I can never remember or abide. The service music was Richard Proulx: yuck.
But the kicker was this parish’s Rogation Day tradition of inflicting upon the rector a chasuable that looked like it was pulled from the wardrobe room of a production of The Mikado.
Hubby and I were late in coming, and in the vestibule-like area during the procession and stunned at seeing it. As we sat, we whispered to each other, “Is that Marimekko?”
And according to the order of service, it was.
Pictures! We want pictures! (I’m channeling Mrs P, here.) Who doesn’t snicker at “our island home” in Prayer C?
Meanwhile, today was arch-Anglican around these parts: Mrs P is busy writing a paper about George Herbert, but took a break this evening to sing Choral Evensong at her church. The choir sang Benjamin Britten’s setting of Christopher Smart’s poetry (“I shall consider my cat Geoffrey”) in a recital prelude. During the service we also sang a hymn by Smart. I am not ashamed to admit, once again, that I am always happy to sing “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,” with which we concluded the service. The even better hymn — and proof positive that I am swimming madly against the musical tide in the UUA — was Hymn 35, “Christ, mighty Savior, light of all creation,” which has one of the best 20th-century hymn tunes I’ve ever encountered. I love to sing that hymn.
Those Episcopalians need to leave Britain, “our island home” indeed.
I had the most bizarre church day of my life today. At 9:00am I attended the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting. Very Zen, no religious trappings at all, no litutgy, nothing. It was so low church we were practically in the basement. Then I went to the 11:15am service at Chapel of the Cross, the big campus Episcopalian church. It was ultra-high church: robes, robes, and more robes, stoles, singing, chanting, kneeling, standing, sitting, kneeling some more, juggling the Book of Common Prayer in one hand and the hymnal in the other and the extensive three-page order of service in the other other hand in an intricate dance, Eucharist (I crossed my arms and got a blessing because I couldn’t remember whether my Christening constituted Baptism), peace greeting, chanting, the whole nine yards. I was almost reeling from the cognitive dissonance, no exaggeration. It was my first Quaker service and only my second Episcopal one (the other was a somewhat lower service years ago with my wife’s grandparents in Atlanta). I just about got religious whiplash.
True story: after the service there was a business meeting. One of the things they discussed was the decision to integrate the youth with the rest of the congregation during summer sessions. One mother thought it was a bad idea because many of the kids couldn’t sit still that long. As she explained, “My daughter has stated with complete conviction that when she leaves home she is going to become a Unitarian because she can’t sit still for long.” So there you have it. As I remarked to my wife, the defination of a Unitarian is apparently a Quaker with AD/HD. And I guess that means that Quakers are essentially lethargic Unitarians.
Well, I wasn’t going to point out this parish because I didn’t want to embarass it, but if you slap up a picture from the day’s Rogation Parade (their term not mine) on your website . . .
The Rector is actually the cleric in alb and stole.
Oh my stars. I must post that on Fashion Tips.
Jeff…hope you had some positive experience at Chapel Hill Friends Meeting. Got to tell you though, that I am about as ADHD as they come and I LOVE waiting (unprogrammed) worship. Something about sitting in Silence (mostly) for an hour calms my mind and spirit.
About the kids in worship…what a shame that this parent doesn’t “get it”. Our children are very well behaved in Meeting for Worship. The occassional “outburst” is met with understanding and love. Perhaps this woman and her child both would be better at home in a UU congregation. Or, perhaps someone at Chapel Hill Friends could help her understand the value of the Silence. It does seem to me that the Christ-centered Friends Meeting (Durham, Friendship in Greensboro, Fayetteville, Greenville) do a better job passing on the value of Quaker worship to their kids.
In fact, having been in a UU congregation for many years, I marvel at how well Friends retain their youth. I have often wonder what Quakers do to keep the youth that other progressive congregations do not do.
Peace, Jeff….and you are always welcome to visit Friendship Friends in Greensboro if ever the chance arises.
Craig – I’ve also made the observation that Friends do a better job of retaining their youth, than the average UU congregation does. I think there are a few things that converge to encourage this…
Quakers have a distinctly progressive and counter-cultural identity, rooted in a clear spirituality of waiting on the Holy Spirit / Inner Light of Christ.
Quakers tend to have tight knit communities, and often encourage their children (where possible) to do a portion of their education at Quaker schools and/or colleges where Quaker values and practices are re-emphasized.
The practice of Quakerism is gentle, while encouraging a high level of commitment to practices of prayer, meditation, community, peace making, and simple living. Both newcomers and children are led by example into these high levels of commitment, without (generally) the use of guilt tripping.
Many other liberal religious communities (especially UU and UCC) may have counter-cultural identities, but are more vague about the foundations; do not have a distinct system of education (although there are Universalist heritage colleges and UCC affiliated colleges); and often do not encourage high levels of commitment in terms of spiritual practice (and where UU’s and UCC’s do it has a moderate chance of devolving into holier-than-thou, leftist, works righteousness).
Craig, thanks for your comments. I may have left a misrepresentative impression of that mother at the Quaker meeting. She was objecting to closing the youth activities during the summer and essentially forcing the teens to attend service, because her own daughter had told her clearly that she dislikes sitting quietly for a long time and would not come to church in that case (whereas, currently the daughter comes and participates in the youth activities that take place in another part of the meeting house during services). She felt the teens should have a choice about whether their activities got shut down seasonally in favor of silence.
I did have a positive experience. I’ve been doing Zen meditation for ten years now so I’m well able to sit still and quiet for extended stretches, it is often refreshing and illuminating. I can understand why there’s such an overlap between Buddhists and Quakers these days.
On the matter of child retention: this was raised during the business meeting, and the sense of the people gathered there was that Quakers are NOT retaining their children in very hopeful numbers. Now, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t nonetheless doing a considerably better job than UUs–after all, we retain our own in abyssmal numbers. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stared at like some sort of rare zoo animal when someone has found out that I grew up UU. But back the Quakers, the sentiments expressed by several people were that the Quakers were not growing in the USA (some said not growing, some expressed it as not growing relative to the growth of the country overall) and that many children leave the Friends when they grow up. The “my child is going to be a Unitarian when she grows up” comment received nods, as if others acknowledged that this was a not infrequent event.
I study liberal religion in America, but I’m not an expert on the Friends (one of the reasons I was at the meeting in the first place). I don’t know if they are indeed shrinking, or growing, or retaining their children at a higher rate than any other Protestant/Protestant-derived group that has been in America for a long time. Unfortunately, my colleague who could’ve told me just graduated so she’s out of my reach.
I will say that Quakerism on the whole strikes me as more coherent than UUism. With that relative clarity, it perhaps does attract or at least maintain at higher levels. It offers a TECHNIQUE, a spiritual technology that I think many UUs hunger for (witness the growth of UU subgroups such as the UU Buddhists etc, which I think has less to do with desire for core doctrine than with desire to mine the practices of various religious traditions).
There have been some very good studies done on growth and decline among Quakers in North America. The growth tends to be at the margins: in geographic regions that have not had a historic Quaker pressence (Rocky Mountain States, the Deep South, etc.), and at the theological edges of the Quaker community (universalist Christian pastoral meeting, evangelical meetings of various stripes, and quasi-humanistic meetings [especially in California]). Places of decline tend to be regions with historic large Quaker populations (North Carolina, New England, Philadelphia, Indiana) and meetings with more middle-of-the-road religious identities. More sectarian meetings also seem to decline, while those that are more ecumenically welcoming tend to grow (for example they attract and integrate Methodists seeking a peace witness).
While Quakers in my observation do better at retaining their youth than many other liberal religious groups, the picture is not over-abundantly rosey. I’ve met some youth who resent time their parents made them spend at Quaker boarding schools. Some do not have the temperment for 60 minutes of silent, open worship (they’re craving ritual and liturgy). That problem is sometimes mitigated in places like Indiana and North Carolina where there are different varieties of Quakers who use silence in different formats. The meeting I worship with and serve has hymns, readings, a sermon, and about 10-15 minutes of silent “communion in the manner of Friends”. And I’ve noticed more than a few youth who completely rebel against Quaker worship, and become Roman Catholics or Episcopalians (and sometimes even convert to Reform Judaism).
The meeting I attend is growing, but largely because we’re attracting UU’s with Universalist Christian leanings, and Methodists attracted to the Peace Testimony.
Derek…I think your comments are right on! I am a member of Friendship Meeting in Greensboro. We are located right across the street from Guilford College, a Quaker institution. I am amazed at the number of birthright Friends I meet and how deeply connected they are to their spiritual heritage. I don’t have a scientific study to site, but having quite a bit of time in UU settings, I can atttest to the fact that UU’s don’t retain near the numbers of children (and adults for that matter) that the Friends do. I don’t say that to criticize UU’s. It is just an observation. Ask any Quaker kid what Quakers believe and they can tell you…peace, simplicity, equality, Inner Light, etc. Ask UU kids…perhaps some can talk about the seven principles, but many have no idea what it is their church is all about.
Jeff…Chapel Hill Friends is an “odd duck” in North Carolina Quakerism. I heard a friend refer to them as “unitarians in drag”. They are not connected with any Yearly Meeting here and only connected to Friends General Conference via Piedmont Friends Fellowship. I serve on a Committee with some Chapel Hill Friends that is putting together a national Quaker retreat. These folks chose Chapel Hill Friends because they do not emphasize the Christian foundations of the Society of Friends. I think without that Foundation, one cannot expect retention. Again, it comes down to the ability to define what it is that is believed and finding identity in that shared belief. Of course, that is only my opinion.
Our Meeting is connected to North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative (www.ncymc.org). While not perfect, we do retain our youth in large numbers. Especially in urban areas, our Meetings are growing. Folks like myself who are newly convinced Friends are numerous.
Not all Meetings (Yearly and Monthly) are growing. Unprogrammed Christ-centered Friends Meetings are experiencing growth. The more evangelical Friends United Meeting (at least here in NC) are not growing. Certainly individual FUM Meetings (New Garden Friends…www.ngfm.org) are growing, but they have sought to transcend the evangelical paradigm of FUM and have leaned more toward the conservative-liberal outlook (this is often refered to as “convergent Friends”). Time magazine reported recently that Quakers have grown over 200% in the past decade. Now I doubt those figures, but I don’t doubt the growth.
In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, Friends Meetings which Center themselves on historic Quaker principles and which have a shared value of Christ, the Inner Light, who is the Transformer of lives will continue to grow. Those that have lost their Center will shrink and eventually die.
Also, I would encourage you to research the idea of Silence in a Friends Meeting. It is actually nothing like Zen at all. Barclay’s Apology is a good place to start in gaining that understanding.
If you are interested, I would love to show you around Greensboro (Ground Zero for Southern Quakerism). This year, our Yearly Meeting is not far from where you live (within an hour I think). I would LOVE for you to visit. My partner and I will be there only for the weekend, but you are welcome to attend…and hey, it’s quite the bargain.
If you’re interested, you can contact me at NCLotus at triad.rr.com.
Derek and Craig, thanks for the additional info and perspectives. Derek, can you provide any citations for those studies? I will follow up on them and much appreciate your efforts.
Craig, thanks very much for the offer, but I don’t have a car and thus can’t get to Greensboro, even though y’all are less than an hour away. I’ll try to keep your comments in mind nonetheless, you’ve pointed me toward some important distinctions within American Quakerism. By the way, have you fully relinquished your connection to Nichiren Buddhism, or is that something you find compatible with Christ-centered unprogrammed Friends? American Buddhism and American liberal religion are my twin research areas, so I’m always interested when the two seem to butt into each other!
On the issue of hymns, Chapel Hill Friends have a piano in the meeting room, but it was left untouched during my visit. There was some mention of hymns in the business meeting but it was unclear how they operate in the life of the congregation. All I saw was straight silence, except one older woman who rose and spoke, saying that she was moved by a line from Gandhi she heard in a recent movie: “When I was growing up, I was taught to believe that God is truth. Now that I am older, I find that I believe that truth is God.”
There are numerous active UU churches in the Triangle area, all growing. This makes me less inclined to assume that Chapel Hill Friends are as quasi-Unitarian as we might suspect, because people with UU proclivities have many opportunities to attend a diverse range of UU congregations (including Christocentric ones, Humanistic ones, rather Buddhistic ones, and what I’ll characterize as “touchy-feely” without intending any actual scorn). There’s also one of the region’s most active Zen groups here in town, and Chapel Hill is the homebase for North Carolina Soceity for Ethical Culture. All of which leads me to conject that there is indeed something specifically Quaker-oriented about the Chapel Hill Friends that attracts and retains people: they need not be UUs, Buddhists, or Humanists in Quaker clothing because those options are readily available to them. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t on the liberal end, and therefore similar to UUs in some ways, of course.
Jeff, with your knowledge and insight, I would LOVE to see you do a study of American Quakerism. The cool thing about that is that it would be done by someone outside of Quakerism and would be as objective as possible.
Ah, Nichiren Buddhism. Yep…I practiced all the while holding onto my belief in Jesus. I saw the two as compatable especially in a UU setting. I have a deep respect for Nichiren Buddhism. It has helped many of my friends overcome a lot of bad things in their lives. There is a lot of power in chanting and living by Nichiren philosophy. However, there came a time when I could no longer keep one foot in Buddhism and the other in Christianity. I hate when folks say, “God told me…”, but Jeff, I gotta tell you that God did indeed speak to me and let me know that I could either choose Jesus or Buddhism. Don’t misunderstand…there is nothing wrong with Buddhism. For me, however, Christianity won out. Honestly, it could have had a lot to do with one of my best friends being diagnosed with gleoblastoma muliforme (sp?)….a very aggressive brain tumor. There are things in life which cause ephinanies…this was one of those.
By the way, is there a Christocentric UU congregation in the Triangle now? I am guessing that you might mean All Souls in Durham. However, I know there is a new congregation in Raleigh which might be Christocentric.
And I know we are getting WAY off subject…but what do you think of Davidson Lohr’s assessment of UUism (http://www.austinuu.org/sermons/2006/2006-04-29-WhereDoWeGoFromHere.html)? The guy often angers me, but I gotta say he seems rather prophetic at times.
Jeff – Like many things in my brain, I’ve stored the data but not the source citations. I believe the geographic research was done by somebody at Friends General Conference, perhaps between 1996 and 2002. It was in reference to a question about demographic shifts in the General Conference, and a perception that the Quaker strong-hold in Philadelphia is declining in population, jeapordizing the future of long standing, large meetings.
I believe the research on Quakers growing at the theological edges was done by John Punshon. John tends to focus his research on Quakers in Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends Alliance.
Craig was also wise to mention in passing the easily observed issue of Quakers growing in urban communities, but (implied by Craig) declining in rural areas. The rural decline, I believe, is not unique to Quakers. Any faith tradtion with congregations in rural settings tends to struggle with survival in the face of continued rural depopulation, and the disruption of historic family patterns that supported churches via the succession of generations (in other words the problem is young people moving away and not inheriting their place in the succession).
Unlike Craig, I do see growth among post-Christian Quakers, but believe it is problematic in the long run. It is a distinct kind of quasi-Humanism that is not UU, but rooted in a non-theological application of the Quaker Testimonies (Peace, Equality, Simplicity, Integrity) as more of a law of ethical conduct than a religious experience one testifies about. You see this form of Quakerism in independent meetings, and on the West Coast. I think it is problematic in the long run because it lends itself to a kind of Quaker legalism (with the testimonies as laws), and collapses the practice of silent waiting into an individualistic psychological introspection. This collapse of silent worship, in turn often leads to problematic questions about shared identity, community practice, or even if there is a need for a religious community.
With regard to hymns, many unprogrammed meetings like Chapel Hill feature a hymn sing for 15-30 minutes prior to the main meeting for worship. The purpose of the hymn sing is to prepare for the community’s time of silent waiting. It is optional in any event. If there is nobody who can play piano, some meetings suspend such a practice of singing.
Quakers and Raleigh have sorta taken over this thread, so let me add my 2 cents, as my nephew from Raleigh has gotten accepted at the Quaker college in Greensboro – not sure if he actually plans to attend – but I will ask him when I go to Raleigh in June to clebrate his High School graduation– and what the heck, let me ask: what are my UU options in the area for service on sunday?
There is a UU congregation here in Greensboro just down the road from Guilford College. The minister there is a great guy. The congregation tends more toward the pagan side of UUism and the services reflect that leaning.
Across from Guilford College campus are two Friends Meetings that you would be welcome to attend. New Garden is more like a Christo-centric UU congregation. Friendship, my Meeting, is unprogrammed and firmly set in the “conservative” Quaker model.
If your nephew does end up at Guilford, let us know. We’d be glad to be a local contact for him if any need might arise.
By the way…Guilford College rocks! Second only to my college…Warren Wilson College.
Sorry I didn’t get back to this thread earlier, I’ve been preparing to teach on Channing’s Baltimore Sermon in class today. My apologies to Scott for the rather unexpected direction we’ve taken your thread.
Craig, glad to hear that you’ve found the right tradition that speaks to your heart. Sometimes it’s best for people to follow two paths, sometimes they need to follow one. I hope you are able to grow continually in joy and peace through the Friends.
I was indeed refering to All Souls in Durham as the “Christocentric UU church” of the Triangle, it takes a more overtly Christian Universalist approach (though without failing to leave plenty of room for other ideas). I’d attend but the buses don’t run on Sundays.
I have read Lohr’s critique: I agree with some, disagree with plenty, and unfortunately don’t have time at the moment to go further in depth (and with the closing of my UU blog, I don’t have a proper forum either–I don’t want to hog other people’s blog comments). If there were one or two issues you wanted to pull out to dicuss though I’d be up for it.
Awesome that you went to Warren Wilson, BTW, I’d really like to teach there someday. It’s my kind of place.
Derek: thanks again for your comments, and don’t feel bad, I have trouble coming up with citations on the spot too: I too remember info better than where exactly I got it.
Steven: you’re probably want to go to the UU Fellowship of Raleigh. Although it has the name “fellowship” it is a large church. I’ve attended occasionally but not often or recently.
let me continue my part of the hijacking of this tread by saying
Craig: Sorry i wasnt that clear, i will be in Raliegh in a few weeks. On the otherhand, we do plan to go up to Greensboro to visit the Revolutionary battlefield and do other touristy things sometime this year – it’s on our list! New Garden is the name Im familiar with – but yall at Friendship wont do the hour long silence thing, will yall? Im afraid I’m one of those who read the bulletin during silent prayer or medation…..(hey, we all have our failings…..)
Jeff: Visiting in Raliegh I will be closer to the Raleigh Peach Church (only 8 miles away) – the big Raleigh and the Durham AllSouls will be roughly the same distance – the Eno River slighlty longer time wise (I mention Eno, because I see that I knew one of the pastors’ father – a real nice man and great artist). Peace will be doing discussion at that time, I see…..
Or should I just go ahead and go to All Souls?
So what are ways to encourage youth to attend? I note, that in my position as a small UU congregation web master and email responder; that I get some comments from youth (early 20s) – most of whom want to know how many folks their own age are attending – and a few brave but honest souls who want to know how many members of the opposite sex of their own age are attending. What do youth want? How can UUs (and quakers and even southern baptists who moan that baptism rates are down below death rates) do?
Steven, you’ll have to decide based on your preferences. Here how I’ll break down each place with some possible factors.
Raleigh UU Peace church: small congregation; meets in a house; often non-traditional in their service formats; not too far from where you’ll be; a bit difficult to get to.
Raleigh UU Fellowship: largish congregation; meets in their own space (not architecturally “churchy”); doesn’t have a specific theological orientation; relatively close to where you’ll be; pretty easy to get to.
All Souls Durham: small congregation; meets in a school building; has a general Universalist slant (but the sermon this weekend happens to be on Ethical Culture, so as usual with UUism you never know what you’ll get); relatively racially integrated; not quite as close to where you’ll be; not so easy to get to.
Eno River UU Fellowship: large congregation; meets in their own space (for some reason it always makes me think “New Age synagogue”); doesn’t officially have a specific theological orientation yet I have literally never attended without hearing something about Buddhism from the pulpit; further from where you’ll be; not too hard to get to.
Community Church of Chapel Hill: medium congregation; meets in their own building (BUT: they are undergoing rennovations so they meet in the nearby Jewish Kehillah right now instead); no specific theological orientation; even further, yet not actually much further than Eno River; can be a little tricky to find for outsiders.
The best way to get young adults (i.e. people over 17) to attend is to host a young adult group, and to have a range of interesting activities that people can attend at non-traditional times (i.e. not on Sunday morning). Although young adults may often wish to go to church in part to meet potential partners (I did, and it worked: I met my wife in an adult RE class called “Who was Jesus?”–being UUs I’m not sure we ever figured it out, but I still got what I was looking for. . .), singles groups aren’t an ideal hook because they tend to fill up with older people.
Jeff: well this is the “Boy in the Bands” with Christian Universalist Theology – so I guess we have to ask
WWSG? Where Would Scott Go? ;-)