This fall has been a time of crisis, reflection and transformation, as we at Capitol Hill Friends have sensed God calling us to move outside the comfortable forms of 20th-century Quakerism and embrace the ways that the Holy Spirit is working and wants to work in this present generation. At the same time, we are being knit together into a wider community – the Friends of Jesus Fellowship – a dispersed yet cohesive community of like-hearted sisters and brothers who are committed to living and sharing the gospel in the world today.
In the past month, I have been able to participate in a concrete expression of this new movement, working with a number of fellow ministers to organize a revivalmeeting in Philadelphia. The decision to hold a public meeting for worship – and to call it a “revival” – was the result of a long period of discernment in community. Over time, it became clear that God was calling us to do this bold thing, inviting others into an opportunity to deepen our walk with the Spirit, and to open ourselves to the life of Jesus.
There were about eight of us on the team that helped to plan the revival, five local residents and three visitors from Michigan, Baltimore and DC. We laid the groundwork for the revival meeting in a series of weekly conference calls over a period of about a month, finally meeting together in person the night before the event. This process of planning, discernment and prayer was deeply beneficial for us as a network of like-hearted friends. Over the course of our preparation, we came to know one another better, and I sensed that new depths of leadership were being developed among us. The planning process was at least as worthwhile as the event itself.
We gathered for the revival meeting on a Thursday night, in a home in West Philadelphia. The evening began with a potluck dinner, and by the time worship worship started at 7:00, there were about fifty people present. The meeting commenced with a period of singing, led by a couple of the local planners. When the music concluded, it was announced that we would be entering into waiting worship, and that our three visiting ministers would be speaking out of the silence.
This ended up being really awkward for me, because the Lord gave me very little to say. My two fellow ministers delivered outstanding sermons, and it was clear to me that the Spirit had used them to take us in the direction that we needed to go. For a while, I thought that I would remain silent the whole meeting – which was uncomfortable, since I literally had people turning around and looking at me. They wondered when I would speak, since it had been announced! Mercifully, the Lord did give me a few words to deliver – totally unrelated to the message that God had been preparing within me for the weeks leading up to the revival.
This process was really hard on me. It took me days to recover from the raw sensation of being broken down in this way. Yet, this experience was a spiritual baptism for me, teaching me greater reliance on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, weaning me away from my tendency to trust in my own strength.
Though the meeting was hard for me on a personal level, I felt that the revival was blessed. There were no big explosions, no apparent mass conversions, no gaudy altar calls. But I did sense that hearts were being moved and that the risen Lord Jesus was among us, teaching. As I said to a fellow worker immediately after the worship, I feel that we did the best we could with the faith, gifts and condition of all who were present. I believe that we were faithful, in measure.
Following the revival meeting, six of us from the Friends of Jesus Fellowship ended up attending a Christ-centered Friends gathering held at Manhasset Friends
Meeting House on Long Island; four of us came up from the Philadelphia event, and two others traveled from New Jersey and New England. The time on Long Island was covered by Christ’s presence. All of us felt that there was a “sweet spirit” among the group, and it was comforting to be able to rest in the Lord after such an intense effort in Philadelphia.
I was very impressed by the spiritual depth and grounding of Friends at Manhasset and the other Friends who attended the Christ-centered Friends gathering. We made many good connections over the weekend, which I hope we can continue to nurture as we move forward as Friends of Jesus.
It is phenomenal to feel how the Lord’s work is moving forward at this time. Over the course of the last several years, we have experienced many setbacks. This ministry that we are engaged in is a marathon, not a sprint, and we know from experience that there will be highs and lows. But at this time, there is a sense of expansiveness and serendipitous blessing. Our spiritual ancestors would probably have named this experience as one of divine providence
God is indeed providingfor us, opening the way forward to be gathered together as Christ’s body. On the big-picture level, we sense the Holy Spirit knitting us together as a new people in the Friends of Jesus Fellowship. We are developing organic leadership remarkably quickly, and we are trying to stay adaptable as we incorporate new individual leaders and groups into our network. In Washington, DC, we are experiencing the Lord’s grace in providing us with the faith, insight and spiritual gifts that we need to become a maturing community that bears the marks of Jesus’ character.
The next several months will be crucial for our development as a community. The Friends of Jesus Fellowship is experimenting with ways to support one another at a distance as we seek to build strong local groups. Electronic tools – email, video chat and conference calls – help connect us between gatherings, and we make efforts to visit one another in person as often as possible.
We know that true revival does not consist in an evening of worship. Rather, we are being revived through ongoing transformation into the image of Christ. This extended process involves heart, soul, mind and strength, and it is through spiritually grounded and mature communities that we develop the capacity to be transformed and produce leadership that is transforming. This is the work of the coming year, and of the rest of our lives.
Your friend in Jesus,