The end of this series of essays is really just a beginning. From here, I hope we can move together from theory to concrete application. Friedrich Engels once wrote that, “an ounce of action is better than a ton of theory,” and one transformed relationship certainly beats any series of essays I could write. While I hope that my writing might serve as an impetus to deeper reflection about where we are at and where we might be headed as a Religious Society, my greatest desire is that we translate our reflection into lives of faithfulness and courage.
I hope that these essays have served as the beginning of a call to action. I am not the first one to issue this call, and in many ways this is nothing new. The Gospel seems new and fresh to each individual and community that receives it, though it is the same Gospel that every generation has been confronted and comforted by. Our call for today is to contextualize this eternal Gospel into our life in the post-modern, post-Christendom West.
This re-contextualization will take many forms. It will effect the revitalization of some of our old structures – our Meetings, Yearly Meetings and para-church organizations. We will also see the Gospel rising up in new communities and new structures, just as it did in the early days of the Friends movement in seventeenth century England. Many of our traditions, structures and networks can be salvaged; if we are faithful, much of what we cherish about twentieth century Quakerism can be re-tooled, re-defined and re-deployed. But we cannot remain the same as before.
The post-modern, post-Christendom era requires that we move beyond the Constantinian church models that have seeped into our tradition in the last three hundred years. We can no longer be a “faithful remnant,” hedged off from the world and more concerned about our own purity than the needs of our neighbors. Nor can we be unreflective activists, tossed about by every wind of human wisdom; we must root our engagement in deep listening to Christ. We must ourselves be changed before we can seek to change others.
If we are ready to be transformed, Jesus will walk alongside us. He will guide us, heal us, strengthen us, prepare us. When he bursts the old wineskins that no longer fit God’s purposes in our present time, Christ will give us new wineskins, new ways of thinking and organizing ourselves that can sustain us in the work we are called to. Are we ready to lay everything at Jesus’ feet, holding nothing back?
I would like to invite you to join me and many other brothers and sisters in exploring this new thing that Christ is doing in our generation. To begin with, consider whether you have something to contribute to this online conversation about what a missional Quaker faith looks like. Join the Quaker Church-Planters group. Write your own blog post, either on your personal blog, on QuakerQuaker, or Facebook. Or, just write me an email. I would love to connect with you.
And, as important as it is that this conversation continue online, I hope that you will join us in putting all of this theory into practice. Come and worship at a missional Quaker worship group, or start your own. Let us know what you are doing, so that we can pray for you, collaborate with you and share the word of what God is doing in your town or city. Let us be the Church with you.
Have no doubt: Christ is calling us to the same depths of courage, sacrifice and joy to which he called the early Church and the early Friends. Be valiant for Truth upon the earth.
Resources for Further Study:
The full text of George Fox’s epistle to Quaker missionaries (including the famous, “answering that of God in everyone” line): http://lightandsilence.org/2007/02/walk_cheerfully_over_the_world_1.html