Monday, December 10, 2012

Are We Revived Yet?

This past week, I traveled in the ministry among Friends in the Mid-Atlantic. Along with my companions from Michigan, Baltimore and Philadelphia, we held a revival meeting for Friends in the Philadelphia area, as well as attending a gathering of Christian Friends on Long Island. This was one of the more epic road trips I have been on, with four of us packed into my little '97 Corolla, navigating New York traffic while engaging in a passionate discussion of the challenges facing the Body of Christ at this historical moment of great crisis and opportunity.

Our journey began Wednesday afternoon. I picked Tyler Hampton up from the airport, and Dan Randazzo from his home in Baltimore; dinner was in Philadelphia, at the home of Helene Pollock, along with a number of fellow workers in the Truth. We went really deep over the dinner table, discussing the dynamics of doing ministry in a Philadelphia Quaker context. This conversation helped to prepare us for the work to come.

Thursday night, we held a gathering of around fifty people in a home in West Philly. Calling the gathering a Quaker revival, we sought to offer a space for transformation - a renewed encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit. We were heartened to see that a wide cross-section of the Philadelphia Quaker community was in attendance. Locals told us that there was representation from many different Quaker sub-cultures that rarely talked with one another. Especially encouraging to me was that there were also some folks who were new to Friends who attended to get a better idea of whether this might be the community for them.

The meeting itself was not what anyone expected, including me. After a potluck dinner and a time of singing led by talented musicians from the Philadelphia area, we entered into a time of open worship. As visiting ministers, Tyler, Dan and I were explicitly invited to give vocal ministry during that time. However, the meeting flowed freely, with other Friends giving messages as they felt moved. Tyler and Dan both gave very powerful spoken ministry, articulating the depths of anguish and sense of abandonment that we may feel as we seek to follow Jesus. Though I had prayed for many weeks in preparation, and believed that the Lord had given me a message to deliver at the revival, I found that Tyler's visceral ministry was pitch perfect. Nothing that I had been given to speak seemed relevant any longer.

This was really hard for me. Before the meeting ended, I did end up speaking a few words, which I hope were faithful to the motion of the Spirit in our midst; yet, most of what I believed God had given me to say was stripped away. For almost a month, I felt that God was preparing me to deliver a particular message, but at the last possible moment, the sermon went through the shredder! It took me the whole next day to recover from my feelings of frustration and abandonment.

Though I personally struggled, I felt that the revival was held in the power of the Lord. I was very proud of Tyler and Dan for their faithfulness in preaching the word, and I felt thankful for the hard work that everyone put into planning logistics, preparing music, and opening their homes and hearts in order to allow this event to take place. I feel that we did the best we could with the gifts, faith, and spiritual condition of those who were present that night.

Are we revived yet? That is a hard thing to gauge. I can say that ministers were seasoned and empowered. I can report that around fifty Friends gathered together in Philadelphia to hear the word of the gospel. I know that, as a result of this effort, many individuals in the Philadelphia area have felt strengthened and supported in their walk of faith. And I have a sense that the Lord is gathering a people to himself. If revival means instantaneous transformation, then ours was a pretty poor example. But if revival means the steady work of planting and watering, inviting Jesus himself into our midst, then I would say that we can report some success.

The next day, a number of us traveled to Long Island, where we participated in a weekend gathering of Christ-centered Friends from across the New York City region. It was a joy to be present with these sisters and brothers, and to encourage one another in our shared walk with the Lord. I was deeply impressed by the Christian faith and warm hospitality of our hosts at Manhasset Meeting. It was also a joy to connect with other Friends from the New York City area who were in attendance. After the heavy lifting of the revival in Philadelphia, we were blessed by the sweet spirit and deep refreshment that we experienced among Friends on Long Island.

As we made our way back home yesterday, Helene, Dan, Tyler and I had ample time to debrief on our experience of the last several days. We shared lessons learned, and brainstormed about possible next steps. Even before the revival happened, we were already getting invitations to hold similar meetings in other parts of the country. At the same time, we are encouraged that there are several related movements among Friends to bring renewal and revival to the Body of Christ. With the Friends of Jesus Fellowship retreat in Ohio this April, QuakerSpring holding its annual gathering in June, and the Northeast Christ-centered Friends gathering taking place in September, it is clear that a fresh Jesus movement is afoot among Friends.

Recognizing these signs of Christ's work among Friends, how can we fan the flames of a movement that goes far beyond rekindling the flickering embers of Quakerism? What would it look like to be part of a movement of the Holy Spirit whose first motion was to bless the world, no matter the cost? What might take place if we were willing to be poured out in order to express Christ's love for the world? What if we released our grip on Quakerism and allowed the Spirit to flow through us, to do a new thing?

7 comments:

Peggy Senger Parsons said...

And there is the Nursery of Truth - January 18-20 in Camas Washington
nurseryoftruth.com

Marcelle Martin said...

I'm glad to read this account of your travels in the ministry and the gatherings in West Philadelphia and at Manhasset Meeting. I wish I could have been at both. Thanks for your faithfulness.

David Bowden said...

Thank you for this report. I did choose to remain in intense focus on protection and increase during the meeting.

My 'intercession experience' (off site holding in the light) was shocking and spectacular and pleasant. Went from my tiny 'attic outpost' to walking the path around Pendle hill in the dark with a flashlight. Pretty sweet.
There were some very clear 'indicators' (read miracles /signs /wonders) of the HolySpirit revealing, operating, confirming!

Raye said...

When I read

" If revival means instantaneous transformation, then ours was a pretty poor example. But if revival means the steady work of planting and watering, inviting Jesus himself into our midst, then I would say that we can report some success."

I pictured someone in a deep torpor, and saw that the work of reviving this one would take some time, and that any sign of awakening would be a great encouragement. It is something like the awakening from true hibernation. Try to make it happen too quickly, and the creature may have a heart attack being revived so quickly from such a deep sleep.

Ashley W said...

Thank you for this faithful report, Friend. I know the feeling of having a message build and then not being released to give it--that's so hard! God uses everything, though; maybe it is for another time. I am glad that you and the other ministers had time to prepare together before the meeting and debrief afterward. I look forward to hearing more about the ways that the Spirit is moving among Friends who were gathered.

Unknown said...

I had to be there... not exactly certain about the "what" or the "why"... and that's often my condition. "Go where I send you" seems apt. I seem to be pulled into continual revival/preparation/obedience.

I sat next to a Friend whom I've not seen for some time. I wasn't sure exactly why I sat there, other than wanting to greet my Friend, whom I held in prayer during the entire meeting; prayer continues.

The effects spilled over into the following days: a meeting with one Quarter's worship and ministry, a called session of my own quarterly meeting which might have been contentious had the previous two days' preparation not been heeded. Then to my own meeting's worship and ministry, and -- following that inward nudge -- back to the other Quarter's business session.

The other bit was asking advice of Friends whom I trust, in my dealings with others. Revival is in community. It cannot just be about me. In a sense, it cannot be just about "us" either, but all others, singly and together.

Robin M. said...

Hey Micah, faithful is as faithful does. Or does not, as the Lord requires.

Thanks for sharing a little more of the travelogue. I'll be interested to learn what you think you learned from this experience after another year or so, when you've had time to reflect on what sprouts from the seeds that were planted.

Robin