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 revival meeting 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.
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 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.
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 providing for 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 plan to launch a new program of small group(s) and monthly public worship beginning in the first quarter of 2013. By placing our emphasis on disciple-making and developing new leadership at the local level, we pray that God will unlock a grassroots revival of the Holy Spirit that goes far beyond occasional worship events.
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.
As we engage in this effort, I am so grateful for all of you who lift us up in prayer. Though I cannot explain it rationally, I am convinced that prayer has real power to change the course of events. Your prayers strengthen me, and all of us who are participating in this generation's great revival movement. I hope that you will continue to pray for us in the months and years to come, so that we may all be transformed by the renewing of our minds, knowing what the will of God is - what is good, and acceptable, and perfect.
Your friend in Jesus,