Thursday, January 3, 2008

Meeting is a verb

Sometimes when I tell people that I am pastor of Plainfield Friends Meeting I notice a blank and/or puzzled expression on their face. They know what a "pastor" is and usually know where Plainfield is, but "Friends Meeting" stops them dead in their tracks! Is it a dating service? A civic club? Or maybe a social service agency? Our sign out front tries to help by adding a line that describes us as "A Quaker Church," but I'm afraid that only confuses the issue more. What is a "Quaker?' A jolly man on an oatmeal box? Or maybe somebody who dresses in old-fashioned clothing and says "thee" a lot?

How about changing the name? Maybe make it Plainfield Community Church. After all, it describes where we are and what we are in terms that make sense to most people.

It doesn't work. It leaves out too much about who we are. It's too generic.

So how do we deal with the blank stares, the puzzled looks and the confusion with dating services and social clubs?

Part of the answer is to affirm who we are as Friends and Quakers. There is a history to share about people whose desire has been to worship God directly and live out lives of simplicity, peace, equality and active caring. It is a good history, full of stories that help describe how we got to this particular place and time.

Another possibility is to reframe the word "meeting."

We assume that "meeting" is a noun and often use it as a synonym for "church" (that is what the sign out front seems to be communicating).

What if we reframe "meeting" as a verb?

We could add a comma to the sign out front, making it "Plainfield Friends, meeting" -- as in "these are Plainfield Friends, who are meeting here." However, this would probably only confuse people more.

Here's another way to think about it--
A verb needs an object, so if meeting is a verb, we need to talk about the objects that we connect to that verb. Who are we meeting when we are "Plainfield Friends, meeting?"
-As a Jesus-centered meeting, we are meeting Jesus. As we sing, pray, listen and wait it is Jesus that is our focus.
-We are also meeting each other. Our worship community is meeting in worship, fellowship and service
-We are also meeting the larger world around us, following in the footsteps of Jesus by meeting needs, demonstrating love and giving of ourselves.

Reframing "meeting" as a verb may help keep us understand better why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing.


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