I’m grateful for each person who is led to enter the meeting room and pray that more will follow. The paradox of inclusivity is in assuring that it encourages each of us to fulfill and express our potential, rather than settling safely at the lowest common denominator of experience. If we cannot meet that potential, then we guarantee that spiritual depth will be found only in exclusionary bodies, which is not the way I want to respond to the Great Commission!

Cross-fertilization can be helpful, especially when it involves profundity reaching across to profundity, or from depth to like depth. You know how my sojourn among Mennonites in Rehoboth sustained me when I was confronted by similar difficulties with Quakers in that city. Let me note here, too, that the pastor at Durham Friends is a Italian-American Mennonite whose degree is from Andover-Newton – a wonderful and tender hand among us. I see that in your own Quarterly Meeting there are pastors at China, North Fairfield, and Winthrop who would, no doubt, enjoy meeting you. Now what was your question about hymns? The importance, I believe, is in substance rather than form (and, yes, “Magic Penny” could do with more substance, musically and theologically).

You were rightly appointed to be clerk of Ministry and Counsel. It’s a valid endorsement of your gifted abilities, and an invitation to grow in them. The fact that you are aware of spiritual baggage as well as the snares of ego and personal agenda is healthy. Within your baggage, too, is much that will find rightful application, more of that cross-fertilization that can help. The rest can go on the compost heap, which has its own spiritual metaphors. Either way, never fear being a “fool for Christ,” as Paul so aptly put it.

Your challenge likely involves a roomful of religious refugees yearning for the warm fellowship of church while fearing – often because of their own negative experiences with Bible-thumpers, proselytizers, smarmy priests, pedophiles, or whatever – the very goods that are essential. (In psychological terms, this involves looking directly into the Jungian shadow, at the places we were wounded; in Bible structure, it’s the reason we see the Tree of Knowledge early on but don’t see the other tree growing next to it until late in Revelation: the Tree of Life, with healing in its leaves – or, closer to home, the cure for nettles growing next to the nettle plant.) To use an old Brethren expression, “Bible words for Bible things,” meaning that sooner or later you have to face up to sin, repentance, atonement, Father, LORD, Holy Spirit, grace, rest, faith, prayer, and all the rest, often learning to retranslate as you go.

One thing about this group is that no one in it has much tolerance for being preached at – they’re just too independently intellectual for that, even if some of them earn their livelihood by lecturing! Lay out information for examination, and it’s a different matter.


For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.


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