MONDAY September 25
Ministry & Oversight meeting, 7:00 PM by Zoom
WEDNESDAY September 27
—Intercession Salad supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage
–Welcome Class Bible study, 7:00 PM by Zoom
–Fabulous Friends/Parsonage classes Zoom, 8:15 PM
THURSDAY September 28
–Vocal choir practice, 6:30 PM in choir room
–Chiming choir practice, 7:15 PM in basement parlor
SUNDAY October 1
World Quaker Day Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, in person @ meetinghouse and online via Zoom
WEDNESDAY October 4
Monthly Meeting for Business, 7:00 PM by Zoom
BULLETIN BOARD for SEPTEMBER 24, 2023
AN OFFERING PLATE to receive contributions for Winchester Friends’ ministries is located on the round table in the sanctuary parlor. Thank you for your faithful support of the Lord’s work through our church.
THE WELCOME CLASS BIBLE STUDY will meet this Wednesday September 27 at 7:00 PM by Zoom to study Lesson 11 (“Betrayal and Arrest,” drawn from Mark 14) in the summer Illuminate quarterly. All are welcome — request a quarterly and/or the Zoom link from the church office.
READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2023: This week’s chapters are Ezekiel 46-48, Daniel 1-12, and Esther 1-7. The year’s daily reading schedule is on the parlor table.
FRUIT OF THE VINE: The new issue of the Quaker daily devotional for October-December is available today on the southwest parlor table.
PILL BOTTLE COLLECTION: The Missions & Social Concerns Committee is collecting plastic pill containers this summer for Matthew 25 Ministries, an Ohio agency serving overseas medical missions. Pick up an information/ instruction sheet from the west parlor table, and place donated bottles in the collection box on that table.
THE CLERKS & OFFICERS of the Meeting will meet on October 9 to prepare a list of ministries “beyond ourselves” to receive Best Trust Special Projects funds for making God’s love visible and tangible in this church year July 2023-June 2024. If you have a leading regarding a ministry to be considered, please speak with clerk Brian Lilly or the church office.
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN $10 bills are available to Friends willing to carry them until led by the Spirit to share it with someone needing a bit of help and a reminder of God’s love. See Ron Ferguson to obtain one.
Winchester Friends Church 765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St. Winchester, IN 47394www.winchesterfriendschurch.org
Reflection for Sunday September 25, 2023 Worship Sharing
“This is the new covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time [when Messiah has come],” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
You show that you are a letter from Christ…, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts…. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. II Corinthians 3:3,6
Quaker Messengers and Message
As I prepared to write this week about Friends’ witness of universal ministry, I was reminded of an experience Pam and I had a few years after we moved to Winchester. I’m fairly certain it was after the September 2001 terror attacks on the US when air travel became tense, inconvenient, and anything but enjoyable. Because it was just too far to drive from Indiana to Idaho to visit Pam’s family, we took to the skies despite the hassle. Our flight took us from Indianapolis to Denver where we had a four-hour layover before the onward flight to Boise. We were carrying things to work on, so we found the gate area for our second flight and hunkered down for the long wait.
Within minutes, our attention was drawn away from our books to the flight which was about to board at that gate. What intrigued us was the young African-American man who clearly was in charge of that process. The pilots and attendants for that flight walked up to board the plane, greeted him by name (Apollo, I think), and exchanged hugs with him. After they had visited briefly, Apollo told the flight crew “God bless you,” and they went on down the walkway to prepare the plane. The real surprise came when passenger boarding began. Over the intercom, he gave the usual speech about what could and could not be carried aboard and how to get through the process most efficiently and quickly. He didn’t read the speech from a script – he just spoke it. Apollo then called the first boarding group to the door, scanned each passenger’s boarding pass, and leaned forward to give them a quick hug while saying “God bless you” before they entered the walkway. It’s hard to imagine he could get away with that nowadays. Only three or four of all those passengers declined the hug. Most of them smiled and said “thanks.”
After that flight departed, Apollo pecked away at his keyboard for a few minutes and filed papers beneath the counter. When he was finished, he pulled a book out of a drawer and sat quietly reading while awaiting the arrival of the next plane at his gate. I don’t recall now whether it was a Bible or some other book I recognized, but I do remember that it was Christian literature. About twenty minutes later, the next plane arrived. Apollo put his book back into the drawer and got busy helping the arriving passengers with their questions and making preparations to board the next group of departing flyers who had been gathering in the waiting area. When he got the signal that the plane was ready, he repeated the same process we had seen earlier – the gentle instructions about boarding, and the hugs and “God bless you”s offered to every passenger. I think we witnessed it four times that day before it finally was our turn to board. In a couple of cases, the arriving flight crews whose shifts were finished stopped at the desk to greet Apollo and get a hug and a blessing before going on home or to their hotel. He clearly was well-known.
In the quiet minutes before our plane arrived, we had a question about our seat assignment or something, so I went to the desk to ask Apollo. He looked up from his book, and I handed him our boarding passes and asked my question. He studied his screen for a moment, answered my question, and then said, “I’ve enjoyed watching you and your wife today.” I was a bit stunned. I told him the feeling was mutual, that we were thankful for his chosen reading material, and that we appreciated his spiritual witness of kindness and blessing to weary, frustrated travelers. Later, when our turn came to board, we got our hug and blessing for a good flight to Boise. We’ve never forgotten him.
The Messengers — Priesthood of Every Believer Quaker teacher and author Elton Trueblood wrote and said that “a non-ministering Christian is a contradiction in terms.” He was echoing the witness of Friends from the 17th century onward that God desires and intends that every follower of Christ will become a minister and be involved in ministry of some kind for him. Those early Friends embraced Jesus’ “fishers of men” invitation to his disciples to learn to see their income-earning vocations as opportunities for serving Christ and for gathering souls to God (Matthew 4:19). In their meetings for worship, Friends experienced Christ’s Spirit speaking profound truth through relatively uneducated, uncredentialed Christians. At the same time, they witnessed educated, credentialed, but unspiritual clergy in the established Church being paid to tell parishioners what the Bible said, while being unable to explain accurately to them (and unwilling to live before them) what it teaches.
It was that stark contrast which George Fox highlighted in his Journal in 1647, writing “I received an opening from the Lord, that to be [educated] at Oxford or Cambridge was not sufficient to fit a [person] to be a minister of Christ…..” In Fox’s day in England, upward socioeconomic mobility came by royal heritage, inherited wealth, or academic achievement. The early Friends found that many priests of the established Church were in their position not by any sense of spiritual calling, but by virtue of their literacy and intelligence. That enabled them to study at England’s universities, qualify for political appointment to the clergy, and escape lower class manual labor. As priests, they considered themselves to be mediators between God and people, and they enjoyed status and privilege not given to other Christians.
Quaker Practice In contrast, the Friends pointed to Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:7-16 that when people decide to welcome Christ to be their Present Teacher, the Holy Spirit’s presence brings spiritual capabilities — gifts for ministry — into every person to be used for making Christ known and building up the Body of Christ, his Church. That had nothing to do with how they earned a living or how educated they were. It is this principle which Apollo the airline gate agent so clearly illustrated. Friends taught that every sincere follower of Jesus is a minister. They recognized no laity, meaning also that there was no separated clergy. Among Friends, no minister was hired to carry out ministry, but under the Spirit’s leading, some were released through others’ financing from the need for secular employment, released for full-time ministry activity. Friends recognized in some ministers the consistent, faithful exercise of gifts for public vocal ministry, and they recorded those names in their Meeting’s minutes and in “minutes for travel” to open the way for ministry elsewhere. They saw that the Source of ministry was Christ alone, so they ordained no one, seeing that as God’s work, not humankind’s. Friends used no elaborate facilities, furniture, uniforms, or honorific titles (reverend, doctor, etc.) for their leadership, stressing that differences in spiritual gifts and ministries are differences of function, not of status, value, or importance to God. Friends’ meetings for worship were gatherings of ministers where Christ was in charge and could choose to speak through anyone. When at their best, Friends still faithfully practice these principles today.
The Messengers’ Message The early Friends constantly encountered self-proclaimed Christians who could quote memorized lists or creeds of doctrinal beliefs but whose living expressed values opposite of those beliefs. They also were keenly aware of the ongoing Spanish Inquisition, the Church/State vehicle for rooting out religious and political “heresy” in Europe that had been underway since 1478, in which any who held unorthodox doctrinal views risked imprisonment or death. Their tool for measuring orthodoxy was verbal conformity with the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.
The earliest version of the Apostles’ Creed (attachment, or hymnal #716) is dated AD 215 and is based on faith statements traced to the apostolic era AD 30-100. Scholars believe it was used in a manner resembling the Socratic method of question-and-answer to test seekers’ fitness for baptism. In AD 312 when Constantine won control of the Roman Empire in a battle, he attributed victory to the intervention of Jesus Christ. He suddenly elevated Christianity to be the State religion, only to discover that there already were significantly differing, divisive views of exactly what Christianity was, especially regarding the question of the nature of Christ. Constantine convened a conference of leading theologians at Nicaea in AD 325, and a creed of approved teachings reflecting the winning ideas (that Christ was equal with God, not created by God) was written and distributed. The controversy raged on, however, necessitating a second council at Constantinople in AD 381. The original creed was revised and expanded there into what we now know as the Nicene Creed (attachment, or hymnal #717).
Post-Reformation Non-credal Christianity In response to the 16th and 17th century abuse of creeds by the mainline churches, many of the post-Luther reforming movements including the Friends became intentionally non-credal. The earliest Friends, however, saw the importance of holding one another accountable to the testimonies of the faith community, to the shared beliefs that had transformed their values, priorities, and actions towards Christlikeness. They devised sets of probing questions called Queries to challenge individuals and Meetings to faithful consistency in both message and living. They pointed to the practical message of James 2:14-26 (belief by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead); and to Jesus’ use of penetrating questions rather than lists of acceptable beliefs and rules in His teaching ministry: Who of you is pure enough to cast the first stone at the adulteress? (John 8:7); Why criticize the speck in your brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in your own? (Matt. 7:3-5); What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Matt. 16:26); I know what the crowds say, but who do you say that I am? (Matt. 16:13-16); Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” but never do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46). The list of Queries in use at Winchester Friends is attached to this devotional, or in a handout in the meetinghouse. When at their best, Friends do believe the basic biblical and doctrinal message conveyed in those famous creeds. As with symbolized baptism and communion, however, they choose not to use creeds as a public test of spiritual commitment or accomplishment because they easily can be given verbal affirmation while being behaviorally ignored or violated.
When Apollo the airline gate agent gave his speech of guidelines for a smooth boarding process, he didn’t read it as a list of rules and warnings. He spoke it from his heart and his personal experience as a summary of the best practices of millions of prior air travelers which he knew would help us avoid harm. He spoke his message as an appeal to everyone boarding to work together to make sure that every passenger on the flight had an enjoyable journey and a safe arrival to the intended destination. He spoke like he cared deeply that we would get to Boise and to our family in good shape. In the spiritual journey to Christ’s eternal kingdom, it strikes me that we all as ministers must be working to be that kind of messenger conveying that kind of important message in that inviting, truthful way. It’s what Jesus did. It’s what the earliest Friends strove to do. It’s what he now calls us to do as his 21st century “gate agents”. We can do that. Let’s be Friends.
–Ron Ferguson, 24 September 2023
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1) Who is a non-pastoral minister (like Apollo in Fergusons’ story) who has blessed and helped you?
2) If the ministry of every believer is real and true, why do groups who claim it’s so still have pastors?
3) What is the main value in lists like creeds or queries? Why is verbal affirmation so much easier than active compliance?
4) Why do (or should) faith communities hold members accountable to their shared testimonies? How is that best done?