Not too many years ago when I attended seminary, one of my mentors on ESR’s faculty encouraged my cohort and me to participate in a worship community outside of the seminary. I am not sure I entirely understood why this was so important at the time. In my experience, ESR was a vibrant setting that provided me plenty of opportunities for creative worship, deep spiritual friendships and space to flex my emerging leadership muscles. I honestly didn’t feel a pressing need to engage with a local meeting or church. I ate, slept, and breathed religion throughout my week, so I didn’t see the point in rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning to make it to meeting.
Having pastored a few years, I’ve discovered the wisdom in my mentor’s words. I wish I had spent more time in a local faith community during seminary. There is value in venturing beyond the corner of National Road and College Avenue. I remember reading in Supervised Ministry that seminaries attract intuitive types; however, most congregations are composed of folks who fall on the sensate side of the Myers-Briggs spectrum. As an intuitive myself, I have had to learn how to package many of the challenging ideas I explored in seminary in ways that are accessible to folks who don’t spend time reading scholarly religious literature. Worshiping in a local congregation reminds an emerging minister of the concerns and thoughts of real life people. Karl Barth is said to have commented "we must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” Seeking God in a local meeting or church is one way of exploring where theology and the concrete concerns of people intersect.
If you are looking for a place to belong, or just to stop in to visit, know that you are welcome at First Friends. We are a semi-programmed meeting, which means we seek God in hymns, prayers, and joys and concerns as well as in a period of open worship in which all are invited to speak, as they feel led. Once a month we set aside the pastoral sermon to create more space for open worship.
First Friends was Richmond’s first church, and we existed prior to our yearly meeting, Indiana Yearly Meeting. Our rich Quaker heritage continues to be important to us. We nurture our Quaker identity in conducting our Meetings for Business through Quaker process, weekly readings of queries and advices, and regular forums on Quaker spirituality and history.
In the past year, First Friends has spent a fair amount of time exploring who we are and who we want to be as a meeting. From this work, we have been able to articulate gifts in hospitality, community and acceptance. Within our fold, one can find Friends who identify as evangelicals as well as those who describe themselves as Universalists. We are comfortable with theological diversity and see this as one of our strengths.
My first encounter with First Friends was as a seminary student. At the time, I was taking a course on prayer, and one of the requirements was leading a six-week class, exploring various prayer forms. Several members of First Friends were receptive, allowing me a safe place to exercise my ministerial skills. At other times, First Friends has embraced seminarians’ gifts for an extended period during Supervised Ministry. If you are looking for a chance to practice pastoral care or assist in worship planning and leadership, you are welcome at First Friends.
There is more that I could say about the meeting, yet the best way to get a feel for First Friends is to stop in for a visit. We are located at 2010 Chester Boulevard, and meeting for worship begins at 9:30 am. After meeting is an informal time of fellowship, which is followed by First Day School for children as well an adult forum. If the topic of Quakerism and evil fascinates you, I would put in a plug for April Vanlonden’s evening Bible study, which begins on September 6th.
We would love to have you visit!