As some of you know, I have been attending the local Urbana-Champaign Quaker meeting for a period of approximately 2 years. This is not because I was raised Quaker (indeed, few of the attendees are "birthright Quakers"). Rather, the start of my attendance there corresponds with the timing of my growing exclusion from my previous church in town, which was an evangelical campus church.
The process, which I will not detail here, was painful. Indeed, in spite of my reluctance to hold grudges or ill will to most anyone, I have found myself struggling for the past two years to have something approximating neutral feelings towards some of the pastoral staff of the evangelical church.
Recently, I was asked to represent the Quakers at the meeting of the Religious Workers Association (RWA). Though our Meeting is relatively young, we still have few college students, so I was considered a representative who could go and communicate well with others who minister on the campus. However, immediately after signing up, I was tangibly afraid of the first meeting. You see, I would see them. I had not seen either of the two pastors for at least a year. And here I would in all likelihood see both of them. Last night I fell asleep thinking about how I would react to them. Would it be kind? Genial? Confrontational?
Today I found out, and I'm pleased to say it went well. The pastor I liked best of the two showed up during the social time. His kind attitude made it almost easy for me to return kindness, and we talked for about 5 minutes about our summers, his broken arm, national parks, and such before we all had to sit down. Immediately after sitting down, I saw that the other pastor (for whom my feelings are much less inclined) had arrived. At the end of the meeting, before "hurrying" out the door, he said something along the lines of "hey, how's it going?". It was awkward. It was forced. It was not filled with happiness. Perhaps our feelings toward one another are mirror images. I say "hurrying" out the door, because after his abrupt greeting, I later walked out the front door to find him waiting for another person, rather than having disappeared for some must-attend meeting.
As I walked away, I could not help but wonder what was going through their minds. Was it about how liberal, tolerant, and "non-Biblical" the Quakers were? Was it prayers for my coming back to Christ from ungodliness? Or was it how I was a plague that was purged from one church's leadership structure, only to pop up in another church's? In the end, I left feeling better about attending the events in the future. If anything, future RWA meetings will be much more awkward for them than they will be for me.