Can Quakers Plan?

I never used to be big on planning ahead. In undergrad I was the guy working on papers through the night and then jogging to class with a wet ink on a newly printed research paper. My grades showed for it. Then I got married and went to grad school. Emily is a list maker and a planner. By grad school I was writing papers weeks ahead of time. You could say I’ve picked up a few lessons along the way. I sat down today and mapped out the preaching schedule for 2010. I don’t have all the details in place, but the big picture has been sketched. There are a number of things I needed to juggle in putting it together: we try to have at least one guest come every month, I have a few trips coming up in the spring, the church calendar (well, Advent and Lent), and we are planning on having a quarterly unprogrammed service this year. Besides all that, the fun part is thinking through what it is we’ll be studying. The things I’m feeling drawn to are a) following the Lectionary for Lent, b) studying the biblical and contemporary understandings of the Quaker testimonies (Summer), c) delving into the Epistle of James and Ephesians (Spring and Fall), and d) going through Advent.

The part I struggled with in putting all this together was that I wanted a sounding board, a group of collaborators all tossing in their two sense. I felt like there could be some really good ideas but it was hard to do it all on my own. What am I missing? How could I stretch myself (the Lectionary is one way)? So I am going to take what I have to the Elder’s meeting this coming Tuesday and invite discussion around the topics and see what they think. For some, there will always be a tension between “this is your job” and “I’d like to be involved,” but I think there will be interest in something like this. Another difficult thing is that I feel good about what I planned but I didn’t feel any particular leading on some of it. So I’m holding this all out in the open, revisions can still be made God! Growing up in an Evangelical church I always thought there was some kind of “magical” experience the preacher had when compiling this stuff. There was no magical experience today, just some grounded interest in Scripture and our tradition, a lot of organizing and planning, prayer and silence and walking, and some of my own ideas sprinkled on top. I know for some planning ahead is a big no-no. The allergy is based on an assumption that God shows up on Sunday to say what God wants to say on Sunday (and not a day earlier). But I like planning ahead because it helps me “see where I am going.” Planning ahead is the way for my job to remain sustainable for me as I juggle full-time doctoral work and a family as well. I believe that God can guide me as much today as I sketch out the learning schedule for the year as God can disrupt all this, revise it, and change it as we go through the days, weeks and months of this coming year. For me, God not only shows up on Sunday morning when the message is delivered but when the message is being outlined, planned and written. I hope to hold these two in tension.