Hollis Vail and his wife Liz were part of Seekers Church as it began. They catalyzed the beginning of the Growing Edge Fund, which helps people in Seekers Church explore the emergence of new call by providing financial support, accountability and companionship. Hollis also convened a monthly breakfast gathering of men from Seekers and the wider community. His book, “Essences of Love” explores in more detail the themes he raises in this discussion paper.
These reflections by Hollis offer some insight into belonging at Seekers Church from the perspective of a 20-year participant who had chosen not to make the commitment to full membership. Some elements of “belonging” have changed in the 15 years since Hollis offered these insights, including the development of two types of commitment – Stewards and Members. (For a description see the “Guide to Seekers Church” in the Core Documents section.) There are still many active participants in the life of Seekers Church who choose not to commit themselves as either Members or Stewards.
Thoughts on Membership
August 21, 1994
I’m writing this because I’ve been part of the Seekers Community since its inception, but have never been willing to commit to membership. Recent events have called me to examine my position.
Until now the requirements for membership have been involved considerable investment and commitment. I needn’t discuss the requirements since they are well known. In my view they were more than I was willing to agree to.
Now that Seekers is becoming a separate church, I feel the requirements can be changed, and possibly defined in ways I can commit too.
I accept that Seekers is a Christian church. A lifetime of living in a society that claims Jesus and a wide array of attitudes associated with Christianity, has established in me a base that distinguishes me from other religions. This may sound like a weak base to speak from, but it’s meant that my religious exposures have largely been Bible based, or the commentary of Christian theologians.
This has not turned me into a born-again, who has found God through Jesus and the Bible. I’ve developed a strong humanistic streak and am the child of the scientific age. I don’t buy all their dogma, but do feel that Jesus would not have called us to return to the primitive technologies or values of his day.
Over the years I have developed a sense of a spirit or God that is pervasive in all reality, that I am both a part of and an individual — a paradox that doesn’t worry me.
That spirit shares my life with me, more if I learn to experience and follow it, and less when I attempt to plow my own furrow, so to speak.
I very much share the Seekers view that our purposes in life are calls within us and that these calls come from God. We need to recognize, though, that the shoulds and oughts of our cultures and those who would lead us are not necessarily God’s calls. We also need to learn and be willing to shift when God changes our calls. Life is not fulfilling a single call, but following the path God puts before us.
This vision of call spans the many works of humans. True, some seem and probably led by the devil, or selfishness within our selves.
It mainly had to do with the conditions the Church of the Saviour laid down for membership.
I have never felt that Jesus called us either to servanthood to God or the poor. I saw the relationship as much more complex. Our relationship with God is not servanthood, but a resonate sharing of purposes. The activities of life that our inner voice calls us to is, in my mind, an incredible meshing of our purposes and God’s purposes. A carpenter, pilot, farmer, or most of the possible occupations that we feel called to, are part of God’s purposes. One need is to hear and distinguish the true calls within us. This can be difficult in a world that would tell us what our calls should be.
I feel that Seekers comes as close to this as any church I’ve been involved with. Fundamental in the Seekers has been a recognition that each of us need to learn how to hear God’s/our calls. I’ve felt that the Seekers felt that God was present and participated in the many areas of our lives, not just when we were on mission to the poor or needy.
I also believe that the core issue as we live out our calls, is whether we live them out in loving ways. Any call is fouled when it is executed in unloving way environments. The mark of loving ways is first that the ways work for all those involved. Instead of winner/loser, all win. This aspect of loving ways force out evil and unloving environments. They also release life energies and open the doors to the creativity God would bring about through us.
This is a tough battle. Unloving ways often are covered with a veneer of virtue. They also often call us to wrong purposes.
I won’t say that the Church of the Saviour’s focus on missions oriented to directly addressing the needs of the poor and needy is wrong. It’s just never been my call. And as long as the Seekers was a branch of the CofS, I felt that committing myself to membership involved an acceptance of such calls, at least to some degree.
I also couldn’t subscribe to the disciplines. I have my way of participating with God as I live my life. It’s a very direct way. I rely heavily on an inner voice which sometimes is felt as intuition and sometimes just doing what is in front of me to do with the realization that a greater power will put it together in meaningful ways. I’m also a strong believer in synchronicity. I am confident that God will give me what I need, including the products I should have.
My hope as Seekers moves through this transition, that it will look to its inner core for its definition of membership. I feel it has some strong qualities. For instance, Seekers is a participative community. I would want those who want to be members to understand the nature of and workings of such participation. The goal is not simply democracy. Nor should leadership be confused with hierarchy.
Members also need to be ever learning as living out the art of community. One of the great challenges of today is to take loneliness from our crowds. It is important to be known and to know others.
Central to this is a commitment to have the intention to live in loving ways. I say ‘intend’ for the loving way is not always obvious. But if we are intentional, then God can work through us.
Such conditions of membership as this I can identify with. My hope is that as Seekers clarifies his identity, that these qualities will stand large in the definition.