By Phena Khanjila Shimaka
Each one of us is a minister of God’s word in our own unique way. God’s message is spread to people in different ways and he uses every means to spread his message to his people. God is able to see, speak to and hear us no matter where we are in our lives; likewise, each one of us is capable of seeing, hearing and speaking to God. For some people it may take a long time to know and experience this. For others it is right away. Either way, it is true that God is within us.
Friends (Quakers) have spread God’s word across many nations and they continue sharing their faith with many people. There are four different divisions of Friends: Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, Evangelical Friends International and Conservative Friends, but we are all Quakers. Even though we differ in the manner we worship, we continue to share our faith and nurture each other as Friends.
The labeling of Friends’ way of worshiping as unprogrammed and programmed is strange to some who have not experienced the differences. Most of us, however, recognize and acknowledge these differences respectfully and continue to strengthen our faith by helping one another find our comfortable way of worshiping. I write this with great humility and gratitude toward the faith we commonly share.
There are many people in the United States who, even though they are Quakers, have not found a Friends church that offers the way of worship that meets their needs. These individuals may join non-Quaker churches or, like I have in the past, stay home, occasionally attending the local meeting even though it isn’t my preferred style of worship.
The local, unprogrammed meeting, Minneapolis Friends Meeting in Minnesota, has acknowledged the fact that the United States is changing in its demographics (e.g., many in our community are not from the U.S., but are from Africa and other nations) and so is the Society of Friends. Therefore, the Lord led them to begin addressing the complex spiritual needs of their community.
Through meetings of the Ministry and Counsel and “Winds of Change” workshops, Minneapolis Friends Meeting reached out to a larger community of Friends whose worship background is programmed and evangelical. They offered to help identify a way for programmed Friends to continue their worship in the manner that feels comfortable and speaks to them.
Minneapolis Friends Meeting organized a programmed worship in December 2010. The idea was revisited in the fall of 2011. David Woolly, clerk of Ministry and Counsel, contacted Iowa Yearly Meeting-FUM and an invitation was extended to us to attend Iowa Yearly Meeting’s annual Committee Members Fall Camp in October 2011. The camp, held at Camp Quaker Heights in Eldora, Iowa, was attended by David Woolly, Nancy Peterson and Phena Khanjila Shimaka, all of Minnesota.
At this point, we sought help on how to start a programmed meeting to meet the needs of the many programmed Friends in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul). During the camp we met with John Muhanji, director of FUM’s Africa Ministries Office, who was there as the guest speaker. The Iowa Yearly Meeting responded favorably and agreed to support a programmed worship service in Minneapolis on December 11, 2011. Organized by Iowa Yearly Meeting superintendent, Ron Bryan, with David Woolly, plans commenced.
One-hundred Friends (including representatives of the Church Extension Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting-FUM, Mary Glenn Hadley and Rick Bachman) attended this first official programmed worship service. Ron Bryan and John Muhanji were also present. William Penn University music students attended, as well as George and Rose Kamwesa. Minneapolis Friends Meeting gave full support to this effort.
Calling ourselves the International Friends Church of Minneapolis, we started meeting at one of the members’ homes.The Lord has already opened the door for a rental place where worship is now held. The church is still in its infancy, but the word of God is present and continues to guide us.
Friends continue to be missionaries in their own churches, homes and across the oceans, helping one another experience the Living Christ for themselves. May God Almighty continue with his work and bless those who seek him in their hearts.
The Church Extension Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting-FUM has approved the International Friends Church of Minneapolis as an affiliate of Iowa Yearly Meeting-FUM. International Friends Church is currently under the leadership of Phena Shimaka, an alumnus of William Penn University, Iowa.