It is another rocking Sunday at one of Southern California's fast-growing evangelical churches.
The squeal of electric guitars calls the faithful to prayer. The ballplayer-turned-pastor hugs thousands of people streaming off shuttle buses from distant parking lots. In the lobby stands the model of a planned multimillion-dollar sanctuary as big as the Crystal Cathedral.
As a microphone-waving singer at the altar of the Yorba Linda church sways to a tune titled "My Life in You, Lord," collection plates fill with checks. A well-dressed couple rushes from their Mercedes to slip into a back pew.
These are today's Quakers--nouveau California-style.
In this city founded and shaped by the faith built on austerity, silent devotion and religious independence, three congregations of the Society of Friends--popularly known as Quakers--are at the vanguard of a breakaway movement to blend one of America's most fiercely individualistic religions into the evangelical Christian mainstream.
Led by the Yorba Linda churches, the largest community of Friends in the country, dozens of congregations across Southern California and the rest of the West have broken with their faith's roots.
Taking their cue from the region's vast megachurches, they are drawing new members with golf trips and cruises, World Wide Web sites, baptisms on beaches and Quaker rock CDs.
The transformation is as much about substance as style. While embracing Quaker history as their own, the evangelical Friends churches have dropped the faith's pacifist convictions and the philosophy that silent worship leads to godliness. Instead, they preach a Bible-thumping revivalism at odds with traditional Quaker ways.
It is a stunning change for the heirs to a religion whose faithful were persecuted in England and the United States for rejecting church ceremony, and for their devotion to a simple way of life.
With their plain dress and "thees" and "thys" setting them off from their neighbors, Quakers helped create the conscience of a young America. They were early advocates of prison reform and of abolishing slavery. William Penn and other Quakers reached out to Native Americans. Hundreds of Quakers in England and America died as martyrs for their beliefs.
"The worship services are very noisy compared to the old Quaker meetings, but that is where the culture that surrounds us has come," said Gayle Beebe, a former pastor at Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda and a professor of pastoral theology at Quaker-founded Azusa Pacific University.
"Really, church is just a heck of a lot of fun to go to."
Traditional Quakers view the transformed churches with dismay, torn between their faith's historic tolerance of difference and their growing conviction that the spinoff churches are no longer Friends at all.
"I'm willing to let them do whatever they want. I don't care if they have electric guitars and drums. But they have to let the Holy Spirit get a word in edgewise," said Johan Maurer, general secretary of Friends United Meeting, the Quaker umbrella group that most Friends churches in California have left.
"It's all men with microphones instead of the more reflective moment," Maurer said of the new-style Quaker churches. "I worry a little bit that these congregations are practicing a wholesale repudiation of tradition."
While even traditional Quaker services and congregations today span a wide spectrum of practices and beliefs, most are still small--averaging fewer than 100 people--and emphasize extended periods of silent worship.
There has been an evangelical strain of the Quaker faith for more than a century, and many Friends churches in California have long practiced that form of the religion.
Discarding the traditional Quaker emphasis on analysis and interpretation of the Bible as a text written by people over the ages, many of the evangelical Friends churches embraced instead the fundamentalist Christian belief in the Bible as the absolute word of God.
Radical Changes Began a Decade Ago
But the radical transformation of the more than 20 Los Angeles-area evangelical Friends churches began about a decade ago, when church officials, faced with stagnant or declining memberships, began looking for ways to appeal to more people.
The movement was led by the massive Yorba Linda Friends Church and the two other Friends churches it has spawned in the city, according to officials at Friends Church Southwest Yearly Meeting, an association of evangelical Friends churches.
The Yorba Linda churches, for example, offer occasional baptism and communion services, which are not part of conventional Quakerism.
Along with the changes in beliefs, the evangelical churches also began to pull further away politically from the traditional Quaker fold. Today, most align themselves strongly with political conservatives, preaching against abortion and homosexuality. Most traditional Friends congregations do not.