What do you love about your Quaker space?

We’re extend­ing the dead­line for the August issue on Quaker Spaces. We’ve got  some really inter­est arti­cles com­ing in–especially geeky things in archi­tec­ture and the the­ol­ogy of our clas­sic meet­ing­houses. 

So far our prospec­tive pieces are  weighted toward East Coast and clas­sic meet­ing­house archi­tec­ture. I’d love to see pieces on non-traditional wor­ship spaces. I know there newly purpose-built meet­ing­houses, adap­ta­tions of pre-existing struc­tures, and new takes on the Quaker impulse to not be churchy. And wor­ship is where we’re gath­ered, not nec­es­sar­ily where we’re mort­gaged: tell us about your the rented library room, the chairs set up on the beach, the room in the prison wor­ship group… 

Sub­mis­sion guide­lines are at friend​sjour​nal​.org/​s​u​b​m​i​s​s​i​ons. The new dead­line is Mon­day, May 16. My last post about this issue is here

Joan Baez cites Quaker upbring­ing in pres­i­den­tial endorse­ment

From the musician’s Face­book page:

My choice, from an early age, has been to engage in social change from the ground up, using the power of orga­nized non­vi­o­lence. A dis­trust of the polit­i­cal process was firmly in place by the time I was 15. As a daugh­ter of Quak­ers I pledged my alle­giance not to a flag or a nation state but to humankind, the two often hav­ing lit­tle to do with each other.

Upcom­ing FJ sub­mis­sion: “Quaker Spaces”

I’ve been mean­ing to get more into the habit of shar­ing upcom­ing Friends Jour­nal issue themes. We started focus­ing on themed issues back around 2012 as a way to bring some diver­sity to our sub­ject mat­ter and help encour­age Friends to talk about top­ics that weren’t as regularly-covered.

One of the Greenwich, N.J., Meetinghouses.

One of the Green­wich, N.J., meet­ing­houses, Sept 2009

The next issue we’re look­ing to fill is a topic I find inter­est­ing: Quaker Spaces. I’ve joked inter­nally that we could call it “Meet­ing­house Porn,” and while we already have some beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tions lined up, I think there’s a real chance at juicy Quaker the­ol­ogy in this issue as well.

One of my pet the­o­ries is that since we down­play creeds, we talk the­ol­ogy in the minu­tia of our meet­ing­houses. Not offi­cially of course—our wor­ship spaces are neu­tral, uncon­se­crated, empty build­ings. But as Helen Kobek wrote in our March issue on “Dis­abil­i­ties and Inclu­sion,” we all need phys­i­cal accom­mo­da­tions and these pro­vide tem­plates to express our val­ues. Ear­lier Friends expressed a the­ol­ogy that dis­trusted forms by devel­op­ing an archi­tec­tural style devoid of crosses, steeples. The clas­sic meet­ing­house looks like a barn, the most down-to-early hum­ble archi­tec­tural form a north­ern Eng­lish sheep­herders could imag­ine.

But the­olo­gies shift. As Friends assim­i­lated, some started tak­ing on other forms and Methodist-like meet­ing­house (even some­times dar­ingly called churches) started pop­ping up. Mod­ern meet­ing­houses might have big plate glass win­dows look­ing out over a for­est, a nod to our con­tem­po­rary wor­ship of nature or they might be in a con­verted house in a down-and-out neigh­bor­hood to show our love of social jus­tice.

Top photo is a framed picture of the Lancaster U.K. Meetinghouse from the early 20th century--long benches lined up end to end, balcony. By the time of my visit, there were cushioned independent chairs arranged in a circle.
Top photo is of a framed pic­ture of the Lan­caster UK Meet­ing­house from the early 20th century–long benches lined up the length of the space. By the time of my visit in 2003, the bal­cony was gone and the few remain­ing benches were rel­e­gated to an outer ring out­side of cush­ioned chairs arranged in a cir­cle sur­round­ing a round table with flow­ers and copies of Faith and Prac­tice.

But it’s not just the out­sides where the­ol­ogy shows up. All of the clas­sic North­east­ern U.S. meet­ing­houses had rows of benches fac­ing for­ward, with ele­vated fenc­ing benches reserved for the Quaker elders. A theologically-infused dis­trust of this model has led many a meet­ing to rearrange the pews into a more cir­cu­lar arrange­ment. Some­times some­one will sneak some­thing into the mid­dle of the space—flowers, or a Bible or hymnal—as if in recog­ni­tion that they don’t find the empti­ness of the Quaker form suf­fi­cient. If asked, most of these deci­sions will be explained away in a light-hearted man­ner but it’s hard for me to believe there isn’t at least an uncon­scious nod to the­ol­ogy in some of the choices.

I’d love to hear sto­ries of Friends nego­ti­at­ing the meet­ing space. Has the desire to build or move a meet­ing­house solid­i­fied or divided your meet­ing? Do you share the space with other groups, or rent it out dur­ing the week? If so, how have you decided on the groups that can use it? Have you bick­ered over the details of a space. Here in the North­east, there are many tales of meet­ings com­ing close to schism over the ques­tion of replac­ing ancient horse­hair bench cush­ions, but I’m sure there are con­sid­er­a­tions and debates to be had over the form of fold­ing chairs.

You can find out more about sub­mit­ting to this or any other upcom­ing issue our the Friends Jour­nal Sub­mis­sions page. Other upcom­ing issues are “Cross­ing Cul­tures” and “Social Media and Tech­nol­ogy.”

Aug 2016: Quaker Spaces

What do our archi­tec­ture, inte­rior design, and meet­ing­house loca­tions say about our the­ol­ogy and our work in the world? Quak­ers don’t con­se­crate our wor­ship spaces but there’s a strong pull of nos­tal­gia that brings peo­ple into our his­toric build­ings and an unde­ni­able energy to inno­v­a­tive Quaker spaces. How do our phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions keep us grounded or keep us from shar­ing the “Quaker gospel” more widely? Sub­mis­sions due 5/2/2016.

Remem­ber­ing it’s an honor just to be read

Strange moment this morn­ing when I checked my blog stats and real­ized that I get a fair amount of traf­fic for a movie review I wrote last year. I was check­ing the stats to see if any of the Quaker-related search terms might give clues for future con­tent on Friends Jour­nal or Quak­er­S­peak and for that pur­pose the review’s pop­u­lar­ity with Google (and read­ers) isn’t that use­ful.

But this blog is just my life spun out. I don’t aim for key­words and I don’t want to dom­i­nate a thought-sphere. If I see a movie and jot down some impres­sions that attract a small audi­ence, then my blog post is a suc­cess. A dozen or so ran­dom peo­ple a month Google in to spend a cou­ple of min­utes read­ing my thoughts on a fifty-year-old movie. That’s cool. That’s enough. In all the talk of tar­get­ing and SEO we some­times for­get that it’s an honor to sim­ply be read.

The other night stayed up late to cud­dled with my wife and watch good-natured but flawed Rom-Com. I read some reviews on IMDB and pon­dered the cliches in the shower the next morn­ing. Boil­ing these impres­sions down into 500 words on a train com­mute would be easy enough. I should do it more.

Bleak Bat­sto day

My wife Julie heard that the Rowan Uni­ver­sity geog­ra­phy club was hav­ing an open hike at one of our favorite local spots, his­toric Bat­sto Vil­lage. Our kids are all geog­ra­phy nerds and we’ve been won­der­ing if our 12yo Theo in par­tic­u­lar might be inter­ested in a geog­ra­phy degree come col­lege so we came along. It was a grey, bleak, late win­ter day largely void of color so I leeched what tiny bits of green and red that remained to take black and white shots.

The birth of soul

Via Wikipedia
Via Wikipedia

I recently lis­tened to Solomon Burke’s 196 album Rock ‘n’ Soul. Def­i­nitely worth a lis­ten if like me he’s been off your musi­cal radar. I espe­cially like Wikipedia’s account of how con­flicts over brand­ing and church pro­pri­ety led Burke and his record label Atlantic to coin the term “soul music.”

Almost imme­di­ately after sign­ing to Atlantic, Wexler and Burke clashed over his brand­ing and the songs that he would record. Accord­ing to Burke, “Their idea was, we have another young kid to sing gospel, and we’re going to put him in the blues bag.“As Burke had strug­gled from an early age with “his attrac­tion to sec­u­lar music on the one hand and his alle­giance to the church on the other,” when he was signed to Atlantic Records he “refused to be clas­si­fied as a rhythm-and-blues singer” due to a per­ceived “stigma of pro­fan­ity” by the church, and R&B’s rep­u­ta­tion as “the devil’s music.”

Burke indi­cated in 2005: “I told them about my spir­i­tual back­ground, and what I felt was nec­es­sary, and that I was con­cerned about being labeled rhythm & blues. What kind of songs would they be giv­ing me to sing? Because of my age, and my posi­tion in the church, I was con­cerned about say­ing things that were not proper, or that sent the wrong mes­sage. That angered Jerry Wexler a lit­tle bit. He said, ‘We’re the great­est blues label in the world! You should be hon­ored to be on this label, and we’ll do every­thing we can – but you have to work with us.’”

To mol­lify Burke, it was decided to mar­ket him as a singer of “soul music” after he had con­sulted his church brethren and won approval for the term. When a Philadel­phia DJ said to Burke, “You’re singing from your soul and you don’t want to be an R&B singer, so what kind of singer are you going to be?”, Burke shot back: “I want to be a soul singer.” Burke’s sound, which was espe­cially pop­u­lar in the South, was described there as “river deep coun­try fried but­ter­cream soul.” Burke is cred­ited with coin­ing the term “soul music,” which he con­firmed in a 1996 inter­view.

Maple sug­ar­ing at How­ell Liv­ing His­tory Farm

photo_25126572241_oYes­ter­day the fam­ily trav­eled north of Tren­ton to a liv­ing his­tory farm to learn about maple sugaring.The kids col­lected buck­ets of sap, prac­ticed drilling a tap, watched the boil­ing off process in a “sugar shack,” cut fire­wood, and then—yes!—ate some pan­cakes with farm-made maple syrup.

Reg­u­lar read­ers might remem­ber a trip to How­ell Farm last Feb­ru­ary, when the weather was cold enough for ice har­vest­ing on the lake.

Yesterday’s visit was a muddy, soggy day and the lake was clear. But I think every­one had just as much fun. See more pics on our Flickr set:

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