Quakers are a bit infamous for our opaque acronyms but FWCC’s is worth remembering. The Friends World Committee for Consultation bridges together Friends across theological and geographic distances.
Tonight I got to hear a presentation on the traveling ministry corps hosted by FWCC’s Section of the Americas. I was physically in the audience but you can watch too via the magic of Pendle Hill conference center’s livestream:
For more bite-sized videos, you can check out the miniseries they sponsored with QuakerSpeak.
Sometimes I’m remiss at actually sharing articles I’ve worked on as part of my duties as Friends Journal’s editor. It’s especially ironic this week given that one of the most talked-about recent Quaker articles comes from the February FJ issue.
Don McCormick’s piece has a bold title: Can Quakerism Survive? He talks about thr decline that many Friends geoups have been experiening and wonders who it is that might have. vision for twenty-first century Friends.
The article has garnered over eighty comments. The range and depth of that conversation has been humbling as as editor. But this is a good cross-section of visions of Quakerism. An excerpt from McCormick:
Over the past 40 years, I have been part of and seen organizations that had high ideals and did good work but were focused on internal dynamics and paid little attention to threats to their existence. As a result, they went under. I worry that our yearly, quarterly, and monthly meetings will also.
Just a quick note that I’ve combined and moved the two main Quaker Ranter email lists over to Mailchimp so that they be more organized. —Martin
Great tweetstorm by lifelong Friend Susanna Williams on why she left Quakers and why she remains so attached to Quakers:
Quakerism has ruined me for other faith experiences- I was empowered from an early age to have a direct & personal relationship with God, to give vocal ministry (as I first did when I was 12), to dive into silent worship.
Where are the new Quaker meeting plants? Where are the dinner worship groups? Where is the connection with the Spirit? Where is the space for Friends to encounter and share authentic faith journeys?
This reminds me of some of the themes I wrote about in The Lost Quaker Generation (turning fifteen this year) and 2013’s Quakerism Left Me by Betsy Blake. Should the kind of Friends community Susanna’s looking for really be all that rare? Click on the link to read the 10-part story.
I’m always happy when Johan Maurer wades into an online discussion, as he can often gives a steadying long-term view of panics. He’s jumped in with perspective on the viral article of the week, Don McCormick’s Can Quakerism Survive? from the February Friends Journal.
Johan reminds us that alarms about the future of Quakerism has long been ringing and draws on Joshua Brown’s warnings about New York Yearly Meeting from 30 years ago! Lest we chalk all this up an incessant alarmism, Johan gives some stats about that yearly meeting. Uh-oh:
7,070 (in 1955)
5,124 (in 1985)
3,241 (in 2015)
But Johan goes beyond that to ask some questions that we really need to sit with. For example, he asks:
Given that we are a microscopic percentage of the world Christian movement, do we have an inflated sense of our own importance? Or, to put it more positively, could we rest contented that our influence on Christian discipleship will last beyond our institutional survival?
This is a must-read blog for anyone anywhere on the Quaker spectrum
So I’ll admit something: although I’m the senior editor of Friends Journal, and the QuakerSpeak YouTube video series is a project of Friends Journal, I’m still jealous of the way it provides a far superior entrée to Quaker thought and life. The way you get to know someone with such immediacy for ten minutes or so is very powerful.
Every year, QuakerSpeak videographer Jon Watts has put together DVDs with collections of that season’s videos. There’s a bit of irony in paying for DVDs of free videos but the collections are useful for sharing in meetinghouse fellowship rooms as part of First-day classes.
But this year’s DVD is special. It’s only eight videos and they’ve been curated with a very specific audience in mind: newcomers and first-time attenders. Because the entire DVD runs a bit under an hour, the per-disk price has been made lower. Low enough hopefully, for Quaker meetings to buy them in enough bulk that they can be given out to attenders who come to visit.
Quaker worship is an alien concept to a lot of religious seekers. And it’s very possible to attend a Quaker meeting and leave not knowing much more about Friends’ beliefs and values than a visitor had walking in that morning. Imagine having something you could hand them to teach them more about the diversity and depth of Quaker belief. That’s what these DVDs offer (and, if they’re from the cord-cutter generation, they can always use the printed playlist to open YouTube on their phones).
The difference between a curious person visiting once and a regular attender (and someday member) is sometimes just a bit of followup. I’m excited to see if meetings take up this opportunity. I think QuakerSpeak has been the most important Quaker outreach program of recent times; this DVD is yet another way that we’re bridging it with on-the-ground Quaker meetings. Check it out.