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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are the two pieces that strike me: The “top 10 percent of drinkers account for over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year” and this top 10 represents people who drink an average of 10 drinks per day.
I’m not a teetotaler and I’m glad stats also show that most Americans are light on the alcohol—30 percent don’t drink and another 30 percent are moderate. But 10 drinks per day average is a serious alcohol problem—with serious social implications and costs. Half of the industry profits come from these drinkers. The article quotes an expert:
If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent.”
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday 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.