Danny: Looking for a Real Religion

Here's an email from Danny, a new friend who I met at last week's FGC-sponsored "Youth Ministries Consultation." I liked his observations and asked if I could share this on the blog. I'm glad he said yes, since it's a good perspective on where one convinced 19 year old Friend is at.
Update: "Here's Danny's new blog, Riding the Whale":http://Quakernow.blogspot.com/


Martin! I finally got around to checking out your website [after hearing about it at the youth consultation], and it is one of the most beautiful things I have seen in a very long time! Many of the things you have written especially speak to my condition at the Chapel Hill Monthly Meeting, which could be a poster child for "the only thing i believe in is peace [+ that Bush is bad]" brand of Quakerism. While I cannot honestly say I have faith in Jesus as the son of God who died on the cross for our sins at this point in my spiritual developement, I do feel myself moving very strongly towards what you call conservative liberal Quakerism. It's mostly an issue of making the leap of faith. I feel very strongly that modern Friends need to go back to George Fox and the other old Friends for some context and guidance. Even though I am only 19, I consider myself one of those 20somethings who are looking for a real religion, not just some watered down semi-spiritual community. [I'm not actually a member of my MM. but I feel like I am. I feel like one of the most Quaker non-official-Quakers around]
I apologize in advance for my ranting.
Your writing helped me think critically about the youth consultation, although I already had some problems with it. Especially the lack of God --and just about no Christ [lots of "the Spirit"] and the lack of talk about why exactly young people are leaving Quakerism. I know you're not someone who necessarily needs to hear my rants, but I just don't understand why there's no communication network set up for Quakers from all over the place to come together and discuss things. the fact that there is no North American Young Adult Friends is just pitiful. I don't, and I'm sure lots of other disgruntled Friends don't --feel they have any easily accessible way of venting feelings and beliefs in a place where someone will listen.
For some reason, at the consultation I *did* feel like we were worshiping together, which is something I cannot say for CHFM. I don't know why.
that consultation left me feeling so incredibly hopeful and depressed about the future of Quakerism-at the same time. reading your blogs only fueled those feelings. living on a university, I am very aware that there are a zillion and a half religious groups that all want me to be one of them. What will I tell my fellow students when they ask me why they should be a Quaker? or even what it means to be a Quaker?
thank you for listening to my rants, again.
blessings, blessings, and blessings, Danny


When I asked Danny if I could repost his email, he also asked that he give this disclaimer: sure you can put it up. although i will have to give myself the disclaimer of having only attended the chfm for a year and a few months, so i don't want to claim that my experience of that community is necessarily the most fair one that anyone could produce. they are really good people,and the kind of community that some people want and need simply isn't a very religiously orthodox one. but i think that they could clarify what they believe as a community.

  • I under­stand why Dan­ny might have desired his dis­claimer. OTH, some­times the best sources of feed­back and cri­tique are those who have the newest expe­ri­ences to a com­mu­ni­ty. Much appre­ci­at­ed for shar­ing!

  • Dan­ny

    I feel that maybe I should cor­rect myself again in order to attempt more fair­ness for the Chapel Hill Month­ly Meet­ing. The vast major­i­ty of mem­bers and atten­ders obvi­ous­ly believe in God [what­ev­er that means], and most prob­a­bly con­sid­er them­selves Chris­t­ian. In Meet­ing for Wor­ship, the word God is in fact used quite a bit, as opposed to Christ, which is not used very much. It is a lit­tle hard to tell how Chris­t­ian the Meet­ing is, because there seems to be a kind of unspo­ken “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­i­cy in regards to belief. For a lib­er­al Meet­ing try­ing to include many beliefs in har­mo­ny with each oth­er, that may in fact be a good thing. I would much rather say pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive things than neg­a­tive. But I believe my Meet­ing, and many oth­ers like it, would ben­e­fit [and the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends would ben­e­fit] from some seri­ous no-bull search­ing about what it means to be a quak­er, who we think we’re retain­ing attract­ing and los­ing –and why — ‚and what kind of com­mu­ni­ties we think we’re build­ing [and want to build]. My opin­ion is that those com­mu­ni­ties ought to be more diverse eth­ni­cal­ly and socio-economically, and ought to speak to the firey and rad­i­cal Chris­tian­i­ty which ear­ly Friends were known for.
    I hope I’m not water­ing down my tes­ti­mo­ny too much. I am only try­ing to tell the truth as I see it to the best of my abil­i­ty.

  • Hi Dan­ny: Thanks again for both the email and the per­mis­sion to share it. I think your hon­est feed­back of your Meeting’s cul­ture is impor­tant.
    I’ve start­ed dig­ging through the num­bers of the infor­mal sur­vey tak­en at last week’s con­sul­ta­tion. One of the high votes among young adult Friends was on the “devel­op spir­i­tu­al­i­ty” ques­tion. No over-40 Friend even vot­ed for it. There were a lot of under-40 votes and no over-40 votes on the men­tor­ing ques­tions (do you want men­tor­ship to and from old­er and younger Friends?). Votes on sec­u­lar “peace and jus­tice” issues like “con­sci­en­tious objec­tion train­ing” came most­ly from over-40 Friends. No reg­u­lar Quak­er Ranter read­er should be sur­prised by any of this. But it is a good con­fir­ma­tion that it’s not just insider-outsider start­ing to stare down his 40s who feels this way.
    Danny’s not alone in want­i­ng some­thing more spiritually-oriented from his Meet­ing. If it weren’t too many words (or if my writ­ing style was more influ­enced by nine­teenth cen­tu­ry essay­ists) I might have titled his post “What will I tell my fel­low stu­dents when they ask me why they should be a quak­er?” That’s the ques­tion, isn’t it?

  • Heya Dan­ny,
    Just want­ed to chime in with a lit­tle sim­ple sol­i­dar­i­ty. I’m 22, and while I am blessed with a month­ly meet­ing that is active­ly try­ing to resolve these things, I some­times share your sense of saddness. Though tem­per­me­n­tal­ly quite a bit of a lud­dite, I can­not say how impor­tant the online fel­low­ship of this cir­cle of blogs has been to my devel­op­ment in Quak­erism. (Here I could ad the caveat “for bet­ter or for worse, but that’s non­sense. It’s been for the bet­ter. This I know exper­i­men­tal­ly)
    The most impor­tant thing, I am feel­ing, for us young friends, is to con­stant­ly hold each oth­er up. Read or re-read Thomas Kelly’s “The Blessed Com­mu­ni­ty” (It’s in A Tes­ta­ment of Devo­tion) and see if it doesn’t lift up your heart in love for your Friends, seen and unseen, and a renewed desire to build the king­dom that is to come. My Young Adult Friends and I are feel­ing drawn strong­ly into vis­it­ing min­istry, which builds both the vis­i­tor and the vis­i­tee up in fel­low­ship and inten­tion­al wor­ship togeth­er. This can hap­pen one-on-one or meet­ing to meet­ing. You don’t need to be bur­dened “With the Mes­sage of the Truth” — sim­ple love, com­pan­ion­ship, and faith will do won­ders as an exam­ple to those strug­gling, an encour­age­ment to the dis­cour­aged, a spark to the luke­warm, and com­fort to the sad. Open­ing your­self to the One who can do all of these things through you is a pow­er­ful and hum­bling expe­ri­ence, and you will know you are being used and will feel both low and joy­ful. It will make you “feel like a Quak­er” and like a Quak­er with a com­mu­ni­ty, whether or not it is the offi­cial and acknowl­edged one.
    Actu­al­ly trav­el­ling or start­ing a read­ing or wor­ship group are ways to begin this process, but if they seem daunt­ing, con­sid­er this idea — offer your­self, just your­self, very sim­ply and joy­ful­ly, to the meet­ing. Write a very short announce­ment to be read at the rise of meet­ing — “Dan­ny _________ is aval­i­ble to vis­it with home­bound freinds, or any inter­est­ed friend and atten­der. See him at cof­fee hour.” It’s a gut­sy move and it may be ignored for a cou­ple of weeks, but see what hap­pens. You can bring some books, ask them what they’d like to hold in prayer, sit with them, lis­ten, read with them, be silent with them. It will build strogn spir­i­tu­al and per­son­al bonds between you, will like­ly build inter-generational bonds, and is a way of qui­et­ly, gen­tly build­ing the life of your meet­ing, which must be kept warm and hum­ming if any of these grander-scale changes are to take place.
    I’m find­ing that the more lit­tle ways we find to be poured out in ser­vice — real ser­vice, heart ser­vice, the less rel­e­vant the fis­sures and fights and let-downs of the meet­ing seem. Mar­tin once wrote me
    “And you’re total­ly right that Jesus isn’t a Wilbu­rite or Gur­neyite or even a Quak­er (or maybe even a Chris­t­ian?). He’s more than all of our trib­al box­es and the walls we put up can keep us sep­a­rat­ed from com­ing togeth­er as beloved communities…Stay low and hum­ble and close to the Word writ­ten in your heart and let us car­ry the bricks to the new city the Archi­tect is design­ing.”
    and they are words that have remained large in my heart ever since. Being low, qui­et, and hum­ble gets a lot of peo­ple through a lot of scary places.
    For­give me if I’ve out­run my guide here, but I felt very led to post this to thee. You may find that your par­tic­u­lar min­istry is entire­ly dif­fer­ent from this are­na.
    My fam­i­ly lives in North Car­oli­na, and I will be vis­it­ing them some­time in May. We should try to get togeth­er for some wor­ship.
     — Aman­da

  • By the way, we need firey too. We cer­tain­ly need firey. The con­cern I seem to have bur­dened with is in build­ing up a stone frame­work of spir­i­tu­al love so that when the fire comes, there’s some­thing left stand­ing to rebuild.
    God, that sounds apoc­a­lyp­tic.

  • Hi Aman­da, well those must not have been _my_ words as I total­ly for­got about them (I missed the attri­bu­tion to me and was about to hit google to see who wrote them!). All cred­it to the Cre­ator.

  • Rob

    Hey Dan­ny -
    I’m glad you found Martin’s web­site too, and want­ed to offer my own bit of sol­i­dar­i­ty. You said, “In Meet­ing for Wor­ship, the word God is in fact used quite a bit, as opposed to Christ, which is not used very much. It is a lit­tle hard to tell how Chris­t­ian the Meet­ing is, because there seems to be a kind of unspo­ken “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­i­cy in regards to belief.… But I believe my Meet­ing, and many oth­ers like it, would ben­e­fit [and the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends would ben­e­fit] from some seri­ous no-bull search­ing about what it means to be a quak­er, who we think we’re retain­ing attract­ing and los­ing —and why — ‚and what kind of com­mu­ni­ties we think we’re build­ing [and want to build].”
    Right on! The Meet­ing I attend has recent­ly been sit­ting on this issue as well. How­ev­er, the dis­cus­sion has been couched in terms of “lan­guages of our faith” – pre­sup­pos­ing that some peo­ple use dif­fer­ent terms to express sim­i­lar spir­i­tu­al beliefs and expe­ri­ences. While the dis­cus­sion has been help­ful, I think it has also allowed us to adhere to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­i­cy you ref­er­ence. Is it real­ly dif­fer­ent ‘lan­guages’ or is it dif­fer­ent ‘faith’ alto­geth­er? To be a Truth-seeking covenant com­mu­ni­ty, the RSoF must not fear these dif­fer­ences, but instead, dwell in them.
    In Friend­ship, Rob

  • Robin Mohr

    Write a very short announce­ment to be read at the rise of meet­ing — “Dan­ny _________ is aval­i­ble to vis­it with home­bound friends, or any inter­est­ed friend and atten­der. See him at cof­fee hour.”
    Oh Aman­da, that is a won­der­ful idea. A gift to younger and elder alike. The blessed com­mu­ni­ty in deed.
    One of the great things about this post is that it makes it eas­i­er to open the dis­cus­sion about the faith con­tent of our Meet­ing with younger, new­er Friends. (Last night, I sent an email to a bunch of peo­ple, ask­ing “Have you seen this? Here’s the link…” I feel so mod­ern.)
    My hus­band and I have real­ized that one of the things that helped us feel part of the com­mu­ni­ty was that a few old­er Friends invit­ed us to din­ner at their homes, some­times just social­ly and some­times as part of the wel­com­ing com­mit­tee for new mem­bers, even before we were mem­bers. And that now, it’s our turn, with our pret­ty firm insid­er sta­tus, to do the same for new­er folks. Din­ner at our house involves a lot more spilled milk than is real­ly con­ducive to deep the­o­log­i­cal dis­cus­sion, but we’re try­ing.
    Any­way, it is impor­tant for me to keep open the ques­tion about what we believe. Com­pared to oth­er Meet­ings I hear about and to how our Meet­ing used to be, I think we’re doing pret­ty well, but a new­com­er shines a new light for me to see by.
    Peace,
    Robin

  • Dan­ny, thanks for let­ting Mar­tin post your com­ments. Very stim­u­lat­ing, as are the replies.
    I whole­heart­ed­ly agree that our meet­ings would be health­i­er if we all spoke more freely about our own faith and engaged in real dia­log about what makes for a dis­tinc­tive Quak­er faith. But I’m struck by the con­trast between a cou­ple of your state­ments:
    While I can­not hon­est­ly say I have faith in Jesus as the son of God who died on the cross for our sins at this point in my spir­i­tu­al devel­ope­ment, I do feel myself mov­ing very strong­ly towards what you call con­ser­v­a­tive lib­er­al quak­erism.… I feel very strong­ly that mod­ern Friends need to go back to George Fox and the oth­er old Friends for some con­text and guid­ance. Even though I am only 19, I con­sid­er myself one of those 20somethings who are look­ing for a real reli­gion, not just some watered down semi-spiritual com­mu­ni­ty.…
    Your writ­ing helped me think crit­i­cal­ly about the youth con­sul­ta­tion, although I already had some prob­lems with it. Espe­cial­ly the lack of God —and just about no Christ [lots of “the Spir­it”]…
    Would you be will­ing to say some­thing about what you do believe? And why, if you don’t believe in the “Jesus died for our sins” ver­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty, you want to hear about Christ in mes­sages?
    I’m not sure from your com­ments whether you want Friends to talk about their faith (their real faith) or if you want them to talk about Chris­t­ian faith. If the indi­vid­u­als in a meet­ing are not Chris­tians, are you ready to enter into their expe­ri­ence of God, or do you require a com­mu­ni­ty of Chris­tians?
    I had a rela­tion­ship with God long before I seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered the per­son of Jesus or the nature of Christ. I have nev­er felt the require­ment that my faith be put through a Chris­t­ian fil­ter, although I try to take seri­ous­ly the tra­di­tion and real­i­ty of lib­er­al Chris­t­ian spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. I have had expe­ri­ences I believe to have been of Jesus and of Christ, but as I said, I have not felt required to shift my focus from God. Indeed, as my faith has deep­ened over the years I’ve become more recep­tive not only to deep­er Chris­t­ian faith but to the wis­dom and rev­e­la­tion to be found in some non-Christian faiths.
    So when I read phras­es like “watered down semi-spiritual com­mu­ni­ty”, I have to won­der if I am being judged and found want­i­ng for my lack of Chris­t­ian wit­ness.
    On a dif­fer­ent note:
    I just don’t under­stand why there’s no com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work set up for quak­ers from all over the place to come togeth­er and dis­cuss things.
    But there are sev­er­al. Friends World Com­mit­tee for Con­sul­ta­tion; Quak­er Unit­ed Nations Office; Friends Com­mit­tee on Nation­al Leg­is­la­tion (U.S. only); Quak­ers Unit­ing in Pub­li­ca­tions. Lots of Friends, all across the spec­trum, don’t actu­al­ly want to have any­thing to do with each oth­er, so these venues are some­times giv­en short shrift or go unmen­tioned. The only way to get past that is to become informed and to engage with one anoth­er. North Car­oli­na is an ide­al place to become famil­iar with Friends from wide­ly dif­fer­ing faith per­spec­tives.
    What will I tell my fel­low stu­dents when they ask me why they should be a quak­er? or even what it means to be a quak­er?
    For­get about them. Why do YOU want to be a Quak­er? That seems like an excel­lent place to start. What does your Quak­erism mean? The writ­ings of Fox and oth­er Friends, ear­ly or late, or even the writ­ings of the bib­li­cal authors and edi­tors, can only point us toward an inward, eter­nal truth. Rob’s con­cern about whether we are using dif­fer­ent lan­guages for the same truth or are using dif­fer­ent lan­gauges because we have come to dif­fer­ent truths is an impor­tant one. (As is the inverse, a con­cern that we not assume the same word means the same thing to all who use it. To wit, shall we do a sur­vey about what the words “Christ” and “Chris­t­ian” mean?)

  • Dan­ny lifts up an impor­tant question:I believe my Meet­ing, and many oth­ers like it, would ben­e­fit [and the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends would ben­e­fit] from some seri­ous no-bull search­ing about what it means to be a quak­er, who we think we’re retain­ing attract­ing and los­ing —and why — ‚and what kind of com­mu­ni­ties we think we’re build­ing [and want to build].
    His com­ment remind­ed me of some­thing I had read, in my hunger to under­stand how one’s Quak­er iden­ti­ty is formed and sus­tained. I dug through my col­lec­tion of books and came across this sec­tion in British Friend’s Alas­tair Heron’s Our Quak­er Iden­ti­ty: Reli­gious soci­ety or friend­ly soci­ety?, about a con­test, held in the mid 1800s, for essays on the decline of Quak­ers in Britain.A gen­tle­man who laments that…the Soci­ety at one time bore a pow­er­ful wit­ness to the world con­cern­ing some of the errors to which it is most prone, and some of the truths which are the most nec­es­sary to it; and that this wit­ness has been grad­u­al­ly becom­ing more and more fee­ble, is anx­ious to obtain light respect­ing the caus­es of this change. He offers a prize of One Hun­dred Guineas for the best essay that shall be writ­ten on the subject…It makes me won­der if many of us Quak­er blog­gers would have entered this essay con­test, had we been alive and in Britain back then! (It was young 25-year-old Quak­er John Stephen­son Rown­tree who won, by the way.)
    Besides that, is it time for anoth­er round of essays…? smile
    As a forty-something Friend, I am moved and stirred by these posts from Aman­da, Dan­ny, Mar­tin, Rob, Robin, and oth­ers. My hope is restored also through my wor­ship group (aver­age age 28, if you include the 3 wee ones!) and through the words, min­istry, and spir­it of each of you.
    It appears we are unit­ed in our hope and yearn­ing for a renewed, vibrant Quak­erism, and a hunger to be fed by the Holy Spir­it and by one anoth­er.
    Aren’t we the ones we’ve been look­ing for!?

  • Julie

    Dear Ken­neth,
    I was try­ing hard to bite my tongue but decid­ed I won’t. First I want to men­tion, for myself and not for Dan­ny of course, that the tone of your post felt pret­ty con­de­scend­ing. It remind­ed me of times that old­er adult Friends said sim­i­lar things to me and, frankly, I often came away won­der­ing if they’d have said any­thing like what they did and in the same way if they were speak­ing to some­one they con­sid­ered a peer. It was so obvi­ous, in fact, that I was being talked down to one time at an FGC inter­est group that one woman (of baby boomer age) inter­ced­ed with her obser­va­tions. I hadn’t even noticed the con­de­scen­sion (per­haps because I was so accus­tomed to it by that point), but she had. After­wards I saw things more clear­ly.
    I don’t think the sug­ges­tions of the national/internationl Quak­er orga­ni­za­tions you men­tioned were any­thing like what Dan­ny like­ly had in mind. But I think you prob­a­bly know that. How in the world do any of these orga­ni­za­tions, and yes I am famil­iar with all of them, even serve well (ie inte­grate) young adult Friends, much less con­vinced ones? And QUIP? Who are you kid­ding? Who has the mon­ey to trav­el all over the coun­try and the world attend­ing those meet­ings? Only Quak­er bureau­crats and employ­ees fund­ed by their orga­ni­za­tions or inde­pen­dent­ly wealthy peo­ple, I guess. When Mar­tin no longer works for FGC I seri­ous­ly doubt he’ll get to many QUIP meet­ings.
    On the whole Chris­tian­i­ty front, it seems like Danny’s post struck a nerve with you. I think you should cut the guy some slack. Just because he’s com­ing into Quak­erism expect­ing Quak­ers to – lo and behold – con­form to and speak the lan­guage of the Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion they were a part of up until pret­ty darn recent­ly doesn’t mean he’s some­how a rad­i­cal. And just because he may or may not know where *he* stands with regard to Chris­tian­i­ty doesn’t mean Quak­erism at large should have sim­i­lar doubts.
    And have a sur­vey as to the def­i­n­i­tion of the words Christ and Chris­t­ian? Give me a break. I won’t even com­ment on that.
    Don’t get me wrong. I love some of the things you say some­times, Ken­neth, but I think we all have to be care­ful of how we speak to peo­ple and be con­scious of whether or not age dif­fer­ences play a part in our atti­tudes. I per­son­al­ly felt it very strong­ly here.
    God bless,
    Julie

  • Hi every­one: At the youth min­istries retreat we had this exer­cise where we were to vote on things that were impor­tant to us by plac­ing stars on state­ments writ­ten up on a wall. Two of the options were “men­tor­ing by old­er Friends” and “men­tor­ing to younger Friends.” The con­fer­ence orga­niz­ers strange­ly omit­ted the obvi­ous: “men­tor­ing to old­er Friends.” I pen­ciled it in and young Friends put star after star next to it. All of the men­tor­ing ques­tions were pop­u­lar with the younger Friends; all were com­plete­ly absent of stars by old­er Friends. We are being told some­thing.
    To be sea­soned and ancient in the min­istry has noth­ing to do with one’s chrono­log­i­cal age, mem­ber­ship sta­tus, length of atten­dance in Quak­erism, thor­ough­ness of Fox­i­an stud­ies or par­tic­i­pa­tion in var­i­ous over-acronymed Quak­er insti­tu­tions.
    Dan­ny is not ask­ing for a Quak­erism that is a reflec­tion of his own ego, a reli­gion based on what he already knows. My guess is that he’s seen some­thing in our out­ward wit­ness and wants to under­stand its Source. Dan­ny came to us as a seek­er but I sus­pect he’s arriv­ing as an elder. He is ask­ing us ques­tions we Friends need to stop dodg­ing. He’s ask­ing not what _values_ we pos­sess but what _truths_ we believe. How has the Spir­it worked in us, Friends?
    bq. What will I tell my fel­low stu­dents when they ask me why they should be a quak­er? or even what it means to be a quak­er?
    We can­not dodge this ques­tion by mir­ror­ing it back to him. We are being men­tored. And we are being asked for men­tor­ship. If we feel “judged and found want­i­ng” in our answers (and I think we all are) then maybe it’s because we need to stand tri­al. What do we, the peo­ple called Quak­ers, believe? Why does it mean to be Quak­er?
    Rock­ing ques­tions, real­ly.
    PS: NO MORE EXCELLENT COMMENTS UNTIL I GET THE FGC GATHERING ADVANCE PROGRAM DONE, PLEEEAAAASSSEEE. IT’S AN ALL-NIGHTER TILL IT’S DONE. SLEEPNESS NIGHTS CAN BE GOOD FOR ME, MAYBE I’LL POST A TESTIMONIAL BEFORE DAWN. I PROMISE IT WON’T BE ALL-CAPS.

  • “He came as a seek­er but arrived as an elder.”
    This rings true to me at many lev­els.
    Often I must dis­ci­pline myself to get off my own pedestal – “I have much to teach” – and start sit­ting on the floor: Some­one has arrived in order that I may learn.
    Bless­ings,
    Liz

  • QuaC­arol

    To be sea­soned and ancient in the min­istry has noth­ing to do with one’s chrono­log­i­cal age, mem­ber­ship sta­tus, length of atten­dance in Quak­erism, thor­ough­ness of Fox­i­an stud­ies or par­tic­i­pa­tion in var­i­ous over-acronymed Quak­er insti­tu­tions.
    I was born into the Soci­ety of Friends (PYM) when Franklin Roo­sevelt was pres­i­dent. My hair is gray. I’ve sat on the boards of a cou­ple of those over-acronymed orga­ni­za­tions. And those words above, I know to be true from my own expe­ri­ence.
    I have been and am being men­tored by this blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty. I check my book­marked Quak­er blogs at least once a day. Thank you!
    This is won­der­ful, blessed work unfold­ing. And it is ripen­ing and will blos­som and bear nur­tur­ing fruit for all.

  • Dan­ny

    Dear Friends
    I’m very sor­ry I have been away for so long. I want­ed to be more cer­tain that what I say has some­thing besides whim behind it. While I said that I lean heav­i­ly towards Chris­t­ian Quak­erism, I need to check myself by adding that I am not com­mit­ted to Chris­t­ian Quak­erism. In fact, the things about Quak­erism [at least its out­ward tes­ti­mo­ny] that draw me to it do not nec­es­sar­i­ly have any­thing to do with Jesus of Nazareth. Whether or not I con­sid­er myself a Friend or a Chris­t­ian or any­thing, I’m very cer­tain that I will keep a few beliefs. I’m going to try to lay out the biggest points.
    [1] that the Spir­it ris­es above words –which both means to me that I can reach the pres­ence of God with­out using words and that scrip­ture is not the foun­tain itself but only a record of what came out of the foun­tain a long time ago. a Friend I met at the Pied­mont Friends Fel­low­ship retreat last week­end mused that Friends may be the per­fect lib­er­al yet spir­i­tu­al anti­dote to Pen­ta­costal­ism. That is some­thing I will chew on for a long time. I appre­ci­ate that Friends val­ue sci­ence but still look to intu­ition and pure spir­it for guid­ance.
    [2]spontaneous Spir­it led wor­ship, in which in which ANYONE could very well deliv­er a ser­mon, feels like the right wor­ship for me. I can’t imag­ine that God would only want to speak through one spe­cial­ly trained and paid pas­tor in each church. every indi­vid­ual is a prophet -how­ev­er small –as far as i’m con­cerned. If only they open them­selves up to what God has to say.
    [3] I have expe­ri­enced the Light –whether you want to call it of God or of Christ or what­ev­er –and it is pure love and peace and joy. Friends seem to rec­og­nize more reli­ably than any­one else that God is Love and visa ver­sa.
    I guess that was all a response to Kenneth’s ques­tion “why do you want to be a Quak­er?”. Ok but how does Chris­tian­i­ty fit into this? I’m real­ly not sure any­more. but I find Chris­t­ian imagery to be very inspir­ing and beau­ti­ful –even if I do not believe it in my heart. The Ressurec­tion seems to pro­vide the most sim­ple yet pow­er­ful tes­ti­mo­ny out there that hatred and death can­not kill self sac­ri­fice and love. In the past half year I have gained very much spir­i­tu­al­ly from read­ing the New Tes­ta­ment, espe­cial­ly the Gospels of Matthew and John and the let­ters of James and Peter.
    when I put down some lib­er­al Friends as semi-spiritual, per­haps my wor­ry was –and is –not that Friends don’t accept Jesus as their sav­ior, but that my own month­ly meet­ing some­times doesn’t seem to be ground­ed on ANYTHING. Some­times it feels like the SPir­it sim­ply isn’t present in the con­gre­ga­tion –that we’re all sit­ting in zen med­i­ta­tion togeth­er for an hour. I love zen, but it’s not exact­ly what I’m look­ing for. Maybe I just want a Quak­er revival or some huge earth­shat­ter­ing youth move­ment or some­thing, because I think the ideas behind his­toric Quak­erism –and unpro­grammed Quak­erism today as well even if they are not always prac­ticed –make up the most pure beau­ty that I have expe­ri­enced at this point in my life. I don’t know. But I will say that the con­ver­sa­tions going on at this site are very impor­tant for the future of the Soci­ety of Friends. Mar­tin I’ll sup­port you mon­e­tar­i­ly if I can drum up some mon­ey. May peo­ple up at the top wake up and see that the web does not con­flict with the sim­plic­i­ty tes­ti­mo­ny.
    love and light to all,
    dan­ny