For other uses, see Light (disambiguation)

Even though my last post was a five min­ute quick­ie, it gen­er­at­ed a num­ber of com­ments. One ques­tion that came up was how aware indi­vid­u­al Friends are about the speci­fic Quak­er mean­ings of some of the com­mon Eng­lish words we use — “Light,” “Spir­it,” etc.(dis­am­bigua­tion in Wiki-speak). Mar­shall Massey expressed sad­ness that the terms were used uncom­pre­hend­ing­ly and I sug­gest­ed that some Friends know­ing­ly con­fuse the gener­ic and speci­fic mean­ings. Mar­shall replied that if this were so it might be a cul­tur­al dif­fer­ence based on geog­ra­phy.

If it’s a cul­tur­al dif­fer­ence, I sus­pect it’s less geo­graph­ic than func­tion­al. I was speak­ing of the class of pro­fes­sion­al Friends (heavy in my parts) who pur­pose­ful­ly obscure their lan­guage. We’re very good at talk­ing in a way that sounds Quak­er to those who do know our speci­fic lan­guage but that sounds gener­i­cal­ly spir­i­tu­al to those who don’t. Some­times this obscu­ran­tism is used by peo­ple who are repelled by tra­di­tion­al Quak­erism but want to advance their ideas in the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends, but more often (and more dan­ger­ous­ly) it’s used by Friends who know and love what we are but are loathe to say any­thing that might sound con­tro­ver­sial.

I’ve told the sto­ry before of a Friend and friend who said that every­time he uses the word com­mu­ni­ty he’s mean­ing the body of Christ. New­com­ers hear­ing him and read­ing his arti­cles could be for­given for think­ing that com­mu­ni­ty is our reason-for-being, indeed: what we wor­ship. The prob­lem is that ten years lat­er, they’ll have signed up and built up an iden­ti­ty as a Friend and will get all offend­ed when some­one sug­gests that this com­mu­ni­ty they know and love is real­ly the body of Christ.

Lib­er­al Friends in the pub­lic eye need to be more hon­est in their con­ver­sa­tion about the Bib­li­cal and Chris­tian roots of our reli­gious fel­low­ship. That will scare off poten­tial mem­bers who have been scarred by the acts of those who have false­ly claimed Christ. I’m sor­ry about that and we need to be as gen­tle and hum­ble about this as we can. But hope­ful­ly they’ll see the fruits of the true spir­it in our open­ness, our warmth and our giv­ing and will real­ize that Chris­tian fel­low­ship is not about tel­e­van­ge­lists and Pres­i­den­tial hyp­ocrites. May­be they’ll even­tu­al­ly join or may­be not, but if they do at least they won’t be sur­prised by our iden­ti­ty. Before some­one com­ments back, I’m not say­ing that Chris­tian­i­ty needs to be a test for indi­vid­u­al mem­ber­ship but new mem­bers should know that every­thing from our name (“Friends of Christ”) on down are root­ed in that tra­di­tion and that that for­mal mem­ber­ship does not include veto pow­er over our pub­lic iden­ti­ty.

There is room out there for spiritual-but-not-religious com­mu­ni­ties that aren’t built around a col­lec­tive wor­ship of God, don’t wor­ry about any par­tic­u­lar tra­di­tion and focus their energies and group iden­ti­ty on lib­er­al social caus­es. But I guess part of what I won­der is why this doesn’t col­lect under the UUA ban­ner, whose Prin­ci­ples and Pur­pos­es state­ment is already much more syn­cretis­tic and post-religious than even the most lib­er­al year­ly meet­ing. Evolv­ing into the “oth­er UUA” would mean aban­don­ing most of the valu­able spir­i­tu­al wis­dom we have as a peo­ple.

I think there’s a need for the kind of strong lib­er­al Chris­tian­i­ty that Friends have prac­ticed for 350 years. There must be mil­lions of peo­ple parked on church bench­es every Sun­day morn­ing look­ing up at the pul­pit and think­ing to them­selves, “sure­ly this isn’t what Jesus was talk­ing about.” Look, we have Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians com­ing out again­st the war! And let’s face it, it’s only a mat­ter of time before “Emer­gent Chris­tians” real­ize how lame all that post-post can­dle wor­ship is and look for some­thing a lit­tle deep­er. The times are ripe for “Oppor­tu­ni­ties,” Friends. We have impor­tant knowl­edge to share about all this. It would be a shame if we kept qui­et.

Working with Pipes #2: A DIY personalized community with Del​.icio​.us, Flickr and Google Blog Search

not nec­es­sary to devel­op your own Web 2.0 soft­ware infra­struc­ture to
cre­ate an inde­pen­dent Web 2.0-powered com­mu­ni­ty online. It’s far
sim­pler to set a stan­dard for your com­mu­ni­ty to use on exisit­ing
net­works and then to use Yahoo Pipes to pull it togeth­er.

I decid­ed on about a dozen cat­e­gories to use with my DIY blog aggre­ga­tor (Quak­erQuak­er).
I only want to pull in posts that are being gen­er­at­ed for my site by
com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers so we use a com­mu­ni­ty iden­ti­fier, a unique pre­fix
that isn’t like­ly to be used by oth­ers.

This post will show you how to pull in tagged feeds from three sources: the Del​.icio​.us social book­mark­ing sys­tem, the Flickr pho­to shar­ing site and Google Blog Search.

Step 1: Pick a community designator

I’ve been using the com­mu­ni­ty name fol­lowed by a dot. The pre­fix
goes in front of cat­e­go­ry descrip­tion to make a set of unique tags for
the aggre­ga­tor. When some­one wants to add some­thing for the site they
tag it with this “community.category” tag. In my exam­ple, when some­one
wants to list a new Quak­er blog they use “quak​er​.blog”, “quak­er” being
the com­mu­ni­ty name, “blog” being the cat­e­go­ry name for the “New Blogs”

Step 2: Collect the community prefix and category name in Pipes

You begin by going into Pipes and pulling over two text inputs: one for
the com­mu­ni­ty pre­fix, the oth­er for the speci­fic cat­e­go­ry.

Step 3: Construct these into tags

Now use the “String Con­cate­na­tion” mod­ule to turn this into the
“community.category” mod­el. The com­mu­ni­ty input goes into the top slot,
a dot is the sec­ond slot and the cat­e­go­ry input goes into the last slot.

Now, when you have a tag in Flickr with a dot in it, Flickr auto­mat­i­cal­ly removes it in the resul­tant RSS feed.
So with Flickr you want your tag to be “com­mu­ni­ty­cat­e­go­ry” with­out a
dot. Sim­ple enough: just pull anoth­er “String Con­cate­na­tion” mod­ule
onto your Pipes work space. It should look the same except that it
won’t have the mid­dle slot with the dot.

Step 4: Turn these tags into RSS URLs

Pull three “URL­Builder” mod­ules into Pipes, one for each of the
ser­vices we’re going to query. For the Base, use the non-tag speci­fic
part of the URL that each ser­vice uses for its RSS feeds. Here they are:

Del​.icio​.us http://​del​.icio​.us/​r​s​s​/​tag
Flickr http://​api​.flickr​.com/​s​e​r​v​i​c​e​s​/​f​e​eds
Google Blog Search http://​blogsearch​.google​.com

Under path ele­ments, put the cor­rect tag: for Del​.icio​.us and Google it should be the community.category tag, for Flickr the dot-less com­mu­ni­ty­cat­e­go­ry tag.

Step 5: Fetch and Dedupe

Fetch is the Pipes mod­ule that pulls in URLs and out­puts RSS feeds. It can also com­bine them. Send each URLBuilder out­put into the same Fetch rou­tine.

Since it’s pos­si­ble that you’ll might have dupli­cate posts, use the “Unique” mod­ule to dedu­pli­cate entries by URL.
Through a lit­tle tri­al and error I’ve deter­mined that in cas­es of
dupli­cates, feeds low­er in the Fetch list trump those high­er. In the
actu­al Pipe pow­er­ing my aggre­ga­tor I pull a sec­ond Del​.icio​.us feed: my
own. I have that as the last entry in the Fetch list so that I can
per­son­al­ly over­ride every oth­er input.

Step 6: Sort by Date

With exper­i­men­ta­tion it seems like Pipes orders the out­put entries by
descend­ing date, which is prob­a­bly what you want. But I want to show
how Pipes can work with “dc” data, the “Dublin Core” mod­el that allows
you to extend stan­dard RSS feeds (see yesterday’s post for more on this).

Google Blog Search and Del​.icio​.us feeds use the “dc:date” field to
record the time when the post was made. Flickr uses “dc:date.Taken” to
pass on the photograph’s meta­data about when it was tak­en. Pipes’
“Rename” mod­ule lets you copy both fields into one you cre­ate (I’ve
sim­ply used “date”), which you can then run through its “Sort” mod­ule.
Again, it’s a moot point since Pipes seems to do this auto­mat­i­cal­ly.
But it’s good to know how to manip­u­late and rename “dc” data if only
because many PHP parsers have trou­ble lay­ing it out on a web­page.

Update: it’s all moot: accord­ing to ZDNet blog, “Pipes now auto­mat­i­cal­ly appends a pub­Date tag to any RSS feed that has any of the oth­er allow­able date tags.” This is nice: no need to hack the date every time you want to make a Pipe!

Step 7: Output

The final step for any Pipe is the “Pipe Out­put” mod­ule.

In action

You can see this pub­lished Pipe here, and copy and play with it your­self. The result lets you build an RSS feed based on the two inputs. 

Two Years of the Quaker Ranter and Quaker Blogs

An amaz­ing thing has hap­pened in the last two years: we’ve got Friends from the cor­ners of Quak­erism shar­ing our sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences, our frus­tra­tions and dreams through Quak­er blogs. Dis­en­chant­ed Friends who have longed for deep­er con­ver­sa­tion and con­so­la­tion when things are hard at their local meet­ing have built a net­work of Friends who under­stand. When our gen­er­a­tion is set­tling down to write our mem­oirs — our Quak­er jour­nals — a lot of us will have to have at least one chap­ter about becom­ing involved in the Quak­er blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty.

My per­son­al site before and after it became “Quak­er Ranter.”

When I signed off on my last post, I promised I would con­tin­ue with some­thing on “blogs, min­istry and lib­er­al Quak­er out­reach.” Here’s the first of the follow-ups.

As I set­tle in to my sec­ond week at my new (and newly-defined) jobs at FGC, I won­der if I be here with­out help of the Quak­er Ranter? I start­ed this blog two sum­mers ago. It was a time when I felt like I might be head­ed toward mem­ber­ship in the lost Quak­er gen­er­a­tion that was the focus of one of my ear­li­est posts. There were a lot of dead-ends in my life. A cou­ple of appli­ca­tions for more seri­ous, respon­si­ble employ­ment with Friends had recent­ly gone nowhere. Life at my month­ly meet­ing was odd (we’ll keep it at that). I felt I was com­ing into a deep­er expe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge of my Quak­erism and per­haps inch­ing toward more overt min­istry but there was no out­let, no sense of how this inward trans­for­ma­tion might fit into any sort of out­ward social form or forum.

Every­where I looked I saw Friends short­com­ing them­selves and our reli­gious soci­ety with a don’t-rock-the-boat timid­i­ty that wasn’t serv­ing God’s pur­pose for us. I saw pre­cious lit­tle prophet­ic min­istry. I knew of few Friends who were ask­ing chal­leng­ing ques­tions about our wor­ship life. Our lan­guage about God was becom­ing ever more cod­ed and ster­il­ized. Most of the twenty-somethings I knew gen­er­al­ly approached Quak­erism pri­mar­i­ly as a series of cul­tur­al norms with only dif­fer­ent stan­dards from one year­ly meet­ing to anoth­er (and one Quak­er branch to anoth­er, I sus­pect) .
With all this as back­drop, I start­ed the Quak­er Ranter with a nothing-left-to-lose men­tal­i­ty. I was ner­vous about push­ing bound­aries and about broach­ing things pub­licly that most Friends only say in hushed tones of two or three on meet­ing­house steps. I was also dou­bly ner­vous about being a Quak­er employ­ee talk­ing about this stuff (liveli­hood and all that!). The few Quak­er blogs that were out there were gen­er­al­ly blogs by Quak­ers but about any­thing but Quak­erism, pol­i­tics being the most com­mon top­ic.

Now sure, a lot of this hasn’t changed over the­se few years. But one thing has: we now have a vibrant com­mu­ni­ty of Quak­er blog­gers. We’ve got folks from the cor­ners of Quak­erism get­ting to know one anoth­er and hash out not just our sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences, but our frus­tra­tions and dreams. It’s so cool. There’s some­thing hap­pen­ing in all this! Dis­en­chant­ed Friends who have longed for deep­er con­ver­sa­tion and con­so­la­tion when things are hard at their local meet­ing are find­ing Friends who under­stand.

Through the blog and the com­mu­ni­ty that formed around it I’ve found a voice. I’m evolv­ing, cer­tain­ly, through read­ing, life, blog con­ver­sa­tions and most impor­tant­ly (I hope!) the act­ing of the Holy Spir­it on my ever-resistant ego. But because of my blog I’m some­one who now feels com­fort­able talk­ing about what it means to be a Quak­er in a pub­lic set­ting. It almost seems quaint to think back to the ear­ly blog con­ver­sa­tions about whether we can call this a kind of min­istry. When we’re all set­tling down to write our mem­oirs — our Quak­er jour­nals — a lot of us will have to have at least one chap­ter about becom­ing involved in the Quak­er blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty. In Howard Brinton’s Quak­er Jour­nals he enu­mer­at­ed the steps toward growth in the min­istry that most of the writ­ers seemed to go through; I sus­pect the jour­nals of our gen­er­a­tion will add self-published elec­tron­ic media to it’s list of clas­sic steps.

When I start­ed Quak­er Ranter I did have to won­der if this might be a quick­est way to get fired. Not to cast asper­sions on the powers-that-be at FGC but the web is full of cau­tion­ary tales of peo­ple being canned because of too-public blogs. My only con­so­la­tion was the sense that no one that mat­tered real­ly read the thing. But as it became more promi­nent a curi­ous phe­nom­e­non hap­pened: even Quak­er staff and über-insiders seemed to be relat­ing to this con­ver­sa­tion and want­ed a place to com­plain and dream about Quak­erism. My per­son­al rep­u­ta­tion has cer­tain­ly gone up because of this site, direct­ly and indi­rect­ly because of the blog. This brings with it the snares of pop­u­lar praise (itself a well-worn the­me in Quak­er jour­nals) but it also made it more like­ly I would be con­sid­ered for my new out­reach job. It’s fun­ny how life works.
Okay, that’s enough for a post. I’ll have to keep out­reach till next time. But bear with me: it’s about form too and how form con­tributes to min­istry.

PS: Talk­ing of two years of Quak­er blog­ging… My “Non​vi​o​lence​.org turns ten years old this Thurs­day!! I thought about mak­ing a big deal about it but alas there’s so lit­tle time.

Strangers to the Covenant

A workshop led by Zachary Moon and Martin Kelley at the 2005 FGC Gathering of Friends.


This is for Young Friends who want to break into the pow­er of Quak­erism: it’s the stuff you didn’t get in First Day School. Con­nect­ing with his­tor­i­cal Quak­ers whose pow­er­ful min­istry came in their teens and twen­ties, we’ll look at how Friends wove God, covenants and gospel order togeth­er to build a move­ment that rocked the world. We’ll mine Quak­er his­to­ry to reclaim the pow­er of our tra­di­tion, to explore the liv­ing tes­ti­monies and our wit­ness in the world. (P/T)

Per­cent­age of time: Wor­ship 20 / Lec­ture 30 / Dis­cus­sion 50


Extended Description

We hope to encour­age Friends to imag­ine them­selves as min­is­ters and elders and to be bold enough to chal­lenge the insti­tu­tions of Quak­erism as need­ed. We want to build a com­mu­ni­ty, a cohort, of Friends who aren’t afraid to bust us out of our own lim­it­ed expec­ta­tions and give them space to grow into the aware­ness that their long­ing for deep­er spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion with shared wide­ly among oth­ers their age. Our task as work­shop con­ven­ers is to mod­el as both bold and hum­ble seek­ers after truth, who can stay real to the spir­it with­out tak­ing our­selves either too seri­ous­ly or too light­ly.

Mar­t­in and Zachary have dis­cov­ered a Quak­er tra­di­tion more defined, more coher­ent and far richer than the Quak­erism we were offered in First Day School. In integri­ty to that dis­cov­ery, we intend to cre­ate a space for fel­low­ship that would fur­ther open the­se glimpses of what’s out there and what pos­si­bil­i­ties exist to step out bold­ly in this Light.

Sun­day: Intro­duc­tions
The most impor­tant task for today is mod­el­ing the ground­ed wor­ship and spirit-led min­istry that will be our true cur­ricu­lum this week. In a wor­ship shar­ing for­mat we will con­sid­er the­se ques­tions:

  • What brought me to this work­shop?
  • What did they fail to teach me in First Day School that I still want to know?

Mon­day: What is this Quak­erism?
Today will be about enter­ing this ground­ed space togeth­er as Friends, begin­ning to ask some ques­tions that reveal and open. How do I artic­u­late what Quak­erism is all about? What ideas, lan­guage, and words (e.g. “God”, “Jesus” “Light”) do use to describe this tra­di­tion? Today we start that dia­logue. At the end of ses­sion we will ask par­tic­i­pants to seek out an old­er Friend and ask them for their answers on the­se queries and bring back that expe­ri­ence to our next gath­er­ing.

  • Wor­ship. Read­ing of select­ed texts from jour­nal and Bible
  • Present ques­tion: When some­one asks me “what is Quak­erism?” how do I respond.
  • Mar­t­in and Zachary will share some thoughts on this ques­tion from oth­er Friends
  • Jour­nal­ing on Query
  • Dis­cus­sion of ideas and lan­guage.

Tues­day: The Mys­ti­cal Tra­di­tion and Gospel Order
We enter into the lan­guage and fab­ric of our Tra­di­tion at its mys­ti­cal roots. Ask­ing the ques­tions: What does God feel like? Intro­duce ear­ly Quaker’s talk about God. What does it feel like to be with God? What is Gospel Order?

  • Wor­ship. Read­ing of select­ed texts from jour­nals and Bible
  • Follow-up on pre­vi­ous day’s discussion/homework what new came into the Light overnight?
  • Jour­nal­ing on Query: When have I felt the pres­ence of God? Describe it in five sens­es?
  • Ini­tial dis­cus­sion and shar­ing of thoughts and ideas.
  • Intro­duce some ideas from ear­ly Friends and oth­ers on this Query. How have oth­ers (Jesus, Isa­iah, Mer­ton, Fox, Day) spo­ken of this expe­ri­ence?
  • Intro­duce themes of Spir­i­tu­al Prac­tice: If Quak­erism is about ask­ing the right ques­tions, how do we get into the place to hear those ques­tions and respond faith­ful­ly? We have already been incor­po­rat­ing devo­tion­al read­ing into our time togeth­er each morn­ing but we will intro­duce into the Light of Dis­ci­pline as such here. Nam­ing of oth­er prac­tices, pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edged and oth­er­wise, with­in the group.
  • Intro­duce ‘Spir­i­tu­al Dis­cern­ment’ themes for the fol­low­ing day’s ses­sion.

Wednes­day: The Roots of Friends’ Dis­cern­ment Tra­di­tion and the Tes­ti­monies
We delve into the archives, the dusty stuff, the stuff First Day School didn’t get to: the preach­ing from the trees, the pris­on time, the age George Fox was when he was first incar­cer­at­ed for his beliefs, what the tes­ti­monies are real­ly about and where they came from. Today is about tak­ing the skele­tons out of the clos­et and clean­ing house.

  • Wor­ship. Read­ing of select­ed texts from jour­nals and Bible
  • ‘Let’s talk his­to­ry’: Ear­ly Friends, the Mak­ing of The Soci­ety, and the Dis­cern­ment Tra­di­tion. [Mar­t­in and Zachary may cov­er this, or we may arrange to have anoth­er Friend come and share some thoughts and infuse a new voice into our dia­logue]
  • There are lots of tes­ti­monies: what are ours? Name some. How to they facil­i­tate our rela­tion­ship with God?
  • What’s up with “Obe­di­ence”, “Plain­ness”, and “Dis­ci­pline”? How do we prac­tice them?

Thurs­day: Friends in a Covenant­ed Rela­tion­ship
We grow into our roles as lead­ers in this com­mu­ni­ty by con­sid­er­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties and the hur­dles in deep­en­ing our covenant rela­tion­ship. We begin with con­sid­er­ing spir­i­tu­al gifts, and then con­sid­er ques­tions around min­istry, its orig­in and its dis­cern­ment. We will take up the task of con­sid­er­ing what our work, what piece of this respon­si­bil­i­ty is ours to car­ry.

  • Wor­ship. Read­ing of select­ed texts from jour­nals and Bible
  • Jour­nal­ing on the Queries: What is alive inside of me? How are my spir­i­tu­al gifts named and nur­tured?
  • What are the tasks of min­istry?
  • What are the tasks of elder­ing?
  • What are the struc­tures and prac­tices in our month­ly, quar­ter­ly and year­ly meet­ings that we can use to test out and sup­port lead­ings? How do the­se struc­tures work and not work. Clear­ness com­mit­tees? Trav­el­ing Friends? Spir­i­tu­al nurture/affinity groups?
  • What is hold­ing us back from liv­ing this deep­ened rela­tion­ship? What is our respon­si­bil­i­ty to this covenant and this covenant com­mu­ni­ty?

Fri­day: The Future of Quak­erism
We begin the work that will occu­py the rest of our lives. The par­tic­i­pants of this work­shop will be around for the next fifty or more years, so let’s start talk­ing about sys­tem­at­ic, long-term change. We have some­thing to con­tribute to this con­sid­er­a­tion right now.

  • Wor­ship. Read­ing of select­ed texts from jour­nals and Bible
  • Where do we go from here? Mar­t­in will present on emer­gent church. Zachary will present some thoughts on ‘Beloved Com­mu­ni­ty’.
    Many have talked about deep com­mu­nion with God and about covenant com­mu­ni­ty. Many have spo­ken our hearts and given voice to the pas­sion we expe­ri­ence; now it’s on us what are we going to do about it? Where is it hap­pen­ing?
  • Dis­cus­sion (may­be as a fish­bowl) Where do we envi­sion Quak­erism 50 years from now? 100 years from now?

External Website: Quaker Ranter, Martin’s site.

Avoiding Plain Dress Designer Clothing

A guest piece by “David,” orig­i­nal­ly post­ed on the Plain and Mod­est Dress Yahoo Group.

From: “mquadd” <mquadd@y…>
Date: Wed Jul 21, 2004
Sub­ject: Intro­duc­tion and ques­tions

Hi. My name is David and I attend but am not a mem­ber of the Friends Meet­ing here. I was actu­al­ly raised as an Epis­co­palian although I had sev­er­al uncles who were birth-right Quak­ers. I grew up (for my first 10 years) in Chester Coun­ty, PA which tra­di­tion­al­ly was an area with a high con­cen­tra­tion of Quak­ers. I would expect that this is no longer true as the area has become quite sub­ur­ban with a big influx of new res­i­dents. Nonethe­less, I grew up attend­ing meet­ing now and then with rel­a­tives at var­i­ous meet­ings in Chester Coun­ty and north­ern Dele­ware. That was in the 1960s and was a time when some peo­ple, most­ly old­er peo­ple (peo­ple most like­ly born in the 1800s mean­ing the­se peo­ple were in their 70s or 80s in the 1960s), still used plain talk. Even in the 1960s, in a fair­ly rural area, this was more of an except­ing than the rule and was lim­it­ed to the old­est mem­bers of the meet­ing and nev­er used out­side the Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty. Those who used plain talk nev­er used it out­side of the Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty – home, Friends, and meet­ing. As far as I know, they nev­er used this type of talk for busi­ness or rela­tions or out­side the com­mu­ni­ty.

At age 10 we moved to Lan­cast­er Coun­ty. At that time, many Mem­monites who now no longer dress plain or wear cov­er­ings did still did both of the­se. I went to school with many Men­non­ite kids. In addi­tion I became friends with sev­er­al Old Order Amish fam­i­lies (and one Beachy fam­i­ly) with whom I am still friends. That was 35 years ago, I have wit­nessed the plain tes­ti­mony weak­en in each of the­se groups includ­ing the Old Order Amish. I actu­al­ly spent much of my child­hood and teenage years hang­ing out with one patic­u­lar Old Order Amish fam­i­ly as way to escape the insan­i­ty of hav­ing drug addict­ed and alco­holic par­ents. In their very sim­ple and unstat­ed Chris­tian­i­ty, they were very will­ing to provide food, shel­ter, and love to a very con­fused boy (me).

Any­way, the Lan­cast­er Con­fer­ence Men­non­ites (now part of the largest Men­non­ite group) seem to be total­ly main­stream. Per­haps there are some who still fol­low the for­mer order. The Beachy Amish now dress like con­ser­v­a­tive Men­non­ites and less and less like Amish. Final­ly, I was watched the Amish allow lots of mod­ern changes in their dis­ci­pline although their basic cloth­ing is pret­ty much unchanged but sun glass­es are now allowed and many Amish girls and wom­en pluck their eye­brows – both not allowed in the 1970s. By the way, in the late 1960s they had already adopt­ed cotton-poly blends for both cloth­ing and quilts!

The rea­son for that, per­haps odd, bio­graph­i­cal sketch is to give some back­ground on my expo­sure to plain groups and, more impor­tant­ly, plain thought. I have toyed with the idea of plain dress­ing although I can’t give a clear rea­son why I feel this. Is it a call­ing or am I just crazy? I do know that the sta­bil­i­ty I found in that Amish house in the 1970s most like­ly had a giant influ­ence on me (a hap­py Amish fam­i­ly where I had fun vs. liv­ing in a fam­i­ly that was in the self-distruct mode due to addic­tion). I also I have clear mem­o­ries of hav­ing Quak­er teach­ers in ele­ment­ly school and van­i­ty and world­li­ness was a bad thing. It was dur­ing the height of the Viet Nam war, so there was this odd hippy-Quaker thing going on with some of my teach­ers. I am sure some of you who were around the RSF in the 1960s can relate. So here I am still toy­ing with the­se ideas and still attempt­ing to define my own reli­gious feel­ings at the mid­dle of my life (I am 45).

Here are a few things I do know that apply to me. First, I feel very at odds with our soci­ety that focus­es on the most superf­i­cal things. Our soci­ety spends BILLIONS on make-up, hair dye, plas­tic surgery, breast inplants, push-up bras, design­er clothes (that are no dif­fer­ent that basic clothes except the label and might even be of low­er qual­i­ty).… Peo­ple are judged on the the­se issues. Char­ac­ter and moral­i­ty (a load­ed term that seems to have been high­jacked by the rightwing and ultraconservatives)seems to be sec­ondary to the­se very super­fi­cial things. What we tell our­selves and our chil­dren is that we are not ade­quate as we are. We have to change our body and then drape it was over­ly priced clothes to count. The out­side is more impor­tant that the inside. This is sick. It is dis­truc­tive. It is a sin.

Beyond that, my feel­ings about plain dress­ing get less clear. Is a uni­form what I am seek­ing? Those groups who were very uni­form cloth­ing tend to be insu­lar and often attact as much atten­tion to them­selves as a bel­ly shirt and design­er jeans! If you doubt this, go to Lan­cast­er Coun­ty and attempt to dri­ve on Rt. 340. The attrac­tion that the plain peo­ple attract in that area rivals any movie star or rock con­cert. Lan­cast­er gets lit­er­al­ly mil­lions of tourists each year. So is that type of uni­form dress­ing that is quite dis­tinct serv­ing a good pur­pose? I am not sure but am just offer­ing a ques­tion rather than a judge­ment. Oth­er groups that dress quite plain such as ultra-orthodox Jews are not so much a tourist attrac­tion but clear­ly are insu­lar and seper­ate from the larg­er soci­ety. Many peo­ple view this as being “stand off-ish” which I hope is nobody’s goal. I have heard peo­ple apply this type of judge­ment to plain chris­tian groups also.

So, I would be very inter­est­ed in hear­ing what dri­ves oth­ers to dress plain? If you are a Quak­er, what has been the reac­tion at your meet­ing? I once met a plain dress­ing Quak­er who said that he had received more neg­a­tive than pos­i­tive reac­tions when vis­it­ing oth­er meet­ings. Are there any meet­ings where all or most mem­bers dress plain? In my child­hood expe­ri­ences, there was no plain dress­ing in any Quak­er meet­ings in Chester Coun­ty or in Dele­ware. I have not even run into any­one who uses plain lan­guage for over 30 years except that one plain dress­ing man. Clear­ly, I know no Quak­ers who have been raised with the idea of plain dress­ing or plain lan­guage includ­ing some of my cousins who are world­ly to say the least. What makes plain. I know of “black bumper Men­non­ites” who dri­ve a black bumper Mer­cedes. Is that plain? Why is a Volvo often con­sid­ered ok but a BMW is bad? They both cost $40K. Often I see this type of think­ing in those who claim to fol­low a less than world­ly life style. I think there is always a risk of falling into the mind­set of some labels being good and oth­ers being bad. Once a par­tic­u­lar brand, say a type of hat or type of jeans, is thought to be the prop­er “plain uni­form” does that not become the designed cloth­ing of the plain dressers? I am not sure. What I find is that once you jump into this top­ic, it becomes com­pli­cat­ed and that is not the point.

One final ques­tion, what ben­e­fits do you recieve from plain dress­ing?
Thanks. David

Emergent Church Movement: The Younger Evangelicals and Quaker Renewal

A look at the generational shifts facing Friends.

I’m cur­rent­ly read­ing Robert E. Webber’s The Younger Evan­gel­i­cals: Fac­ing the Chal­lenges of the New World, which exam­i­nes the cul­tur­al and gen­er­a­tional shifts hap­pen­ing with­in the Chris­tian Evan­gel­i­cal move­ment. At the bot­tom of this page is a handy chart that out­li­nes the gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences in the­ol­o­gy, eccle­si­as­ti­cal par­a­digm, church poli­ty that he sees. When I first saw it I said “yes!” to almost each cat­e­go­ry, as it clear­ly hits at the gen­er­a­tional forces hit­ting Quak­erism.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly many Friends in lead­er­ship posi­tions don’t real­ly under­stand the prob­lems fac­ing Quak­erism. Or: they do, but they don’t under­stand the larg­er shifts behind them and think that they just need to redou­ble their efforts using the old meth­ods and mod­els. The Baby Boom gen­er­a­tion in charge knows the chal­lenge is to reach out to seek­ers in their twen­ties or thir­ties, but they do this by devel­op­ing pro­grams that would have appealed to them when they were that age. The cur­rent crop of out­reach projects and peace ini­tia­tives are all very 1980 in style. There’s no recog­ni­tion that the sec­u­lar peace com­mu­ni­ty that drew seek­ers in twen­ty years ago no longer exists and that today’s seek­ers are look­ing for some­thing deep­er, some­thing more per­son­al and more real.

When younger Friends are includ­ed in the sur­veys and com­mit­tees, they tend to be either the unin­volved chil­dren of impor­tant Baby Boom gen­er­a­tion Quak­ers, or those thirty-something Friends that cul­tur­al­ly and philo­soph­i­cal­ly fit into the old­er par­a­digms. It’s fine that the­se two types of Friends are around, but nei­ther group chal­lenges Baby Boomer group-think. Out­spo­ken younger Friends often end up leav­ing the Soci­ety in frus­tra­tion after a few years.

It’s a shame. In my ten years attend­ing a down­town Philadel­phia Friends meet­ing, I eas­i­ly met a hun­dred young seek­ers. They most­ly cycled through, attend­ing for peri­ods rang­ing from a few months to a few years. I would often ask them why they stopped com­ing. Some­times they were just nice and said life was too busy, but of course that’s not a real answer: you make time for the things that are impor­tant and that feed you in some way. But oth­ers told me they found the meet­ing unwel­com­ing, or Friends too self-congratulatory or super­fi­cial, the com­mu­ni­ty more social than spir­i­tu­al. I went back to this meet­ing one First Day after a two year absence and it was depress­ing how it was all the same faces. This is not a knock on this par­tic­u­lar meet­ing, since the same dynam­ics are at work in most of the liberal-leaning meet­ings I’ve attend­ed, both in the FGC and FUM worlds – it’s a gen­er­a­tional cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non. I have nev­er found the young Quak­er seek­er com­mu­ni­ty I know is out there, though I’ve glimpsed its indi­vid­u­al faces a hun­dred times: always just out of reach, nev­er gelling into a move­ment.

I’m not sure what the answers are. Luck­i­ly it’s not my job to have answers: I leave that up to Christ and only con­cern myself with being as faith­ful a ser­vant to the Spir­it as I can be (this spirit-led lead­er­ship style is exact­ly one of the gen­er­a­tional shifts Web­ber talks about). I’ve been given a clear mes­sage that my job is to stay with the Soci­ety of Friends, that I might be of use some­day. But there are a few pieces that I think will come out:

A re-examination of our roots, as Christians and as Friends

What babies were thrown out with the bath­wa­ter by turn-of-the-century Friends who embraced mod­ernism and ratio­nal­ism and turned their back on tra­di­tion­al tes­ti­monies? This will require chal­leng­ing some of the sacred myths of con­tem­po­rary Quak­erism. There are a lot that aren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly Quak­er and we need to start admit­ting to that. I’ve per­son­al­ly tak­en up plain dress and find the old state­ments on the peace tes­ti­mony much deep­er and more mean­ing­ful than con­tem­po­rary ones. I’m a pro­fes­sion­al web­mas­ter and run a promi­nent paci­fist site, so it’s not like I’m stuck in the nine­teen­th cen­tu­ry; instead, I just think the­se old tes­ti­monies actu­al­ly speak to our con­di­tion in the twenty-first Cen­tu­ry.

A Desire to Grow

Too many Friends are hap­py with their nice cozy meet­ings. The meet­ings serve as fam­i­ly and as a sup­port group, and a real growth would dis­rupt our estab­lished pat­terns. If Quak­erism grew ten­fold over the next twen­ty years we’d have to build meet­ing­hous­es, have extra wor­ship, reor­ga­nize our com­mit­tees. Involved Friends wouldn’t know all the oth­er involved Friends in their year­ly meet­ing. With more mem­bers we’d have to become more rig­or­ous and dis­ci­plined in our com­mit­tee meet­ings. Quak­erism would feel dif­fer­ent if it were ten times larg­er: how many of us would just feel uncom­fort­able with that. Many of our Meet­ings are ripe for growth, being in boom­ing sub­urbs or thriv­ing urban cen­ters, but year after year they stay small. Many sim­ply neglect and screw up out­reach or reli­gious edu­ca­tion efforts as a way of keep­ing the meet­ing at its cur­rent size and with its cur­rent char­ac­ter.

A more personally-involved, time-consuming commitment

Reli­gion in Amer­i­ca has become yet anoth­er con­sumer choice, an enter­tain­ment option for Sun­day morn­ing, and this par­a­digm is true with Friends. We com­plain how much time our Quak­er work takes up. We com­plain about clear­ness com­mit­tees or vision­ing groups that might take up a Sat­ur­day after­noon. A more involved Quak­erism would real­ize that the hour on First Day morn­ing is in many ways the least impor­tant time to our Soci­ety. Younger seek­ers are look­ing for con­nec­tions that are deep­er and that will require time. We can’t build a Soci­ety on the cheap. It’s not mon­ey we need to invest, but our hearts and time. 

I recent­ly vis­it­ed a Meet­ing that was set­ting up its first adult reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­gram. When it came time to fig­ure out the for­mat, a weighty Friend declared that it couldn’t take place on the first Sun­day of the mon­th because that was when the finance com­mit­tee met; the sec­ond Sun­day was out because of the mem­ber­ship care com­mit­tee; the third was out because of busi­ness meet­ing and so forth. It turned out that reli­gious edu­ca­tion could be squeezed into one 45-minute slot on the fourth Sun­day of every mon­th. Here was a small strug­gling meet­ing in the mid­dle of an sym­pa­thet­ic urban neigh­bor­hood and they couldn’t spare even an hour a mon­th on reli­gious edu­ca­tion or sub­stan­tive out­reach to new mem­bers. Mod­ern Friends should not exist to meet in com­mit­tees.

A renewal of discipline and oversight 

The­se are taboo words for many mod­ern Friends. But we’ve tak­en open-hearted tol­er­ance so far that we’ve for­got­ten who we are. What does it mean to be a Quak­er? Seek­ers are look­ing for answers. Friends have been able to provide them with answers in the past: both ways to con­duct one­self in the world and ways to reach the divine. Many of us actu­al­ly yearn for more care, atten­tion and over­sight in our reli­gious lives and more con­nec­tion with oth­ers.

A confrontation of our ethnic and cultural bigotries

Too much of Quak­er cul­ture is still root­ed in elit­ist wealthy Philadel­phia Main Line “Wasp” cul­ture. For gen­er­a­tions of Friends, the Soci­ety became an eth­nic group you were born into. Too many Friends still care if your name is “Roberts,” “Jones,” “Lip­pen­cott,” “Thomas,” “Brin­ton.” A num­ber of nineteenth-century Quak­er lead­ers tried to make this a reli­gion of fam­i­ly fief­doms. There was a love of the world and an urge for to be respect­ed by the out­side world (the Epis­co­palians wouldn’t let you into the coun­try clubs if you wore plain dress or got too excit­ed about reli­gion).

Today we too often con­fuse the cul­ture of those fam­i­lies with Quak­erism. The most obvi­ous exam­ple to me is the oft-repeated phrase: “Friends don’t believe in pros­e­ly­tiz­ing.” Wrong: we start­ed off as great speak­ers of the Truth, gain­ing num­bers in great quan­ti­ties. It was the old Quak­er fam­i­lies who start­ed fret­ting about new blood in the Soci­ety, for they saw birthright mem­ber­ship as more impor­tant than bap­tism by the Holy Spir­it. We’ve got a lot of bag­gage left over from this era, things we need to re-examine, includ­ing: our will­ing­ness to sac­ri­fice Truth-telling in the name of polite­ness; an over-developed intel­lec­tu­al­ism that has become snob­bery again­st those with­out advanced school­ing; our taboo about being too loud or too “eth­nic” in Meet­ing.

Note that I haven’t specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned racial diver­si­ty. This is a piece of the work we need to do and I’m hap­py that many Friends are work­ing on it. But I think we’ll all agree that it will take more than a few African Amer­i­cans with grad­u­ate degrees to bring true diver­si­ty. The Lib­er­al branch of Friends spends a lot of time con­grat­u­lat­ing itself on being open, tol­er­ant and self-examining and yet as far as I can tell we’re the least ethnically-diverse branch of Amer­i­can Quak­ers (I’m pret­ty sure, any­one with cor­rob­o­ra­tion?). We need to re-examine and chal­lenge the unwrit­ten norms of Quak­er cul­ture that don’t arise from faith. When we have some­thing to offer besides upper-class lib­er­al­ism, we’ll find we can talk to a much wider selec­tion of seek­ers.

Can we do it?

Can we do the­se re-examinations with­out rip­ping our Soci­ety apart? I don’t know. I don’t think the age of Quak­er schisms is over, I just think we have a dif­fer­ent dis­ci­pline and church poli­ty that let us pre­tend the splits aren’t there. We just self-select our­selves into dif­fer­ent sub-groups. I’m not sure if this can con­tin­ue indef­i­nite­ly. Every week our Meet­ings for Wor­ship bring togeth­er peo­ple of rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent beliefs and non-beliefs. Instead of wor­ship, we have indi­vid­u­al med­i­ta­tion in a group set­ting, where every­one is free to believe what they want to believe. This isn’t Friends’ style and it’s not sat­is­fy­ing to many of us. I know this state­ment may seem like sac­ri­lege to many Friends who val­ue tol­er­ance above all. But I don’t think I’m the only one who would rather wor­ship God than Silence, who longs for a deep­er reli­gious fel­low­ship than that found in most con­tem­po­rary Meet­ings. Quak­erism will change and Mod­ernism isn’t the end of his­to­ry.

How open will we all be to this process? How hon­est will we get? Where will our Soci­ety end up? We’re not the only reli­gion in Amer­i­ca that is fac­ing the­se ques­tions.


1950 – 1975


1975 – 2000




as a ratio­nal world­view

as ther­a­py Answers needs

as a com­mu­ni­ty of faith.



as meaning-giver
Per­son­al Faith

the meta­nar­ra­tive
Embod­ied apolo­get­ic
Com­mu­nal faith


Civil Reli­gion

sen­si­tive church
Mar­ket Dri­ven

Coun­ter cul­tur­al



Mar­ket tar­get­ed

Back to cities




Priest­hood of all



Week­end fun retreats

Bible Study, Wor­ship, Social Action


Infor­ma­tion cen­tred

gen­er­a­tional groups and needs

for­ma­tion in com­mu­ni­ty


the rules

and suc­cess








as illus­tra­tion







of evan­gel­i­cal social action

social action (divorce groups, drug rehab

cities and neigh­bor­hoods

See also:

On Quak­er Ranter:

  • It Will Be There in Decline Our Entire Lives. There’s a gen­er­a­tion of young Chris­tians dis­il­lu­sioned by mod­ern church insti­tu­tion­al­ism who are writ­ing and blog­ging under the “post-modern” “emer­gent church” labels. Do Friends have any­thing to offer the­se wea­ried seek­ers except more of the same hashed out insti­tu­tion­al­ism?
  • Post-Liberals & Post-Evangelicals?, my obser­va­tions from the Novem­ber 2003 “Indie Allies” meet-up.
  • Sodi­um Free Friends, a post of mine urg­ing Friends to active­ly engage with our tra­di­tion and not just selec­tive­ly edit out a few words which makes Fox sound like a sev­en­teen cen­tu­ry Thich Nhat Hanh. “We poor humans are look­ing for ways to tran­scend the crap­pi­ness of our war- and consumer-obsessed world and Quak­erism has some­thing to say about that.”
  • Peace and Twenty-Somethings: are the Emer­gent Church seek­ers cre­at­ing the kinds of youth-led inten­tion­al com­mu­ni­ties that the peace move­ment inspired in the 1970s?


  • From Evan­gel­i­cal Friends Church South­west comes an emer­gent church” church plant­i­ng project called >Sim­ple Church­es (since laid down, link is to archive). I love their intro: “As your peruse the links from this site please rec­og­nize that the Truth reflect­ed in essays are often writ­ten with a ‘prophet­ic edge’, that is sharp, non com­pro­mis­ing and some­times rad­i­cal per­spec­tive. We believe Truth can be received with­out ‘curs­ing the dark­ness’ and encour­age you to reflect upon find­ing the ‘can­dle’ to light, per­son­al­ly, as you apply what you hear the Lord speak­ing to you.”
  • The emer­gent church move­ment hit the New York Times in Feb­ru­ary 2004. Here’s a link to the arti­cle and my thoughts about it.
  • “Ortho­dox Twenty-Somethings,” a great arti­cle from TheOoze (now lost to a site redesign of theirs), and my intro to the arti­cle Want to under­stand us?
  • The blog­ger Punkmon­key talks about what a mis­sion­al com­mu­ni­ty of faith would look like and it sounds a lot like what I dream of: “a mis­sion­al com­mu­ni­ty of faith is a liv­ing breath­ing trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ty of faith will­ing to get messy while reach out to, and bring­ing in, those out­side the cur­rent com­mu­ni­ty.”