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

It’s
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”
page.

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.

Image4
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.

Traditional
Evangelicals

1950-1975

Pragmatic
Evangelicals

1975-2000

Younger
Evangelicals

2000-

Theological
Commitment

Christianity
as a rational worldview

Christianity
as therapy Answers needs

Christianity
as a community of faith.
Ancient/Reformation

Apologetics
Style

Evidential
Foundational

Christianity
as meaning-giver
Experiential
Personal Faith

Embrace
the metanarrative
Embodied apologetic
Communal faith

Ecclesial
Paradigm

Constantinian
Church
Civil Religion

Culturally
sensitive church
Market Driven

Missional
Church
Counter cultural

Church
Style

Neighbourhood
churches
Rural

Megachuruch
Suburban
Market targeted

Small
Church
Back to cities
Intercultural

Leadership
Style

Pastor
centred

Managerial
Model
CEO

Team
ministry
Priesthood of all

Youth
Ministry

Church-centred
programs

Outreach
Programs
Weekend fun retreats

Prayer,
Bible Study, Worship, Social Action

Education

Sunday
School
Information centred

Target
generational groups and needs

Intergenerational
formation in community

Spirituality

Keep
the rules

Prosperity
and success

Authentic
embodiment

Worship

Traditional

Contemporary

Convergence

Art

Restrained

Art
as illustration

Incarnational
embodiment

Evangelism

Mass
evangelism

Seeker
Service

Process
evangelism

Activists

Beginnings
of evangelical social action

Need-driving
social action (divorce groups, drug rehab

Rebuild
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?

Elsewhere:

  • 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.”