A walk from Millville to the B.L. England plant in Beesley Point would take a long weekend. It’s 26 miles, which is three easy days if we want to stop to do cool things. It’d be easy to live blog it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Meerkat. South Jersey Gas has already mapped the route for us and the logistics of two overnight campouts and food should be relatively simple. Doing this would bring attention in a way that would cut through the political rhethoric to really show why this is a natural wonderland worth protecting.
Yesterday I was home with the kids on comp time and got to participate in their religion session (my wife keeps them to a schedule in the summers and religion makes for a quiet half hour midday).
My 9 year old was reading the passage of Jesus’s temptation in the desert found in Matthew 4. I find it such a relatable story. No, no one with pointy ears and a red tail has offered me a kingdom lately, but there are a number of normal human elements nonetheless.
To start with, Jesus is fasting and living without shelter for forty days. I know I become less of the person I want to be when I’m hungry, tired, and stressed. The tempter also proffers a test to see if God cares. That too is familiar: how often do we want something from close family and friends but hold back to see if it’s offered. “Oh, if they really cared I wouldn’t have to remind them.” We do this with God too, confusing changing states of fortune with divine favor rather than welcoming even hard times as a opportunity for growth and understanding.
One of my favorite parts of the Lord’s Prayer is the plea that we not even be led to temptation. There’s a certain humility to that. Jesus might be able to resist the sweet promises of the tempter even when cold and hungry, but I’d rather skip the tests.
It’s hard enough living in this world in a state of humility and coöperation. None of us are perfect, starting with me, and we all certainly have plenty of room to grow. But it’s nice to know that we don’t have to face the tempter alone. God knows just how hard it can be and has our back.
Of course, that is not the part of the story that motivates me. I am not seeking to be abused and betrayed, let down by my best friends and hunted by those in power. I may recognize the necessity of suffering, but by no means do I seek it out. I think most of us gravitate towards the triumphant victory and joy of Jesus\’ resurrection
It seems circles are curated only by their creator. What is some circles were publicly listed with an opt-in button for recipients (with an optional approval step by the circle creator).
Here’s the example: a lot of my photo stream is endless pictures of cute kids. Facebook friends who have friended me for other topics have to wade through that collection. Some actually like them – our friendships aren’t single issue and they appreciate glimpses of the rest of my life. But with G+ it’s my job to figure out which issue friends might want to be kid picture friends. I don’t want to put them on a list they don’t like and essentially spam them. Is there any G+ features I might use?
Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, post …
One of the blueprints for Quaker community is the “Epistle from the Elders at Balby” written in 1656 at the very infancy of the Friends movement by a gathering of leaders from Yorkshire and North Midlands, England.
It’s the precursor to Faith and Practice, as it outlines the relationship between individuals and the meeting. If remembered at all today, it’s for its postscript, a paraphrase of 2 Corinthians that warns readers not to treat this as a form to worship and to remain living in the light which is pure and holy. That postscript now starts off most liberal Quaker books of Faith and Practice.
But the Epistle itself is well worth dusting off. It addresses worship, ministry, marriage, and how to deal in meekness and love with those walking “disorderly.” It talks of how to support families and take care of members who were imprisoned or in need. Some of it’s language is a little stilted and there’s some talk of the role of servants that most modern Friend would object to. But overall, it’s a remarkably lucid, practical and relevant document. It’s also short: just over two pages.
One of the things I hear again and again from Friends is the desire for a deeper community of faith. Younger Friends are especially drawn toward the so-called “New Monastic” movement of tight communal living. The Balby Epistle is a glimpse into how an earlier generation of Friends addressed some of these same concerns.
I don’t know enough of the details of their lives to write the obituary (a Wikipedia page was started this morning) but I will say they always seemed to me like the Forrest Gump’s of peace activism – at the center of every cool peace witness since 1950. You squint to look at the photos at there’s George and Lil, always there. Or maybe pop music would give us the better analogy: you know how there are entire b-rate bands that carve an entire career around endlessly rehashing a particular Beatles song? Well, there are whole activist organizations that are built around particular campaigns that the Willoughby’s championed. Like: in 1958 George was a crew member of the Golden Rule (profiled a bit here), a boatload of crazy activists who sailed into a Pacific nuclear bomb test to disrupt it. Twelve years later some Vancouver activists stage a copycat boat sailing which became Greenpeace. Lillian was concerned about rising violence against women and started one of the first Take Back the Nightmarches. If you’ve ever sat in an activist meeting where everyone’s using consensus, then you’ve been influenced by the Willoughby’s!
For many years I lived deeply embedded in communities co-founded by the Willoughbys. There’s a recent interview with George Lakey about the founding of Movement for a New Society that he and they helped create. In the 1990s I liked to say how I lived “in its ruins,” working at the publishing house, living in a coop house and getting my food from the coop that all grew out of MNS. I got to know the Willoughbys through Central Philadelphia meeting but also as friends. It was a treat to visit their house in Deptford, NJ — it adjoined a wildlife sanctuary they helped protect against the strip-mall sprawl that is the rest of that town. I last saw George a few months ago, and while he had a bit of trouble remembering who I was, that irrepressible smile and spirit were very strong!
When news of George’s passing started buzzing around the net I got a nice email from Howard Clark, who’s been very involved with War Resisters International for many years. It was a real blast-from-the-past and reminded me how little I’m involved with all this these days. The Philadelphia office of New Society Publishers went under in 1995 and a few years ago I finally dropped the Nonviolence.org project that I had started to keep the organizing going.
I’ve written before that one of the closest modern-day successor to the Movement for a New Society is the so-called New Monastic movement – explicitly Christian but focused on love and charity and often very Quaker’ish. Our culture of secular Quakerism has kept Friends from getting involved and sharing our decades of experience. Now that Shane Claiborne is being invited to seemingly every liberal Quaker venue, maybe it’s a good opportunity to look back on our own legacy. Friends like George and Lillian helped invent this form.
I miss the strong sense of community I once felt. Is there a way we can combine MNS & the “New Monastic” movement into something explicitly religious and public that might help spread the good news of the Inward Christ and inspire a new wave of lefty peacenik activism more in line with Jesus’ teachings than the xenophobic crap that gets spewed by so many “Christian” activists? With that, another plug for the workshop Wess Daniels and I are doing in May at Pendle Hill: “New Monastics and Covergent Friends.” If money’s a problem there’s still time to ask your meeting to help get you there. If that doesn’t work or distance is a problem, I’m sure we’ll be talking about it more here in the comments and blogs.