Wow and now FB has video chat

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Dusting off the Elders of Balby

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.

ONLINE EDITIONS OF THE EPISTLE AT BALBY:
Quak­er Her­itage Press: qhpress​.org/​t​e​x​t​s​/​b​a​l​b​y​.​h​tml
Street Cor­ner Soci­ety: strecor​soc​.org/​d​o​c​s​/​b​a​l​b​y​.​h​tml
Wik­isource: en​.wik​isource​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​T​h​e​_​E​p​i​s​t​l​e​_​f​r​o​m​_​t​h​e​_​E​l​d​e​r​s​_​a​t​_​B​a​l​b​y​,​_​1​656

DISCUSSIONS:
Brook­lyn Quak­er post & dis­cus­sion (2005): brook​lyn​quak​er​.blogspot​.com/​2​0​0​5​/​0​3​/​e​l​d​e​r​s​-​a​t​-​b​a​l​b​y​.​h​tml

Remembering George Willoughby

There’s a nice remem­brance of George Willough­by by the Brandy­wine Peace Community’s Bob Smith over on the War Resisters Inter­na­tion­al site. George died a few days ago at the age of 95 [updat­ed]. It’s hard not to remem­ber his favorite quip as he and his wife Lil­lian cel­e­brat­ed their 80th birth­days: “twen­ty years to go!” Nei­ther of them made it to 100 but they cer­tain­ly lived fuller lives than the aver­age cou­ple.

1
George in 2002, from War Resisters Inter­na­tion­al

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!

2
The Gold­en Rule, 1959, from the Swarth­more Peace Col­lec­tion.

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 Non​vi​o​lence​.org project that I had start­ed to keep the orga­niz­ing going.

3
George at Fort Gulick in Pana­ma (undat­ed), also from Swarth­more.

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.

2010 update: David Alpert post­ed a nice remem­brance of George.

August 2013 updates from the pages of Friends Jour­nal: The Gold­en Rule Shall Sail Again and Expand­ing Old Pine Farm.

Going lowercase christian with Thomas Clarkson

Vist­ing 1806’s “A por­trai­ture of Quak­erism: Tak­en from a view of the edu­ca­tion and dis­ci­pline, social man­ners, civ­il and polit­i­cal econ­o­my, reli­gious prin­ci­ples and char­ac­ter, of the Soci­ety of Friends”

Thomas Clark­son wasn’t a Friend. He didn’t write for a Quak­er audi­ence. He had no direct expe­ri­ence of (and lit­tle appar­ent inter­est in) any peri­od that we’ve retroac­tive­ly claimed as a “gold­en age of Quak­erism.” Yet all this is why he’s so inter­est­ing.

The basic facts of his life are summed up in his Wikipedia entry (http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​T​h​o​m​a​s​_​C​l​a​r​k​son), which begins: “Thomas Clark­son (28 March 1760 – 26 Sep­tem­ber 1846), abo­li­tion­ist, was born at Wis­bech, Cam­bridgeshire, Eng­land, and became a lead­ing cam­paign­er against the slave trade in the British Empire.” The only oth­er nec­es­sary piece of infor­ma­tion to our sto­ry is that he was a Angli­can.

British Friends at the end of of the Eigh­teenth Cen­tu­ry were still some­what aloof, mys­te­ri­ous and con­sid­ered odd by their fel­low coun­try­men and women. Clark­son admits that one rea­son for his writ­ing “A Por­trai­ture of Quak­erism” was the enter­tain­ment val­ue it would pro­vide his fel­low Angli­cans. Friends were start­ing to work with non-Quakers like Clark­son on issues of con­science and while this ecu­meni­cal activism was his entre – “I came to a knowl­edge of their liv­ing man­ners, which no oth­er per­son, who was not a Quak­er, could have eas­i­ly obtained” (Vol 1, p. i)– it was also a symp­tom of a great sea change about to hit Friends. The Nine­teenth Cen­tu­ry ush­ered in a new type of Quak­er, or more pre­cise­ly whole new types of Quak­ers. By the time Clark­son died Amer­i­can Friends were going through their sec­ond round of schism and Joseph John Gur­ney was arguably the best-known Quak­er across two con­ti­nents: Oxford edu­cat­ed, at ease in gen­teel Eng­lish soci­ety, active in cross-denominational work, and flu­ent and well stud­ied in Bib­li­cal stud­ies. Clark­son wrote about a Soci­ety of Friends that was dis­ap­pear­ing even as the ink was dry­ing at the print­ers.

Most of the old accounts of Friends we still read were writ­ten by Friends them­selves. I like old Quak­er jour­nals as much as the next geek, but it’s always use­ful to get an outsider’s per­spec­tive (here’s a more modern-day exam­ple). Also: I don’t think Clark­son was real­ly just writ­ing an account sim­ply for entertainment’s sake. I think he saw in Friends a mod­el of chris­t­ian behav­ior that he thought his fel­low Angli­cans would be well advised to study. 

His account is refresh­ing­ly free of what we might call Quak­er bag­gage. He doesn’t use Fox or Bar­clay quotes as a blud­geon against dis­agree­ment and he doesn’t drone on about his­to­ry and per­son­al­i­ties and schisms. Read­ing between the lines I think he rec­og­nizes the grow­ing rifts among Friends but gloss­es over them (fair enough: these are not his bat­tles). Refresh­ing­ly, he doesn’t hold up Quak­er lan­guage as some sort of quaint and untrans­lat­able tongue, and when he describes our process­es he often uses very sur­pris­ing words that point to some fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences between Quak­er prac­tice then and now that are obscured by com­mon words.

Thomas Clark­son is inter­est­ed in what it’s like to be a good chris­t­ian. In the book it’s type­set with low­er­case “c” and while I don’t have any rea­son to think it’s inten­tion­al, I find that type­set­ting illu­mi­nat­ing nonethe­less. This mean­ing of “chris­t­ian” is not about sub­scrib­ing to par­tic­u­lar creeds and is not the same con­cept as uppercase-C “Chris­t­ian.” My Luther­an grand­moth­er actu­al­ly used to use the lowercase-c mean­ing when she described some behav­ior as “not the chris­t­ian way to act.” She used it to describe an eth­i­cal and moral stan­dard. Friends share that under­stand­ing when we talk about Gospel Order: that there is a right way to live and act that we will find if we fol­low the Spirit’s lead. It may be a lit­tle quaint to use chris­t­ian to describe this kind of gener­ic good­ness but I think it shifts some of the debates going on right now to think of it this way for awhile.

Clarkson’s “Por­trai­ture” looks at pecu­liar Quak­er prac­tices and reverse-engineers them to show how they help Quak­er stay in that chris­t­ian zone. His book is most often ref­er­enced today because of its descrip­tions of Quak­er plain dress but he’s less inter­est­ed in the style than he is with the practice’s effect on the soci­ety of Friends. He gets pos­i­tive­ly soci­o­log­i­cal at times. And because he’s speak­ing about a denom­i­na­tion that’s 150 years old, he was able to describe how the tes­ti­monies had shift­ed over time to address chang­ing world­ly con­di­tions.

And that’s the key. So many of us are try­ing to under­stand what it would be like to be “authen­ti­cal­ly” Quak­er in a world that’s very dif­fer­ent from the one the first band of Friends knew. In the com­ment to the last post, Alice M talked about recov­ered the Quak­er charism (http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​C​h​a​r​ism). I didn’t join Friends because of the­ol­o­gy or his­to­ry. I was a young peace activist who knew in my heart that there was some­thing more moti­vat­ing me than just the typ­i­cal paci­fist anti-war rhetoric. In Friends I saw a deep­er under­stand­ing and a way of con­nect­ing that with a nascent spir­i­tu­al awak­en­ing.

What does it mean to live a chris­t­ian life (again, low­er­case) in the 21st Cen­tu­ry? What does it mean to live the Quak­er charism in the mod­ern world? How do we relate to oth­er reli­gious tra­di­tions both with­out and now with­in our reli­gious soci­ety and what’s might our role be in the Emer­gent Church move­ment? I think Clark­son gives clues. And that’s what this series will talk about.

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What is this QuakerQuaker thing?

There’s been some head-scratching going on about Quak­erQuak­er over the last few weeks. In the ser­vice of trans­paren­cy I’ve post­ed my con­trib­u­tor guide­lines on the “About Quak­erQuak­er page”. Here they are:

Post should be explic­it­ly Quak­er: Any thought­ful posts from any branch of Friends that wres­tles in some way with what it means to be a Quak­er is fair game. While we all have our own issues that con­nect deeply with our under­stand­ing of our faith, the Blog­watch only seems to work if it keeps focused on Quak­erism, on how we our faith and lives inter­act. Back when this was just a links list on my per­son­al site I would get com­plaints when I added some­thing that seemed relat­ed to my under­stand­ing of Quak­erism but that wasn’t specif­i­cal­ly writ­ten from a Quak­er stand­point (when we want to make this kind of link we should do so on our per­son­al blogs where we can put it in bet­ter con­text).

Post should be time­ly: I’ve billed Quak­erQuak­er as “a guide to the Quak­er con­ver­sa­tion” and links should go to recently-written arti­cles with strong voic­es. We’re not try­ing to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive list of Quak­er web­sites, so no link­ing to orga­ni­za­tion­al home­pages. While most links should go to blog posts, it’s fine to include good arti­cles from Quak­er pub­li­ca­tions. A link to some­thing like a press release or new book announce­ment should only be made if it’s extra­or­di­nary. Remem­ber that Quak­erQuak­er posts will only appear on the main site for a few days (if the ini­tial set­up goes well I can start work on some ideas to giave a more time­less ele­ment to the site).

Post should be Inter­est­ing: Don’t book­mark every­thing you find. If the post feels pre­dictable or snoozy, just ignore it (even if the writer or top­ic is impor­tant). The Quak­er blog­gers all have their audi­ences and we don’t need to high­light every post of every blog­ger. Only make the link if the post speaks out to you in some way (it’s quite pos­si­ble that one of the oth­er con­trib­u­tors will pick up, find­ing some­thing you didn’t and high­light­ing it in their descrip­tion). That said, the posts you link to don’t have to be mas­ter­pieces; they can have gram­mat­i­cal and log­i­cal mis­takes. What’s impor­tant is that there’s some idea in there that’s inter­est­ing. It might be a good dis­ci­pline for each of us not to add our the posts from our own per­son­al blogs but to let one of the oth­er con­trib­u­tors do it for us.

That’s it. While there are some vague assump­tions in all this about the role of tra­di­tion and com­mu­ni­ty, dis­ci­pline and indi­vid­u­al­ism, there’s noth­ing about the­ol­o­gy or who gets linked. This is a pub­li­ca­tion, with some­thing of an edi­to­r­i­al voice in that I’ve cho­sen who gets to add links and asked them to be sub­jec­tive, but its very mel­low and I’ve been hap­py to see con­trib­u­tors range far afield. Google tells us that this is one of 18.7 mil­lion “Quak­er” web­sites and $10/month will get you your own so let’s not do too much navel-gazing about what’s linked or not linked. If you don’t find it inter­est­ing, there are plen­ty of non-subjective Quak­er blogs lists out there. I do lis­ten to feed­back and am always twid­dling with the site so feel free to send email to me at mar​tinkel​ley​.com/​c​o​n​t​act.

A time of sadness and prayer

Sad news com­ing over the inter­net: after 100 days of cap­tiv­i­ty, Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­er Tom Fox was found dead yes­ter­day in Iraq, the sta­tus of his three com­pan­ions unknown.

The Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­er Teams issued an ele­gant and heart­felt state­ment begin­ning “In grief we trem­ble before God who wraps us with com­pas­sion.” Fox knew the risk he was tak­ing going to Iraq unarmed. But he also knew that this wit­ness  would mean more to the Iraqi peo­ple than a hun­dred tanks. He knew the war we Friends wage is the Lamb’s War, a war won not through strength but through meek­ness, our only weapon our humilty before God and our love of neigh­bor. My prayers are with his fam­i­ly and friends, may Christ’s com­fort con­tin­ue to hold them through these aching times.
More his­to­ry and resources on my “Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­er Team Watch”:http://www.quakerquaker.org/christian_peacemaker_teams/

It’s witness time

Hi Quak­er­Ran­ter friends: I’ve been busy today cov­er­ing the Quak­er response to the Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­ers Teams hostages. Two sites with a lot of over­lap­ping con­tent:

  • Quak­er Blog Watch page focused on the hostages
  • “Non​vi​o​lence​.org state­ment and list of respons­es

Both of these fea­ture a mix of main­stream news and Quak­er views on the sit­u­a­tion. I’ll keep them updat­ed. I’m not the only busy Friend: Chuck Fager and John Stephens have a site called Free the Cap­tives — check it out.

It’s always inter­est­ing to see the moments that I explict­ly iden­ti­fy as a Friend on Non​vi​o​lence​.org. As I saythere, it seems quite appro­pri­ate. We need to explain to the world why a Quak­er and three oth­er Chris­tians would need­less­ly put them­selves in such dan­ger. This is wit­ness time, Friends. The real deal. We’re all being test­ed. This is one of those times for which those end­less com­mit­tee meet­ings and boil­er­plate peace state­ments have pre­pared us.

It’s time to tell the world that we live in the pow­er that “takes away the occa­sion for war and over­comes our fear of death” (well, or at least mutes it enough that four brave souls would trav­el to dan­ger­ous lands to wit­ness our faith).