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.

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

Brook­lyn Quaker post & dis­cus­sion (2005): brook​lyn​quaker​.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.

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!

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.

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).

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.

Con­tinue read­ing

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.

Aggregating our Webs

On Beppe­blog, Joe talks about start­ing a clear­ness com­mit­tee [link long gone]to assist him with his strug­gles with Friends. But he also touches on some­thing I’ve cer­tainly also expe­ri­enced: the impor­tant role this elec­tronic fel­low­ship has been playing:

Just the other day I real­ized that I felt more com­fort­able being a Friend since not attend­ing Meet­ing on an ongo­ing basis. My ongo­ing “e-relationships” via the blo­gos­phere has helped me stay “con­nected”. Observe how pleased I responded to Liz’s recent post (the one that I quoted in the post before this one). It’s as if I’m starv­ing for good fel­low­ship of some kind or another.

There’s even more talk about internet-mediated discernment/fellowship in the “com­ments to his followup.

Given all this, I’m not sure if I’ve ever high­lighted a “vision for an expanded Quaker Ranter site” that I put together for a “youth lead­er­ship” grant in Third Month:

I’ve been blessed to meet many of my [age] peers with a clear call to inspired min­istry. Most of these Friends have since left the Soci­ety, frus­trated both by monthly meet­ings and Quaker bod­ies that didn’t know what to do with a bold min­istry and by a lack of men­tor­ing elder­ship that could help sea­son these young min­is­ters and deepen their under­stand­ing of gospel order. I would like to put together an inde­pen­dent online pub­li­ca­tion… This would explic­itly reach out across the dif­fer­ent braches of Friends and even to var­i­ous seeker move­ments like the so-called “Emer­gent Church Movement.”

As I’ve writ­ten I was selected for one of their fel­low­ships (yea!!) but for an amount that was point­edly too low to actu­ally fund much (huh??). There’s some­thing in the air how­ever. “Quaker Dharma” is ask­ing sim­i­lar ques­tions and Russ Nelson’s “Plan­etQuaker” is a sometimes-awkward auto­mated answer (do its read­ers really want to see the ultra­sounds?). I’m not sure any of these combo sites could actu­ally work bet­ter than their con­stituent parts. I find myself unin­ter­ested in most group blogs, aggre­ga­tors, and for­mal web­sites. The invi­did­ual voice is so important.

And don’t we already have a group project going with all the cross-reading and cross-linking we’re doing. Is that what Joe was talk­ing about? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found some new inter­est­ing blog­ger and went to post a wel­come in their com­ments only to have found that Joe or LizOpp had beaten me to it. (Some of us are to the point of read­ing each other’s minds. I think I could prob­a­bly write a great Beppe or LizOpp post and vice-versa.) Is this impulse to for­mal­ize these rela­tion­ships just a throw­back to old ideas of publishing?

Maybe the web’s form of hyper­link­ing is actu­ally supe­rior to Old Media pub­lish­ing. I love how I can put for­ward a strong vision of Quak­erism with­out offend­ing anyone–any put-off read­ers can hit the “back” but­ton. And if a blog I read posts some­thing I don’t agree with, I can sim­ply choose not to com­ment. If life’s just too busy then I just miss a few weeks of posts. With my “Sub­jec­tive Guide to Quaker Blogs” and my “On the Web” posts I high­light the blog­gers I find par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing, even when I’m not in per­fect the­o­log­i­cal unity. I like that I can have dis­cus­sions back and forth with Friends who I don’t exactly agree with.

I have noth­ing to announce, no clear plan for­ward and no money to do any­thing any­way. But I thought it’d be inter­est­ing to hear what oth­ers have been think­ing along these lines.

On the Web: Where’s that Power of the Lord?

The new Quaker Life has an arti­cle by Charles W. Heav­ilin ask­ing “Where’s the Power of the Lord Now?”:http://www.fum.org/QL/issues/0506/heaviland.htm
bq. In our post­mod­ern, frag­mented world, where now is the power of the Lord among Quak­ers? There is a vast divide between the accounts of early Friends and that of con­tem­po­rary Friends. Most mod­ern Quaker report­ing is per­func­tory — accounts with the spir­i­tual qual­ity of recipes in a cook­book. Con­ver­sa­tions at Quaker gath­er­ings now revolve around declin­ing atten­dance or bleak assess­ments of the spir­i­tual shal­low­ness of soci­ety. Sel­dom, if ever, is there any men­tion of the power of the Lord.
Great stuff. He gets into the way our cul­ture has neg­a­tively influ­enced Friends. After you read it check out “C Wess Daniel’s”:http://gatheringinlight.blogspot.com/2005/06/i-appreciate-article-charles-has.html com­men­tary on the arti­cle:
bq. Sim­ply put, I think we need to learn the sto­ries of the Quaker church once again, and begin to tell them, live them, and move for­ward in this tra­di­tion that has been past down to us as one that has been formed by the Spirit of Christ through such won­der­ful lead­ers as Fox, Fell, Bar­clay, Wool­man, etc.