Jason Kottke on blogging, 2018 edition

Two things on the inter­net that I con­sis­tent­ly like are Neiman­Lab and Kot​tke​.org. The for­mer is Harvard’s jour­nal­ism foun­da­tion and its asso­ci­at­ed blog. They con­sis­tent­ly pub­lish thought-provoking lessons from media pio­neers. If there’s an inter­est­ing online pub­lish­ing mod­el being tried, Neiman Labs will pro­file it. Kot­tke is one of the orig­i­nal old school blogs. Jason high­lights things that are inter­est­ing to him and by and large, most of the posts hap­pen to be inter­est­ing to me. He’s also one of the few break­out blog­ging stars who has kept going.

So today Neiman Labs post­ed an inter­view with Jason Kot­tke. Of course I like it.

There are a few things that Jason has done that I find remark­able. One is that he’s thread­ed an almost impos­si­ble path that has held back the cen­trifu­gal forces of the mod­ern inter­net. He nev­er went big and he nev­er went small. By big, I mean he nev­er tried to ramp his site up to become a media empire. No ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist mon­ey, no click­bait head­lines, no piv­ot to video or oth­er trendy media chimera. He also didn’t go small: his blog has nev­er been a con­fes­sion­al. While that traf­fic when to Face­book, his kind of curat­ed links and thoughts is some­thing that still works best as a blog.

Although I don’t blog myself too much any­more, I do think a lot about media mod­els for Friends Jour­nal. Its reliance on non-professional opin­ion writ­ing pre­fig­ured blogs. It’s a ful­ly dig­i­tal mag­a­zine now, even as it con­tin­ues as a print mag­a­zine. The mem­ber­ship mod­el Kot­tke talks about (and Neiman Labs fre­quent­ly pro­files) is a like­ly one for us going into the long term.

Last blog stand­ing, “last guy danc­ing”: How Jason Kot­tke is think­ing about kot​tke​.org at 20

Essential Mac Apps 2017

Oh dear: a few weeks ago Wess Daniels start­ed a Twit­ter dis­cus­sion about the new Mac app Card­hop. In the thread he asked me about oth­er apps which apps I find essen­tial. I thought I’d type up some­thing in ten min­utes but then the draft post kept grow­ing. I’m sure I still missed some. I guess I didn’t real­ize how par­tic­u­lar I am about my com­put­ing envi­ron­ment. 🙂

Bartender

Okay, maybe it’s a bit OCD but I hate clut­tered Mac menubars run­ning along the top of my screen. This app was just rebuilt for High Sier­ra and is an essen­tial tool. I have most every­thing hid­den and have set up a key­board short­cut (the little-used right “option” key) to tog­gle the full menubar icon set.

Fantastical

This is my favorite cal­en­dar app. It sits in the menubar, ready to give a beau­ti­ful agen­da view with just a sin­gle tap. It can open up to a full view. Man­age cal­en­dars is easy and the nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing is sub­urb.

Cardhop

Just released, this is Fantastical’s newest cousin, an app for man­ag­ing con­tacts from Flex­ibits. It works with what­ev­er you have set up for con­tacts on your Mac (I use Google but iCloud is fine too). Giv­en Flexibit’s track record, and Cardhop’s resem­blance to the dis­con­tin­ued Cobook, this is like­ly to be a win­ner for me.

Favioconographer

I’ve been a Chrome user since the week it debuted but late­ly I’ve been try­ing to switch to Safari, want­i­ng its supe­ri­or bat­tery man­age­ment and sync­ing of book­marks and tabs with iOS. Many of Safari’s annoy­ances have lessoned as Apple itin­er­at­ed with each release. There are enough exten­sions now that I can get by. I am, though, one of those weird peo­ple whom John Gru­ber iden­ti­fied: wannabee Safari users who real­ly like Fav­i­cons in tabs. For­tu­nate­ly, Fav­i­cono­g­ra­ph­er has come along. There are occa­sion­al odd­i­ties (float­ing icons, icons that don’t match site) but over­all it improves the Safari expe­ri­ence enough to make it a win over Chrome.

1Blocker for Mac

Uses the built-in con­tent fil­ter­ing sys­tem built into Mac Safari. Good sync­ing with the iOS app. “Con­tent fil­ter­ing” (aka block­ing) has become an impor­tant secu­ri­ty con­cern and let’s face it: the web runs so much bet­ter with­out all the crap that some sites throw in along with their con­tent. You can whitelist sites that respect read­ers. Hon­or­able men­tion in Chrome or as an alter­na­tive for Safari is uBlock Ori­gin, a great block­er (and dis­tinct from stan­dard uBlock, which I don’t rec­om­mend).

Karabiner-Elements

Lets you remap the gen­er­al­ly use­less Caps Lock key. I have it mapped Brett-Terpstra style so that a sin­gle click opens Spot­light search and a hold and click acts as a hyper key (imag­ine a shift key that you can use for any key­stroke).

BetterTouchTool

Remap keys and key com­bi­na­tions. With Kara­bin­er, I can use it to have Capslock-C open a par­tic­u­lar app, for instance.

Tunnelbear

I used to think VPNs were a lux­u­ry but with peo­ple hack­ing in on pub­lic Wi-Fi accounts and the loss of pri­va­cy, I’ve signed up for this easy-to-use VPN ser­vice. One account can pow­er mul­ti­ple devices so my lap­top and phone are secured.

Evernote

It’s been around for years. I cur­rent­ly have 13,000 notes stored in Ever­note, includ­ing every issue of the mag­a­zine I work for going back to the mid-1950s. There was a time a few years ago when I was wor­ried for Ever­note, as it kept chas­ing quirky side projects as its main app got bug­gi­er and bug­gi­er. But they’ve had a shake-up, ditched the dis­trac­tions and have built the ser­vice back up. Most of my projects are orga­nized with Ever­note.

Ulysses

There are a gazil­lion writ­ing apps out there that com­bine Mark­down writ­ing syn­tax with min­i­mal­ist inter­faces (Bear, IaWriter, Byword) but Ulysses has edged its way to being my favorite, with quick sync­ing and abil­i­ty to post direct­ly to Word­Press.

Todoist

There are also a gazil­lion task man­agers. Todoist does a good job of keep­ing projects that need due dates in order.

1Password

You should be using a pass­word man­ag­er. Repeat: you should be using a pass­word man­ag­er. 1Password is rock sol­id. They’ve recent­ly changed their eco­nom­ic mod­el and strong­ly favor sub­scrip­tion accounts. While I’ve tried to lim­it just how many auto-pulling sub­scrip­tions I have, I under­stand the ratio­nale and have switched.

Airmail

A great email app for Mac and iOS that can dis­play and sort your Gmail accounts (and oth­ers too). Almost too many options if you’re the kind to fid­dle with that sort of thing but easy to get start­ed and great with just the defaults.

 

Google and Apple and clouds

The Big-G should get a shoutout: it pow­ers the data­bas­es for my email, cal­en­dar, con­tacts, and pho­tos. All my hard­ware has migrat­ed over to Apple, helped in large part by the open­ing up of its ecosys­tem to third-party apps.

What’s also use­ful to note is that all of the data-storing ser­vices are cloud based. If my phone or lap­top dis­ap­peared, I could bor­row a new one and be up to speed almost imme­di­ate­ly. Since many of these apps run on data­bas­es run by Google, I can also switch apps or even have mul­ti­ple apps access­ing the same infor­ma­tion for dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es. There’s a real free­dom to the app ecosys­tem these days.

The inside story of The Jersey Shutdown, 2017

The Chris Christie beach memes are fun­ny of course but I talked to more than a few local res­i­dents who won­dered what the state shut­down was about. The Star Ledger has gone deep and inter­viewed the play­ers to find out just what hap­pened ear­li­er this week:

When it end­ed ear­ly on the fourth day, New Jer­sey had been treat­ed to a remark­able polit­i­cal spec­ta­cle, even by Tren­ton stan­dards, com­plete with duel­ing press con­fer­ences, nasty back­room shout­ing match­es, and even pro­pa­gan­da posters.  Some of it played out pub­licly — very pub­licly. What didn’t is told here, the inside sto­ry of what caused — and what final­ly set­tled — the New Jer­sey gov­ern­ment shut­down of 2017.

It’s espe­cial­ly depress­ing to read the kind of horse trad­ing that was going on behind the scenes: oth­er mea­sures float­ed to end the stand­off. It was a game to see which con­stituen­cy the politi­cians might all be able to agree to screw over. I pre­sume this is nor­mal Tren­ton pol­i­tics but it’s not good gov­ern­ing and the ram­i­fi­ca­tions are felt through­out the state.

Read: The inside story of The Jersey Shutdown, 2017

In praise of an editor past

Frances William Browin from the Sep­tem­ber 15, 1968 Friends Jour­nal.

When I became an edi­tor at Friends Jour­nal in 2011, I inher­it­ed an insti­tu­tion with some rather strong opin­ions. Some of them are sourced from the pre­dictable well­springs: William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White’s foun­da­tion­al mid-century style guide and the edi­to­r­i­al offices of the Chica­go Man­u­al of Style. But some is all our own, log­i­cal­ly test­ed for con­sis­ten­cy with Chica­go but adapt­ed to Quak­er idio­syn­crasies.

One of our most invari­able (and con­test­ed) for­mats comes from the way we list con­gre­ga­tions. Quick aside for non-Quakers: you will often see a Quak­er meet­ing list­ed as  Town Month­ly Meet­ing, Town Friends Meet­ing, Town Quak­er Meet­ing, etc. Peo­ple often have strong opin­ions about the cor­rect ways to write them out. Occa­sion­al­ly an author will insist to me that their meet­ing has an offi­cial name that use con­sis­tent­ly across their pub­li­ca­tions, busi­ness min­utes, Face­book pages etc., but after a few min­utes with Google I can usu­al­ly find enough counter-examples to prove incon­sis­ten­cy.

To cut through this, Friends Jour­nal uses “Town (State) Meet­ing” every­where and always, with spe­cif­ic excep­tions only for cas­es where that doesn’t work (meet­ing is named after a street or a tree, etc.). Town/state abbre­vi­a­tion in parentheses/capital-M-meet­ing. This for­mat­ting is unique to Friends Jour­nal—even oth­er Philadelphia-based Quak­er style sheets don’t fol­low it. We’ve been doing it this dis­tinc­tive­ly and this con­sis­tent­ly for as long as I’ve been read­ing the mag­a­zine.

For­tu­nate­ly we have dig­i­tal archives going back to the mid-1950s thanks to Haver­ford College’s Quak­er and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions. So a few months ago I dug into our archives and used key­word search­es to see how far back the for­mat goes. Trav­el­ing the years back it time it’s held remark­ably steady as “Town (State) Meet­ing” until we get back to the fall of 1962. The Octo­ber 15 issue doesn’t have con­sis­tent meet­ing list­ings. But it does announce that long­time Friends Jour­nal edi­tor William Hubben was to begin a six-month sab­bat­i­cal, with Frances Williams Browin to fill in as act­ing edi­tor.

It didn’t take her long. The next issue sees a few paren­the­ses uneven­ly applied. But by the Novem­ber 15th issue, nine­teen meet­ings are ref­er­enced using our famil­iar for­mat! There’s the “mem­ber of Berke­ley (Calif.) Meet­ing” who had just pub­lished a pam­phlet of Christ­mas songs for chil­dren, an FCNL event fea­tur­ing skits and a covered-dish sup­per at “Swarth­more (Pa.) Meet­ing” and the announce­ment of a promi­nent arti­cle by “Ken­neth E. Bould­ing, a mem­ber of Ann Arbor (Michi­gan) Meet­ing.”

I’ve tried to imag­ine the scene… Browin sit­u­at­ed in her new tem­po­rary office… going back and forth, forth and back on some list­ing… then final­ly sur­pris­ing her­self by shout­ing “enough!” so loud­ly she had to apol­o­gize to near­by col­leagues. At the end of the six months, Hubben came back, but only as a con­tribut­ing edi­tor, and Browin was named edi­tor. Friends Jour­nal board mem­ber Eliz­a­beth B Wells wrote a pro­file of her upon her retire­ment from that posi­tion in 1968:

Her remarks usu­al­ly made sparks, whether she was express­ing an opin­ion (always pos­i­tive), exert­ing pres­sure (not always gen­tle), or mak­ing a humor­ous aside (often dis­turb­ing). For in her ami­able way she can be tart, unex­pect­ed, even prej­u­diced (in the right direc­tion), then as sud­den­ly dis­arm­ing­ly warm and sen­si­tive.

This sounds like the kind of per­son who would stan­dard­ize a for­mat with such resolve it would be going strong 55 years lat­er:

She was so entire­ly com­mit­ted to putting out the best pos­si­ble mag­a­zine, such a per­fec­tion­ist, even such a dri­ver, that her clos­est col­leagues often felt that we knew the spir­it­ed edi­tor far bet­ter than the Quak­er lady.

It’s a neat pro­file. And today, every time an author rewrites their meeting’s name on a copy­edit­ed man­u­script I’ve sent them for review, I say a qui­et thanks to the dri­ven per­fec­tion­ist who gives me per­mis­sion to be prej­u­diced in the right direc­tion. Wells’s pro­file is a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into a smart woman of a dif­fer­ent era and well worth a read.

Remembering Christine Greenland

Over email, the news that Chris­tine Manville Green­land has passed. In recent times I worked with Chris­tine most­ly through the Tract Asso­ci­a­tion of Friends but I’ve known her for so long I don’t know when I first met her.

When­ev­er she said some­thing it was well worth lis­ten­ing to. On online forums from Soc.religion.quaker to Face­book she was always encour­ag­ing to what Samuel Bow­nas had called “infant min­is­ters.” She had the rare abil­i­ty to slice through thorny Quak­er issues with unex­pect­ed obser­va­tion and wis­dom. She had a long view of recent Quak­er his­to­ry that put things in con­text and she would pull metaphors from her train­ing as a botanist to explain mys­ti­fy­ing behav­iors in our core­li­gion­ists.

She also had a wealth of insti­tu­tion­al mem­o­ry. There’s incred­i­ble val­ue in this. Friends, like most humans, give a lot of val­ue to the ways we’re doing things right now. It only takes a few years before a process feels time­less and essen­tial. We for­get that things once worked dif­fer­ent­ly or that oth­er Friends have a dif­fer­ent meth­ods. By being involved with Friends in dif­fer­ent areas — Cana­da and Col­orado — Chris­tine brought geo­graph­ic aware­ness and by being involved in Philadel­phia so long she brought a mod­ern his­tor­i­cal aware­ness. That dys­func­tion­al meet­ing everyone’s talk­ing about? She’ll remem­ber that every­one was talk­ing about it thir­ty years ago for anoth­er con­tro­ver­sy and point out the sim­i­lar­i­ties. That doubt you’ll have about a path? Chris­tine will tell you how oth­ers have felt the lead­ing and assure you that it’s gen­uine.

She did all this with such gen­tle­ness and mod­esty that it’s only now that she’s gone that I’m real­iz­ing the debt I owe her. More than any­thing per­haps, she showed how to live a life as a Friend of integri­ty through the pol­i­tics and foibles of our Reli­gious Soci­ety.

I used Google to find pre­cious gems of wis­dom she left on com­ment threads. It’s a long trail. She was active on soc.religion.quaker back in the day, com­ment­ed on most Con­ver­gent Friends blogs and was active on Face­book. She took the time to write many enlight­en­ing and warm com­men­tary. Here is a ran­dom sam­ple.

Com­ment on my post “Vision and Lead­er­ship”

Yes­ter­day, I  clerked a small quar­ter­ly meet­ing work­ing group — I’m co-clerk, since it  isn’t my quar­ter… and the oth­er co-clerk is, which works well. We keep ask­ing the ques­tions and see­ing the poten­tials … but when it comes down to being faith­ful (a term I use instead of “account­able”) that needs con­sis­tent test­ing. It is impor­tant to cen­ter in wor­ship, no mat­ter what we are doing.

I had the expe­ri­ence of being chair of a group of biol­o­gists, and found that, even then, I con­duct­ed busi­ness in the same way… one of seek­ing guid­ance from oth­er mem­bers of the group — even though the group of which we were a small part used Robert’s rules of order. I felt our group was too small to make that approach work­able… Occa­sion­al­ly, I for­got I wasn’t among Friends until anoth­er mem­ber of the group (a Unit­ed Church grad­u­ate of Swarth­more Col­lege) remind­ed me… Church of the Brethren folks just grinned and allowed as how they pre­ferred the approach; we were, after all, both friends and biol­o­gists.  For most of us, the work had both a sci­en­tif­ic and a spir­i­tu­al basis.

To Mic­ah Bales’s “Is It Time to Get Rid of Year­ly Meet­ings?”

I checked in with Friends at our Quar­ter­ly Meet­ing pic­nic yes­ter­day; respons­es were mixed for a vari­ety of rea­sons, some hav­ing to do with resis­tance to chang­ing the ways in which we are Friends, and oth­er respons­es that I can only describe as “insti­tu­tion­al cheer-leading”.

Some of this has to do with expect­ed ten­sions as we grap­ple with mat­ters of both race and class; still oth­er mat­ters have to do with the fact that our struc­tures have changed at least twice in 30 years, as has the out­line of our faith and prac­tice. The ques­tion I have (of myself and oth­ers) is “How do we — indi­vid­u­al­ly and cor­po­rate­ly — show that we tru­ly love one anoth­er as Christ has loved us?” By that, I mean all oth­ers.

The most hope­ful exchange was speak­ing with a dear Friend in my for­mer meet­ing who had gone for the first time in decades, and feels strong­ly led to encour­age her meet­ing to assist in work going on at both the quar­ter and year­ly meet­ing lev­el; this will cross bound­aries. I was hope­ful in part because this Friend exudes con­sis­tent love. … and has in the 25 years I’ve known her. Love of God/neighbor are insep­a­ra­ble. She lives that bet­ter than I do.

It seems I have much to learn.

Com­ment on my “What Does it Mean to be a Quak­er?” (on an old site)

I cringe when I hear the word “Quak­erism” or “the Quak­er Way”… I find the two terms inter­change­able — both can lack sub­stance. It seems we have final­ly become the “bureau­crat­ic asso­ci­a­tion of dis­tant acquan­tances” rather than the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends. Some years ago, an expe­ri­enced Friend wrote that Integri­ty (say­ing what one means, mean­ing what one says) was at the heart of Quak­er Prac­tice — as a tes­ti­mo­ny.

If we’re just going for PR, that lacks integri­ty.

The ques­tion — for me — becomes “How can I live as a Friend?”

Com­ment on Eric Moon’s “Cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly Not the Tes­ti­monies”

When I first came to Friends, it was the way of life — not the intel­lec­tu­al con­struct — that drew me to meet­ing week after week (a uni­ver­si­ty meet­ing in what lat­er became Inter­moun­tain Year­ly Meet­ing). When I applied for mem­ber­ship, my com­mit­tee of clear­ness ques­tioned more whether I could live into a way of life, into the com­mu­ni­ty of that par­tic­u­lar meet­ing. Friends felt that wrestling with the under­stand­ing of the faith tra­di­tion was a part of my edu­ca­tion. Only after I moved to Philadel­phia did I begin hear­ing of the “pars­ing” of the faith tra­di­tion. It seemed too pat.

Still, the over­lap­ping cat­e­gories are still as use­ful by way of expla­na­tion, but it isn’t the whole sto­ry.

As with many mat­ters of faith, for those who pos­sess it, no expla­na­tion is nec­es­sary; for those who do not, no expla­na­tion is pos­si­ble. Howard Brin­ton did his best by way of expla­na­tion, but faith-wrestling is a task we all have.

Com­ment on Ash­ley Wilcox’s The Cost of Trav­el­ing Min­istry

My ques­tion about younger Friends serv­ing as trav­el­ing min­is­ters is some­what more seri­ous: Are their meet­ings atten­tive to both the spir­i­tu­al gifts and the needs (cost of trav­el, etc.)as well as the spir­i­tu­al need for sup­port. If not, is the Friend with a con­cern for trav­el, teach­ing, or any oth­er min­istry) hum­ble enough to ask the ques­tions Jon is ask­ing. In my expe­ri­ence (as an old­er adult Friend)there is lit­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion among age groups so that gifts of min­istry are ful­ly rec­og­nized… Young Friends are often left to their own devices. It may be that lack of spir­i­tu­al sup­port that is the “last door out.”

For instance, I would not trav­el with­out the full con­sent of my past com­mit­tee of care, all of whom know me well. They have gen­er­ous­ly sup­port­ed me this year (as well as my co-leader).

What con­cerns me is the ener­gy it takes (spir­i­tu­al and phys­i­cal), and that it most often takes an elder to attend to the mun­dane things — as well as to keep the min­is­ter on track.

She was also always one to think of the kids. Here she is com­ment­ing on Kath­leen Karhnak-Glasby’s “Bring­ing Chil­dren to Wor­ship: Trust­ing God to Take Over from There”

I recall one par­ent of a small meet­ing in Ontario at Cana­di­an Year­ly Meet­ing ses­sions try­ing to encour­age his daugh­ter to sit qui­et­ly dur­ing wor­ship… Her very rea­son­able response was “but Dad­dy, I can pray stand­ing on my head!” Her min­istry caused me to reflect on whether I could indeed pray/worship in all cir­cum­stances, and from what­ev­er posi­tion I was in at the time. I still reflect on that…

At anoth­er meet­ing, when Friends noticed the pow­er strug­gles between chil­dren and their par­ents, we asked elder Friends to serve as “adop­tive” grand­par­ents, with whom the chil­dren could sit… That defused the pow­er strug­gles, and mem­bers of meet­ing who had no chil­dren of their own were very help­ful to par­ents in that meet­ing.

I also recall learn­ing to sink deeply into wor­ship — and hear­ing a younger Friend’s grand­moth­er gig­gle. I looked down and there was the 1 – 2 year old peer­ing up in won­der at why/how I could sit so qui­et­ly when he was busy crawl­ing under the bench­es. it was just fine. He became a part of my prayers that day, and still is a part of them.

And this one has to be the last I’ll share, from a Quak­erQuak­er dis­cus­sion start­ed by Richard B Miller and titled “Elders’ Cor­ner”

Like you, I learned about the role of elders from Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends (in Cana­da and Ohio).  In the con­text of my own meet­ing (and quar­ter), how­ev­er, there are Friends who can and do serve as guides and sound­ing boards — offer­ing cor­rec­tions as may be required.  Ide­al­ly, elders should arise from the month­ly meet­ings, and then be rec­og­nized in larg­er bod­ies of Friends, not nec­es­sar­i­ly being named by a year­ly meet­ing nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee.

I was asked to serve as an elder for Year­ly Meeting/Interim Meet­ing… but because I was also on the nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee, had a “stop” about whether that was right­ly ordered. I con­sult­ed some North Car­oli­na Friends, who agreed with the “stop”.

One dif­fi­cul­ty that you raised is that many of the con­ser­v­a­tive Friends who held that tra­di­tion are no longer avail­able as guides… One effect is that the role elders once played is dimin­ish­ing among con­ser­v­a­tive Friends.

I’m feel­ing pret­ty bro­ken up right now. And I’m feel­ing the weight of this loss. I’ve found myself more and more to be the one giv­ing out advice and giv­ing his­tor­i­cal con­text that new­er Friends might not have. It’s the kind of perch that Chris­tine had. I’m only start­ing to appre­ci­ate that she formed a gen­tle men­tor­ing role for me — and I’m sure for many oth­ers.

A few years ago my wife and I lost our remain­ing par­ents (her dad, my mom) and we had the unescapable recog­ni­tion that we were now the old­est gen­er­a­tion. I know there are old­er Friends around still and some have bits of Christine’s wit and wis­dom. But one of our human guides have left us.

The Quaker Ecosystem

An upcom­ing theme of Friends Jour­nal is one I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in. It’s called “Reimag­in­ing the Quak­er Ecosys­tem” and address­es count­less con­ver­sa­tions I think many of us have had over the years. Here’s the descrip­tion:

Many of our tra­di­tion­al decision-making struc­tures are under tremen­dous stress these days. There are few nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tees that don’t bemoan the dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing vol­un­teer lead­er­ship. In the face of this, a wave of ques­tion­ing and cre­ativ­i­ty is emerg­ing as Friends rein­vent and regen­er­ate Quak­er struc­tures. Pre­vi­ous­ly unasked ques­tions about pow­er and decision-making mod­els are on the agen­da again.

I think this begs the ques­tion of the whole why and how of our orga­niz­ing as a reli­gious soci­ety. One of the most read posts on my blog in 2003 was a based on a review of a book by Robert E. Web­ber called The Younger Evan­gel­i­cals. Web­ber was talk­ing about main­stream Evan­gel­i­cals, who he divid­ed into three gen­er­a­tional phas­es,

  • Tra­di­tion­al Evan­gel­i­cals 1950 – 1975
  • Prag­mat­ic Evan­gel­i­cals 1975 – 2000
  • Younger Evan­gel­i­cals 2000-

I was work­ing at Friends Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence back in 2003 and Webber’s descrip­tions felt sur­pris­ing­ly famil­iar despite the very dif­fer­ent con­text of lib­er­al Quak­erism.

Take for exam­ple youth min­istry: Web­ber says Prag­mat­ic Evan­gel­i­cals tend to pre­fer “out­reach pro­grams and week­end fun retreats,” which is what the even­tu­al FGC Youth Min­istries Pro­gram most­ly mor­phed into (before going into per­ma­nent hia­tus). Web­ber sug­gests that the Younger Evan­gel­i­cals cohort sought “prayer, Bible study, wor­ship, social action” and sure enough many pro­gres­sive spir­i­tu­al types in Philly left meet­ing­hous­es for the alter­na­tive Cir­cle of Hope church. Quak­erism lost a lot of momen­tum at that time (Bet­sy Blake see also: Bet­sy Blake’s account). It took the cre­ation of a whole new orga­ni­za­tion, Quak­er Vol­un­tary Ser­vice, to get a live­ly and sus­tain­able youth min­istries run­ning (you can read QVS’s Ross Hennesy’s jour­ney from the 2013 FJ to see Webber’s chart come to life).

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think many Quak­er orgs are stuck in a rut try­ing every­thing they can to make the Prag­mat­ic Evan­gel­i­cal mod­el work. There’s a hope that just one more reor­ga­ni­za­tion will solve their sys­temic longterm prob­lems — new peo­ple will come into com­mit­tee ser­vice, meet­ing­hous­es will start fill­ing, etc. But the more we try to hold onto the old frame­work, the more cre­ative ener­gy dis­si­pates and Friends get lost or leave.

My per­son­al hunch is that struc­ture (almost) doesn’t mat­ter. What we need is a shift in atten­tion. How can we back up and ask the big ques­tions: Why are we here? What is our prophet­ic role and how do we encour­age and sup­port that in our mem­bers? How do we care for our church com­mu­ni­ty and still reach beyond the meet­ing­house walls to serve as heal­ers in the world?

A few years ago I dropped in on part of my year­ly meet­ing ses­sions. In one room, mostly-older mem­bers were revis­ing some arcane sub­sec­tion of Faith and Prac­tice while across the hall mostly-younger mem­bers were express­ing heart­break about a badly-decided pol­i­cy on trans youth. The dis­con­nect between the spir­it in the rooms was beyond obvi­ous.

I think we need to be able to stop and give atten­tion to direct lead­ings of need­ed min­istry. I often return to the Good Samar­i­tan sto­ry. In my mind’s eye the Levite is the Friend who can’t stop because they’re late for a com­mit­tee meet­ing. If we could fig­ure out a way to get more Friends to piv­ot into Good Samar­i­tan mode, I sus­pect we’d find new life in our reli­gious soci­ety. Peren­ni­al ques­tions would trans­form.

Signs of new life are abun­dant but uneven­ly dis­trib­uted. How do you imag­ine the ecosys­tem in 10, 20, or 50 years? Sub­mis­sion due date 3/6 offi­cial­ly though we may have a chance to review lat­er pieces.