Black with a capital B

It’s been a long-running debate in edi­to­r­i­al cir­cles: whether to cap­i­tal­ize ‘black’ and ‘white’ in print pub­li­ca­tions when refer­ring to groups of peo­ple. I remem­ber dis­cus­sions about it in the ear­ly 1990s when I worked as a graph­ic design­er at a (large­ly White) pro­gres­sive pub­lish­ing house. My offi­cial, stylesheet-sanctioned answer has been con­sis­tent in every pub­li­ca­tion I’ve worked for since then: low­er­case. But I remain unsatisfied.

Cap­i­tal­iza­tion has lots of built-in quirks. In gen­er­al, we cap­i­tal­ize only when names come from prop­er nouns and don’t con­cern our­selves about mis­match­es. We can write about “frogs and sala­man­ders and Fowler’s toads” or “dis­eases such as can­cer or Alzheimer’s.” Reli­gious terms are even trick­i­er: there’s the Gospel of Luke that is part of the gospel of Christ. In my Quak­er work, it’s sur­pris­ing how often I have to go into a exe­ge­sis of intent over whether the writer is talk­ing about a capital-L divine Light or a more gener­ic lower-case light­ness of being. “Black” and “white” are both clear­ly low­er­cased when they refer to col­ors and most style guides have kept it that way for race.

But seri­ous­ly? We’re talk­ing about more than col­or when we use it as a racial des­ig­na­tion. This is also iden­ti­ty. Does it real­ly make sense to write about South Cen­tral L.A. and talk about its “Kore­ans, Lati­nos, and blacks?” The counter-argument says that if cap­i­tal­ize Black, what then with White. Con­sis­ten­cy is good and they should pre­sum­ably match, except for the real­i­ty check: White­ness in Amer­i­ca has his­tor­i­cal­ly been a catch-all for non-coloredness. Dif­fer­ent groups are con­sid­ered white in dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances; many of the most-proudly White eth­nic­i­ties now were col­ored a cen­tu­ry ago. Much of the swampi­er side of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics has been rein­forc­ing racial iden­ti­ty so that out-of-work Whites (code­name: “work­ing class”) will vote for the inter­ests of White bil­lion­aires rather than out-of-work peo­ple of col­or (code­name: “poor”) who share every­thing but their mela­tonin lev­el. All iden­ti­ties are incom­plete and sur­pris­ing­ly flu­id when applied at the indi­vid­ual lev­el, but few are as non-specific as “White” as a racial designation.

Back in the 1990s we could dodge the ques­tion a bit. The style guide for my cur­rent pub­li­ca­tion notes “lc, but sub­sti­tute ‘African Amer­i­can’ in most con­texts.” Many pro­gres­sive style sheets back in the day gave sim­i­lar advice. In the ebb and flow of pre­ferred iden­ti­ty nomen­cla­ture, African Amer­i­can was trend­ing as the more polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect des­ig­na­tion, helped along by a strong endorse­ment from Jesse Jack­son. Black wasn’t quite fol­low­ing the way of Negro into obso­les­cence, but the avail­abil­i­ty of an clear­ly cap­i­tal­ized alter­na­tive gave white pro­gres­sives an easy dodge. The terms also per­haps sub­tly dis­tin­guished between those good African Amer­i­cans who worked with­in in the sys­tem from those dan­ger­ous rad­i­cals talk­ing about Black Pow­er and reparations.

The Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment has brought Black back as the polit­i­cal­ly bold­er word. Today it feels sharp­er and less coy than African Amer­i­can. It’s the bet­ter punch line for a thou­sand voic­es shout­ing ris­ing up out­side the governor’s man­sion. We’ve arrived at the point where African Amer­i­can feels kind of stilt­ed. It’s as if we’ve been try­ing a bit too hard to nor­mal­ize cen­turies of slav­ery. We’ve got our Irish Amer­i­cans with their green St Paddy’s day beer, the Ital­ian Amer­i­cans with their pas­ta and the African Amer­i­cans with their music and… oh yes, that unfor­tu­nate slav­ery thing, “oh wasn’t that ter­ri­ble but you know there were Irish slaves too”). All of these iden­ti­ties scan the same in the big old melt­ing pot of Amer­i­ca. It’s fine for the broad sweep of his­to­ry of a museum’s name but feels cold­ly inad­e­quate when we’re watch­ing a hash­tag trend for yet anoth­er Black per­son shot on the street. When the mega­phone crack­les out “Whose lives mat­ter?!?” the answer is “Black Lives Mat­ter!” and you know every­one in the crowd is shout­ing the first word with a cap­i­tal B.

Turn­ing to Google: The Colum­bia Jour­nal­ism Review has a nice piece on the nuances involved in cap­i­tal­iza­tion, “Black and white: why cap­i­tal­iza­tion mat­ters.” This 2000 lec­ture abstract by Robert S. Wachal flat-out states that “the fail­ure to cap­i­tal­ize Black when it is syn­ony­mous with African Amer­i­can is a mat­ter of unin­tend­ed racism,” deli­cious­ly adding “to put the best pos­si­ble face on it.” In 2014, The NYTimes pub­lished Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty prof Lori L. Tharps ’s con­vinc­ing argu­ment, “The Case for Black With a Cap­i­tal B.” If you want to go his­tor­i­cal, this thread on shift­ing terms by Ken Greeen­wald on a 2004 Word­wiz­ard forum is pure gold.

And with that I’ll open up the com­ment thread.

Rethinking Blogs

In last weekend’s NYTimes Mag­a­zine, Michael Erard writes about the his­to­ry of online com­ments. Even though I was involved with blog­ging from its ear­li­est days, it sur­prised me to remem­ber that com­ments, perma­links, com­ments, and track­backs were all lat­er inno­va­tions. Erard’s his­tor­i­cal lens is help­ful in show­ing how what we now think of as a typ­i­cal com­ment sys­tem – a line of read­er feed­back in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order under­neath con­tent – grew out of tech­no­log­i­cal restraints. It was eas­i­est to code this sort of sys­tem. The mod­el was bul­letin boards and, before that, “guest­books” that sat on websites.

Many of these same con­straints and mod­els under­lay blogs as a whole. Most blog home pages don’t fea­ture the most post pop­u­lar posts or the one the writer might think most impor­tant. No, they show the most recent. As in com­ments, the entries are ordered in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order. The pres­sure on writ­ers is to repeat them­selves so that their main talk­ing points reg­u­lar­ly show up on the home­page. There are ways around this (pinned posts, a list of impor­tant posts, plug-ins that will show what’s most pop­u­lar or get­ting the most com­ments), but they’re rarely imple­ment­ed and all have drawbacks.

Here’s the dilem­ma: the reg­u­lar read­ers who fol­low your blog (read your mag­a­zine, sub­scribe to your Youtube, etc.) prob­a­bly already know where you stand on par­tic­u­lar issue. They gen­er­al­ly share many of your opin­ions and even when they don’t, they’re still com­ing to your site for some sort of confirmation.

The times when blogs and web­sites change lives – and they do some­times – is when some­one comes by to whom your mes­sage is new. Your argu­ments or view­point helps them make sense of some grow­ing real­iza­tion that they’ve intu­it­ed but can’t quite name or define. The writ­ing and con­ver­sa­tion pro­vides a piece of the puz­zle of a grow­ing identity.

(The same is true of some­one walk­ing into a new church; it’s almost a cliché of Friends that a new­com­er feels “as if I’ve been Quak­er my whole life and didn’t know it!” If taught gen­tly, the Quak­er ethos and metaphors give shape to an iden­ti­ty that’s been bub­bling up for some time.)

So if we’re rethink­ing the mechan­i­cal default of com­ments, why not rethink blogs? I know projects such as Medi­um are try­ing to do that. But would it be pos­si­ble to retro­fit exist­ing online pub­li­ca­tions and blogs in a way that was both future-proof and didn’t require inor­di­nate amounts of cat­e­go­riza­tion time?

Communities vs Religious Societies

Over on Tape Flags and First Thoughts, Su Penn has a great post called “Still Think­ing About My Quak­er Meet­ing & Me.” She writes about a process of self-identity that her meet­ing recent­ly went through it and the dif­fi­cul­ties she had with the process.

communitysocietyI won­dered whether this dif­fi­cul­ty has become one of our modern-day stages of devel­op­ing in the min­istry. Both Samuel Bow­nas (read/buy) and Howard Brin­ton (buy) iden­ti­fied typ­i­cal stages that Friends grow­ing in the min­istry typ­i­cal­ly go through. Not every­one expe­ri­ences Su’s rift between their meeting’s iden­ti­ty and a desire for a God-grounded meet­ing com­mu­ni­ty, but enough of us have that I don’t think it’s the foibles of par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­u­als or month­ly meet­ings. Let me tease out one piece: that of indi­vid­ual and group iden­ti­ties. Much of the dis­cus­sion in the com­ments of Su’s post have swirled around rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent con­cep­tions of this. 

Many mod­ern Friends have become pret­ty strict indi­vid­u­al­ists. We spend a lot of time talk­ing about “com­mu­ni­ty” but we aren’t prac­tic­ing it in the way that Friends have under­stood it – as a “reli­gious soci­ety.” The indi­vid­u­al­ism of our age sees it as rude to state a vision of Friends that leaves out any of our mem­bers – even the most het­ero­dox. We are only as unit­ed as our most far-flung believ­er (and every decade the sweep gets larg­er). The myth of our age is that all reli­gious expe­ri­ences are equal, both with­in and out­side of par­tic­u­lar reli­gious soci­eties, and that it’s intol­er­ant to think of dif­fer­ences as any­thing more than language.

This is why I cast Su’s issues as being those of a min­is­ter. There has always been the need for some­one to call us back to the faith. Con­trary to modern-day pop­u­lar opin­ion, this can be done with great love. It is in fact great love (Quak­er Jane) to share the good news of the directly-accessible lov­ing Christ, who loves us so much He wants to show us the way to right­eous liv­ing. This Quak­er idea of right­eous­ness has noth­ing to do with who you sleep with, the gas mileage of your car or even the “cor­rect­ness” of your the­ol­o­gy. Jesus boiled faith­ful­ness down into two com­mands: love God with all your might (how­ev­er much that might be) and love your neigh­bor as yourself.

A “reli­gious soci­ety” is not just a “com­mu­ni­ty.” As a reli­gious soci­ety we are called to have a vision that is stronger and bold­er than the lan­guage or under­stand­ing of indi­vid­ual mem­bers. We are not a per­fect com­mu­ni­ty, but we can be made more per­fect if we return to God to the full­ness we’ve been giv­en. That is why we’ve come togeth­er into a reli­gious society.

“What makes us Friends?” Just fol­low­ing the mod­ern tes­ti­monies doesn’t put us very square­ly in the Friends tra­di­tion – SPICE is just a recipe for respect­ful liv­ing. “What makes us Friends?” Just set­ting the stop­watch to an hour and sit­ting qui­et­ly doesn’t do it – a wor­ship style is a con­tain­er at best and false idol at worst. “How do we love God?” “How do we love our neigh­bor?” “What makes us Friends?” These are the ques­tions of min­istry. These are the build­ing blocks of outreach.

I’ve seen nascent min­is­ters (“infant min­is­ters” in the phras­ing of Samual Bow­nas) start ask­ing these ques­tions, flare up on inspired blog posts and then tail­dive as they meet up with the cold-water real­i­ty of a local meet­ing that is unsup­port­ive or inat­ten­tive. Many of them have left our reli­gious soci­ety. How do we sup­port them? How do we keep them? Our answers will deter­mine whether our meet­ing are reli­gious soci­eties or communities.

Looking at North American Friends and theological hotspots

Over on Friends Jour­nal site, some recent stats on Friends most­ly in the US and Cana­da. Writ­ten by Mar­garet Fras­er, the head of FWCC, a group that tries to unite the dif­fer­ent bod­ies of Friends, it’s a bit of cold water for most of us. Offi­cial num­bers are down in most places despite what­ev­er offi­cial opti­mism might exist. Favorite line: “Per­haps those who leave are noticed less.” I’m sure P.R. hacks in var­i­ous Quak­er orga­ni­za­tions are burn­ing the mid­night oil writ­ing response let­ters to the edi­tor spin­ning the num­bers to say things are look­ing up.

She points to a sad decline both in year­ly meet­ings affil­i­at­ed with Friends Unit­ed Meet­ing and in those affil­i­at­ed with Friends Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence. A curios­i­ty is that this decline is not seen in three of the four year­ly meet­ings that are dual affil­i­at­ed. These blend­ed year­ly meet­ings are going through var­i­ous degrees of iden­ti­ty cri­sis and hand-wringing over their sta­tus and yet their own mem­ber­ship num­bers are strong. Could it be that seri­ous the­o­log­i­cal wrestling and com­pli­cat­ed spir­i­tu­al iden­ti­ties cre­ate health­i­er reli­gious bod­ies than mono­cul­tur­al groupings?

The big news is in the south: “His­pan­ic Friends Church­es” in Mex­i­co and Cen­tral Amer­i­ca are boom­ing, with spillover in el Norte as work­ers move north to get jobs. There’s sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle inter­ac­tion between these newly-arrived Spanish-speaking Friends and the the old Main Line Quak­er estab­lish­ment (maybe not sur­pris­ing real­ly, but still sad). I’ll leave you with a chal­lenge Mar­garet gives readers:

One ques­tion that often puz­zles me is why so many His­pan­ic Friends
con­gre­ga­tions are meet­ing in church­es belong­ing to oth­er denominations.
I would love to see estab­lished Friends meet­ings with their own
prop­er­ty shar­ing space with His­pan­ic Friends. It would be an
oppor­tu­ni­ty to share growth and chal­lenges together.

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.

Quakerism 101

In Fall 2005 I led a six-week Quak­erism 101 course at Med­ford (NJ) Month­ly Meet­ing. It went very well. Med­ford has a lot of involved, weighty Friends (some of them past year­ly meet­ing clerks!) and I think they appre­ci­at­ed a fresh take on an intro­duc­to­ry course. The core ques­tion: how might we teach Quak­erism today?

This is the pro­pos­al for the course. I start­ed off with a long intro­duc­tion on the his­to­ry and phi­los­o­phy of Quak­er reli­gious edu­ca­tion and ped­a­gog­ic accul­tur­a­tion and go on to out­line a dif­fer­ent sort cur­ricu­lum for Quak­erism 101.

I took exten­sive notes of each ses­sion and will try to work that feed­back into a revised cur­ricu­lum that oth­er Meet­ings and Q101 lead­ers could use and adapt. In the mean­time, if you want to know how spe­cif­ic ses­sions and role­splays went, just email me and I’ll send you the unedit­ed notes. If you’re on the Adult Reli­gious Ed. com­mit­tee of a South Jer­sey or Philadel­phia area Meet­ing and want to bring me to teach it again, just let me know.

Thoughts on a Quak­erism 101 Course

Over the last few years, there seems to be a real groundswell of inter­est in Quak­ers try­ing to under­stand who we are and where we came from. There’s a revival of inter­st in look­ing back at our roots, not for his­to­ry or orthodoxy’s sake, but instead to try­ing to tease out the “Quak­er Trea­sures” that we might want to reclaim. I’ve seen this con­ver­sa­tion tak­ing place in all of the branch­es of Friends and it’s very hopeful.

I assume at least some of the par­tic­i­pants of the Quak­erism 101 course will have gone through oth­er intro­duc­to­ry cours­es or will have read the stan­dard texts. It would be fun to give them all some­thing new – luck­i­ly there’s plen­ty to choose from! I also want to expose par­tic­i­pants to the range of con­tem­po­rary Quak­erism. I’d like par­tic­i­pants to under­stand why the oth­er branch­es call them­selves Friends and to rec­og­nize some of the pec­u­lar­i­ties our branch has uncon­scious­ly adopted.

Ear­ly Friends didn’t get involved in six-week cours­es. They were too busy climb­ing trees to shout the gospel fur­ther, invit­ing peo­ple to join the great move­ment. Lat­er Qui­etist Friends had strong struc­tures of record­ed min­is­ters and elders which served a ped­a­gog­ic pur­pose for teach­ing Friends. When revival­ism broke out and brought over­whelm­ing­ly large num­bers of new atten­ders to meet­ings, this sys­tem broke down and many meet­ings hired min­is­ters to teach Quak­erism to the new peo­ple. Around the turn of the cen­tu­ry, promi­nent Quak­er edu­ca­tors intro­duced aca­d­e­m­ic mod­els, with cours­es and lec­ture series. Each of these approach­es to reli­gious edu­ca­tion fid­dles with Quak­erism and each has major draw­backs. But these new mod­els were insti­tut­ed because of very real and ongo­ing prob­lems Friends have with trans­mit­ting our faith to our youth and accul­tur­at­ing new seek­ers to our Quak­er way.

The core con­tra­dic­tion of a course series is that the leader is expect­ed to both impart knowl­edge and to invite par­tic­i­pa­tion. In prac­tice, this eas­i­ly leads to sit­u­a­tions where the teacher is either too dom­i­neer­ing _or_ too open to par­tic­i­pa­tion. The lat­ter seems more com­mon: Quak­erism is pre­sent­ed as a least-common-denominator social group­ing, form­less, with mem­ber­ship defined sim­ply by one’s com­fort­a­bil­i­ty in the group (see Brinton’s Friends for 300 Years.) One of the main goals of a intro­duc­to­ry course should be to bring new atten­ders into Quak­er cul­ture, prac­tice and ethics. There’s an implic­it assump­tion that there is some­thing called Quak­erism to teach. Part of that job is teas­ing out the reli­gious and cul­tur­al mod­els that new atten­ders are bring­ing with them and to open up the ques­tion as to how they fit or don’t fit in with the “gestalt” of Quak­erism (Grundy, Quak­er Trea­sures and Wilson’s Essays on the Quak­er Vision).

The great­est irony behind the Quak­erism 101 class is that its seemingly-neutral edu­ca­tion­al mod­el lulls proud­ly “unpro­grammed” Friends into an obliv­i­ous­ness that they’ve just insti­tut­ed a pro­gram led by a hireling min­is­ter. Argu­ments why Q101 teach­ers should be paid sounds iden­ti­cal to argu­ments why part-time FUM min­is­ters should be paid. A Q101 leader in an unpro­grammed meet­ing might well want to acknowl­edge this con­tra­dic­tion and pray for guid­ance and seek clear­ness about this. (For my Med­ford class, I decid­ed to teach it as paid leader of a class as a way of dis­ci­plin­ing myself to prac­tice of my fel­low Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing Friends.)

The stan­dard Quak­erism 101 cur­ricu­lum com­part­men­tal­izes every­thing into neat lit­tle box­es. His­to­ry gets a box, tes­ti­monies get a box, faith and insti­tu­tions get box­es. I want to break out of that. I can rec­om­mend good books on Quak­er his­to­ry and point par­tic­i­pants to good web­sites advo­cat­ing Quak­er tes­ti­monies. But I want to present his­to­ry as cur­rent events and the tes­ti­monies as min­istry. The stan­dard cur­ricu­lum starts with some of the more con­tro­ver­sial mate­r­i­al about the dif­fer­ent braches of Friends and only then goes into wor­ship, the meet­ing life, etc. I want dis­cus­sion of the lat­ter to be informed by the ear­li­er dis­cus­sion of who we are and who we might be. The course will start off more struc­tured, with me as leader and become more par­tic­i­pa­to­ry in the lat­er sections.


What I want to do is have one sol­id overview book and sup­ple­ment it with some of those fas­ci­nat­ing (and coversation-sparking!) pam­phlets. The overview book is Thomas Hamm’s Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca. Pub­lished last year, it’s the best intro­duc­tion to Quak­erism in at least a gen­er­a­tion. Hamm wrote this as part of a reli­gions of Amer­i­ca series and it’s meant as a gen­er­al intro­duc­tion to con­tem­po­rary Quak­erism. His lat­er chap­ters on debates with­in Quak­erism should be easy to adapt for a Q-101 series.

Ses­sion I: Introductions

  • Wor­ship
  • In-class read­ing of two pages from Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca (pro­file of Ohio Year­ly Meet­ing ses­sions, p. 1), reflec­tions. (maybe start this class 2?)
  • Intro­duc­tions to one another.

Ses­sion II: What Are Our Models

  • Wor­ship
  • In-class read­ing of two pages from Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca (pro­file of First Friends Church of Can­ton, p. 3), reflections.
  • What are our mod­els? Role­play of “What Would X Do?” with a giv­en prob­lem: JC, George Fox, Methodists, Non-denominational bible church, col­lege. Also: the “nat­ur­al break­ing point” mod­el of Quak­er divisions.
  • Read­ing for this class: “Con­vinced Quak­erism” by Ben Pink Dandelion

Ses­sion III: The Schisms

  • Wor­ship
  • In-class read­ing of two pages from Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca (pro­file of Wilm­ing­ton Year­ly Meet­ing ses­sions, p. 5), reflections.
  • Read­ing for this class: Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca chap­ter 3, “Their Sep­a­rate Ways: Amer­i­can Friends Since 1800,” about the branches

Ses­sion IV: Role of our Institutions

  • Wor­ship
  • In-class read­ing of two pages from Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca (pro­file of Lake Erie Year­ly Meet­ing, p. 7), reflections.
  • Read­ing for this class: “The Author­i­ty of Our Meet­ings…” by Paul Lacey

Ses­sion V: Con­tro­ver­sies with­in Friends

  • Could pick any 2 – 3 con­tro­ver­sies of Hamm’s: “Is Quak­erism Chris­t­ian?,” “Lead­er­ship,” “Author­i­ty,” “Sex­u­al­i­ty,” “Iden­ti­ty,” “Uni­ty and Diver­si­ty,” “Growth and Decline.” Ear­ly in the course I could poll the group to get a sense which ones they might want to grap­ple with. The idea is not to be thor­ough cov­er­ing all the top­ics or even all the intri­ca­cies with­in each top­ic. I hope to just see if we can mod­el ways of talk­ing about these with­in Medford.
  • Read­ing for this class: Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca chap­ter 5, “Con­tem­po­rary Quak­er Debates,” p. 120

Ses­sion VI: Role of wor­ship, role of min­istry, role of witnesses.

  • Focus­ing on Worship/Ministry (Witness)/MM Author­i­ty (Elders). If the cal­en­dar allows for eight ses­sions, this could eas­i­ly be split apart or giv­en two weeks.
  • Read­ing for this class: “Quak­er Trea­sures” by Mar­ty Pax­ton Grundy, which ties togeth­er Gospel Order, Min­istries and the Testimonies.

Ses­sion VII: What kind of reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty do we want Med­ford MM to be?

  • This should be par­tic­i­pa­to­ry, inter­ac­tive. There should be some go-around sort of exer­cise to open up our visions of an ide­al reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty and what we think Med­ford Meet­ing might be like in 5, 10, 25 years.
  • Read­ing for this class: “Build­ing the Life of the Meet­ing” by Bill & Fran Taber (1994, $4). I’ve heard there’s some­thing recent from John Pun­shon which might work better.
  • Also: some­thing from the emer­gent church move­ment to point to a great peo­ple that might be gath­ered. Per­haps essays from Jor­dan Coop­er & some­one at Cir­cle of Hope/Phila.

Books Used:

  • “Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca” is Thomas Hamm’s excel­lent new intro­duc­tion to Friends is a bit pricey ($40) but is adapt­ing well to a Q101 course.
  • “Con­vinced Quak­erism” by Ben Pink Dan­de­lion mix­es tra­di­tion­al Quak­er under­stad­ings of con­vince­ment with Ben’s per­son­al sto­ry and it sparked a good, widerang­ing dis­cus­sion. $4.
  • “Quak­er Trea­sures” by Mar­ty Grundy. $4
  • “The Author­i­ty of Our Meet­ings…” by Paul Lacey. $4
  • “Build­ing the Life of the Meet­ing” by Bill and Fran Taber. $4

Con­sid­ered Using:

  • “Why Friends are Friends” by Jack Will­cuts. $9.95. I like this book and think that much of it could be used for a Q101 in a liberal-branch Friends Meet­ing. Chap­ters: “The Won­der of Wor­ship,” “Sacred Spir­i­tu­al Sacra­ments,” “Called to Min­istry,” “Let­ting Peace Pre­vail,” “Get­ting the Sense of the Meet­ing,” “On Being Pow­er­ful” – I find the mid­dle chap­ters are the more interesting/Quaker ones).
  • Silence and Wit­ness by Michael Birkel. I haven’t read through this yet, but in skim­ming the chap­ters it looks like Birkel shys away from chal­leng­ing the Quak­er sta­tus quo. With­in that con­straint, how­ev­er, it looks like a good intro­duc­tion to Quak­erism. $16.
  • “Quak­er Cul­ture vs. Quak­er Faith” by Samuel Caldwell.
  • The Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing Quak­erism 101 cur­ricu­lum. It’s not as bad as it could be but it’s too heavy on his­to­ry and tes­ti­monies and too focused on the Jones/Brinton view of Quak­erism which I think has played itself out. I’ve seen Q101 facil­i­ta­tors read direct­ly out of the cur­ricu­lum to the glazed eyes of the par­tic­i­pants. I want­ed some­thing fresh­er and less course-like.