QuakerQuaker on the move

Crossposting from QuakerQuaker:

Cardboard boxes in apartment, moving day

The biggest changes in half a decade are coming to QuakerQuaker. The Ning.com service that powers the main website is about to increase its monthly charge by 140 percent. When I first picked Ning to host the three-year-old QuakerQuaker project in 2008, it seemed like a smart move. Ning had recently been founded by tech world rock stars with access to stratospheric-level funds. But it never quite got traction and started dialing back its ambitions in 2010. It was sold and sold again and a long-announced new version never materialized. I've been warning people against starting new projects on it for years. Its limitations have become clearer with every passing year. But it's continued to work and a healthy community has kept the content on QuakerQuaker interesting. But I don't get enough donations to cover a 140 percent increase, and even if I did it's not worth it for a service stuck in 2010. It's time to evolve!

There are many interesting things I could build with a modern web platform. Initial research and some feedback from fellow Quaker techies has me interested in BuddyPress, an expanded and social version of the ubiquitous WordPress blogging system. It has plugins available that claim to move content from existing Ning sites to BuddyPress, leaving the tantalizing possibility that eight years of the online Quaker conversation can be maintained (wow!).

I will need funds for the move. The subscriptions to do the import/export will incur costs and there will be plugins and themes to buy. I'm mentally budgeting an open-ended number of late Saturday nights. And the personal computer we have is getting old. The charge doesn't hold and keys are starting to go. It will need replacement sooner rather than later.

Any donations Friends could make to the Paypal account would be very helpful for the move. You can start by going to http://bit.ly/quakergive. Other options are available on the donation page at http://www.quakerquaker.org/page/support. Thanks for whatever you can spare. I'm as surprised as anyone that this little DIY project continues to host some many interesting Quaker conversations eleven years on!

In Friendship,
Martin Kelley for QuakerQuaker.org

Why I’m fasting with @eqat against mountaintop mining

On March 22nd, I joined the fast against moun­tain­top coal min­ing called by the Earth Quak­er Action Team.

“Old Zinc Fac­tory; Palmer­ton” by road_less_trvled on Flickr (cre­ative com­mons license)

When I was grow­ing up we’d make the trip from Philadel­phia to my grandmother’s house a cou­ple of times a year. As we head­ed north, the high­way thread­ed across farm fields and through rock cuts in the hills. About an hour in, we’d start notic­ing the thin blue band on the hori­zon. It would slow­ly get larg­er and larg­er until Blue Moun­tain loomed in front of us and we whooshed into Lehigh Tunnel.

My Nana lived on the oth­er side of that moun­tain. On this side the moun­tain­side was red. The forests that car­pet­ed the rest of the thousand-mile ridge had been ripped up by the decades of chem­i­cals pour­ing out if the smoke­stacks of the giant zinc pro­cess­ing fac­to­ries that book­end­ed the town of Palmerton.

When con­ver­sa­tion turned to adult mat­ters, I’d wan­der to the back porch and count the dirt bike trails going up the bar­ren moun­tain. When I tired of that I’d play in the stones of my grandmother’s back­yard. Even grass didn’t grow in this town. Ambi­tious home­own­ers would some­times make rock gar­dens for the space in front of each house that had been designed for marigolds, but most of the town had got­ten used to the absence of green. When the EPA final­ly got around to declar­ing the moun­tain a super­fund site we all snort­ed dis­mis­sive­ly. My grand­moth­er was actu­al­ly offend­ed, hav­ing long ago con­vinced her­self that the fac­to­ry effu­sions must be healthy.

The Palmer­ton fac­to­ries were fund­ed by New York bankers. Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty got mul­ti­ple multimillion-dollar bequests in the wills of the founders of the zinc com­pa­ny. I’m sure there are still a few resid­ual trust funds pay­ing out dividends.

Today we have Philadel­phia and Pitts­burgh bankers orches­trat­ing the removal of the moun­tain­tops in West Vir­ginia. As our tech­nol­o­gy has improved so has our capac­i­ty for ill-considered mass destruc­tion of our nat­ur­al surroundings.

All liv­ing crea­tures have an impact on their sur­round­ings. My com­forts rely on the coal, oil, and nat­ur­al gas that are brought into our cities and towns. But I do know we can do bet­ter. I’m opti­mistic enough to can find ways to live togeth­er on this Earth that don’t break our moun­tains or poi­son our neighbors.

Pho­to: “Old Zinc Fac­to­ry; Palmer­ton” by road_less_trvled on Flickr (cre­ative com­mons license)

Betsy Blake and “He Lives!” at Pendle Hill

A busy Quak­er week. On Tues­day I heard North Car­oli­na Friend Bet­sy Blake give a talk called “He Lives” at Pen­dle Hill, the sto­ry of how “Jesus has been her rock” to quote from the pro­gram descrip­tion. It was a great talk and very well received.

Bet­sy is a grad­u­ate of the Quak­er pro­gram at Guil­ford (so she was a
good fol­lowup for Max Carter’s talk this week­end) and she helped
orga­nize the World Gath­er­ing of Young Friends a few years ago. The talk was record­ed and should be up on the Pen­dle Hill short­ly (I’ll add a link when it is) so I’ll not try to be com­pre­hen­sive but just share a few of my impressions.

Bet­sy is the kind of per­son that can just come under the radar. She starts telling sto­ries, fun­ny and poignant by turn, each one a Bet­sy sto­ry that you take on its own mer­its. It’s only at the end of the hour that you ful­ly real­ize she’s been tes­ti­fy­ing to the pres­ence of Jesus in her life in all this time. Real-life sight­ings, com­fort­ing hands on shoul­ders fam­i­ly tragedy, intel­lec­tu­al doubts and expand­ed spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tions all come togeth­er like dif­fer­ent sides of the elephant.

One theme that came up a few times in the question-and-answer sec­tion is the feel­ing of a kind of spir­i­tu­al tired­ness – a fatigue from run­ning the same old debates over and over. It’s an exhaus­tion that squelch­es curios­i­ty about oth­er Friends and some­times moves us to fol­low the easy path in times of con­flict rather than the time-consuming & dif­fi­cult path that might be the one we need to be on.

The last time I was in the Pen­dle Hill barn it was to lis­ten to Shane Clai­borne. I’m one of those odd peo­ple that don’t think he’s a very good speak­er for lib­er­al Quak­ers. He down­plays the reli­gious instruc­tion he received as a child to empha­size the pro­gres­sive spir­i­tu­al smörgås­bord of his adult­hood with­out ever quite real­iz­ing (I think) that this ear­ly edu­ca­tion gave him the lan­guage and vocab­u­lary to ground his cur­rent spir­i­tu­al trav­els. Those who grow up in lib­er­al Quak­er meet­ings gen­er­al­ly start with the dab­bling; their chal­lenge is to find a way to go deep­er into a spe­cif­ic spir­i­tu­al prac­tice, some­thing that can’t be done on week­end trips to cool spir­i­tu­al destinations.

Bet­sy brought an appre­ci­a­tion for her ground­ed Chris­t­ian upbring­ing that I thought was a more pow­er­ful mes­sage. She talked about how her mom was raised in a tra­di­tion that could talk of dark­ness. When a fam­i­ly mem­ber died and doubt of God nat­u­ral­ly fol­lowed, her moth­er was able to remind her that God had healed the beloved sis­ter, only “not in the way we want­ed.” Pow­er­ful stuff.

The sounds at Pen­dle Hill were fas­ci­nat­ing: the sound of knit­ting nee­dles was a gen­tle click-clack through the time. And one annoy­ing speak­er rose at one point with an annoy­ing ser­mon­ette that I real­ized was a modern-day ver­sion of Quak­er singsong (lib­er­al Friend edi­tion), com­plete with dra­mat­ic paus­es and over-melodious deliv­ery. Fun­ny to real­ize it exists in such an unlike­ly place!

And a plug that the Tues­day night speaker’s series con­tin­ues with some great Friends com­ing up, with North Carolina’s Lloyd Lee Wil­son at bat for next week. Hey, and I’ll be there with Wess Daniels this May to lead a work­shop on “The New Monas­tics and Con­ver­gent Friends.”