The retreat at the Carmelite Monastery was nice. Here’s some pictures, the first of those “long-remembered”:/if_i_dont_make_it_back.php tall stone walls and the rest of the beautiful chapel:
It was a silent retreat–for us at least. There were three talks about “Teresa of Avila”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_Avila given by Father Tim Byerley, who also works with the “Collegium Center”:http://www.collegiumcenter.org/about.php, a kind of religious education outreach project for young adult Catholics in South Jersey (I mentioned it “a few months ago”:http://www.quakerranter.org/teaching_quakerism_again.php as a model of young adult youth outreach that Friends might want to consider). Much of what Teresa has to say about prayer is universal and very applicable to Friends, though I have to admit I started spacing out by around the fourth mansion of the “Interior Castle”:http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/castle2.toc.html (I’ve never been good with numbered religious steps!).
I’m in no danger of following my wife Julie’s journey from Friends to Catholicism, though as always I very much enjoyed being in the midst of a gathered group committed to a spirituality. The idea of religious life as self-abnegation is an important one for all Christians in an age where “me-ism”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScWdek6_Ids&eurl has become the “secular state religion”:http://www.walmart.com/ and I hope to return to it in the near future.
This morning I’m working on the “Pete Seeger”:http://www.quakersong.org/pete_seeger/ section of Quakersong.org, the website of Annie Paterson and Peter Blood (I’m their webmaster). Parts of their site are amazing–the “Quakers and Music”:http://www.quakersong.org/quakers_and_music/ page has become a directory of sorts for all the many Quaker musicians out there (who knew there were so many!). But the Pete Seeger is still mostly a collection of CDs that Peter & Annie have for sale.
So I was wondering what a good Pete Seeger page might look like and starting surfing around. There’s a great “fan page”:http://www.peteseeger.net/ which is regularly updated but has bravely decided to maintain its original design since it was founded eleven years ago. And “Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_seeger does its usual fine job at a biography. But the “gold mine is YouTube”:http://youtube.com/results?search_query=pete+seeger&search=Search.
A year ago a user uploaded three clips from _Rainbow Quest_, a short-lived TV program Pete put together for a low-wattage UHF station out of Newark in the mid-60s (it’s now a Telemundo affiliate broadcasting recycled Mexican soaps for its prime time schedule). I don’t know what kind of copyright issues there are on something like this but it’s great fun to see these old clips. Making this material widely available is one of the joys of YouTube (well, that and watching “recapturing the innocence of our over-commercialized youth”:http://ofthebest.blogspot.com/2007/02/how-to-shed-20-years-in-20-seconds.html). I’ll leave you with this, a clip of Pete singing with June Carter and Johnny “I’m soooo stoooned” Cash a few years before they married.
I had an interesting opportunity last Thursday. I skipped work to be talk with two Quakerism classes at Philadelphia’s “William Penn Charter School”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Penn_Charter_School (thanks for the invite Michael and Thomas!). I was asked to talk about Quaker blogs, of all things. Simple, right? Well, on the previous Tuesday I happened upon this passage from Brian Drayton’s new book “On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry”:http://www.quakerbooks.org/get/1–888305-38-x:
bq. I think that your work will have the greatest good effect if you wait to find whether and where the springs of love and divine life connect with this opening before you appear in the work. This is even true when you have had an invitation to come and speak on a topic to a workshop or some other forum. It is wise to be suspicious of what is very easy, draws on your practiced strengths and accomplishments, and can be treated as an everyday transaction. (p. 149).
Good advice. Of course the role of ministry is even more complicated in that I wasn’t addressing a Quaker audience: like the majority of Friends schools, few Penn Charter students actually are Quaker. I’m a “public school kid”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheltenham_High_School, but it from the outside it seems like Friends schools stress the ethos of Quakerism (“here’s Penn Charter’s statement”:http://www.penncharter.com/content/aboutpc/quakerism.asp). Again Drayton helped me think beyond normal ideas of proseltyzing and outreach when he talked about “public meetings”: “We are also called, I feel to invite others to share Christ directly, not primarily in order to introduce them to Quakerism and bring them into our meetings, but to encourage them to turn to the light and follow it” (p. 147). What I shared with the students was some of the ways my interaction with the Spirit and my faith community shapes my life. When we keep it real, this is a profoundly universalist and welcoming message.
I talked about the personal aspect of blogging: in my opinion we’re at our best when we weave our theology with with personal stories and testimonies of specific spiritual experiences. The students reminded me that this is also real world lesson: their greatest excitement and questioning came when we started talking about my father (I used to tell the story of my completely messed-up childhood family life a lot but have been out of the habit lately as it’s receded into the past). The students really wanted to understand not just my story but how it’s shaped my Quakerism and influenced my coming to Friends. They asked some hard questions and I was stuck having to give them hard answers (in that they were non-sentimental). When we share of ourselves, we present a witness that can reach out to others.
Later on, one of the teachers projected my blogroll on a screen and asked me about the people on it. I started telling stories, relating cool blog posts that had stuck out in my mind. Wow: this is a pretty amazing group, with diversity of ages and Quakerism. Reviewing the list really reminded me of the amazing community that’s come together over the last few years.
One interesting little snippet for the Quaker cultural historians out there: Penn Charter was the Gurneyite school back in the day. When I got Michael’s email I was initially surprised they even had classes on Quakerism as it’s often thought of as one of the least Quaker of the Philadelphia-area Quaker schools. But thinking on it, it made perfect sense: the Gurneyites loved education; they brought Sunday School (sorry, _First Day_ School) into Quakerism, along with Bible study and higher education. Of course the school that bears their legacy would teach Quakerism. Interestingly enough, the historical Orthodox school down the road aways recently approached Penn Charter asking about their Quaker classes; in true Wilburite fashion, they’ve never bothered trying to teach Quakerism. The official Philadelphia Quaker story is that branches were all fixed up nice and tidy back in 1955 but scratch the surface just about anywhere and you’ll find Nineteenth Century attitudes still shaping our institutional culture. It’s pretty fascinating really.
We now know that while Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein didn’t conspire together, they did have one thing in common: their power was funded by our dependence on their oil. But even as Saddam’s show trial begins, televisions are watching America’s new national security enemies: Katrina and Wilma. Al Qaida’s 9/11 attacks and the Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship were “powered by” oil industry fortunes and short-sighted global energy policies, the same policies now bringing us global warming and monster storms.
Before making landfall in Mexico’s Yucatan and pounding Florida, Hurricane Wilma was declared the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history. That we got to a W-name itself is cause for concern: the first tropical storm of the year gets a name starting with “A” and so forth through the alphabet. This summer has been the “most active hurricane season”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Atlantic_hurricane_season since record-keeping started 150 years ago. We’ve seen so many storms that weather officials have now run through the alphabet: meteorologists are now having to track Tropical Storm (now Depression) Alpha 350 miles north of the Bahamas. In 2004, “five devastating hurricanes ripped across Florida”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Atlantic_hurricane_season, each one coming so fast on the heels of the last that few of us could even name them a year later. As I write, Wilma is pounding Western Florida, one of the fast-growing regions in the country. And of course Katrina devasted New Orleans and the Gulf Coast just two months ago.
Global climate change is here. After decades of political hemming and hawing, only the most slimy of oil industry apologists (and Presidents) could argue that global warming hasn’t arrived. We’ve built a national culture built on inefficient burning of fossil fuels. Developers put more and more people on unprotected sandbars built, maintained and insured by tax dollars. Someday is here and our weather is only going to be getting worse. We could be preparing for the inevitable adjustments. We could be investing in conservation, in renewable energies. We could change our tax codes to encourage sustainable housing: not just getting new development off beaches but also building urban and semi-urban communities that reduce automobile dependence.
Instead we spend billions of dollars on our oil addictions. We’re now waiting for the “announcement of the 2,000th U.S. military casualty in iraq”:http://www.afsc.org/2000/. Administration officials used Katrina to rollback environmental protection regulations in Louisiana. The arctic ice cap is rapidly melting away (the North Pole is now ice-free for part of the year) but oil industry officials point to the good news that we will soon be able to put “year-round oil rigs in the ice-free seas there”:http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/1010–07.htm.
How many Katrina bin Laden’s and Saddam Wilma’s does it take before we get the news.