Visiting a Quaker School

I had an inter­est­ing oppor­tu­nity last Thurs­day. I skipped work to be talk with two Quak­erism classes at Philadelphia’s “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”: – 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”:, but it from the out­side it seems like Friends schools stress the ethos of Quak­erism (“here’s Penn Charter’s statement”: 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.

Katrina bin Laden and Our Public Enemies

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”: 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”:, 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”: 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”: – 07.htm.
How many Kat­rina bin Laden’s and Sad­dam Wilma’s does it take before we get the news.