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

Friends and theology and geek pick-up hotspots

Wess Daniels posts about Quak­er the­ol­o­gy on his blog. I respond­ed there but got to think­ing of Swarth­more pro­fes­sor Jer­ry Frost’s 2000 Gath­er­ing talk about FGC Quak­erism. Aca­d­e­m­ic, theologically-minded Friends helped forge lib­er­al Quak­erism but their influ­enced wained after that first gen­er­a­tion. Here’s a snip­pet:

“[T]he first gen­er­a­tions of Eng­lish and Amer­i­ca Quak­er lib­er­als like Jones and Cad­bury were all birthright and they wrote books as well as pam­phlets. Before uni­fi­ca­tion, PYM Ortho­dox and the oth­er Ortho­dox meet­ings pro­duced philoso­phers, the­olo­gians, and Bible schol­ars, but now the com­bined year­ly meet­ings in FGC pro­duce weighty Friends, social activists, and earnest seek­ers.”

“The lib­er­als who cre­at­ed the FGC had a thirst for knowl­edge, for link­ing the best in reli­gion with the best in sci­ence, for draw­ing upon both to make eth­i­cal judg­ments. Today by becom­ing anti-intellectual in reli­gion when we are well-educated we have jet­ti­soned the impulse that cre­at­ed FGC, reunit­ed year­ly meet­ings, rede­fined our role in wider soci­ety, and cre­at­ed the mod­ern peace tes­ti­mo­ny. The kinds of ener­gy we now devote to med­i­ta­tion tech­niques and inner spir­i­tu­al­i­ty needs to be spent on phi­los­o­phy, sci­ence, and Chris­t­ian reli­gion.”

This talk was huge­ly influ­en­tial to my wife Julie and myself. We had just met two days before and while I had devel­oped an instant crush, Frost’s talk was the first time we sat next to one anoth­er. I real­ized that this might become some­thing seri­ous when we both laughed out loud at Jerry’s wry asides and the­ol­o­gy jokes. We end­ed up walk­ing around the cam­pus late into the ear­ly hours talk­ing talk­ing talk­ing.

But the talk wasn’t just the reli­gion geek equiv­a­lent of a pick-up bar. We both respond­ed to Frost’s call for a new gen­er­a­tion of seri­ous Quak­er thinkers. Julie enrolled in a Reli­gion PhD pro­gram, study­ing Quak­er the­ol­o­gy under Frost him­self for a semes­ter. I dove into his­to­ri­ans like Thomas Hamm and mod­ern thinkers like Lloyd Lee Wil­son as a way to under­stand and artic­u­late the implic­it the­ol­o­gy of “FGC Friends” and took inde­pen­dent ini­tia­tives to fill the gaps in FGC ser­vices, tak­ing lead­er­ship in young adult pro­gram and co-leading work­shops and inter­est groups.

Things didn’t turn out as we expect­ed. I hes­i­tate speak­ing for Julie but I think it’s fair enough to say that she came to the con­clu­sion that Friends ideals and prac­tices were unbridgable and she left Friends. I’ve doc­u­ment­ed my own set­backs and right now I’m pret­ty detached from for­mal Quak­er bod­ies.

Maybe enough time hasn’t gone by yet. I’ve heard that the per­son sit­ting on Julie’s oth­er side for that talk is now study­ing the­ol­o­gy up in New Eng­land; anoth­er Friend who I sus­pect was near­by just start­ed at Earl­ham School of Reli­gion. I’ve called this the Lost Quak­er Gen­er­a­tion but at least some of its mem­bers have just been lying low. It’s hard to know whether any of these historically-informed Friends will ever help shape FGC pop­u­lar cul­ture in the way that Quak­er acad­e­mia influ­enced lib­er­al Friends did before the 1970s.

Reread­ing Frost’s speech this after­noon it’s clear to see it as an impor­tant inspi­ra­tion for Quak­erQuak­er. Parts of it act well as a good lib­er­al Quak­er vision for what the blo­gos­phere has since tak­en to call­ing con­ver­gent Friends. I hope more peo­ple will stum­ble on Frost’s speech and be inspired, though I hope they will be care­ful not to tie this vision too close­ly with any exist­ing insti­tu­tion and to remem­ber the true source of that dai­ly bread. Here’s a few more inspi­ra­tional lines from Jer­ry:

We should remem­ber that the­ol­o­gy can pro­vide a foun­da­tion for uni­ty. We ought to be smart enough to real­ize that any for­mu­la­tion of what we believe or link­ing faith to mod­ern thought is a sec­ondary activ­i­ty; to para­phrase Robert Bar­clay, words are descrip­tion of the foun­tain and not the stream of liv­ing water. Those who cre­at­ed the FGC and reunit­ed meet­ings knew the pos­si­bil­i­ties and dan­gers of the­ol­o­gy, but they had a con­fi­dence that truth increased pos­si­bil­i­ties.

On job hunting and the blogging future in Metro Philadelphia

I’ve been qui­et on the blogs late­ly, focus­ing on job search­es rather than rant­i­ng. I thought I’d take a lit­tle time off to talk about my lit­tle cor­ner of the career mar­ket. I’ve been apply­ing for a lot of web design and edit­ing jobs but the most inter­est­ing ones have com­bined these togeth­er in cre­ative ways. My qual­i­fi­ca­tions for these jobs are more the inde­pen­dent sites I’ve put togeth­er — notably Quak​erQuak​er​.org—than my paid work for Friends.

For exam­ple: one inter­est­ing job gets repost­ed every few weeks on Craigslist. It’s geared toward adding next-generation inter­ac­tive con­tent to the web­site of a con­sor­tium of sub­ur­ban news­pa­pers (appli­cants are asked to be “com­fort­able with terms like blog, vlog, CSS, YourHub, MySpace, YouTube…,” etc.). The qual­i­fi­ca­tions and vision are right up my alley but I’m still wait­ing to hear any­thing about the appli­ca­tion I sent by email and snail mail a week ago. Despite this, they’re con­tin­u­ing to post revised descrip­tions to Craigslist. Yesterday’s ver­sion dropped the “con­ver­gence” lin­go and also dropped the pro­ject­ed salary by about ten grand.

About two months ago I actu­al­ly got through to an inter­view for a fab­u­lous job that con­sist­ed of putting togeth­er a blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty site to fea­ture the lesser-known and quirky busi­ness­es of Philadel­phia. I had a great inter­view, thought I had a good chance at the job and then heard noth­ing. Days turned to weeks as my follow-up com­mu­ni­ca­tions went unan­swered. 11/30 Update: a friend just guessed the group I was talk­ing about and emailed that the site did launch, just qui­et­ly. It looks good.

Cor­po­rate blog­ging is said to be the wave of the future and in only a few years polit­i­cal cam­paigns have come to con­sid­er blog­gers as an essen­tial tool in get­ting their mes­sage out. User-generated con­tent has become essen­tial feed­back and pub­lic­i­ty mech­a­nisms. My expe­ri­ence from the Quak­er world is that blog­gers are con­sti­tut­ing a new kind of lead­er­ship, one that’s both more out­go­ing but also thought­ful and vision­ary (I should post about this some­time soon). Blogs encour­age open­ness and trans­paren­cy and will sure­ly affect orga­ni­za­tion­al pol­i­tics more and more in the near future. Smart com­pa­nies and non­prof­its that want to grow in size and influ­ence will have to learn to play well with blogs.

But the future is lit­tle suc­cor to the present. In the Philadel­phia met­ro­pol­i­tan area it seems that the rare employ­er that’s think­ing in these terms have have a lot of back and forths try­ing to work out the job descrip­tion. Well, I only need one enlight­ened employ­er! It’s time now to put the boys to bed, then check the job boards again. Keep us in your prayers.

Love is unconditional and accepts us for who we are

I tried to post this as a com­ment on “this piece by James Riemermann”:http://feeds.quakerquaker.org/quaker?m=299 on the Non­the­ist Friends web­site but the site expe­ri­enced a tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ty when I tried to sub­mit it (hope it’s back up soon!). James describes his post as a “rant” about “conservative-leaning lib­er­al Friends,” and one theme that got picked up in the com­ments was how he and oth­ers felt exclud­ed by us (for that is a term I use to try to describe my spir­i­tu­al con­di­tion). Rather than loose the com­ment I’ll just post it here.
Hi James and every­one,
Well, I think I was one of the first of the Quak­er blog­gers to talk about conservative-leaning lib­er­al Quak­ers back in July 2003. I too am not sure it’s any­thing worth call­ing a “move­ment.”
I hear this feel­ing of being exclud­ed but I’m not sure where that’s com­ing from. When James had a real­ly won­der­ful, thought-provoking response to my “We’re All Ranters Now” piece, I asked him if I could “reprint” the com­ment as its own guest piece. It got a lot of atten­tion, a lot of com­ments. I didn’t real­ize you were using non​the​ist​friends​.org as a blog these days but “Robin M”:http://www.quakerquaker.org/contributors_robin_m/ of “What Canst Thou Say”:http://robinmsf.blogspot.com/ did and has added a link to your post from “QuakerQuaker.org”:www.quakerquaker.org, which again is a val­i­da­tion that yours is an impor­tant voice (I can pret­ty much guar­an­tee that this is going to be one of the more fol­lowed links). You and every­one here are part of the fam­i­ly.
Yes, we have some dis­agree­ments. I don’t think Quak­erism is sim­ply made up of who­ev­er makes it into the meet­ing­house. I think we have a tra­di­tion that we’ve inher­it­ed. This con­sists of prac­tices and val­ues and ways of look­ing at the world. Much of that tra­di­tion comes from the gospel of Jesus and the epis­tles between the ear­li­est Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties. Much of what might feel like neu­tral Quak­er prac­tice is a clear echo of that tra­di­tion, and that echo is what I talk about that in my blogs. I think it’s good to know where we’re com­ing from. That doesn’t mean we’re stuck there and we adapt it as our rev­e­la­tion changes (this atti­tude is why I’m a lib­er­al Friend no mat­ter how much I talk about Christ). These blog con­ver­sa­tions are the ways we share our expe­ri­ences, min­is­ter to and com­fort one anoth­er.
That peo­ple hold dif­fer­ent reli­gious under­stand­ings and prac­tices isn’t in itself inher­ent­ly exclu­sion­ary. Diver­si­ty is good for us, right? There’s no one Quak­er cen­ter. There’s muli­ti­ple con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen­ing in mul­ti­ple lan­guages, much of it glo­ri­ous­ly over­lap­ping on the elec­tron­ic path­ways of the inter­net. That’s won­der­ful, it shows a great vital­i­ty. The reli­gious tra­di­tion that is Quak­erism is not dead, not moth­balled away in a liv­ing his­to­ry muse­um some­where. It’s alive, with its assump­tions and bound­aries con­stant­ly being revis­it­ed. That’s cool. If a par­tic­u­lar post feels too carp­ing, there’s always the “elder­ing of the back but­ton,” as I like to call it. Let’s try to hear each oth­er from where we are and to remain open to the min­istry from those who might appear to be com­ing from a dif­fer­ent place. Love is the first move­ment and love is uncon­di­tion­al and accepts us for who we are.
I bet­ter stop this before I get too mushy, with all this talk of love! See what I mean about being a lib­er­al Quak­er?
Your Friend, Mar­tin