An amazing thing has happened in the last two years: we’ve got Friends from the corners of Quakerism sharing our similarities and differences, our frustrations and dreams through Quaker blogs. Disenchanted Friends who have longed for deeper conversation and consolation when things are hard at their local meeting have built a network of Friends who understand. When our generation is settling down to write our memoirs — our Quaker journals — a lot of us will have to have at least one chapter about becoming involved in the Quaker blogging community.
When I signed off on my last post, I promised I would continue with something on “blogs, ministry and liberal Quaker outreach.” Here’s the first of the follow-ups.
As I settle in to my second week at my new (and newly-defined) jobs at FGC, I wonder if I be here without help of the Quaker Ranter? I started this blog two summers ago. It was a time when I felt like I might be headed toward membership in the lost Quaker generation that was the focus of one of my earliest posts. There were a lot of dead-ends in my life. A couple of applications for more serious, responsible employment with Friends had recently gone nowhere. Life at my monthly meeting was odd (we’ll keep it at that). I felt I was coming into a deeper experiential knowledge of my Quakerism and perhaps inching toward more overt ministry but there was no outlet, no sense of how this inward transformation might fit into any sort of outward social form or forum.
Everywhere I looked I saw Friends shortcoming themselves and our religious society with a don’t-rock-the-boat timidity that wasn’t serving God’s purpose for us. I saw precious little prophetic ministry. I knew of few Friends who were asking challenging questions about our worship life. Our language about God was becoming ever more coded and sterilized. Most of the twenty-somethings I knew generally approached Quakerism primarily as a series of cultural norms with only different standards from one yearly meeting to another (and one Quaker branch to another, I suspect) .
With all this as backdrop, I started the Quaker Ranter with a nothing-left-to-lose mentality. I was nervous about pushing boundaries and about broaching things publicly that most Friends only say in hushed tones of two or three on meetinghouse steps. I was also doubly nervous about being a Quaker employee talking about this stuff (livelihood and all that!). The few Quaker blogs that were out there were generally blogs by Quakers but about anything but Quakerism, politics being the most common topic.
Now sure, a lot of this hasn’t changed over these few years. But one thing has: we now have a vibrant community of Quaker bloggers. We’ve got folks from the corners of Quakerism getting to know one another and hash out not just our similarities and differences, but our frustrations and dreams. It’s so cool. There’s something happening in all this! Disenchanted Friends who have longed for deeper conversation and consolation when things are hard at their local meeting are finding Friends who understand.
Through the blog and the community that formed around it I’ve found a voice. I’m evolving, certainly, through reading, life, blog conversations and most importantly (I hope!) the acting of the Holy Spirit on my ever-resistant ego. But because of my blog I’m someone who now feels comfortable talking about what it means to be a Quaker in a public setting. It almost seems quaint to think back to the early blog conversations about whether we can call this a kind of ministry. When we’re all settling down to write our memoirs — our Quaker journals — a lot of us will have to have at least one chapter about becoming involved in the Quaker blogging community. In Howard Brinton’s Quaker Journals he enumerated the steps toward growth in the ministry that most of the writers seemed to go through; I suspect the journals of our generation will add self-published electronic media to it’s list of classic steps.
When I started Quaker Ranter I did have to wonder if this might be a quickest way to get fired. Not to cast aspersions on the powers-that-be at FGC but the web is full of cautionary tales of people being canned because of too-public blogs. My only consolation was the sense that no one that mattered really read the thing. But as it became more prominent a curious phenomenon happened: even Quaker staff and über-insiders seemed to be relating to this conversation and wanted a place to complain and dream about Quakerism. My personal reputation has certainly gone up because of this site, directly and indirectly because of the blog. This brings with it the snares of popular praise (itself a well-worn theme in Quaker journals) but it also made it more likely I would be considered for my new outreach job. It’s funny how life works.
Okay, that’s enough for a post. I’ll have to keep outreach till next time. But bear with me: it’s about form too and how form contributes to ministry.
PS: Talking of two years of Quaker blogging… My “Nonviolence.org turns ten years old this Thursday!! I thought about making a big deal about it but alas there’s so little time.