A lovely spring College Park Quarter

What a lovely time we had together this past weekend at College Park Quarterly Meeting. It was made deeper by two things: First, it was the last spring quarterly meeting the Sullivan family would be our hosts at Ben Lomond Quaker Center, and in fact Traci Hjelt-Sullivan has already gone to Philadelphia to start her new job as gathering coordinator beginning with next year’s Friends General Conference gathering. The goodbyes were many, varied, and sweet. For example, the teens gave Walter a Quaker Center Camp t-shirt they had colored and signed.

The plenary meeting for worship with a concern for business adopted a lovely minute of appreciation and gratitude for the work of the Sullivans. I had suggested including the whole of the Fox quote about “be patterns, be examples, … walk cheerfully across the earth answering that of God in every one.” It really resonated. In fact, one Friend stifled sobs when that part was read aloud, and I knew it was good.

Second, we did actual business in our small groups—not just sharing, which can be lovely or it can be dry, and it’s usually highly focused on the individual. Instead, our Ministry and Oversight Committee asked us to read aloud two or three state of the meeting reports from across the Quarter. We then responded to some simple queries about how did we hear Truth prospering, where were the spiritual strengths and weaknesses, and what was the one thing we thought needed to be brought back before the entire plenary.

It was a very effective exercise. I was fortunate to be in the group that had my own meeting’s report, and it definitely gave me a new perspective. First, others expressed in words some difficulties they had with the report which I had felt but hadn’t found words to express (primarily, that it was wordy and listed lots of things we’re doing, so it was hard to hear how was Spirit moving among us). Second, some Friends confirmed my own (and Robin M.’s) sense that our meeting is actually quite functional and thriving in many ways, though of course we have our limitations, too.

A weighty Friend also said that these reports are full of the things we do, yet we need to report on who we are – inside. “And I’m saying that as a confirmed and committed activist!” he added.

I would like more annual sessions and meetings for business to be like this. I found it more helpful than just individualized reflections. To ask how is Truth prospering among us (collectively as well as individually) is a basic query that is frequently appropriate.

Another nice thing: We get to go back this weekend, for San Francisco Monthly Meeting's annual retreat! Hm, maybe I'll sing a song from JC Superstar for the talent show. ;-)

PS Special shout-out to the New Young Elder! :)


Quick takes

I thought I'd do a traditional "weblog" type of post about some stuff that's caught my attention of late:

- Rich Accetta-Evans continues his thoughtful exploration of Christianity and Quakerism at Brooklyn Quaker. He's going to tempt me into the sin of pride: Get thee behind me, Rich!

- Frannie Hall Kieschnick called me today, in response to a note I wrote to her (blogged about here recently). She said she'd like to find ways for people who are not in seminary to get involved with The Beatitudes Society. I told her I was encouraging some Quakers to learn about their work. We're going to talk more.

- She also said her husband had found my blog post. Eep! Be careful what you say in public on your blog! :) (I don't have a TV, so I honestly hadn't heard of her brother before.... this makes more sense if you go back to the original post...)

- Frannie also mentioned a front-page story in the S.F. Chronicle about how Glenn Greenwald's How Would a Patriot Act: Defending America from a President Run Amok has become a best-seller through promotion on blogs, not through the mainstream. Working Assets is publishing it.

- As Quakers well know, NSA is spying on everyone, except a few million Qwest customers. Here's Working Asset's response: Hang up on the NSA! Quote: "Working Assets is the only telephone company participating in the ACLU's lawsuit against the National Security Agency." Okay, I don't want this to be some kind of commercial, so go read FCNL's statement, "No blank check for domestic spying", too. Thanks.

- I'm intrigued by Neil Young's multichannel new media promotion for his new album, Living With War, which includes songs such as "Impeach the President." Not deep, but it rocks. Anyway, he's got (or his marketing agency does anyway) a blog on Blogger, a MySpace page, and they were streaming the album on the web before you could even buy it. Very smart marketing.

- I really like the song "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, which was supposedly #1 in UK based solely on downloads. I heard it on KFOG, the well-known FM rock station in SF, but they didn't put it on their website playlist! Fortunately I'd heard a DJ on another station mention the name of the band, which I thought was Snarls Barkley. Hooray for Google, I got the right hit eventually.

- Finally, last night I led the "Stewardship" workshop of our new expanded SPICES workshop series at the SF Friends School. It was a rich experience. It felt spiritually grounded, and not an opportunity for political harangue, which given the ecologically troubled times was an achievement in itself. Thanks to Stephen and Chad for being presenters!


Guest Epistle to the Distracted

GUEST POST: Lisa Hubbell wrote the following epistle at the spring 2006 Christian Friends Conference gathering, at which Krista Barnard did a presentation on the Epistles, and suggested participants write their own. (I'm registered for Krista's FGC Gathering workshop, Finding ourselves in the Bible. I definitely "found myself" in Lisa's epistle.) Thanks to Lisa for her permission to reprint here.


Epistle to the Distracted
(Lisa Hubbell, 3/25/06)

Dear one:

You're not yourself lately.
I don't see the joy of the Spirit filling you up and overflowing
as it once did.

Slow down.
Take the time to drink and be refreshed at God's well,
instead of filling your body and your mind and your heart and your time
with distractions that do nothing to bring you closer to God.


Don't you know that God is always with you, always available?
Well, yes, you can say you know that.
But how often do you really feel God's presence,
really let God in,
really open yourself to letting God work on you, heal you, change you?

I know that you're afraid, that you're holding back tears,
that you sometimes feel like you're on the brink of falling apart.
Dear one, there is nothing wrong with that.
It may be the best place you could possibly be —
so close to falling into God's arms, if you would only let yourself go.

Dear one, God is calling you.
And there is joy in the surrender.
It is only your own stubborn choice
that ever leaves you carrying any burden alone.
God is standing at the door, knocking.



Quaker Blogging Workshop

Robin M. examines handwritten responses to comments previously posted on her blog, printed out for the workshop.
On Sunday, Robin M. and I co-led a workshop at our meeting on Quaker blogs and the "convergent" conversation. (Oh, and tonight, she made rhubarb crisp; if rhubarb is in season near you, I commend her rhubarb pie recipe to you highly!)

About half a dozen people came. It was a sunny day after a month of rain in San Francisco, so I am warmly pleased with the Friends who did stay.


1. Silent Worship

2. Introduction/Icebreaker
Variation on “Telephone” called “Internet”: circulate paper with “I had coffee after Meeting today” around and ask each person to add a comment. [Note: This was an experiment, not entirely successful. But it did bring the experience of commenting on someone else's writing. We felt the impatience of waiting to read someone else's comments after going around the circle; we felt the artificiality of it; etc.]

3. What are blogs? and Quaker blogs specifically?
• Describe a bit about blogs & how they work
• Discuss the Meeting’s own weblogs at www.sfquakers.org

4. Experiential exercise
Group reads excerpts from blog posts, taped on large paper to the walls, and writes comments below [See * at end for list of which posts we used]
• Ta-da: This is blogging!

5. Why is this exciting to Robin & Chris?
• How Quaker blogs are working:
- high-quality writing
- high level of respect
- gives some Quakers who feel isolated a chance to connect w/others who share their views (whatever they may be)
- not anonymous, but usually Friends of Friends
- chance for reflection, deepening of Quaker identity; as blogger Liz Opp called it, “Yearning, Forming, Deepening our Quaker Identity”
- We sense winds of the spirit blowing… same direction…
• Acknowledge the limits of the medium
• Sense of possibility of convergence of branches, Quaker renewal and deepening
• Blogs allow us to have conversations on our spiritual lives across branches and across distance.

6. Silent worship

We would have liked to have more dialogue at the end. But the sunshine was calling, and perople drifted out one by one. The dialogue really did start in the handwritten comments on the posted blog excerpts, and as we processed that experience together as a group.

* Here are the posts we excerpted:
> Robin's aforementioned convergence one
> LizOpp's queries on Lost Traditions?
> Amanda's take on Halloween
> Martin Kelley's classic We're All Ranters Now: On Liberal Friends and Becoming a Society of Finders

Robin M. and David M. (no relation) discuss Quaker blogs. See dmatchett.net for David's blogurl.
P.S. Extra credit for anyone who notices where a certain "guide to the Quaker conversation" got its name!

States visited like beppe and robin

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

I'm a little behind on getting this published. So here's the next go-round: I propose we map out in which states we've attended meeting for worship!!