Worship in paint (and sand and song)

June 29, 2008
FGC Gathering, Johnstown, Penna.

Worship in paint today was pretty amazing.

We got there a bit late, and the participants were gathered in a circle around the volleyball court.

A Friend gave vocal ministry, clearly and loudly enough to be heard 40 feet away, about smiling in your heart, and radiating gladness to the people around you. He repeated himself rather, but it was good.

Beverly Shepard began leading a chant, which a few people took up around her. Mostly Psalm-based chants, as I recall. Taize-like.

Soon thereafter a person took up a brush and began a swath of red paint across a few of the sheets of paper attached to the volleyball net.

Then most of the people – all the children and young adults certainly --went to pick up brushes and began to paint.

Several of the younger children, especially, began to play in the sand of the court.

A woman began etching out a labyrinth with her heel.

H. and S. painted happily. Then got too involved with flicking paint from their brushes onto the paper – they got eldered by JG friend in residence!
They went to play in the sand. Both made sand castles.

S. joined other boys in running about, then found the labyrinth and began running through it w/2 other boys.

A little girl, about 2, was happily painting her hands white and green with a brush. Then she enjoyed playing in the sand with her painted hands.

Beverly chanted, “Let the little children come to me/For heaven belongs to such as these.”

Then several of the adults were weeping. So were a couple of the teen girls. There were many long hugs given – between women in the 50s, between teen girls and women in their 60s or 70s. It made my eyes all wet, too, to see it. And to see that part of it was my six year old happily running through the labyrinth that was triggering these emotions for many of us.

And then the paintings were there, bright and vivid and vibrant colors and shapes moving across the papers, and all along the length of the volleyball net.
It was tremendously stimulating in an unprogrammed Quaker context – the visual (paintings), the auditory (chant), the tactile (sand and paint). Plus the emotional.
It was pretty great and overwhelming.


Bloggers at the 2008 FGC Gathering

I'm currently grabbing a few minutes of wifi at the Friends General Conference 2008 Gathering. Attention bloggers: Liz, Robin & I are planning to announce a dinner get-together of Quaker bloggers on Tuesday night in the student union dining hall. Not sure which corner yet -- see the daily bulletin.

I've met the following bloggers so far here:

- Robin M.
- Liz Opp
- Jeanne Burns
- Peterson Toscano
- Rebecca Sullivan
- Linda
- Staśa Morgan-Appel*
- Paul L.
- Eileen Flanagan*
- Brent Bill*
- Timothy Travis
- Carl Magruder
- Zach Alexander*
- Karen Street
- Kody
(* = met for the first time)

Please leave me a comment if I've forgotten you, or if you're here and our paths haven't crossed yet.

Robin and Peterson are leading workshops. Robin, Liz, Jeanne, Staśa, and Eileen are leading interest groups. Brent read from his book Sacred Compass today at the FGC QuakerBooks bookstore. Paul and Linda and I sang Sacred Harp this afternoon.

Linda is in the same workshop I am, namely "Chant." My one complaint about the workshop is that the Pitt store is not open this weekend, so I can't buy more tissues. Based on my experience today, I'm going to need a lot more.

Updated 6/30, and 7/4: Bloggers I've seen but haven't talked to:
- Claire

Added the fact that Jeanne had an interest group on Quakers and social class. I heard good reports about it.


My dream for our meeting

My dream for our meeting

A place for spiritual growth,
formation, and transformation.

A place where spiritual gifts are named and nurtured
for a season or for years.

Where we support one another on the Way
of transformation

Where we devote ourselves
to God
and the common good
through acts of service
to build the kingdom of God
on earth as it surely is in heaven


The Big Stick: America's "Sorry"?

"The Big Stick" is a song by d. boon of the Minutemen -- the faboo, lefty 1980s punkish band from San Pedro, California, not the goons on the border.

Replace Managua with Baghdad and it's today's news. There is "time to heal the scars we've caused." Look at Australia with "National Sorry Day" and lately even Canada. C'mon, USA, what are we waiting for?

Now over there in Managua Square
With American made bombs falling everywhere
They kill women and children and animals too
These bombs are made by people like me and you
And we're told that we hold a big stick over them
But I know from what I've read that peace is in our hands

Now over there in Guatemala my friend
We're making mistakes there once again
Uncle Sam supports a fascist regime
That doesn't represent the people over there
We learn and believe there is justice for us all
And we lie to ourselves with a big stick up our a--

Now if we stand and yell it out
That war isn't what we're all about
Then someone will come and bring us back
To get the peace train back on its tracks

This is what I'm singing about
The race war that America supports
Indians will never die
They'll do just fine if we let them try
Though we hold, we're never told that peace is in our hands
If we stop there is time to heal the scars we've caused
To heal the scars we've caused...
From http://forums.appleinsider.com/showthread.php?t=11439

I guess there's also REM's "I'm Sorry," but much as I love it, it's too individualized and privatized. And Nigeria has Femi Kuti's Sorry Sorry ready and waiting whenever it's needed...


Music-based lesson in Firstday School

In spring 2008, I taught a Firstday School lesson that involved playing recordings of music having a spiritual theme and wildly different styles.

I asked the students to listen, then to comment on how they felt and what they thought of when they heard it. There were seven children, ranging from six to 11. It was too big of an age range.

The two 11-year-old girls loved this lesson. They were very engaged, and they really enjoyed listening and then commenting. They had a rich variety of observations to share.

The 10- and 11-year-old boys did not show much interest. One of them (fortunately not my own) kept reaching for his book to read, until I put it out of reach. The same boy mostly said he didn't like the songs, but he couldn't or wouldn't articulate why not.

One six year old boy was just too hyper for this lesson. I spent a fair amount of the time following him around to get him to put things down. I encouraged dancing to the music (don't let the ancient Quakers know), but it wasn't enough to engage him. The other six year olds, a girl and a boy, seemed content just to listen. The girl got her hair braided by one of the 11-year-olds, and she (the 6-y.o.) was surely in heaven about that.

I played the songs on a boombox with CD and cassette. I left my own at home despite having pulled it out of the closet and left it near the door. Fortunately, I called someone who lives near the meetinghouse, and she had not left yet and she did indeed have such a boombox. So I was saved by the community -- thank you, God, for your manna!

Here is the list of songs I chose:
Ensemble Project Ars Nova, "Lucis Angeli" (medieval polyphony)
Anonymous 4, "Jewett" and "New Britain" (two very different versions of "Amazing Grace" from the American Angels CD)
U2, "Yahweh"
Godspell, "Prepare Ye" (from a tape I made of the original vinyl album I have from the early 1970s!)
Reading of the passage in Isaiah 40, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord..."
Lisa Gerrard, "Abwoon" (an atmospheric rendition of the Lord's Prayer in ARAMAIC!, from a solo CD by the Dead Can Dance'r)
Moby, "God Moving Over the Face of the Water"
Reading of the beginning of Genesis, the source of the image for the song title
Incredible String Band, "The Mountain of God" (very postmodern in that it combines snippets of lyrics from hymns as well as a glancing reference to Christopher Robin)
Five Blind Boys of Alabama, "This May Be the Last Time" (this upbeat R&B gospel song was the most popular of the set, by far)
Willie Nelson, "Uncloudy Day"
Carin Anderson, "Instrument" -- from a lovely album by a member of San Francisco Monthly Meeting, now living in southern Arizona, the song is a prayer to "Make me an instrument."


Notes from Douglas Gwyn's Apocalypse of the Word

When reading books, I have a habit of scribbling brief notes on small slips of paper to indicate sections I'd like to remember or go back to. I sometimes use them to refer back to passages for blog posts. Other times, I return the book before I take time to do that.

Such is the case with Douglas Gwyn’s Apocalypse of the Word, his analysis of George Fox's original message. Here are my cryptic notes from the little slip of paper. Perhaps you'll find them intriguing enough to pick up a copy from QuakerBooks or your meeting's library. Or perhaps you'll ignore them and go pick up the book anyway.

p. 30: Fox’s message implied three assertions:
  1. Christ had come
  2. Christ supersedes existing Church orders, etc.
  3. Christ himself had come, the creating and redeeming Word of God (vs. Scripture)

p. 36: Barbour: Testimonies as evangelical campaigns rather than a moral code

p. 37: Fox’s message a call and claim to both personal righteousness and social justice

p. 64: from imperative (“thou shalt”) to cohortative (“let us!”)

p. 96-7: the typology of the Bible (vs. allegory) – stories in the Bible as types for us to live out (Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Paul)

p. 106: purpose of scripture is not knowing Jesus but recognizing him

p. 107: first paragraph: mutually informing inward and outward

p. 111: Mission = personal and spiritual transformation

p. 125: Fox: seeing Cain within ourselves

p. 173: popular notion that Friends’ worship is limited in appeal is classist and racist (see my previous blog post)

p. 178: quite the opposite – Fox’s was not some proto-liberal view

p. 201: take possession of the Gospel

p. 210: opportunity to hear from God

p. 216: will Friends converge or be antiquarian?

p. 217: How does Fox’s message move beyond personal preference and privileged consumerism (today)?

PS Be sure to read Wess Daniels' Douglas Gwyn and the Convergent-Covenant, where Wess makes the apropo observation that the "X-covenant" Gwyn identifies in the book could be named as the "convergent-covenant."


Thoughts on starting a second year of clerking

I’ve been asked for the second year in a row by my monthly meeting to serve as clerk. I have some gifts that help me to be of service in this role, as well as persistence and faithful participation (my family and I go to meeting every Sunday we’re at home), loyalty, and helping out in several different roles over the years.

I keep saying I’m not the executive director of the meeting. It’s a true statement, and at the same time, I bring my experience as an executive director to the office. It has its helpful aspects. I feel blessed to have the opportunity.

Fortunately, too, I had about a year of clerking fairly easy business meetings before we had a couple of challenging ones. It was helpful to have some experience under my belt before all that erupted.

At business meeting this month, there was a moment when I thought, “God, I truly have no idea what to do next.” It almost felt like leaning on the Everlasting Arms. (If I was more dramatic, I would have thought, “I give up! You have to do it, God. You lead us through the desert, because I don’t know the way!”)

And then clarity emerged, gradually, as more Friends spoke.

Thank you, Friends, and God, for this opportunity to serve. Help me to be open, centered, present, compassionate, and joyful. May I be of service.


News links

San Francisco Friends and friends peace vigil in the newspaper!

From the San Francisco Chronicle. With a couple of photos, too. I was happy because this came out the day of our monthly meeting's retreat.

Cal State Fullerton lecturer allowed to add to oath

"A Cal State Fullerton lecturer who lost her job because she objected to signing a loyalty oath was reappointed Monday to teach next fall in an agreement worked out between the university and a national civil rights group. Wendy Gonaver, a Quaker and pacifist who said that California's required loyalty oath violated her religious beliefs and her right of free speech, will be allowed to attach a personal statement of her views when she signs the pledge."

The following links are from Common Dreams:

Maine novelist [Quaker sympathizer] stirs controversy
Nicholson Baker questions ethics of World War II.

Destroying African Agriculture
Published on Wednesday, June 4, 2008 by Foreign Policy in Focus by Walden Bello [who spent time in the late 1980s/early 1990s as a Fellow at Friends Committee on National Legislation]
"Biofuel production is certainly one of the culprits in the current global food crisis.... [T]he more primordial problem has been the conversion of economies that are largely food-self-sufficient into chronic food importers. ...the destabilization of peasant producers by a one-two punch of IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programs that gutted government investment in the countryside followed by the massive influx of subsidized U.S. and European Union agricultural imports after the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture pried open markets. African agriculture is a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base."

Canada’s House Backs War Resisters
published on Wednesday, June 4, 2008 by the Los Angeles Times
Lawmakers Pass a Motion Urging the Government to Let US Military Deserters Stay. Dozens Seek Refugee Status. On Tuesday, Canada’s House of Commons passed a motion urging the government to allow deserters to stay. The measure, though nonbinding, could lead to a last-minute reprieve for Glass and nearly 40 others who have asked for refugee status. Perhaps 200 more war dodgers are living in the country unannounced, waiting to see how Canada will ultimately declare itself, the War Resisters Support Campaign says.