The community organizer's strategic plan

So there was this community organizer. He went to the town hall meeting, and they asked him to speak. He said it was time to start a new organization.

They asked him what was its mission statement. He said, "To preach good news to low-income people everywhere."

They asked him what his vision was. He said, "To liberate the oppressed. To release nonviolent offenders to community courts. To bring restorative justice for the felons, so they can seek forgiveness from the people they've hurt. To fill the food banks everywhere, so no one goes hungry. And to accompany the elderly, so no one has to die alone."

A group of them said, "We want in! Sign us up." So they formed the Board of Directors.

They went out holding community meetings and bringing their vision around to different neighborhoods. They were having great success, and crowds of people were coming. So they decided to have a board retreat.

"We need a strategic plan," they said.

"I've got one," he said, "and it goes like this:
  1. Say good things to the poor and the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kin(g)dom of heaven.

  2. Say good things to the sorrowful,
    for they shall find consolation.

  3. Say good things to the gentle,
    for they shall possess the earth.

  4. Say good things to those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail,
    for they shall be filled.

  5. Say good things to the merciful,
    for they shall be shown mercy.

  6. Say good things to the pure in heart whose inner light burns bright,
    for they shall see God.

  7. Say good things to the peacemakers,
    for they shall be called children of God.

  8. Say good things to the people who are persecuted by the system
    for doing the right thing,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And when he was finished, the retreat was over, and they put together a big meal and invited the neighborhood, because they knew the first principle of community organizing is to have good food. And everyone sat down together and broke bread. And it was good. The moment had arrived.
vocal ministry more or less as delivered at SF Meeting, 7/27/08


In case I didn't have enough to do

So I'm getting ready to be a teacher for a week for the first time ever, at Pacific Yearly Meeting's annual sessions (Yearly Meeting being the name of a regional Quaker gathering).

I've taught plenty of Firstday School (Sunday School) lessons but never four hours long, for five days. I have an outline and some curriculum. And the social curriculum of letting kids hang just out together and play is a big part of it.

Meanwhile, today I clerked a threshing session at our meeting, a time when we discuss an issue and "put all the laundry on the line." The topic was the meeting's relationship with the American Friends Service Committee, and the session was sparked by some frustration in the meeting. What was clear was how much Friends value AFSC, even with some of the frustrations, mostly around communications, and how long a history we have together. So sure, if you're married for 75 years you'll have a few complaints about each other. But you're committed to each other and you want to make it a bit better if you can. That was the sense I had of the meeting.


Quaker Witness at Performance of "War Requiem"

The following is from San Francisco Meeting member Charles Martin:

Friends: Here is announcement for the public witness at the Davies Symphony Hall. The Symphony Hall administrators are aware of our intentions and wish us well but we are restricted to the public sidewalk. Please announce and or pass on to your mail lists.

Public Witness Against War
Saturday, 8/2/2008, 7-8 pm
at Davies Symphony Hall
Corner of Van Ness and Grove
San Francisco

The San Francisco Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends invites you to join with us in a public witness for peace outside of the Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday, 8/2/2008, between 7:00 and 8:00 PM.

The San Francisco Choral Society will be performing Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at 8:00. We plan on holding some signs, distributing leaflets, and engaging with anyone who wants to speak with us about peace, the traditional Quaker opposition to war, and how we can work to create the conditions that would lead to peace.

Part of our desire for this public witness is to emphasize the spiritual nature of Peace. That is, that peace is something more than an absence of armed conflict. Britten's War Requiem is a universal denunciation of war, not any particular war, and we would like to encourage those attending the concert to meditate on that fact. We acknowledge that as Friends we are to deal with real problems and the Iraq & Afghanistan wars are the most pressing current concern we have. But we also need to realize that if both wars ended tomorrow that we would not be at peace in the world and that our society is organized around the use of force to exploit and suppress most of the rest of the world for our economic benefit.

There will be a meeting for worship starting at 5:30 at the San Francisco Quaker Meetinghouse preceding the public witness. We will walk to the Symphony Hall taking signs and leaflets to distribute around 6:30.

Anyone wishing to participate or help with the preparations should contact Charles Martin at charles -at- innerlightbooks -dot- com.


Preparing for Pacific Yearly Meeting 2008

I've signed up to teach afternoons in the Lower Elementary level of the children's program at Pacific Yearly Meeting, 7/28-8/2/2008. Six Year Old is happy because that is his group. I hope that Ten Year Old's group will be nearby. I don't know, because I haven't been to the site before.

I've never done something like this before. However, I've taught plenty of Firstday School lessons, and I was clerk of the Children's Program Committee for two years. So I do know the lay of the land, the current committee members, and many of the children and families, which gives me comfort. I helped out plenty of times at the parent participation nursery school where our sons went. But I've never had to be "on" with a group of children for that many hours, for that many days in a row before.

Do say a prayer for me if you have a chance. Thanks!


The Fall are, er, Quaker?

"Just about my favourite rock band on earth are the Fall. Or The Mighty Fall, as they're known to me." -- John Peel, late DJ on BBC Radio

Mine, too. For example, I have a Fall quote in my blog's sidebar from Iceland, off 1982's Hex Enduction Hour (scroll down or search for "Iceland; the individual blog entries don't seem to have separate URLs).

My one little claim to fame is that I am still on the credits for The Fall Lyrics Parade; scroll down to the bottom for Version 1, 1994.

And it turns out The Fall are, er, Quaker?

(click for larger picture on unofficial Fall website)

Answer: Not! I'm sure Mark E. Smith has acerbic things to say about Friends, as he does about so many things.

The quote on the sign is attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, who was quoting a proverb.


Groaning Quaker Bookshelf

I've been reading quite a bit lately, borrowing more books than I can read from the library, and eagerly eyeing books that Robin's been receiving as gifts or loans from various sources.

Read recently:

- God Raising Us: Parenting as a Spiritual Practice, by our very own Quaker blogger Eileen Flanagan. This Pendle Hill Pamphlet would make a great topic for a discussion group among parents and other people involved with children in various ways in their lives.

- Jesus for President, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.

- A Christianity Worth Believing, Doug Pagitt.

- Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, Tony Jones.

- National Treasure: Changing Tides, kids novel based on the Disney series.

Okay, now here's what I'm in in the middle of:

- Where Should I Stand? A Handbook for Monthly Meeting Clerks, by Elizabeth Boardman, my friend, a Friend, and a predecessor as clerk of San Francisco Monthly Meeting, and my current helpmeet as assistant clerk. Highly recommended for practical advice and good humor (as in good-humored, not that there are jokes in it). She created a blog with Robin's help at http://whereshouldistand.blogspot.com/ which is just getting started.

- The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren

- The Plain Reader, edited by Scott Savage. I still have a bunch of original issues of Plain magazine. It's been interesting to dip back into these essays after nearly a decade.

- Soul Grafitti, Mark Scandrette. Robin recommends this one more than some of the other ones listed above, but this particular volume is not due back at a library so I'm not reading it actively right now.

- The Changing Faces of Jesus, by Geza Vermes. I love Vermes. He seems to keep writing the same book over and over, or variations on a theme at least, but they still seem fresh. I believe the first one on the topic was called Jesus the Jew, back in 1974. His reminder of Jesus's essential Jewishness strongly informs the messages of McLaren, Pagitt, et al.

Finally, I'm figuring to read Robin's copy of The New Conspirators by Tom Sine soon, too. This also means that the copy of The Rich Heritage of Quakerism by Walter Williams, which I bought for my birthday last fall, will continue to languish. I've read the epilogue by Paul Anderson, but haven't really dipped into the main text yet. Thank you, Barclay Press, for reprinting it, in any case!

To sum up, I guess I operate with the subconscious belief that salvation comes through reading books. Lord, have mercy on me!


Notes from Convergent Friends interest group

Notes from the Convergent Friends Interest Group at the Friends General Conference Gathering, 7/2/08
with ~ in 30-35attendance

(Note: Liz has already posted her more thoughtful reflections here, so consider this a backup source. I haven't had a chance to process the experience, merely time to post the notes I typed while in Johnstown while the wifi was down...)

Liz Opp: Heard about blogs @ FGC Gathering ~5 years ago from Martin Kelley. Found his blog through a Google search. He was exploring going deeper in Q faith tradition, a concern Liz shares. Some traditions endangered. Left long comments on his blog. Found she had a unique voice and started her own blog. Found there were conversations happening across schisms. Holding concern for Quaker faith. How to name it? “convergent” – Vibrant.

Robin M.: Defined convergent Friends. Quaker practices that bring transformation and life. It’s not a precise term. Fuzzy understanding. What does it mean to be a Quaker today? Not just in her monthly or yearly meeting. Many Friends are exploring this. Evangelical Friends in Newberg are interested in the Quaker distinctives. Quaker institutions are developing vision statements, often in conjunction with fundraising campaigns. Her experience meeting Friends in FUM meetings this last year confirms winds of the Spirit are blowing across different branches of Friends.

Participants were invited to write down questions on index cards. They then read them in turn with a (very) brief silence between.
  • How can we bridge the growing divide around sexuality?
  • Where can a universalist or nontheist Friend find common ground with a Christian Friend?
  • If you don’t blog, how can you engage in this exciting conversation more than once a year at the FGC Gathering?
  • Will the conversation become more?
  • Where is the movement on the continuum between formal institutions and informal conversations?
  • Is convergence reforming, renewing, or revolutionary? (Paul)
  • You use terms like “renewal” and “reclaim.” Do you think Quakerism is degenerating?
  • How can we bring this to our monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings?
  • What roles if any can existing institutions play? How does the involvement of those institutions change the conversation?
  • Does the convergent church expect the Kingdom of God? What’s it mean?
  • Is this a process that requires unity in meeting?
  • You mentioned commonalities about renewal among different faiths, including Judaism and Islam. What are the possibilities for an emergent interfaith conversation?
  • You mentioned people being enriched by practices that their meetings don’t embrace. What are they?
  • What will convergent Friends look like in 50 years? Will the convergence be complete? Or is it a process, like seeking, that is never complete?
  • What are some of the topics you discuss? Is there consensus, especially on issues that are controversial among Friends more widely?
  • What would convergence look like in my meeting?
  • Are inclusive Friends the same as convergent Friends?
  • How is it specifically, “mechanically,” you find common ground?
  • Is it good or bad, helpful or prohibitive to institutionalize convergent Friends?
  • What queries have you used at your “convergent Friends meetups”?
  • How much interest is there about this in EFI?
Robin and Liz offered some responses to particular questions, then we moved into worship sharing. At this point, I was aiming to provide a worshipful center and did not take notes. It felt centered, as people spoke their truth and were able to listen to different points of view.

What’s next?
  • See the book Quakerism: A Spirituality for Our Time
  • Friends World Committee for Consultation
  • Worship sharing
  • Don’t be afraid to speak of our spiritual experiences. Let’s hear them!
  • Organize times or series at meeting for Friends to share about their spiritual journeys
  • Quaker Quest
  • Convene a discussion at your meeting or QM or YM. Doesn’t have to be about convergent Friends. Could be about Quaker practices that help renew or transform you.
  • Small support groups among people you know. Take care for it not to compete with the meeting.
  • Spiritual formation groups through the Yearly Meeting level.
The conversation continued past the formal closing worship, as several Friends stayed behind to process the session together.


You can take the Quakers out of the S.F. Bay Area...

but you can't take the San Francisco Bay Area out of the Quakers.

Here's a photo of Robin and our older son at a peace vigil in Rochester, N.Y., which appeared to be sponsored by the downtown Episcopal church.


Hands Make Good Lobster Claws

After the FGC Gathering, our family went to upstate New York to visit family. Returning home, our flight from Buffalo to Las Vegas was 5 hours. I sat next to Six Year Old. He was pretty much in heaven to have five hours of nearly undivided daddy time.

He had the best time playing with my hands. He pretended they were lobster claws, so I had to keep making pinching gestures. He immobilized them with imaginary rubber bands or strings. Then he decided to layer them with metal. He spent quite while putting the metal on. Then he “made it flexible” so the claws could pinch—though they weren’t supposed to pinch him. Finally, he said the metal had been on for two years, and he needed to strip it off again.

After a long time of putting metal on and off the claws, he decided to “make a hammer” to use on the metal. He pounded away at the air, like the blacksmith we saw at the DeYoung Museum a few weeks ago. He did this long enough for me to read several more pages of Shane Claiborne’s and Chris Haw’s Jesus for President.

What an imagination! Every now and then I’d look over at him, and he’d smile and stop his play for a minute, almost embarrassed to be observed. Then I’d look away and he’d go back to it. All in all, it was a fun time.

Here is a photo of the boys at my sister's place.

And here is one of me with them sitting in the statuary laps of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass in Rochester, N.Y.


Quakers' stopover in Vegas

What’s a Quaker to do when plonked down in the midst of Babylon? Sit and stare. Or sit, state, and type on a laptop, symbol of my own participation in Babylon.

I wrote this sitting in the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, waiting for a connecting flight to San Francisco. I know it’s called McCarran International Airport because an electronic signboard across the waiting area says so. This sign repeatedly flashes moving images of showers of dollar bills spinning out and floating down. The showers repeat in a cycle, starting with a small shower and getting bigger each time until they cover half the screen. Then the cycle repeats.

On the flight in from Buffalo, the flight crew said it was 102 degrees here. Yet I’m sitting in my short sleeves with my arms tightly held to my body to preserve warmth in the air conditioning. I want to put on my sweatshirt but it seems ridiculous.

There is a TV here which has mesmerized my wife and children. It was a seemingly innocent program about dog trainers. Still, I couldn’t stand it. I had been reading Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw on the flight in, and on page 185 it says right there, “Kill your TV.”

When I went to the bathroom, the fellow behind me in line was on his cellphone checking in with a buddy. He got off the phone and went to the urinal. He then picked up his phone and said, “Howya doin’, Pops? I’m in Vegas!” I couldn’t tell if his phone had been on vibrate and he answered it, or that he actively placed a call while peeing. In any event, he went on to explain he was going to his first bachelor’s party and that he was happy because he hadn’t been to Vegas in two years.

(I went to a bachelor party in Atlantic City once. A native of New Jersey, I had maybe been there once before, and it was soon after the casinos were opened and weren’t as big as they became by 1990. I decided to treat it as a sociological experiment and just look at the casinos and observe my friends as they gambled. It was interesting… including the fact that I was the only one in the group to leave whatever hotel we were in and go over to Trump’s Taj Mahal, even though nearly everyone in the group maintained that he had wanted to check it out. But they were all too busy gambling to bother. Oh, and several of them were annoyed that the casinos shut down for one or two hours overnight. At breakfast the next morning, some of the guys were betting on everything. One of them wanted to bet that we would all have cellphones by 2000. If I had taken him up on it, I would have won that bet, since I didn’t get a cellphone until 2002. Overall, it was some party—not! But it was a great New Jersey experience.)

Anyway, when we got off the plane in Las Vegas, the sensory overload was noticeable, with all the gambling machines pinging and flashing.

I noticed a young couple sitting at a gate with their approximately two-year-old daughter. The daughter was on a toddler restraint, which is sometimes a necessary tool; however, I was perturbed that the mother was flipping through a celebrity type magazine while tugging on her daughter’s leash, without talking to her to coax her back or anything. Robin said you don’t know how long they’ve been here. True. However, I do know that when we’ve experienced long periods of waiting in airports, we don’t just ignore our children and read, much as we would LIKE to.

I will confess, however, that in addition to Robin letting the children watch the TV in the waiting area, I let them play the silly bowling game on my cellphone. Better than having them ogle the casino games, in my opinion, but probably only slightly better.

We did get home eventually, around 2:30 am, with yet another delay in SFO because I had to fill out a form for my suitcase, which got routed to Seattle by mistake. Our children were awake and civil for a remarkably long time that day. We are blessed!


Blogger dinner at FGC Gathering 2008

Quaker Blogger Dinner at FGC Gathering 7/1/2008

So the wifi wasn't working yesterday and I haven't had a chance to get online. Here's a quick list of people who made it to the dinner:

Liz Opp

Linda S.

Jeanne Burns

Robin Mohr

Chris Mohr

Paul L.

Timothy Travis

Steve Chase – welltrainedactivist.blogspot.com

Eileen Flanagan

Bill Warters – creducation.org / campus-adr.net

Micah Bales – Lamb’s War plus new “Valiant for the Truth”

Peterson Toscano

Glen Relief (sp?) – Quaker writer, not a blogger (yet)

Tom Davis – lurker

The participants requested follow up information on:
· how to post your blogposts to your Facebook account
links to educators who write about class and race – ways to present without divulging too much information