It's showtime! MyMeeting! plus grassroots war memorials

"Tables, chairs & oaken chests," indeed! Looky! www.sanfrancisco.com/jesus-christ-superstar/

From the look of it on the web page, it's not as over-the-top as the London revival production of JC Superstar Robin & I saw for my birthday a few years ago at the same theater. I enjoyed that one. I'm not sure it's in our budget this year.
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I was looking for an explanation of how to do a Google map mashup for work. I stumbled across the MyChurch site and thought I'd offer it here in case you want to add your meeting/church. Might be interesting, or might just lead to a lot of spam. Here 'tis: www.mychurch.org/info/faq.php

(Your meeting is already listed at www.quakerfinder.org, right?)
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I liked Christian Parenti's essay about the Iraq Study Group's report. Quote: "And though it is written in polite, obfuscating Beltway vernacular, the report offers up a devastating critique of the Bush Administration's Middle East foreign policy. Most provocative, it correctly links Iraq's meltdown to a solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; these days that sort of suggestion is downright subversive. The right-wingers hate this report so passionately because they actually understand what it is saying."

Does the new majority in Congress understand it, too?
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From today's Chronicle: "Nighttime vandals late Tuesday or early Wednesday defaced the sign accompanying crosses planted on a Lafayette hillside as a memorial to American soldiers slain in Iraq."
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And news of another Iraq memorial, in Santa Barbara: "The toll of war is measured here on an acre of Pacific sand, where each Sunday volunteers array handmade wooden crosses in regimental columns to honor U.S. service members lost in Iraq.... The group of veterans that organizes the weekly tribute has decided to stop adding crosses because it is struggling to keep pace with the tally of death."
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Lord, forgive us, we know not what we are doing. (Me included.) Open our hearts up to one another, that we may have compassion and kindness. Send the Comforter to all who need Your presence in the midst of their suffering. And please take good care of Peggy Senger Parsons and her trauma healing students, okay? Thanks!


Children and mealtime grace

For some time, I have been planning to write something about the way our family has grace before meals.

Then we got an email from Kathleen Karhnak, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, about the Phila YM Children's Religious Education Program's newsletter. She has an article in the latest issue.

Kathleen's article is wonderful. It's called Foundations for Children in Quaker Worship (pdf). Here's an excerpt:
Something that’s helped me is paying attention to fostering my child’s noticing those feelings of joy and connectedness, sometimes following his cues instead of expecting him to follow mine. For example, my 2 year old son was beginning to resent family mealtime worship. Why should we just sit here in silence when there’s food RIGHT THERE waiting to be eaten? We now have, in addition to quiet thank-filled worship, a sung grace followed by clapping and exclaiming, “Yay, God!” The clapping was introduced by Tim and we joined in. It’s now a permanent part of grace. My son seems to have that feeling of joy, love, and connectedness during grace now that I remember from my childhood and which is also part of my adult experience of worship. And it’s okay, too, if he samples some of the food while giving thanks for it!
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In our family the four of us take turns, from youngest to oldest, choosing one of several options: Silence, speak a prayer, or sing a prayer. The songs are usually a chorus of "All Creatures Great and Small," "The George Fox Song," "The Appleseed Song (Johnny Appleseed's prayer)," or maybe "Simple Gifts." We end by squeezing hands and saying "amen" -- unless it's the four year old's turn. He is adamant that we not say "amen" when it's his turn!

We frequently forget to have grace until we've already started. Sometimes almost finished!

Our eight year old usually calls for silence. Lately he has been closing his eyes and bowing his head. He sometimes lets it go on for a while. For a long time, when someone chose silence, our four year old would smack his lips or whine that he didn't want silence. If he was leading grace that night, the eight year old would doggedly persist until we got at least four or five seconds of silence.

One evening, when we were particularly tense or tired or both, I called out, "Laughing." So we did. It was wonderfully cleansing and joyful -- and funny! For most of a year afterwards, Four Year Old asked for laughing pretty much every turn he had. It was less and less funny for the rest of us, but he was having fun, so we forced out some guffaws for his sake.

Another time there was lobbying from various small parties about what I should choose, so I called for each of us to pick something. After that, Four Year Old wanted to pick "everyone choose" each time.

He's making progress. At the end of November, we were almost done with dinner when the 4 y.o. said, "We forgot grace!" So we had end-of-meal grace.

Then on his next turn a few days later, he actually chose silence. The silence didn't last long before he squeezed our hands to signal the end -- and we didn't say "amen," of course -- but it's what he chose. Yay!
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  • Do you have a practice of mealtime grace?
  • What gives you joy that makes you say, "Yay, God"?
  • Do your spiritual practices help you center and appreciate the gifts of life? Do you ever feel as if your usual practices are just keeping you from the spiritual food that God has put RIGHT THERE on the table?


Episcopalian leader arrested during SF antiwar protest

Breaking news on the San Francisco Chronicle's website, SFGate.com:
Episcopalian leader arrested during SF antiwar protest

Newly elected bishop, Mark Andrus, gets arrested outside the building where Rep. Nancy Pelosi's office is. The die-in was David Hartsough's idea. Many thanks again to Stephen, Markley, and Friends for continuing the vigil for peace outside the San Francisco Federal Office Building for over five years now.

Update: Here's the story from today's print Chronicle: Click here.


Guest post: Kristina's queries on membership in the RSOF

Kristina Perry gave me permission to lift up her comments on my post "So you want to be a Quaker!" to be a guest post. I invite your answers to her questions, as well as your broader thoughts and responses on membership, especially in your own experience. -- Chris M.
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I haven't had a lot of time, since coming here to ESR, to be hanging out in BLOGland but, I recently tuned in to the conversations to see what Friends are saying about Membership.

The subject of membership, and particularly membership for Friends who are mobile, is much on my mind.

I know this is not the topic of your brochure, Chris, but -- I too wonder, so what does membership *mean*? Or what qualifies you: relationships that are active or proximity?

PhilaYM says:

"Members express their care for one another in many ways. They support one another's spiritual journeys. They participate in the intimate joys and sorrows of birth, marriage, death, and other rites of passage. Members facing important decisions receive counseling, as in the case of those contemplating marriage or those who are facing decisions about the military. At times of distress, the Meeting responds with the appropriate support, and, if needed, makes referrals to professional care-givers. A Meeting assumes responsibility for helping members resolve their differences. It responds to the special needs of the young and the elderly, and of new members, prospective members, and members at a distance.

"All members share the duty and privilege of caring for one another."

While our own PacYM states:

"Membership establishes a commitment between the individual and the Religious Society of Friends within the framework of a particular Monthly Meeting. Membership implies that, for each member, the Religious Society of Friends provides the most promising home for spiritual enlightenment and growth. It commits a person to the daily pursuit of truth after the manner of Friends, and commits the Meeting to support the member in that pursuit. Membership represents the outward recognition of unity with other members of the Religious Society of Friends and a commitment to cherish and share in the living tradition. "

Here's the source of my question: Callid and I just sent a letter requesting that our Meeting/s form a committee to sit with us regarding marriage clearness. We sent it to Rochester MM (NYYM) and to Humboldt MM (PacYM). Realistically, these meetings are Thousands of Miles Apart! How do they jointly "take us under their care"? I have not been resident in Humboldt for years. I have spent more time worshipping with Rochester and have been offered support for discerning emerging ministry that Callid and I share.

In the PhilaYM definition - ROC is more of a Meeting Community of accountability and care. I don't fit any of PacYM's geographic qualifications with Humboldt. Do I transfer my membership?

Does anyone know of other discussions on the relevance of geography vs. active accountability on membership and spiritual home?

Much Love -- Kristina


Guest post: Convergent symbolism

The following is a guest post by Shawna. She gave me permission to post the following, which was originally an email to the Convergent Friends email list (see more about that at Quaker 2.0).

Mount Pleasant meetinghouse predates and transcends any of the post-schism terms: conservative, wilburite, orthodox, gurneyite, liberal, hicksite....

It was built in 1814 to house the newly formed Ohio Yearly Meeting (a happy spinoff from Baltimore YM because of a growing Ohio population of Quakers). The first schism came to Mt. Pleasant in 1828, when Elias Hicks came to yearly meeting. The orthodox posted guards at the doors to keep all non-members out of the meeting, including the Hicksites (and Hicks himself) who had been disowned by Philadelphia (and maybe New York by this time?).

Anyway, pushing and shoving and pandemonium ensued. The presiding orthodox clerk was pushed out a door; a Hicksite clerk picked up the pieces of the clerk's table and presided for the rest of the day. For years afterwards, both groups held their yearly meetings at Mt. Pleasant, one week after another.

The second schism came in 1854. Less high drama.... but at one point there were two yearly meeting clerks sitting side by side at the clerk's table, ignoring each other, each writing minutes. When one adjourned meeting, and half the meeting left, while the other half stayed behind for the other clerk, the orthodox/wilburite schism became official.

So, from 1854 onwards, for probably 20 years or so, three yearly meetings were held at Mt. Pleasant in August, one after another. And every First Day, the local Gurneyites met for worship at 8:00, the Hicksites (I think) met at 10:00, and the Wilburites (I think) met at 11:00. No one wanted to give up their rights to the building...

Anyway, it's kind of a symbol of schism and division around here. And I have been thinking that it would be cool to do something convergent with it, sometime. I have been told that the historical society that runs it has given permission for special meetings in the past.... so I have reason to hope!

I don't know how practical it would be for a meeting. It may be too far from folks to be convenient. We can throw it in the mix and call it a brainstorm!

Dios te bendiga
Stillwater Monthly Meeting
Ohio Yearly Meeting (conservative)


In the news: JROTC voted out of SF schools; vigil outside Pelosi's office turns 5

San Francisco School Board votes to dump JROTC program
San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15/06. Quoting our meeting's own Sandra Schwartz, who is on staff at the AFSC regional office: "We don't want the military ruining our civilian institutions."

Happy 5th Birthday to the Peace Vigil
For five years, the vigil has continued outside the SF Federal office building. Speaker of the House Designate Nancy Pelosi has her district office there... Thanks especially to our Friends Markley and Stephen who have carried this calling for five years and a month now. Thank you for your faithful witness.

In state and regional news...
Voters Pass Prop. 1C, the housing and emergency shelter trust fund act.

Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) publishes homelessness study
"Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness, and Policy Failures"
WRAP is a coalition of West Coast homeless advocacy groups, including our own Street Spirit published by the AFSC regional office, and other groups from the Bay Area, Seattle, and Portland.

And in national news...
FCNL Approves Legislative Priorities for 110th Congress
FCNL will call on the Congress to set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, restore and assure full civil liberties and human rights to all persons in the United States, reduce military spending, promote global security through active diplomacy, and take steps to protect the environment and reduce energy consumption. “You are force multipliers for peace,” explained one congressional staff member who addressed the group. Read FCNL’s Legislative Priorities for the 110th Congress.


So you want to be a Quaker!

[First draft text of a brochure that an unprogramed meeting could publish about joining! Inspired by a new attender at our meeting.]

You have attended Friends meeting for a time and now you would like to know about becoming a member. Great! It sounds like you are ready.

So now you might ask yourself if you are prepared.

Here are some suggestions for further reflection and action on the path toward joining our meeting:
  • Read the section about membership in Faith and Practice of Pacific Yearly Meeting. Better yet, try to browse through the whole book. It has advices and queries for individual and corporate reflection, as well as practical information about things like membership, marriage, memorials, what Quakers believe. It's sort of a User's Manual for Quakers.

  • Begin attending monthly meeting for business. The Quaker process of seeking unity with God's will in our decision making is one of the core practices of Friends. It is worth experiencing it just as you experience our weekly meeting for worship.

  • Read some more about Quaker history, or better yet, ask one of the longtime members of our meeting to tell you more.

  • Spend some time in personal reflection and prayer. Is this the right community and faith tradition for you?

  • You might want to read through the monthly magazines Friends Journal and Friends Bulletin for topics that are current among Friends. Both are available in our library. Similarly, a number of Quaker websites and blogs contain interesting information and discussions.

  • Above all, remember that we are human! You will encounter discomfort, mistakes, and pain here just as you would in any human community. With any luck, we will all remember to act out of love and support when we hit the rough patches. And sometimes we won't, and that will hurt. Yet with grace, we will have the strength and courage to admit our failings to one another and step into forgiveness together. It takes work to forge community, especially in this consumer culture where everything seems to be disposable, including relationship. Community takes time. It's an investment.

  • When you're prepared, you can write a letter asking to become a member. It can be one sentence, or it can be two or three pages about your spiritual journey. Be aware that it will be read out loud in the meeting for business. Then the ministry and oversight committee will appoint a clearness committee to meet with you, learn more about what brought you to us, give us a chance to share some of our own experience, and provide clearness about your membership application itself.
That's about it. We're here if you have any questions. Just let us know. Thanks for asking!
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Does your meeting have anything like this? I've seen some of the pamphlets from Northwest Yearly Meeting; it's no surprise that evangelical Friends are better at this than unprogrammed Frieds. I'd sure like our meeting to have something besides a response such as, "Well, stick around a few years and you'll know"! I don't know that's the kind of thing people at my current meeting say, but that's the general sense I have had at meetings I've attended. What's your experience?


Hardhats on! We're building community!

Saturday night, I finally got to catch up on some blog reading (Robin M. was elsewhere), including the post over at Nancy's Apology on the November blahs. She wrote:

American author Annie Dillard says if we had any real faith, we'd wear hardhats to church/meeting—after all, we are calling on or getting in touch with the very forces of the universe. The universe might come crashing down on our heads.

The next day, Sunday morning, it was my turn to teach Firstday School. So I brought our two hardhats, one child-sized and one grownup-sized, and scooped up the one from the meeting's nursery, and put together a loose lesson....

We started with some check-in time. The four children, from 8 to 14 years old, of course wanted to know why the hardhats were on the table. I explained about the Dillard quote, and you never know when something might come crashing down.

I suggested that some Bible stories were like that—the Tower of Babel for example. One participant retold us that story. Henry said, "Or like the walls of Jericho." He was struggling to remember just exactly had happened to make the walls fall down. Fortunately, we had our Dorling Kindersley illustrated Bible on hand—two copies—and I turned to the illustration of the priests with their shofars circling the walls.

The 14-year-old in the group said he had played a shofar, and that he has played the trumpet for five years. It was great to learn something more about the rest of his life outside of meeting.

He also suggested that these events could have been written this way because, "It felt mentally or spiritually like something came crashing down on them."

Then we took turns reading the story of Solomon building the temple, 1 Kings 6, from the illustrated Bible. The book has sidebar illustrations of cedars of Lebanon, the story of God's glory filling the temple at the dedication, and something about ivory carvings of cherubim.

Two adult guests joined us—one of them was from Twin Cities Meeting, and is the childcare provider at Laughing Waters worship group. I made one of them read, too.

After that I pulled out a long piece of butcher paper and asked the children to illustrate what they think a temple should look like today. The two girls collaborated on an illustration of how the front of the temple would look, with red flowers reminiscent of the pomegranetes that really were on the Jerusalem temple.

Henry enjoyed drawing cherubim—I told him he couldn't draw dragons—and then he colored in and added to a symbol I made, of a peace sign inside a heart with a tree growing out of the top.

I left it to the group to decide if they wanted to report back to the full meeting at the end. They were totally indecisive. I asked if we should wait until we got there and felt how the spirit moved us. They agreed. When we walked in the room with our large paper, though, they couldn't resist telling about it. Henry was eager to talk about how the tree showed life sprouting up when there was love and peace; go, Henry! And three of them agreed to wear the hardhats. Someone asked, "Why are you wearing hardhats?" And one of them said, "Because, well, you just never know!"

All in all, it worked amazingly well given how little I had prepared. I am grateful to have been so blessed. Thank you, Nancy, for your post, which helped me so directly.

PS I highly recommend the children's Bible mentioned above. Author is Selina Hastings.


Simplicity and stewardship, oh my

So on November 7th I'm co-leading a workshop on the Quaker testimonies of simplicity and stewardship at the SF Friends School. I'm excited because we've never linked two testimonies together before, and these two go together well. The school has adopted stewardship across grade levels and subjects as a topic to be explored "an inch wide and a mile deep." Also, linking the two testimonies is a way to remind people that the testimonies are different manifestations from a single Source.

(I note with interest that Eric Moon and Stephen Matchett are leading a workshop at Ben Lomond Quaker Center in 2007 called something like, "Quaker Testimonies: Going Beyond SPICES.")

I have already asked Contemplative Scholar if I could hand out copies of her post, Report from Recent Travels, and she said yes. I have a feeling it will strike a chord!

So I've been thinking about how un-simple life has been for me these past nine weeks, when I:

  • organized a successful housing conference for 200 people
  • secured a major loan commitment from a bank for the housing trust fund I run
  • hired a new position, that of fundraising manager for the housing trust fund
  • hired a new organizer, when the previous one left over the summer
  • welcomed back the admin assistant, who had been on medical leave after knee replacement surgery
  • hosted my mom on a five-day visit
  • went to soccer games every Saturday for the last six weeks, except when we...
  • went to Quarterly Meeting
  • read two books by Karen Armstrong, A History of God and The Age of Transformation
  • played with my children, though less than I'm used to doing
  • did dishes and laundry, though less than I'm used to doing
  • stayed in the nursery one Sunday and taught Firstday School twice
  • went to the fall festival at one school and the harvest festival at the preschool
  • went to a smidgen of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
  • attended my first two board meetings for an organization I'm involved with
  • co-led a "Quakerism 101" discussion at the Friends School
  • co-led a short review of Quaker business process at the Friends School (where I used Liz Opp's stellar handout!)
  • oh, and staffed a program committee meeting, fund development committee meeting, a joint meeting of the two, and a legislative committee meeting all a week before the housing conference

Today we had a plethora of kids at Firstday School but still no childcare worker. Oops, I've been too busy to post the job description, but I finally did it tonight!

No wonder I went to bed at 9:15 last night and -- I hope!! -- will do the same tonight.

I think I need to reread Thomas Kelly's A Testament of Devotion again soon. I'll just add it to my "to-do" list! ;)

Scrolls redux - a photo

Children displaying their scrolls from Firstday School
The reportback from the scrolls lesson. Sorry to take so long, and for having such a grainy shot. We still use a film camera.


What the Jesus People Do - San Francisco Edition

This past weekend Robin, the boys and I camped at Sierra Friends Center for College Park Quarterly Meeting's fall session. The ground was a bit hard, and we only had thin rollup mats under our sleeping bags. The hardest part was the cold on Friday night. On Saturday night, we got some blankets from a friend who had extra in the room she was staying in.

Lying awake on Friday night, I imagined how much harder concrete is, and how damp it is outside in San Francisco with only a blanket and no tent. How much harder it is to sleep at night. And how much harder it is to be homeless than just choosing to camp for two nights.

So today the San Francisco Chronicle ran this article about St. Boniface Church, the Franciscan parish in the Tenderloin District:
Church program for homeless cuts its hours

Robin used to work there. At a recent session looking at stewardship of the Meeting's resources, a Friend in our meeting confessed she sends more of her money to an unnamed Catholic church -- which I'm pretty sure is St. Boniface -- rather than our Meeting because the church "walks the walk."

See the photo essay with the Chronicle story, particularly. Some of the images are from about two years ago. The one that gets me is this one, because it looks like people lined up in coffins. If I weren't at work with three other people, I'd be weeping right now.

Maybe I need to remember to work harder every day to get affordable housing built. It's a long, slow, and challenging process to change opinions of elected leaders and voters. What else could I do to help, sooner? Am I too comfortable in my work environment? Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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Update (later 10/15/06): There was a story in the Seattle Times about the situation at University Friends Meeting here. Sounds like it was a challenging situation. San Francisco Monthly Meeting deals with similar issues. The Times had an interesting sidebar with "Quaker facts."


About "On the Quaker Doctrine of the Holy Spirit": Plus ca change...

Spoiler alert: This is the explanation of my previous post. I recommend you read that post and comments before proceeding.

To summarize:

Friend 1 writes a post about his understanding of the Quaker view of the Holy Spirit. Friends 2, 3, and 4 respond in the comments with criticism, praise, explications, and nuances. Friend 1 replies and attempts to address, briefly, the points raised by the other three.

A Quaker blog comment thread, right?

Wrong! As Liz Opp guessed, it's from another source altogether.

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Specifically, it's excerpted from Quaker Religious Thought, Volume 1, Number 1, from spring 1959. Friend 1 was Howard Brinton, author of Friends for 300 Years among many others; Friend 2 the late Lewis Benson (LSB), the founder of New Foundation Fellowship; Friend 3 was Thomas S. Brown (TSB), then the principal of Barnesville Friends School and still listed as an emeritus trustee of the Westtown Friends School (class of '29!); and Friend 4 was Charles F. Thomas, then pastor of Friends Meeting in Winchester, Ind. and who passed away a few years ago at 94.

What struck me was how similar the format was to a blog: Essay, three comments by others, then a response by the original author. And how similar in spirit the content is to some of the conversation in the Quaker blogosphere today.

Familiar names populate the masthead of the journal. Wilmer Cooper, Hugh Barbour, T. Canby Jones, Paul Lacey, and Arthur O. Roberts were all on the steering committee, as were Benson, Brown, and Thomas. The editorial committee included Benson, Brown, and Thomas, as well as Kenneth Boulding, Roberts, and Douglas Steere.

I hope Friends will indulge my experiment that was not quite in keeping with a single standard of blogging. The elevated style of writing was in itself a clue that this was not really a typical blog post.

Oh, and just for the record, Liz Opp and Gregg Koskela are both real bloggers leaving real comments! I know because I've met them both! :)


Quaker Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

In my reading recently, I came across this from a Friend. I hope you will indulge me as I reproduce pieces of the essay. Please also be aware that certain features of this post are ... well, I'll just say, presented in a mysterious and less than straightforward way. I'll explain the mystery in a future post soon, after seeing how this post is received, and what happens in the comments...

The Quaker Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

The Society of Friends arose from an immediate, living experience of the Holy Spirit. This was not a new discovery. It was a rediscovery of a truth shared in some degree by all Christians and specially emphasized by many of the reformers in seventeenth century England.

A form of church government based on primacy of the Spirit recognizes no final human authority; God’s Spirit is the ultimate authority. Vocal ministry in the meeting for worship should be exercised only under the fresh and immediate anointing of the Spirit.

The means by which the Quakers, though positing the supremacy of the Spirit, were able to avoid religious anarchy and confusion is little understood outside the Society of Friends.

The Quakers avoided extreme individualism in two ways. Following the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, they identified the Inward Light with the Logos, the Word of God revealed through the Christ of the New Testament.

The second method of avoiding religious anarchy grew out of the experience of the Spirit as inspiring the group, conceived as an organic whole. The revelation of truth to the group took precedence over what an individual might consider to be his own sense of truth. To attain unity in the group a genuine waiting worship and inward searching is prerequisite. This form of church government which places authority in the group as a whole, rather than in any individual, permits the supremacy of the Spirit within individuals and also assures a fair degree of order and continuity in the Religious Society. There should be enough individualism to permit a wholesome variety of opinion, yet not so much as to cause disorder and confusion. The Society of Friends has been in its healthiest condition when there has been neither too much nor too little uniformity.

The terms “Christ Within” and “Inward Christ” have a warmer, more personal quality than the more abstract words such as “Light,” or even “Life.” The same personal quality is characteristic of the “still small voice” of God. Yet the more impersonal terms, such as the “authority of Truth,” are also frequently used.

The same indefiniteness and ambiguities appear in the New Testament. It is possible in Paul, as in Fox, to find more than one theological position. The so-called liberal will stress the Eternal Word and the so-called evangelical may tend to emphasize the Word made Flesh, though both are using the same phrases.


Offensive or Amusing?

You decide:

Of course, you'll want to see how much your blog is valued at. My wife's is worth five times as much!


Scrolls - a Firstday School Lesson

Two Sundays ago I did a lesson on scrolls in Firstday School. I copied a few passages from www.bible.com, found the collection of cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls, cut several long strips of paper from the big roll of butcher paper, pulled out a stapler and the pot of crayons, and we were good to go!

When I said we were going to do a lesson on scrolls, Henry said, "You mean, we're going to eat the scrolls?"

"Actually," I said, "that's exactly what the first passage says! Ezekiel had to eat the scroll." He was stunned and happy about that.

Ezekiel 3: And he said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
He then said to me: "Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them.

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The four boys, ranging in age from 4 to 13, loved taking the butcher paper and stapling it to two tubes to make long scrolls. They decorated them -- after going through the entire pot of crayons to find the ones that were scented, with scents like "forest green," "baseball mitt brown" and "washed dog beige"!
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Here are the other two passages I read:

Jeremiah 36: Baruch went to them with the scroll in his hand. They said to him, "Sit down, please, and read it to us." So Baruch read it to them. They looked at each other in fear and said to Baruch, "We must report all these words to the king." Then they asked Baruch, "Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?"
"Yes," Baruch replied, "he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll."
Then the officials said to Baruch, "You and Jeremiah, go and hide. Don't let anyone know where you are."
...[T]he king commanded them to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the LORD had hidden them.

Luke 4: He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

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For my lessons, I always compile whatever Biblical quotes I'm using on a page and decorate it with some relevant clip art. The scrolls were fun to find and print.


Postcard from FGC Gathering 2006

During my workshop at FGC Gathering in July, "Finding Ourselves in the Bible," Krista had us write postcards to ourselves. (I can't find the 2006 Gathering on the FGC website any more, so I'll just link to this dispatch I wrote while there.) She faithfully mailed them to us on August 19th. Here's what mine said:

  1. God is, and God is a mystery. Quakers explain the divine in different ways.
  2. The Light of the Divine is available to all humans ("Inner Light") and shines in all creation. Truth continues to be revealed to humans.
  3. From this we develop practices that support individual and community transformation:
    • Meeting for worship
    • Meeting for business
    • Testimonies

Seminar on attitudes toward money

This is the outline of a seminar on Friends' attitudes toward money, held at San Francisco Monthly Meeting, 8/20/06. This Sunday after meeting for worship, I'm supposed to be facilitating a followup session on stewardship of the Meeting's resources -- and of our own personal resources if I have anything to say about it!

So I thought I'd procrastinate instead of doing further planning for that, and post this outline here from the previous workshop instead.

Friends' Attitudes Toward Money

Brainstorm: what one word comes to mind when I say the word “money”? Then after we’ve thrown up fifty or so words, together, we evaluate each as positive, negative, or neutral. If one person says positive and another negative, then it is recorded as both.

  • Positive words: 34 // 8 of which where the word was only positive
  • Negative: 36 // 10 of which were only negative
  • Neutral: 22 // 5 of which were only neutral
Ruth, our facilitator, noted that our meeting is more balanced than some where she has led this workshop. Others have been more noticeably tilted toward the negative.

Small group discussion

  1. Query: What were attitudes toward money in your family of origin? // Discuss // Reportback
  2. Query: Where did your attitudes to money come from? // Discuss // Reportback
  3. Query: Woolman said, “[Let us] turn all that we possess into a channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.” How does this resonate with you? // Discuss // Reportback

There was some really great discussion in our small groups. Each group definitely had more words to add to the list from the original brainstorm. "The Depression" was a particularly important one, reflecting our parents' or grandparents' experience.

Ruth read three quotes: Book of Matthew (where your treasure is, there will your heart be); Mary Cross, from The Price of Faith; and something by Jacob Needleman.
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What do you and your Meeting have to say about money?


How Can We Know?

I recently found a funny little book on the shelf in the SF Public Library. I was there to work in a study carrel after an all-morning meeting downtown and a surprise encounter with a mentor in the library cafĂ© over lunch. I went to the religion section and to browse for “just a bit.” Immediately I saw a thin-spined little book, How Can We Know? An Essay on the Christian Religion by A.N. Wilson. I read both his Paul: The Mind of the Apostle and Jesus: A Life (or whatever it’s called) and enjoyed them. Though he’s not above speculation way beyond what “scholarship” would consider plausible, his imaginative take on Paul, especially, helped bring him to life for me.

Momentarily tempted to continue browsing, I realized I had found what I was supposed to be looking for, and left for a carrel. I managed to wait until after working hours to read it. I share here a few passages that I found relevant to the Quakersphere.

An important part of the essay is a defense of outward communion. Here’s what he has to say about Fox and the Quaker position (p. 58):

“The followers of George Fox, dismayed by the fact that such fury could be provoked by a discussion of the Sacrament, such disobedience to the peacable commands of Christ, abandoned the sacramental life altogether, preferring to commune in their own chamber and be still; to cultivate their own ‘inner light,’ which they called ‘the candle of the Lord.’

“The Quaker silence is surely preferable to the crackling fires that burnt Ridley or Latimer… But Quakerism ignores the tradition which Saint Paul received and passed on to the Corinthians, a tradition recognized by almost all Christian people to this day. ‘Do this for a commemoration of me.’”

Though out of context, I appreciated this quote (p. 99): “The chief thing wrong with Christianity is that it proclaims the existence of an externalised, unbelievable God.”

I also liked this passage about truth (p. 108):
“The mind and heart of man must be loyal to the truth above all things, for truth alone will save us from fantasy, self-delusion and lunacy. It is not religious to pretend things happened which did not happen; nor to claim that things are the case when they plainly are not. And yet many people have abaondeond religion because they thought this was what religion required and did; and many religious people cling to their old certitudes event hought they know them to be untrue. Just as our will are feeble and we can not follow the Way spelt out in the teachings of Christ, so our minds and imaginations are timorous when confronted with the Truth. Following him who is the Way we discover approaches not only to our moral dilemmas but also to the revelation of who we are and of the purpose of our lives. Following him who is the Truth we discover that we must not resist our duty to think, but that thought is not the only process by which we experience the Truth. ‘Christ likes us to prefer truth to him,’ Simone Weil wrote, ‘because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go towards the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.’”

Reference: A.N. Wilson, How Can We Know? An Essay on the Christian Religion (New York: Atheneum, 1985).


Why I'm Glad I Majored in Physics

I almost majored in English. Or creative writing. I had all A's or passes in those classes. I got to do a student poetry reading twice. And I had fun.

Physics classes, by contrast, were brain-achers. It didn't help that I'd often show up to Friday morning lectures hung over or my ears ringing from seeing some punk band the night before at City Gardens in Trenton the night before. (Usually not both! I had some limits even then.)

Looking back, these were some of the tangible benefits:

> Appreciation for the complex order of the universe, as well as the chaos

> Appreciation for the scale of the universe, from the nanometer to the megaparsec.

> Appreciation for having majored in physics as I entered the job market. One of the reasons I stayed with the brain-aches rather than switching was because I figured physics would look more impressive on my resume than English. Crass, but true.

> Chance to study under a couple of Nobel Prize laureates (admittedly, one of them was at best "undistinguished" as a teacher), and other well-known physicists.

> Being able to say I could do quantum physics and vector calculus. (Not so true any more!!)

> I even had some peripheral contact with 1993 Nobelist and Quaker Joe Taylor! His Nobel autobiography is here, including the fact that he was raised Quaker and attended Moorestown Friends School and Haverford College.

Above all, working on problem sets with my friends Charles, Matt, Kevin and a few others. This experience taught me more about working together in a group than anything else I had ever done up to that point in my life. That experience has been enormously helpful in my life as a Quaker and in my professional life as an affordable housing advocate and fundraiser. I have been blessed abundantly. I am so grateful.


PYM 3: Children’s Worship

Last year for the first time in my-then 5 years of PYM the children participated at the beginning of MFW, with a Bible-based lesson each day, from a Friend who grew up in the Yearly Meeting and whose daughter is now in the Children’s Program. This year, my successor as clerk talked about her concern to provide discipline… to follow the Christ Light within… We agreed that we don’t often teach our children what we’re doing in meeting for worship. So we included lessons again this year, with some variety:

Monday: Centering and breathing; “This Little Light of Mine”; “George Fox Song”
Tuesday: Breathing and centering exercise
Wednesday: Passage from 1 Kings 19:11-12: “The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

I said, “Quakers believe we can hear that gentle whisper (“still small voice” in the NEB which I was reading from) today. Some people hear it as words, some people hear it as a whisper and others loudly, some hear it in music, some see it in nature. You can hear it too and let us know what you hear.”

Two Friends sang lovely songs before we left with the children. I’m glad they got to hear it.

Thursday: Explanation that the adults were looking at the theme of sabbath and jubilee; that John the Baptist had proclaimed, quoting Isaiah 40, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” And that Jesus’s first lesson in the synagogue proclaimed good news to the poor, release for prisoners. And that we welcomed the children’s thoughts on these things, too.

I led the lesson on Thursday and Friday, and I was mindful of Peggy Senger Parson’s description of “catching a message.” I had a strong sense of the two Biblical passage that would connect the children respectively to the processes of worship and of discernment that the adults were doing the rest of the time. I outlined some thoughts for myself (usually as I was lying in bed awake starting at 4 AM or 5 AM… it was not a restful week for me by any means). Then I waited in the actual meeting until it felt right, I read the text, then talked about it without prepared remarks, rather a general sense of what needed to be said.

I came back to dip into the meetings for worship and discernment later on every day (I think) and found them to be centered and deep, though also so full of words that it was almost too much. (Several people I talked to were concerned about that, and yet many of the individual messages were rich and deep. Though one Friend called it “sharing and won’t dignify it by calling it ‘ministry.’”

A couple of people commented that they thought the children’s worship set the tone for the whole meeting, and that some of the themes continued to resonate the rest of the morning. I feel blessed to have been able to participate and contribute this way.
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Part 3 in a series:
» Prelude: Prayers for Pacific Yearly Meeting
» Part 1: Acting Organized so Others will Act Organized
» Part 2: Committee Service as Worship Service


PYM 2: Committee Service as Worship Service

One of our best achievements, in my humble opinion, in the Pacific Yearly Meeting Children’s Program Committee this year was cultivating a real experience of worship through service. One example came at the end of our meeting of teachers and committee members on Wednesday evening. Once we had everyone settled on the porch outside the dining hall and gone through a lot of the logistical matters, I had a real sense of a gathered meeting in our closing worship. The play of the warm summer breeze over us was a wonderful reminder of Spirit, ruach, pneuma, atman...

Throughout the week, we had many conversations, ranging from the practical and logistical ("Oh, we have to clear out of the kitchen right now because they said we didn't rent it, what should we do?" or "Where's so-and-so, did he run away again?"), to the spiritual ("How can we teach our children about why we worship the way we do?"), to the personal ("So many people in our meeting need help, I'm not sure what to do..."). I felt blessed to develop these spiritual friendships.

Our committee had an evaluation meeting during the final meal, lunch on Saturday. We were pretty exhausted and punchy. Susan mentioned that one person who volunteered early in the week had expressed her concern that there wasn’t more of an orientation. Later in the week, the same person made a point of telling Susan that she now realized just what we were facing in terms of (lack of) personnel, and so she understood why we hadn’t been able to provide more support. Thank heaven!

I mentioned that I was sorry we didn’t write volunteer guidelines, as we had talked about prior to yearly meeting. “Of course,” I said, “the number one guideline for a volunteer is, 'If you see a child running away, chase him down!'”

Overly tired as we were, Susan and I laughed and laughed. Really, if some volunteers had just followed that dictum, we’d’ve all been better off!

I closed the Saturday evaluation meeting with a call for some silent worship. “May I get all religious on you?” I said. “Yes, please,” said Jennifer. So I read Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” We fell into a deep and centered worship, holding hands there in the dining hall, for a precious few moments. And then it was off to close up the truck with all our supplies, clear out of our dorm rooms, and get on the road again.
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Part 2 of a series:
» Prelude: Prayers for Pacific Yearly Meeting
» Part 1: Acting Organized so Others will Act Organized
» Coming next: Part 3: Children's Worship


Los Angeles Blogger Convergence

So I finally scanned a photo of the bloggers who were at the surprise Los Angeles gathering of the Convergent Friends Choir. (The surprise was, of course, that unprogrammed and evangelical Friends could sing so well together, not that we were getting together for fellowship and dinner!)

Quaker bloggers at the convergent Friends gathering in Los Angeles, 8th Month 2006
Bloggers in attendance included (from left) Chris M., Chris Frazier, Robin M., Wess Daniels, Kody, Emily Daniels, Joe "Beppepodcast" Guada


PYM: Acting Organized so Others will Act Organized

Right before Pacific Yearly Meeting -- yes, the "other" PYM -- I blogged about how the Children's Program needed prayer and help. We got it, mostly; we were a bit stretched for staff some of the time. The upper elementary/middle school program was larger than we expected (19!!) in a small room, and didn't have enough volunteers some day, yet we had great teachers and great participants, so it was okay.

My secret was to go into the week acting organized. Then, I figured, everyone else would behave in a reasonably organized way. As a result, we’d be fairly organized!

So, we scheduled a teacher meeting on Monday afternoon, which kept getting pushed back because not enough people were present. And then we had a parent orientation at 4:30 without a lot of parents, but enough to seed the community with reasonably well-informed parents. Result: bingo, we seemed to be pretty organized! And really, we were. Of course we had plenty of things to pick up and improvise on, but that’s the nature of these things.

My main regret is that we didn’t provide much in the way of Quaker content for the programs this year. That’s been a goal of the committee’s, and we did a more thorough job of it last year. The fact is, we were struggling even to find enough teachers let alone provide good support to them in the classroom. It was also a struggle being in a new venue that none of the committee members had had an opportunity to visit in advance. So, I hope next year’s committee will get further on the logistics and teachers in advance, so they can go the next step and provide that curriculum support.

I knew we were okay when we had an oversight issue with someone, and I was able to talk directly to the person involved to clarify the program’s expectations and needs.

And also when the conference staff told us, on the third day, Wednesday, that the kitchen we had commandeered was not actually part of PYM’s rental contract. At first they told us we had to move it right away, that minute! Well, the committee member on hand asked for a little more time so she could clarify with the committee clerk and our arrangements clerks, and find another location. So they relented and said we could have a little time. Yes, the arrangements clerks (nearby, fortunately) confirmed we had not rented the kitchen, though I thought they said we had. Anyway, we moved everything out, within an hour . And we did it courteously and respectfully, and the conference staff loaned us space in their refrigerator for our cold stuff, which was really a big help.

If we could maneuver past those two bumps as bumps and not earthquakes, then we were in pretty good shape.

We also have a great new clerk: thanks, Elizabeth, for stepping up and taking this on! And many thanks to Susan for her comradeship and hard work these past two years. She was the one continuing committee member (there are supposed to be four each year) when I joined the committee and served as first convenor, then clerk. We've grown to be good friends as well as comrades!

Next time: Committee service as opportunity for worship service.


Back, Safe, Home Again

As Robin M. wrote, we're back from PacYM. It was a rich, deep week of worship and a lot of hard work for me related to the children's program. Thanks for your prayers. It ended up going pretty well. We got through the rougher spots okay, and the children generally had a good time. They got some Quaker curriculum through meeting for worship, community building, and the presence of loving adults.

» Funny, I was doing this work for my children, and yet I didn't see my family all that much! Actually, they saw me around a lot, and they knew I was helping out, so I think they felt some security about that. In fact, Second Son was much less clingy than he was even at FGC a month ago. It helped that he was one of the oldest kids in the preschool program, and also that the Sunday before PYM started, we hung out in Santa Barbara with our Friend Kate and her two kids. Her two are almost the same ages as our two, and her daughter and Second Son really got to be buddies through the week. Is there anything cuter than 4- and 5-year-olds hugging goodbye?

» Meanwhile, I have hit the wall the last two days at the office. Way too much blog-surfing. I realized my heart is not yet clear after PYM. Tonight, once I publish this post, my task is to sit with my journal and just try to spill my guts onto paper. PYM's extra time for worship and discernment, and the worshipful space that the work with the children frequently entered, was in the Power. As was the gathering of convergent Friends in Los Angeles. So, I'm not going to be very productive at home or at work until I get clear.

» It doesn't help that my office is very quiet this week. Our regular admin assistant is still on medical leave, and the Friend who is temporarily helping out is away for a few days. Our organizer left at the end of July. She's now part of a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation to Colombia, and next month she'll join the staff to support their Colombia Program.

» What's amazing is my previous connection to that work: Our Friend Chris Moore-Backman spent eight months with FOR doing human rights accompaniment work in the peace village of San Jose de Apartado. I was on his clearness committee and his support committee, and I arranged a meeting with the staff of my U.S. Representative so he could get a letter from a U.S. Congress Member!

» Helpful news for housing advocates: You can now see the number of new affordable homes that could have been built at the National Priorities Project's cost of War calculator: Homes Not Bombs! (You can also pick up the cost of war calculator that I've got in my sidebar. I'm not adept at javascript so I couldn't figure out any way to put the number of new homes in the sidebar, too.)

» Finally, Friends who were at PYM are reminded to pray for Tony Prete, that he may have strength on Wednesday, 8/9/06.

Blessings to you and yours!


Housing problem as spiritual problem III: Earthcare

The San Francisco Chronicle today had a story, "Central Valley housing boom plays role in the big heat, experts say/Larger new homes also increase state's demand for energy" by Patrick Hoge.

California's growth patterns -- the migration to hot inland regions, construction of big new homes and paving of open space -- are contributing both to increasing temperatures and record demand for electricity.

Experts say development choices can play a large role in making hot weather even hotter.

"People usually talk of greenhouse gases. What's forgotten is what we've actually done to the surface of the planet," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

"I call it extreme makeover warming."

Full story here.

I've posted about related matters before, here and here.

As an apartment dweller in urban San Francisco, I wonder how our family could have a smaller footprint on the earth. And yet the fact is, by choosing to live here, we've already reduced our footprint signficantly. Have we sacrificed enough? Maybe not, but we've done part of our share.
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The boys and I had a tremendous time last Sunday afternoon, tramping around in the none-too-wild environs of McCoppin Square (here are the trees and here is the playground) and the corner of Lincoln High School. I've been inspired by Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. He talks about the importance of open space that has a variety of terrain, from grass to bushes to trees. That's exactly how McCoppin is designed, and I'm grateful to live so close to it.

Plus this added bonus feature: The local branch library is located in one corner of the park. How cool is that?!? Shoutouts to my big sister the librarian and to Aj!)
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I have a note to myself to write a blog entry about all the time the boys and I spent playing tag or "crack the whip" on the big lawn at Pacific Lutheran University during FGC Gathering. Running barefoot on the grass was also inspired by Louv's book. Anyway, I may not get to writing a full post, so I'll just say that these young Friends had a great time playing with my boys (one of them visible in that shot) and a few other kids, after the kids had been tossing ice around following the big picnic dinner on the lawn. It was a beautiful evening, in all ways. (Thank you, Lord, for most this amazing day.)
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Sue McAllister quoted me in the San Jose Mercury News last week, in a story about how the Bay Area is not producing enough new homes for the people who live here. I was talking about the positive efforts happening in San Mateo County, where I work. The Merc article is here, though you may have to register to read it.

Maybe I should start a housing-related blog, "Where Canst Thou Live?"
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If you're a registered voter in California, in November you must vote YES on Proposition 1c, the Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006. Last coy hyperlink here.


Prayers for Pacific Yearly Meeting

Dear Friends,

I'm going to send this to adults who have registered for Pacific Yearly Meeting. How lame is this, I'm posting to the blog before I actually email out this request! [Lord, have mercy on me, a fool.]

We’re looking forward to a great time with our program this year, "It Takes a Meeting to Raise a Quaker II: The Sequel." Once again we will use the loose framework of "SPICES" (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, sustainability) to explore Quaker values -- and the Source of those values.

I’m writing now to ask for your help in one of two possible ways:

» Teaching: We are still a few slots short of a full teaching team. Please consider if this may be your year to share your gifts with our youngest Friends! Inquire with me or Susan Nickerson. If you think you could teach only part of the week, let us know that, too, and if we can match you with someone who has the opposite scheduling needs, we will consider it. [Lord, Peggy prayed for a real Quaker and got a descendant of Isaac Penington; Lord, send us some teachers, whether professional or inspired amateurs!]

» Volunteering: Here is a great and refreshing opportunity to get to know our youngest Friends through a few hours of painting, playing, singing, even napping! Please do sign up for a slot or two or three to help lighten your spirit and remind you that life is good and the world is a beautiful place! There’s just something about the new eyes of children that wakes us up to the wonder of our own lives. [Lord, we were so blessed with volunteers last year, may we be so again this year.]

If you’re a committee clerk, please consider whether there’s something of your committee work you could share. [Lord, help us to bring our own light and love to these our children. May we also keep in mind all children, not just our own, and especially those who need some extra comfort. I'll just remind you about what Aj said over here, but you knew that already.]

May boundless grace and showers of blessings be upon you! Journey safely.*

Chris M., for the
Pacific Yearly Meeting Children's Program Committee

* Okay, so I'm probably not going to add the references to other blogs in my email. And I'm not going to write out the prayers either. That's just what I'll be muttering under my breath as I hit "send."


Quaker Bus and Train Co.

It's time for Friends to form the Quaker Bus and Train Co.

This idea is inspired by Lisa H.'s mention of Green Tortoise bus as an alternative to Amtrak or Greyhound.

We'll drive around in biodiesel fueled, comfortable, plain and even rather Spartan vehicles, highlighting the net carbon neutrality of the fuel...

We can have big billboards on the side, evangelizing both about meeting for worship AND right sharing of world resources, war is not the answer, and the like.

It will have a large foot-shaped hood ornament, symbolizing our ecological footprint.

Trains will have to be an afterthought, for the next generation. The cost of the infrastructure is just too darn high. Bus rapid transit is a more efficient investment for short-haul trips, anyway.

Let's save the world -- one bus at a time!


More Quaker Blogger Photos

You've seen the evening Quaker blogger gathering in Newberg, Ore. on Gregg's and Aj's blogs. Now here's one from the afternoon get-together the same afternoon in early July:

That's Johan Maurer, Robin, me, and Gregg.

I uploaded a couple more photos to Flickr here. Includes one cute bonus photo of two Blogger Kids!

I think I got the photos into the "Quakers" group, too.

Updated 7/18: Fixed the overly wide photo and linked it to my Flickr page.


Introducing QUIB

Today I am proposing a new acronym to be added to the Quaker alphabet soup:

Quakers United in Blogging: QUIB!

Come one, come all ye faithful bloggers, do!

No doubt some snarky observers may wish to rename it as the Society for Quakers United in Blogging, SQUIB, in honor of non-magical people born to magical parents in the Harry Potter books.

When we are moved to include Podcasters, we shall become SQUIB-Pod.

Some day of course we will have to consider merging with Quakers United in Publishing. I will not pretend to know what the acronym of that organization should be. :)

* * *

On a more serious note, I believe bloggers may be eligible/welcome to join QUIP. Martin Kelley has participated in QUIP and you can find his book, The Quaker Ranter Reader at the QUIP book and media center.

Of course, you can also buy Martin's book through his blog or Quaker Books of FGC. I bought my copy from the FGC Gathering bookstore while Martin was there and had him autograph it. Thanks, Martin!

Epistles to Friends

In my workshop at Friends General Conference, “Finding Ourselves in the Bible,” we had the task of writing an epistle. I addressed mine to the participants of Max Hansen’s workshop on the Blessed Community in the Epistle of James (participants including Robin M. and Martin Kelley, among others). It was a classroom assignment that sparked a good lunchtime conversation with Max (thanks, Max!).

In closing worship during our workshop, I dreamed of writing the following epistles:

> To Sacred Harp Singers:

> To World Gathering of Young Friends attenders:

> To Quaker Bloggers:

What is the common thread? People who are searching their spiritual tradition and taking it seriously and engaging in a high-maintenance, high-performance religion. Perhaps in the case of the singers, it’s not about religion of the lyrics, but about the power and the beauty that comes through, and they are not scared of that power nor of the language used to express it. Hallelujah!

To whom would you write your epistle?


Impressions from FGC -- a week ago!

I didn't have internet access at Friends General Conference, and didn't have time to blog while in Newberg, Ore. (Thanks, Gregg!) There's a lot of stuff stored up in a lot of us bloggers who were at FGC. I predict it's going to come streaming out over the next few weeks as people have a chance to reflect and process the experiences.

Fortunately, I did have a chance to type up some reflections while at FGC (which they call "the Gathering," but I think of it as a conference). I'm posting it here pretty much as it first came out.
- - - -
So I’m at my first Friends General Conference Gathering, here at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. I’m sitting on the porch of the University Center, where Friends are singing shape-note songs from the Sacred Harp. Singers include Quaker bloggers Linda (Boundless Stores of Grace) and Paul L. (Showers of Blessings). [Note: I joined in after finishing this post, and sang for three afternoons straight! Woo-hoo!]

Last night, Martin Kelley (Quaker Ranter), Liz Opp (The Good Raised Up), and my own dear Robin M. (What Canst Thou Say?) provided a wonderful opportunity for discussion and worship during their interest group, “On Fire! Renewing Quakerism through a Convergence of Friends.”

It was inspired. And inspiring.

Afterwards, I couldn’t get to sleep. I had picked up the boys at their programs and put them to bed in our room so Robin could hang out with her co-organizers and others who had gone to the World Gathering of Young Friends or the Young Friends Connections interest groups. After the boys were finally asleep around 9:45 pm, I took out the laptop and, with a flashlight on my four pages of handwritten notes, turned them into 3.5 pages of typed notes!

Martin has posted about this HERE and shared some photos HERE.


The twofold mission of Friends (Marty Grundy)

I had a conversation with a Friend today who had led a book group at our meeting recently. They read God's Politics by Jim Wallis. She said there was a regular group of about 12, a third of whom were into the politics of it, a third of whom despaired of anything to do with national or global politics, and a third of whom didn't believe in God and wanted to criticize anything to do with organized religion!

It struck me as odd that a person who was so disgusted with organized religion would (a) show up at a Quaker meeting regularly, and (b) read a book called God's Politics.

The answer to (a) is that we unprogrammed liberal Quakers are the least "organized" of the organized religions. Sometimes to our detriment, like when we do a worse job of organizing a Quaker children's program than we would a political rally for children's rights, but that's a different rant.

My Friend's answer to (b) was that, hey, they wanted other people to talk to and this was a nice group of people to hang out with.

I was left thinking about the creative tension involved with being a hospitable, welcoming place, including for "religious refugees," while at the same time being a community where we can support, both individually and collectively, growing together in the Light, to quote Will T.

- - -

I typed the following passage up some time ago to hold in reserve. I'm publishing it now in light of the conversation today.

It's by Martha Paxson Grundy, from an essay called "Christ Teaching Us," published in Walk Worthy of Your Calling, edited by Peggy Senger Parsons and Margery Post Abbott, p. 130. (Buy it at Quaker Books of FGC!)

My vision of the mission God has given to unprogrammed Friends has been twofold. The first part is to provide a "gateway" for seekers and social activists....

But the other half of our mission is to invite those who enter the "gateway" into a growing, deepening experience of a Quakerism that is more than an absence of the things some seekers have rejected. We have a vision provided by our seventeenth-century spiritual ancestors whose lives were radically changed because they moved into increasingly compltee obedience to Christ.... The half of our mission that involves living into this vision is not done very well. I meet people who are hungry for increased authenticity--for posessing God's Truth and not just professing it, or assuming that because we are Quakers we automatically have it. If our meetings are content to stop at the "gateway," these people will go elsewhere, because they will be fed. That breaks my heart because the Quaker vision, as it was experienced and can be lived with newness now, has so much that answers the anguish of our times.

- - -

Simon St. Laurent is posting excerpts from H. Larry Ingle's First Among Friends over at Light and Silence. I found this post to illustrate how early Friends answered the anguish of their times.

I find many of the Quaker blogs to be living into the search for authenticity that Marty writes about. Some use the language of Christianity. Some use the language of the Light. Some use the language of non-theism, or "atheology" as James Riemermann called it. I'm not so bothered by the differences in language. I'm excited by the willingness to reveal, to share, to be vulnerable, to seek together in love.


Physical Mental and Spiritual Health of Children

A week ago Friday I attended the annual regional conference of the Bay Area Open Space Council.

One featured speaker, Ray Minjares, is a grad student at UC Berkeley in public health. He gave a talk on the public health costs of poorly planned growth; i.e., Sprawl! (See my post Supersize Me! The Housing Problem as a Spiritual Matter, too.) This is a necessary and important conversation for the environmental community to be having with planners and with public health professionals.

Another featured speaker was Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder..

He was an unassuming but very powerful speaker, thanks to his ideas. And slogans! He said he resisted the publisher's desire to take the phrase "nature deficit disorder" from the book and elevate it to the title. "That just shows how much I know about marketing," he said.

Another great slogan: "No child left inside!"

Cheers and clapping. "That's my only guaranteed applause line," he said.

He finds this issue resonates with nearly everyone. A "doorway issue," where people can walk through the door together even if they don't agree on much. And a "wedge issue," where environmentalists can peel off support from people who would otherwise appear to be opponents.

Louv related a story about the woods near where he grew up, how he felt he owned those woods. Yet he had no idea those woods were in any way connected to any other woods, or that there might be forests in trouble in other parts of the world. Today, the reverse is true: Lots of kids know about the problems of the Amazon rain forest, but few of them could tell you when they last stood in the woods and simply looked at leaves.

Louv also talked about writing a chapter on the impact on children's spiritual health of not having enough nature nearby. He said he was very careful how he wrote it, because he didn't want to offend Christian conservatives (and thereby have them miss the point of the book). He had a neighbor who is a conservative Christian read it, and she liked it. He hasn't received any negative comments about that chapter yet.

I was browsing through Flickr today for photos of where I grew up, and found some lovely ones here and here. I was blessed to live in an exurb where there were still small working farms nearby, and woods in the backyard. Now, I count my sons lucky that we live across the street from a park where there is a variety of form: tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields, playground, and also hills, paths among bushes, and lots of trees.


Describing Quaker Faith

I knew a birthright Friend on the East Coast a dozen years ago who had grown up in the Albany area, and was then living in Manhattan, just a few blocks away from me. We were near the 15th Street Monthly Meeting. Yet he didn't attend much if ever. In fact, I met Michael at a Friends Committee on National Legislation meeting in Washington, DC.

I'll never forget the intense conversation another Friend and I had with him as we walked around the neighborhood near the conference center one evening. We were talking about some aspect of Quakerism.

"I have friends who are not at all religious, but I know they are saved!" he said fervently at one point.

I almost wanted to back away from him. What was a person who'd grown up Quaker doing talking about whether people were "saved"? And feeling so intensely convinced of the Truth he was conveying -- they were saved -- and that it mattered so much to him? His energy and intensity and conviction burned into me. We never did have much contact, but I do remember that encounter.

- - - - -

Over at Growing Together in the Light, Will T. writes in this post, "I do not mean to imply that we should have a creed or statement of belief but that we need to find a core understanding of Quakerism that we at least agree to wrestle with to be able to continue as a religious community."

I agree! And just how are we to define that core understanding, when many of us have such different vocabularies? Most of the time I think we're describing much the same thing, from different vantage points. But are we? It seems like all of us wonder, at times.

- - - - -

I recently re-read Samuel Caldwell's 11/1998 evening talk at Pendle Hill, "The Time Has Come to Choose." The choice he posits is between Quaker faith, as against Quaker culture (full text available here). I liked what he had to say so much that I hand-wrote it into my journal, and now I'm retyping it rather than copy it:

God gives to every human being to every human being who comes into the world – regardless of race, religion, gender, or station – a measure of the eternal Light to be inwardly guided by on a daily basis. That Inner Light is supernatural, personal, universal, saving, eternal, persistent, and pure. The chief end of religious life is to learn to listen to and act upon the promptings of this Light under the authority of God and within the bonds of human community. Those who learn to heed the promptings of this Light come to be “saved” – that is, they come into fullness and wholeness of life and right relationship with God, themselves, the universe, and one another. Those who resist, ignore, or otherwise deny the workings of this pure spirit within them, though they profess themselves to be religious, are “condemned” – that is, they become alienated from God, from themselves, from the universe, and from one another.

That’s it. That’s the whole enchilada.

- - - -
It was Caldwell's definition of "saved" and "condemned" that had me remembering Michael from New York. These are terms I resonate with. And the agency of free will in choosing one over the other is clear. God has given us that ability, and waits in expectant worship for us to find the Way.

Similarly, Will T.'s "This is Eternal Life" speaks to me in a way I might not have been able to hear well a dozen years ago. I found it breathtaking.

What do you think? What is your core understanding? Where do you find the Life, the Truth, and the Way?


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!!


Fundraising, the Beatitudes, and holy ground

On Friday April 28, I attended the annual "community heroes" lunch by Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA), a local affiliate of the PICO faith-based organizing network.

PIA honored Rev. Frances Hall Kieschnick, better known as Frannie, and her husband, Michael Kieschnick, the co-founder of Working Assets.

Frannie was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1983. She worked for a time at All Saints, Pasadena, which was recently in the news because the IRS was challenging their tax-exempt status. As part of her ministry she has always participated in community organizing, organized service learning projects, or worked on housing and homelessness issues. In his introduction of his sister, Brad Hall (apparently a TV personality who used to be on Sat Night Live) said that in all her church work, she did social justice work through one-on-one spiritual work and vice versa.

In accepting the award, Frannie said, in paraphrase, "It's good to be here today. This [interfaith community organizing] is Kingdom work. Subversive work. It's good that we are here today to celebrate and eat together." She lifted up the "balcony people" who cheer on the people in the center (I couldn't help but grin and think of AJ).

She quoted her mentor, the recently-late William Sloane Coffin of Yale, who resisted his doctor's diagnosis that he was dying. Then near the very end of his life, he went to a large gathering in his honor. When he saw all the people there, he said, "I now know I really am dying. And I'm already in heaven!"

She spoke about a recent trip that PIA had sponsored to their sibling organizing group in New Orleans. She quoted Coffin again, who said at his own son's memorial service, "God didn't want my son to die or make it happen. God is the first whose heart breaks when someone dies." Similarly, she said, God didn't want New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to be destroyed; God's heart was the first to break when they were devastated. "Your heart will be among the first to break, too -- if you have PIA training!"

She wrapped up by quoting Micah 6:8: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." The room was quiet, then burst into a standing ovation.

It was then her husband's turn to speak. He began by saying, "I'm the luckiest man in the world. Except in order of speaking today!"

- - -

It was an emotional event, after that. The County Supervisor who was introducing the State Assembly Member who was getting a public servant award teared up when she said, "His most important role, beyond anything material or political, is grandpa to his three wonderful grandchildren."

And the closing blessing by Rabbi Janet Marder from Congregation Beth-Am -- with a truly new and inspired reading of God telling Moses to take his sandals off, this was holy ground -- is worth its own post.

- - -

Finally, Rev. Frannie Hall Kieschnick is currently working as executive director of The Beatitudes Society, which works "to identify and support Christian leaders beginning in seminary and graduate school as they seek to put into practice the prophetic teachings of Jesus, as exemplified in the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount."

I would love there to be a way for Quakers to be involved with this group's work. Yet for us unprogrammed Friends, there aren't very many of us in seminary or in related graduate study, and then it's more often for chaplaincy purposes than pastoral work with our own congregations. I'd like to get in touch with her about this work, but I am pondering whether to just send a "fan letter" of sorts, or actually seek to have a dialogue with her about ways unprogrammed Quakers could engage in this work of spiritual formation, too.