Spiritual Formation at San Francisco Monthly Meeting

Here is a flyer I created to highlight upcoming opportunities for spiritual formation at San Francisco Friends Meeting. They include a session on Pacific Yearly Meeting's advices and queries for the first month, on meeting for worship; and a five-week series on our relationship with God, with the Bible as our record and guide. All are welcome! (Sorry, you'll have to come to San Francisco; we don't have webcam hookups -- yet!)

In the past we've labeled these sorts of events "adult religious education." Somehow that sounds too formal or stuffy, even if it's accurate. I'm influenced here in my choice of vocabulary by Catholic religious orders and the authors who like them, like Kathleen Norris.


Books on a Quaker's Shelf

So I'm not the only one taking photos of Quaker books! (See my previous post, "Dilettante.")

Jez S. did it, too: Click here to see his copy of Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice.

Inspired by Jez, last night I took some more photos: Here's the set on Flickr.

This time with no allegory, just trying to capture different views, literally. (I almost typed "liberally" by accident.)

Three newsworthy items

In a throwback to the early days of blogs, here are three things I've stumbled upon recently that I wanted to spread around.

  1. Gordon Fellman is a Brandeis University professor, chair of their undergraduate Peace and Conflict Studies Program, who I heard recently talk on the construction of enemies. His book is Rambo and the Dalai Lama: The Compulsion to Win and Its Threat to Human Survival (Albany: SUNY Press. 1999).

    Okay, so it's not news, but it's good. His academic home page is here.
    Quote: "The central question I pose... [is]: What are the sources, in history and in the self's development and inner workings, of unnecessary human suffering? How can it be thoughtfully, carefully, mindfully reduced?

    Found via the Pacifica radio show Against the Grain with C.S. Soong.

  2. Beatitudes Society in San Francisco --
    "Social Progress: What's Christianity Got to Do with It?"

    A conversation between Marcus Borg and Christine Pelosi (filmmaker, and yes, daughter of Rep. N. Pelosi)
    Thurs, Feb 28 2008
    6:30 public reception
    7:00-8:00 pm Program
    Book signing and dessert to follow
    Bay School of The Presidio San Francisco

    via a US Postal Service-mailed postcard from Beatitudes Society

  3. Poverty 101: Several universities are now offering courses on poverty in America. They include Washington & Lee University's Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability; Baylor University - launching in 2008-09 school year; and Rice University.

    According to the Shepherd Program: "The academic study of poverty from an interdisciplinary perspective enables students to pursue professional careers with a critical social consciousness, prepares students for objective analysis of ethics and poverty, and inspires a commitment to addressing human capabilities in the community."

    From the San Mateo Daily News, off the wire from a story in the Waco Tribune-Herald -- hence the focus on Texas schools.


Lesson on Early Friends

Last Sunday at meeting, the Friends School community was specifically invited to attend meeting for worship and the regular potluck afterwards. There was a wonderful turnout and a great potluck, and not that many new people actually came. Mostly, the regular-but-not-every-week families from school came. And one family that likes to come once a year when we do this, and otherwise goes to a really interesting, progressive Episcopal church.

So the potential (hoped-for? feared?) turnout of two dozen children at Firstday School did not materialize. (It did in 2003, when we first had this intervisitation event.)

I had three third-grade boys and one fourth-grade boy (my own), plus two adults. A decent ratio when dealing with that much boy energy! (One of our older girls decided to help in the nursery with the babies, and I missed her participation in the conversation.)

This time I decided to teach more about the Society of Friends; I wanted the children to know why it's called the Friends School -- it's NOT just because your friends go there! I post the outline here in case there are seeds that might be planted in other locales.

INTRO: Say your name, year born, and something true about you.

OBJECTIVE: Learn a bit about Quaker history and testimonies.

I lectured much more than usual. I'm not sure it served the boy energy well. Yet I think they were listening.

1. History: George Fox sought answers about God as a young man, beginning to wander about the countryside as a teenager. In 1652 in his early 20's he had a revelation about the "Inner Light" being available to all. He wanted others to know, too, so he walked across northern England and preached. He found a lot of others who agreed with him.

2. Names of what became Society of Friends:
- Children of the Light
- Friends of Truth
- Publishers of Truth
- Quakers: Fox on trial, the judge asked if he quaked before the Lord, the name stuck
- Religious Society of Friends (later)

3. Testimonies:
I asked if they knew what "SPICES" stood for. One boy quickly rattled off, "Simplicity Peace Integrity Community Equality and Sympathy." I said that was very good though most people talk about "Stewardship" if they use a second S. I explained a little bit about each word, then asked the group if they knew what integrity meant; none did. I also added Love as a testimony (thanks, Pam and Allison).

4. Exercise:
- Write your own newspaper on a form I cadged from another church's Sunday School.
- Space provided for a main story, a sidebar on an upcoming event (soccer game? choir practice?), space for a "truthful" ad, and a weather report. (Earthquakes and various forms of fantastical hailstorms were popular!)
- Space at bottom to write your name in as "Publisher" -- hence becoming a Publisher of Truth!

RESULTS: Mixed, but I think they picked up some content along the way.

AFFIRMATION: They had fun. See comment above about picking up content.



It's not enough to change our patterns as individual consumers. Even if we do it in a group as a local faith community!

No, we need structural change. Restructuring. Perestroika.

Let's start by not measuring growth as simply the sum total of all transactions. What if a transaction results in harm -- pollution, litter, atmospheric carbon loading, human carbo loading, bullets in a torso, depleted uranium in a village, mines in Laos -- you know -- harm!

Then why measure that transaction as "Gross National Product" without assessing the cost of the harm that results? Why, because then we can measure the cleanup transaction as yet more growth!

This is actually well-trodden ground. Over a decade ago, Redefining Progress in San Francisco developed the "Genuine Progress Indicator" to track the economy in just this way. (The GDP, for example, "treats the depletion of natural capital as income.")

I just wanted to rant about this. Especially after reading Susanne Kromberg's piece on "50 Million Christians Protesting in the Street" and posting it to QuakerQuaker.

The point I want to make here is that even by some seemingly small shifts in the bureaucratic system, such as how we measure "growth" in the United States, we could make a big impact on people's understanding of the real state of the nation.

Even as I need to develop my compassion muscle and work on internal peace and redemption -- turning away from behaviors that harm -- I need to engage the Powers That Be in the task of their redemption, so that they may serve humanity and the rest of the world rather than destroy it. See Walter Wink's work for more on the redemption of the powers!



I bought my first digital camera a week ago, with gift money from my birthday. Our regular film camera quit about six months or so ago, and we'd been making do with the $11 plastic one from Walgreens. (Some other time maybe I'll write about how long it took me to get a CD player; after all, I still have all those great LPs!)

Granite!I got the camera because of the trip I took to New Jersey to visit my mother. While there, I went every day to a local park. The fall foliage there was gorgeous, particularly along the route of a power line. I saw bluebirds, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, a cardinal, yellow-shafted flicker, woodpeckers, and more.

There was a little stream running across the clearing, which had the classic red-brown tannin-stained water of the Pine Barrens. Reflected in the water, the leaves and berries stood out against the blue sky and white cloud streaks. I stood so my shadow placed a band of darker contrast against the brilliance of the rest of the scene.

At that moment, I so wanted a capable camera. So, a few weeks later and thousands of miles later, I got one.

Quakerism resting on a bed of sameI spent a little time today snapping artsy photos of walls and granite surfaces around our home. To my surprise, a theme emerged, which I've put on Flickr. I suppose it's absurd to publish one's first attempt at theological art. So be it. Lord, forgive me, a sinner and a publican.


What I learned this weekend

Compassion is a muscle.

You need to use it. You need to exercise it often, so it can grow big and strong.

When your compassion is big and strong, it can come through clearly. Unobstructed.

This is what I learned this weekend from John Calvi, Quaker healer and teacher. He was leading a workshop called "Abandon All Weariness..." at Ben Lomond Quaker Center. Our Friend Blake was there from SF Meeting also. I see from John's website that Blake designed it!

To minimize time away from my family, I didn't drive down to Quaker Center on Friday night until after the boys went to bed, so I missed the introductory session. This way, I was there on Saturday in time for breakfast. Then I drove home Saturday evening around 9:30. Given that it was a full day of massage, walking, and socializing, ending with an evening of face and foot massage, it was a challenge to rev up to the driving task. I made it safely.

It was worth it, though. Around 7:00 this morning, Five Year Old appeared at our bedside, and he patted my shoulder and said happily, "Daddyyyy!" I was really glad to be back right then.

Anyway, that's the tangent. The main point: Compassion is a muscle. Use it often, and exercise it, so it will grow big and strong.

Clear. Unobstructed.


Psychosis TV

When I was in New Jersey, I spent much of the day with my mother at the facility where she was staying, then went to her house for the evening. When I got to the house, I was usually pretty beat. Next I would call my siblings, wife, and the occasional aunt or cousin to update them on the situation. After that, I was pretty energized again.

So I turned on the TV. I have been TV-free in my home since leaving my senior year in college (1987-88), except for one year of living in a group house with the Fourth World Movement.

On my Facebook page, I claim my favorite TV program is a book: Four Reasons for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander.

You see, I am a TV addict. When given the opportunity, I sit there mindlessly changing channels, hoping for something better to come on. So, I avoid the problem by not having one of the devices at home. Admittedly, our computer will play DVDs, and so we rent one or borrow one from the library a few times a year. But that's it, except for when we visit either grandma's house.

So, while in NJ, I stayed up too late every night watching TV. I also watched TV with my mom in her room, because it gave her something to focus on outside of her own illness and pain. So I got to see a LOT of TV. Waaay more than I've seen in a long time, even when visiting various relatives.

Sure, there were several good shows. I got to see the Daily Show and the Colbert Report for the first time. (Seriously!) A review of Carol Burnett's career. The Wizard of Oz. And I saw a new episode of South Park, a show I've seen just a couple of times before. It was really rather funny, about the kids nearly achieving "Guitar Hero" video game stardom ("Real guitars are for OLD people!" -- Cartman).

What really struck me from watching all the other shows that I will not admit to watching is how utterly psychotic so many of the people in them are. Psychosis TV as opposed to Psychic TV (semi-legendary music/video outfit).

Here's part of the definition of "psychotic" from wikipedia:

Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". ... People experiencing a psychotic episode ... may exhibit personality changes and disorganized thinking. This is often accompanied by lack of insight into the unusual or bizarre nature of their behaviour, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out the activities of daily living.

Yes, that sums up my recent experience of TV. Incidentally, if it wasn't for numerous people in my meeting as well as a few kind bloggers praying for me, I probably wouldn't have lasted the week. I know I wasn't doing much praying. I felt pretty distant spiritually... except for doing my filial duty... and one daily practice of walking that I hope to write about.



On my trip back to NJ, I also bought The Last Week by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, which I loved; and Home to Harmony, the first Harmony novel by Quaker pastor Philip Gulley. I also loved that, in a different way.

Here is my favorite line from Home to Harmony:

The front page [of the newsletter from "Quaker headquarters"] was the superintendent's letter. He believes in the power of words, that we are one newsletter article away from vitality.

Or maybe we are just one good blog post away! :)

A Living Faith -- in 1990 and 2007

Okay, so I survived Housing Leadership Day VI (230 people registered, we counted 211 noses, definitely our biggest turnout yet). I flew to New Jersey a week later. My mom was transferred out of the hospital a few hours after I got there. I spent nine or ten hours a day with her the next eight days. Then I flew home to my family on Saturday evening. It took 14 hours of travel. It didn't help that the SF Bay was fogged in. Same fog that resulted in the ship crashing into the Bay Bridge and spilling its fuel. Alas!

I looked at my bloglines today and noticed I had 1,961 unread posts. (Reminds me of Robin's post "1,401 posts to go".) Fortunately for my sanity, a significant chunk of those are from newspaper feeds, which I will forgo reading.

I brought along Wilmer Cooper's A Living Faith (Friends United Press, 1990), which I enjoyed reading in reverse, from the last chapter forward. I started that way because I was more interested in Chapter 11, "Quaker Assessment and Future Prospects" than Chapter 1, "A Short History."

Tonight I was reading Chapter 4, "Quaker Understanding of Christ," which ends with a discussion of whether or not Quakers need to be Christians. I found the conclusion particularly to be food for thought:

So the debate goes on and shows no signs of being resolved. Yet the Society of Friends has moved into a new day, and its survival may well depend on a rediscovery of its identity within the context of its own history, coupled with an effort to interpret that identity in a relevant way to a constantly changing world.

Hm, sounds a bit like trends within the convergent Friends conversation... At least that's my take on it.



Hi there,

I wouldn't even post except that I'm waiting for two copies of my talking points for tomorrow's Housing Leadership Day event to print. Then I can give one to our board chair for the parts that maybe he could say and I don't have to. Oh, it's nine pages. It includes two jokes:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the playground?
A: To get to the other slide!

Knock Knock. Who's there? Cowzgo. Cowzgo who? No, cows go "moo"!

Don't worry: They're in there as filler. I'll only use 'em if I have to.

Today Robin's car almost broke down. She was able to get it fixed nearby and done in time to pick the kids up at school. In between I think she went to our meeting's vigil for peace and justice. I'm not sure -- I haven't read her blog today. ;)

Early this week my mother was hospitalized with an illness that got more complicated than it had to. It was a bit scary. My oldest sister is with her this week, my middle sister goes next week, and I may go the week after that. We're not quite sure how much convalescing she'll have to do.

Meanwhile, the same day that's unfolding, we get word at work that a major donor is likely to come through with a really generous gift. And we can't tell anybody yet.

Then yesterday we had a board meeting for the local housing trust fund, which went well. I felt frustrated not to be able to talk about the (potential) major gift, let me tell ya! Of course, it hasn't happened yet, either!

Okay, printing's done. Gotta go. Fortunately, I've been praying a lot and fairly centered. God really can hold whatever we put there for God to hold....


David Yount on letting one's life speak

I've been reading David Yount's book, How the Quakers Invented America, which I blogged once already. It's much more about Quakers and less about their impact on the United States of America than I expected from the title. There's some of the cultural history, but a lot of it is explaining in more detail about who the Friends are. It is a pretty good summary of contemporary Quakerism, though I just wasn't expecting it. Here's a passage that struck me as important:

In modern times many sincere men and women have lost the ability to tune in to God’s promptings, yet they sense a void in their lives that can be filled only by something or someone greater than themselves. ... For those still seeking, Friends have a friendly door on which to knock.

Get a group of Quakers to start talking about God, and God himself may have trouble recognizing himself in the discussion. Whereas Jesus promised that “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), Friends patiently acknowledge that whenever two or three Quakers get together, there must be five different opinions.

On one thing all Friends agree. In the words of George Fox, “Let your lives speak,” a reiteration of Jesus’ wisdom about people that “by their fruits you shall know them.” The Quaker faith is one of experience and effort rather than speculation. Friends are tested by action.

-- From David Yount, How the Quakers Invented America, page 110

Given Yount's self-professed Christian viewpoint, it's a healthy, inclusive view, if perhaps overly glib, and it also acknowledges the Christian roots of sayings such as, "Let your lives speak."


Collage: cultural pointers and a 100th birthday in Pasadena

Some things on my mind tonight and last night:

- Forrest Church, So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State, 2007 (ISBN 978-0151011858)
--- heard him interviewed on the radio, really interesting!

- Minutemen - Political Song, Have you ever seen the rain, from "Three-Way Tie for Last"
--- found it near my stash of Mekons LPs. Wow. So timely and relevant, just switch out "Guatemala" and insert "Iraq" or "Afghanistan."

- "No End in Sight" - KPFA was playing the soundtrack as part of their membership drive. Amazing, open critiques from former Administration insiders -- diplomats, generals, and bureaucrats. Go see it if you can, and check out the website either way:

- Orange Grove Monthly Meeting's 100th anniversary is next weekend! Happy birthday, Friends!


Found it: How the Quakers Invented America

Found it. How the Quakers Invented America. By religion columnist David Yount.

I wanted it last night for my "introduction to Quakerism" talk at the Friends School. It didn't happen. Buying the book, that is; the talk happened, and it was fine.

On a whim I stopped at the Borders at the mall on the way home. Nothin'. Their only store in the region that had a copy was in Union Square, in downtown S.F. Well, I don't usually go downtown any more, so I didn't have the staffer place a hold on that copy.

However, I just happened to have a meeting near there this morning. So in I went, and there it was. Bingo! Cover blurb by author and blogger Brent Bill!

(Yes, I know I should support www.quakerbooks.org and my now-only-semi-local-since-we-moved bookstore. I've created handy-dandy links to the Quaker Books page so you can order it there yourself.)

In addition to his column for Scripps Howard, Yount has written several other books. He also wrote an article for Quaker Life in March 2002 called "Why Did Quakers Stop Quaking?"

While I'd like to tell you more about the book, I'd have to actually read it first. So stay tuned... Gotta go!

- - - - -
PS Did you know Gen. Smedley Butler, author of War is a Racket, was raised a Quaker? One of his nicknames was "the Fighting Quaker" -- ugh. On a second whim for the evening, I looked him up on Wikipedia, and there it was. Apparently President Herbert Hoover and he didn't get along. Was it partly because of the Quaker connection?

PPS Peggy Senger Parsons, when are you going to publish a book of your columns? Hmmm? Hmmm?

6th anniversary of Peace Vigil in S.F.

From MarkleyM:

Please help us observe the sixth anniversary of the vigil. From noon to 1:00 this Thursday we will be on the corner of Larkin Street and Golden Gate Avenue at the old San Francisco federal building. To observe the anniversary AFSC's Cost of the Iraq War banners will return and we will also have seven new signs and a new leaflet.

Here is a photo from last Thursday.
While we vigiled the Blue Angels streaked by, as they do every year, filling the air with ear-piercing shrieks. One man on the sidewalk shook his fist. Another said, "At least they're not dropping bombs," and a woman left the vigil because she couldn't bear the sound and what it stands for. But mostly people stared at the sky. A line from an old Pete Seeger song came to me, "When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?"

And as you can see the mystery landscaping continues. The chain link fences were still with us but now in fancy dress - green-black covers providing a somber background for our vigil. I wonder what these covers are there to hide.

I hope you can be with us for the anniversary. And every Thursday.

In peace, Markley


Hardly Strictly Mekons

So there I was… bringing two young boys through the hazy, smoky air of a crowd in Golden Gate Park when I spotted Robin M. and Friends halfway across the crowd. Yet I couldn’t see where to cross from the walkway into the people and begin the odyssey of stepping gingerly between toes and hands, on blankets, and around lawn chairs, to get to our own family’s blanket at the during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

Then, bless her heart, Robin popped up at our sides. She’s a foot shorter than I am, and wasn’t carrying an adult backpack, a child’s backpack, and a cooler, and so she was able to navigate the crowd better. Plus she was coming from the inside out, which is just easier.

Anyway, she said I was free to go see the Mekons, bless her heart yet again. So I went.

If you don’t know about them, the Mekons started in the “do-it-yourself” phase of punk rock, immediately post-Sex Pistols, in Leeds, England. They’ve continued playing in various forms off and on since, with a hard-edged honky-tonk rock and roll style being the best way I can describe them. Hank Williams meets the (early) Clash. But better songwriters than the Clash.

Anyway, I arrived and they were singing a song about Quakers and Ranters and Muggletonians!! How appropriate is that?!?

Turns out it was "Thee olde trip to Jerusalem," which I'd never heard before:
"With the Ranters and the Quakers and the Fabians
"William Blake, William Morris, Tony Benn
"The Levellers and the Diggers and the Muggletonians"

They were all sitting down, which led to some geriatrics jokes. The drummer was simply thumping a case. Tom Greenhalgh was playing an electric bazouki (unless it was an oud, but I don't think so) -- at one point with a slide! Not every band plays slide electric bazouki, now, do they??

Another song was about going for rambles in the hills of the U.K. The song had something to do with the end of the world, rhyming “ramble” with “scramble” of fighter jets in a final cataclysm of warfare. This was also appropriate, because the Blue Angels were also in San Francisco this week and flew over the festival periodically, completely drowning out the musicians. Jon Langford, guitarist and front man, shook his fist at the sky as he sang the lines. He also pranced and danced back and forth like Mick Jagger, did a bit of Slavic folk dancing, then did a turn as an Irish dancer in whatever that popular show was from a few years ago.

(On Saturday, during the Flatlanders’ set – also really good – when the planes flew over, there were many shaken fists and a fair number of one-fingered salutes from the crowd. Only in San Francisco! Today they flew over during Doc Watson’s set, and people cheered a lot more. They seemed happy about it. Oh, well.)

They also dug back over 15 years to “Death of American Astronauts,” a newer one called “Hole in the Ground” (I think), and “Perfect Mirror” from their newest album, The Natural.

My favorite, though, was “Oblivion,” sung by Sally Timms, from their 1986 album, The Edge of the World. Wow!

The chorus always speaks deeply to me:
“You’ve always known and always remember
“Then you forget you’ve always known”

Isn’t this a bit like the journey through life with God? When I remember to check back in with the Source, the Way, the Truth, I realize I’ve always known we could be that connected. And then I forget I’ve always known. And so it goes. The cycle of remembering and forgetting. May I remember more than I forget.


Blogging for a Free Burma 10/04/2007

Free Burma!

Okay, so it's minimal. It's what I can do at this time. The following is from the Free Burma website, www.free-burma.org, which I found out about through the Facebook group, "Support the Monks' protest in Burma":

Take part in this action for a Free Burma!

1. Publish a posting (Bulletin Board, Forum, Blog, Social Network, Static Website…) on the 4th of October with the header: “Free Burma!”

2. Tag it if you can with “Free Burma”

3. Choose a grafic from our Grafics page and

4. Link to www.free-burma.org there your readers will find some informations about the campaign and Burma and a participant list which you can join. Even if you're a webmaster of a bulletin board or social network you will find a special Group List to join.

5. Feel free to write any additional text you want

If you have no website or blog we need you even more: Please help us to spread the word across the internet, tell your neighbours, friends or kids and first of all: Sign our list of participants!

Spread the word: Please help to spread the word about the Free Burma! action. Comment on blogs to promote our campaign, write website owners and forum admins to inform them, post on forums and guestbooks, tell your whole neighborhood about us.


Clerk's corner

(I wrote this for SF Meeting's newsletter and decided to publish it here, too.)

There is a waterfall at the new development where Robin & I live now. The water flows from 7 am to 11 pm. The lights under the water go on around dusk and turn off at 11, too. It’s a terrible waste of energy, and of water because of evaporative loss, yet it’s beautiful. My children are captivated by its loveliness. They now sit at the breakfast table in the two seats that enable them to see the water start flowing at 7 am.

The timed artificial waterfall contrasts with the flow of the Living Water, always present, always flowing, somewhere in the very ground of our being. Do we take time to notice it when we are not in meeting? For that matter, do we find it in meeting?

Be a Quaker without Ceasing: How would it feel to live every moment aware of that flow, living every moment as a Quaker? To have that integrity, to achieve that level of integration, that centeredness within at all times? Interesting questions!

Of course, I’m thinking of Paul’s exhortation in 2 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” For me, getting anywhere near that place starts with mindfulness, being present, as in Zen meditation. From being present comes awareness of Presence itself.

(By the way, there are many other good lines in that chapter of Thessalonians: “5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day… 13b. Be at peace among yourselves…. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto anyone; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all.” One of the names early Quakers gave themselves was “Children of Light.”)

Speaking of “Extreme Quakerism”: What did you think of the extended meeting for worship on 9/30? Ministry and Oversight seeks your feedback about this experiment, which we did on the fifth Sundays in July and September. Email Jeff Mead, M&O clerk, jeffbikedog --at-- gmail.com.

Faith and Practice group: The last few months, Ministry & Oversight held Sunday morning sessions about Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice, including the advices and queries and the sections on meeting for worship and meeting for business. Friends had a rich time of discussion and reflection at the two I attended. We will continue organizing these sessions from time to time, focusing on topics identified by participants. One future topic will be clearness committees, the method Friends use for membership, marriages, and discernment around life changes. By the way, you can find the full text of Faith and Practice online at www.pacificyearlymeeting.org.

Meeting for Business: The October meeting for business will have a longer period of discernment around queries from our environment subcommittee.

Quakers in the News: Cal Broomhead was quoted and photographed for an article in the S.F. Business Times, on green home renovations and building. Robin Mohr has an article in the October issue of Friends Journal. And I was quoted in the Peninsula edition of the Examiner, as part of a series looking at the struggle that low-income families face in S.F. and San Mateo Counties.


Words for bloggers to ponder

This was written as a comment on a post I wrote about bloggers who were at the Friends General Conference gathering. What are your thoughts, Friends? And I couldn't notify Anonymous or contact him or her about lifting this up in a post, since he or she was just that -- Anonymous.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Quaker bloggers at FGC Gathering":
I happened upon a photo of "Quaker bloggers" at FGC and also read some Q-bloggers, blogs about things that went on at various small groups. Though there was discretion (no mention of names), there were disturbing things put on the web that should never be put up for all the world to see. One especially troubling blog was about a person who had tried to walk out of a small, worshipful event at FGC, but got persuaded to stay. I won't repeat the details.

I will steer clear of any discussion or worship-sharing group that has a "Quaker Blogger" present. I'd feel more comfortable being hounded by Paparozzi (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paparazzi.) At least they don't take notes at events that bring out people's heartfelt yearnings toward the Divine, or their private inward wrestlings, and then feel at liberty to make whatever was said or done a Quaker event an occasion for public speculation and musings on a Worldwide Web forum.

This is no way to let our lives speak to the world, especially without the express consent of the individuals who come to worship-sharing at a gathering like FGC for personal, spiritual discernment. It is such a tender thing between one person and God. It is a privelege for Friends gathered in small worship-sharing groups to abide with one another in that tender place, which must be safe from voyeurs looking for material to sustain their blogs. It is a privelege to witness whatever Friends find in common worship together. What is said and done should be honored as privileged information. Please, you have with your blogging, made worship-sharing a risky event. Friends should not have to worry about what they said or did at a Quaker gathering ending up on the Internet, whether you name names or not. How can any Friend/Blogger feel entitled to take such license? Or be at ease doing such a profane thing with a worshipful occasion?

- - -
Personally, I hunger to read about other people's "heartfelt yearnings toward the Divine, or their private inward wrestlings." I also agree that confidentiality is a part of worship-sharing. I am less clear about an interest group or the like that might have 50 people in a room. Anonymous conceded that most posts she or he had read did handle such matters with discretion, which is important me. And for me, the boundaries between what I share in a small group and what I share here on my blog seem very porous. Personally, I'd be interested to read what someone else wrote in response to something I said at such a gathering. I want to be open to the Spirit -- and one of the key places I find the Spirit is in the "gathered body" of the church/meeting, and through the comments of the community of Quaker bloggers. Yet I realize others, like Anonymous, have completely different responses.

Thoughts, Friends?



This year, I've been reading the books of the Bible that I've never read in whole before. That included the minor prophets earlier this year.

Just this month I've read Proverbs in its entirety for the first time. Here is the passage that stood out for me (from the Oxford study edition of the Revised English Bible):
Two things I ask of you --
do not withhold them in my lifetime;
put fraud and lying far from me; give me neither poverty nor wealth,
but provide me with the food I need,
for if I have too much I shall deny you and say, "Who is the Lord?"
and if I am reduced to poverty I shall steal
and besmirch the name of my God.

-- Proverbs 30:7-9

Could this be an echo?

Give us this day our daily bread.
-- Matthew, Chapter 6:11


Secrets to a light and happy life?

School starts tomorrow. Today Robin and I went to opening meeting for worship. Tonight I went to orientation for new kindergarten parents. Lots of driving back and forth. I typed up some quotes that have spoken to me recently and offer them here, in place of an original post: from the Incredible String Band, Brian Drayton, Hannah Whitall Smith, and Jarrod McKenna.

Incredible String Band snippets (songs from Wee Tam and the Big Huge)
“One light, the light that is one though the lamps be many.”
--"Douglas Traherne Harding"

“You get brighter every day and every time I see you
Scattered brightness in your way and you taught me how to love you.
I know you belong to everybody
But you can’t deny that I’m you.”
--"You Get Brighter"

Brian Drayton's Getting Rooted: Living in the Cross: A Path to Joy and Liberation is Pendle Hill Pamphlet 391. Is it really so new that I couldn't find it either on Pendle Hill's website nor on QuakerBooks? Fortunately, our meeting's library had it!

First, this humorous paragraph:
In common parlance, “finding my roots” connotes a quest to become better acquainted with my family or ethnic history or background. It can range from deep learning about culture, language, and history to an uniformed sentimentality, which takes such forms as green beer on St Patrick’s Day or perhaps a sudden urge to hold a wedding in a meeting house because one’s great-grandmother was a Quaker…. [page 4]

Second, this serious passage:
Friends have always preached that the core of this experience (“knowing Jesus”) is not a notional doctrine about Jesus’s substitionary death on the cross outside Jerusalem wiping away the pain of sin for me and you, but rather that Christ, present in spirit, continues the ministry that we see Jesus enacting in the Gospels, inviting us to liberation, to unity with him and God right now, if we will cooperate. In fact, Friends have taught that if we are to benefit from the Christ event, we must experience it in our own lives, day by day, as way opens. As James Nayler said, “If I cannot witness Christ nearer than Jerusalem, I shall have no benefit by him.”

The first Friends had a powerful sense of the present of the Christ life at work in everyone – though to some degree, this life was oppressed, a suffering Seed in those who were not faithful. This life of God could be reached and encouraged, and even the smallest positive response on our part would mean more power being made available to us—power as well as light.

Going back to 1875, this is from Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (as printed in a 1952 edition in our meeting's library):
Chapter 13: Bondage or Liberty
It is a fact beyond question that there are two kinds of Christian experience, one of which is an experience of bondage, and the other an experience of liberty.

In the first case the soul is controlled by a stern sense of duty, and obeys the law of God, either from fear of punishment or from expectations of wages. In the other case, the controlling power is an inward life-principle that works out, by the force of its own motions or instincts, the will of the Divine Life-Giver, without fear of punishment or hope of reward. In the first the Christian is a servant, and works for hire; in the second he is a son, and works for love.

And finally, returning to 2007, here is an excerpt from Australian Jarrod McKenna's guest blog on the Backyard Missionary:
I’m aware that to many my life might seem a little, well.. strange.
An evangelist who is given a peace award? An activist serious about intercessory prayer? ... …strange.

So I’m hoping to invite you to the strange places and with the strange people where I’ve started to wade in the waters of the new creation, the places where I’ve met Christ and it’s messed me up.

Be it in a ghetto in America, a slum in Cambodia, the wonder of the outback, the witness and writings of the early church, with those without a home on the streets of London, Paris or Perth..., the laughter of local kids learning their skin is not a curse..., prayers of an indigenous elder for the drug dealers in our neighbourhood and the other more ordinary ways that God’s love gets at us. Messes with us. And empowers us to live a little more like Jesus, a little more like the world will be when God’s love finally floods all of creation.

Read the original post and see the photos over here, and go read Jarrod's regular blog on the Pace e Bene website.


Parents' Creative Response to Conflict

You’ve probably heard about Children’s Creative Response to Conflict.

Well, don’t forget, we parents need the same. Let me tell you about such a parental response one recent morning.

A certain Nine Year Old expressed in playing a game called Dog Dice. These days, it is rare for him to express interest in doing something besides reading. So this was notable!

A certain Five Year Old had other ideas, however. “I want to play something with my whole body. Something like playing wolves, or gorillas.” Now, playing wolves and playing gorillas are longstanding Saturday morning traditions in this family. So, this was tough to ignore.

Nine Year Old was clear, though: He wanted to play Dog Dice. Five Year Old was about to get into a snit, if not throw a full-blown tantrum quite yet.

“I have an idea,” Forty-Two Year Old said. “Let’s play ‘Gorillas Playing Dog Dice’!” He beat his chest for emphasis.

Nine Year Old burst out laughing. He beat his chest. He said, “Oo, oo!”

Seeing which way the wind was blowing, Five Year Old curled up in Forty Two Year Old’s lap, and cooed like a baby gorilla. “I’m a baby gowilla!” he said in a babyish voice.

The game of Dog Dice commenced, with occasional bouts of chest-thumping and hooting. From time to time, the silverback suggested the blackback find some wild celery, and fed some to the baby.

In the end, Forty-Two Year Old actually won the game. More important, he won some peace and accord in his family. Now, how blessed is that?


CodePink at SF Vigil

Last week some members of Code Pink Women for Peace, including co-founder Medea Benjamin, came to the vigil for peace and justice sponsored by San Francisco Monthly Meeting, AFSC Pacific Mountain Region, Episcopal Peace Fellowship and Buddhist Peace Fellowship. That's Medea in the middle of the photo, taken by my friend Markley.

Markley has been one of the steadfast supporters of the vigil since it began in October 2001. I asked him for his permission to use the photo, and he granted it. He also forwarded the following announcement about tomorrow's vigil:
Join CODEPINK Fasters outside of Speaker Pelosi's Office!

Thursday August 23rd at 12:00pm
450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco

Join the fasters as they participate in the weekly Quaker vigil outside of the San Francisco Federal Building at 12:00pm.

Afterward, CODEPINK fasters will host a gathering and Die-In at the doors of the San Francisco Federal Building. Bring a white or pink sheet and join the Die-in. Following the brief program, bear witness and support the fasters who are willing to commit civil disobedience.

The fasters will be on their 11th day, they've been holding an encampment outside of Senator Feinstein and Speaker Pelosi's homes in Pacific Heights to request the Senator and Speaker meet with them during the August Congressional recess. Senator Feinstein held a brief visit with the fasters yet Pelosi has not -- a request to hold a public Town Hall meeting for constituents was denied by the Speaker as well as a meeting with the fasters and San Francisco peace community.

We urge you to support the on-going fast and tell Speaker Pelosi to meet with her constituents and the peace community, here's how to support:
  • Contact Speaker Pelosi's office: (415) 556-4862
  • Join the Vigil and Die-In on Thursday August 23rd at 12 noon at the San Francisco Federal Building.
  • Support the on-going Congressional recess fast, take a day to fast either at home or in a public place between August 27th - September 3rd. Email pelosiwatch@globalexchange.org to let us know which day you'll be fasting.
  • Participate in the encampment by signing up here
  • To read or listen about the CODEPINK Fasters click here or here.
In Peace,

Becky, Charles, Frank, Janine, Jody, Medea, Mike, Nancy, Pam, Paul, Susan & Toby
CODEPINK Fasters & Campers for Peace


Must be doin' something right

Yesterday morning (Saturday) Five Year Old and I were playing, as is our custom.

He was racing his motorcycle back and forth, and I was holding a Fisher Price tow truck that he told me was the motorcycle driver's friend. The tow truck driver figurine offered his help frequently to the motorcycle rider, but the rider could pretty much fix everything himself. So, my main role was to be present, and to follow direction. Fair enough, I can do that.

At some later point, the tow truck driver became the motorcycle rider's adopted son. (Go, Five Year Old!)

Even later, as I fought off severe drowsiness -- yes, I confess, on a Saturday morning, another hour or two in bed seems more appealing than WATCHING A MOTORCYCLE GO BACK AND FORTH! A LOT! -- Five Year Old decided to have a meeting of the crew.

I thought he meant pit crew, but as it turned out, he meant ALL the motorcycle riders who had been in the races, not just the one we could see.

So, we pulled together a group of three or four construction workers, who stood in admirably as the other racers. Then Five Year Old said, "My motorcycle rider is the CLERK."

[Cue sappy music; father beams proudly at his son.]


Quaker Workers?

This piece by Bil Paul, a local columnist, appeared in the San Mateo Daily News today:

Catholic Worker House helps needy on a limited budget

Quote: "The Catholic Workers share a few similarities with the Quakers (more formally known as the Religious Society of Friends). The Catholic Workers aren't a homogenous group, and Purcell doesn't speak for all of them, but he believes that 'nothing's more important than people. ... The way I live is that people who are so-called losers are treated as if they are our brothers and sisters. If they need something and I can find it, I (provide it).'"

It's striking that the column doesn't mention Dorothy Day or the Catholic Church -- only Quakers!

There is a real affinity among Friends with the Catholic Worker movement. Our friends Carin Anderson and Chris Moore-Backman lived at the very same Redwood City house for a while. Forrest Curo recently wrote about the LA Catholic Worker and speculated about why there's no Quaker Worker movement at A Quaker Watering Hole. Stephen at our meeting subscribes to the LA Worker's newsletter. When I was at 15th Street Meeting in New York in the early 1990s, John and Vince had great stories to tell about volunteering at the Lower East Side Worker house.

In the blog post linked to above, Forrest wrote, "Despite minor hardships and inconvenience, we are drawn to the Catholic Worker way of life because it 'makes sense' where the so-called 'American Way of Life' doesn't."

Yep. Makes sense to me. Even if I don't live that way, much.

May we all treat so-called losers as our brothers and sisters. May we labor -- together, side by side -- for peace and justice and dignity for all creation.
- - - -
PS May the Lord bless and keep the members of the India team from Newberg Friends Church, including Gregg Koskela, who are on their way to or in India right now. May they travel safely and may they open hearts -- their own and others'.


Holy Silence and some queries

I've been feeling blah and tired lately. Something about going to FGC Gathering, buying a first home with four layers of financing in the deal, going to yearly meeting, and then unpacking boxes. It just kind of ... I don't know... leaves me feeling tired and blah!

I did just read Brent Bill's Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality. It was a bit of a tonic. I thought it would be helpful for a newcomer to meeting, because it explains with some quite lovely examples about Friends' worship and even the liturgy of silence worship (in much less academic terms than Pink Dandelion's academic treatise, Liturgies of Quakerism; I have to admit I didn't get far in that one yet after buying it from QuakerBooks at the FGC Gathering).

However, I also know that I'm way too deep into Quakerism myself to have a good idea of what it might be like for a person who's new. I'd love to hear what others have thought of it.

This past Sunday -- was it only yesterday? -- at San Francisco Meeting we had two pieces of vocal ministry. Mine was the first, reflecting on how Quakerism is a "listening spirituality" and not a "telling spirituality." One responsibility is to listen outside to others with our hearts and minds open. Our other responsibility is also to listen inside -- both to hear one's own truth about how one is doing, so one can express that to others clearly and not expect them to read one's mind; and also to hear Truth. And in U.S. culture, we're constantly being told what to think or do, so taking time to listen inside and outside ourselves really is countercultural.

I didn't quite express it that way. It was not an earth-shattering type of message, but it came back more than three times, and it felt right to speak, so I did.

The only other vocal ministry was from a visitor from the Isle of Jersey who had grown up Quaker and gone to a Quaker school, but had not attended meeting in nearly 20 years, and how grateful and moved he was to be among us that morning.

The real treat of the day was the third in a series of three morning discussions on the advices and queries. This time we did worship sharing around three queries, two from Pacific Yearly Meeting and one from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Does that count as syncretistic? Anyway, three queries worked surprisingly well together, and it was a very rich and centered time. One Friend called it a "feast," and I have to agree. Here they are:

Do I center my life in an awareness of God’s presence so that all things take their rightful place? (Pacific Yearly Meeting, Simplicity)

How are love and unity maintained among us? (Pacific Yearly Meeting, Meeting Community)

In what ways do we share our deepest experiences, struggles, concerns and beliefs… yet encourage [others] to develop their potential as the Spirit leads them? (Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), Home and Family)

PS Another treat for the day was our friends David, A., and D. playing with Nine Year Old and Five Year Old so we could do some unpacking.


Guest Post: John Pixley on Taking Back Jesus

Some thoughts by John Pixley, Claremont Meeting, 7/26/2007
Handed out at a Pacific Yearly Meeting evening discussion group, “Taking Back Jesus,” 8/1/2007; published with John's permission

Last fall, a young man that I hired as an attendant would often show up to work wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, on the front of which he had sewn a picture of a Hindu goddess. I was intrigued by this and told him I thought it was cool. He suggested that I have a picture of Jesus Christ sewn onto the bib of my overalls. “That’d be dope!” he enthused.

Jesus on my bibs! That would be cool, if not dope, I thought. Those who know me know that overalls are what I wear, that they are very much a part of my life. Jesus is also a big part of my life. Most likely because of my significant, in-your-face disability, I have long been attracted to his message of love for the different, the outsider, even the enemy. Why not have Jesus, who I admire – indeed, love – and try to honor in how I live my life, close to me, on my bib, and for all the world to see?

But then I got worried. If I went around sporting a picture of Jesus, people would get the wrong idea about me. Never mind that they would think I was out to convert, or “save,” the world. People would think I am a right-wing fundamentalist nut.

People would see me with my picture of Jesus and think I was saying that women shouldn’t be able to get abortions, that gays and lesbians are bad, that it is not only acceptable but honorable to go to and also start war, that it is okay to torture people.

This is what many people think of when they think of Jesus – or at least of Christianity. The sad, shameful fact is that Jesus has been taken by conservative Christians, the Christian right, and used as their exclusive spokesman. This man who preached and demonstrated radical love and inclusiveness, who showed it to the world, has been hijacked and made to say that women and gays shouldn’t have equal rights, that war is good, that torture is fine.

Jesus has been made to say and condone things that he never said and condoned. How else can President Bush, who is against same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to have control over her own body and life, and who sanctions war and torture (not to mention the death penalty), claim not only to be a Christian but also that Jesus is his most-admired philosopher?

It is bad enough that this gives Jesus and Christianity a bad name. Earlier this year, I saw Jesus Camp, a documentary about a summer camp for Christian fundamentalist kids, and I was struck by how the audience at the college screening was laughing. While much of what is said in the film is outrageous and funny, I came away very concerned that Jesus has become a laughing-stock.

Jesus has also been used in other hurtful ways. Since I was a young child, people have stopped me on the sidewalk to tell me that if I believe in Jesus, I will be healed. I have even been told that I will walk if I pray to Jesus! The message is less about Jesus and more of a judgment – that, in being disabled and in a wheelchair, I am sick or not a complete, whole person and in need of healing and not worthy (at least in their eyes, if not Jesus’) until I am healed.

I have no doubt that all of these people are quite sincere and well-intentioned, which makes what they do with Jesus all the more disturbing. (Indeed, the director of Jesus Camp said at the screening I attended that Christian fundamentalists have embraced the film.) Is it any wonder that, especially as a disabled and now gay man, I have become wary of Jesus or at least talk of him? I am sad to say that I am all but ashamed to say that I love Jesus. I notice this, for example, when I’m with my gay friends, and they get frightened and angry when I mention Jesus. This is a tragedy.

I wonder how many other people who would otherwise consider themselves Christians have been scared off or driven away from Jesus by the way he has been appropriated and represented in these ways. Could this be why some or many of us in pacific Yearly Meeting feel more at home with our safe, warm universalism than with what at least I see as the old-time Christo-centric Quakerism of George Fox?

It is time to take back Jesus. I want to embrace him as the man of peace and love he truly was. Indeed, I want to wear him and show him off proudly on my gay, disabled body. I dare say that he, with his world-changing message of all-inclusive love, would like that.
- - -
[UPDATE: It turns out that Forrest Curo had already posted this piece at "A Quaker Watering Hole," along with some additional thoughts of his own: http://acitycanbemoved.blogspot.com/2007/08/taking-back-jesus.html. I'm only slowly catching up with blogreading after moving and going to Yearly Meeting, so I missed this before. -- cm]


Quaker Quest: The Other QQ

Prompted by a post by Contemplative Scholar about evangelism among (unprogrammed) Friends (Should Quakers Become More 'Evangelical'?, I looked up the Quaker Quest website. I attended a short presentation they did at the FGC Gathering under the aegis of the FGC advancement and outreach. Their tagline is Quakerism -- "a spiritual path for our time."

Quote: "Quaker Quest aims to help you find out about the Quaker way of life. We have found that people enquiring about us want to hear what we have to say, talk to each other and us about it, get an idea what sort of people we are and experience Quaker worship."

I highly recommend the website: http://www.quakerquest.org.

It includes a forum for discussion, which appears to be just over a month old. Okay, lunch break is over. I'll have to think about how we might apply this in San Francisco another time.


A Quaker Made Famous through Mass Merchandising

So today I bought a copy of the new Harry Potter at our local independent bookshop. Before I gave it to Robin -- who gets to read it first, and then Nine Year Old, and then me -- I did read the front matter and first page or two. And found this quote:
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude
(as quoted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, p. xi)

- - - -

In other news, Linda posted some photos from the FGC Gathering on her blog, Boundless Stores of Grace. She even included a couple shots of Nine Year Old at the Heart of the Beast rehearsal! (That's him on the right.)

click for this and more of Linda's photos


Religious Literacy

I'm reading Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--and Doesn't. It came recommended by the head of San Francisco Friends School. It's the kind of book where I can read the introduction and first two chapters and have a sense of the thesis: Americans are woefully ignorant of the world's religions, their own and others'. Given the other things going on for us right now, I probably won't finish it.

This quote stood out for me, page 53: "While... those on the right are more likely to be worried about a lack of attention to Puritan New England, critics on the left want to give Roger Williams, William Penn, and other scions of religious liberty their due. A textbook review published by People for the American Way said, "While history textbooks talk about the existence of religious diversity in America, they do not show it.... The Quakers are shown giving us religious freedom and abolition, and then apparently disappear off the face of the earth."



One thing about having 1,300 or so Quakers living together on a college campus for a week at FGC Gathering is being in proximity to one another.

As a result, I had a better sense of the collective impact we can have. The spiritual impact. The activist impact. In this case, though, I’m thinking of our impact on the earth: water use, energy use, food consumption, and waste production. Living closely together in this community for a week, it’s quite visible. Do people leave the faucet running? Do we flush twice? (I live in California so I’m sensitive about water use; Wisconsin is historically wetter.) How much bottled water or soda do we drink? Do we turn the lights off in the shower area when we’re done? And look at how much paper we all get just by attending the Gathering!

It was also nice to see so many people walking around, not needing a car for the vast portion of the week, and golf carts available for people who needed them or for children who were especially worn out.

At some point, recycling boxes were provided in dorm lobbies. On the last day, I had a nudge to take the piled-up recycling from our dorm lobby to the receptacles outside. As it happened, we had to make two trips to take our luggage from the dorm to the bus, and I was going back by myself for the last pieces. I decided to take the recycling out at that point, because we were in no hurry. Then I would return the keys in the slot.

As it happened, Robin needed her meal card for lunch, and it was in her key holder. She called to tell me this as I was taking the recycling out. If I hadn’t been taking out the recycling, I would have already turned in her key with the meal card. I was able to fish out the card before returning the keys. And it was good.


Extended Meeting for Worship 7/29/07

[I still have a few more posts brewing about the FGC Gathering. Meanwhile, here is an announcement especially of interest for Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area. -- Chris M.]

Dear Friends,

Ministry and Oversight Committee invites you to join San Francisco Friends Meeting for an extended Meeting for Worship on Sunday, 7/29/2007. (It being the fifth Sunday of the month, we are trying this experiment, in hopes of creating an opportunity for a deep and enriching time together.)

It will begin with a half hour of reading from the Bible or other holy writings. This is essentially a modified Meeting for Worship. We gather in silence and when someone is so moved, he or she may read a selection from scripture, with a verse, a longer section, or an entire chapter. There is no commentary from either the reader or listeners. The reading functions as a guided meditation, helping to bring the participants into a reverent and deply spiritual place. We wil then segue into a traditional silent waiting Meeting for Worship for two hours. People may join and leave during the two hour period, because for some it is very hard to sit still that long.

We ask you to be very mindful of the worshipers that day. Please minimize noise in the fellowship and back hallways as well as the lobby as much possible. Also note that our children will gather with us for the last 15 minutes of the meeting as opposed to the first. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact any member of the Ministry and Oversight Committee.

In the Light,

The Ministry and Oversight Committee
San Francisco Friends Meeting



Karen Armstrong wrote—in The Great Transformation, I believe—that the imagination is the religious faculty. As someone in the Christian tradition, I imagine what it is like to follow Jesus today, or what it was like to follow him during his human life, and I imagine different ways the Holy Spirit might manifest God through us and the creation…

In my workshop at the FGC Gathering, we spent time each day having participants describe what their experience in meeting for worship had been like. They spoke of images such as circling and then entering a “deep pool”; a “ring of light connecting our hearts”; and even the clouds parting and the angels announcing, “Holy, holy, holy! Glory to God in the highest!”

We referred to the domination system against which Jesus counterposed the Kingdom of God. I spoke about this at some length one day, how I wished for my sons not to be safe so much as to be grounded in faith and love and hope that they could enter challenging situations in life and the world and maintain their inner peace (that’s not really what I said, just a placeholder). Yet how hopeless it seems when the need is for entire systems to change, so how much difference would it make to make some form of nonviolent resistance to a low-level T-S-A employee. One participant challenged me to live outside the domination system even at the airport.

Religious imagery invites me to a deeper consideration of what I should be doing. How could I do things differently, to put aside my own complacency and more fully to take on the call for justice, mercy, and peace in the world?

If a Roman soldier asks me to carry his pack one mile (but no further), as allowed by imperial law, can I carry it two miles? How would the soldier react? What would it say to him about the status of the person he had just impressed into service?

What would it look like to go to the airport and be outside the domination system and its fear? Should I go barefoot so I don’t have to remove my shoes? In the larger picture of things, I could consider taking the bus or train rather than the train, but that’s not going to make any statements about the fear that rules the system in the air.

Walter Wink's small book, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way, addresses these questions directly. I would like to continue imagining responses to "the system," and to stay open to finding new ways to act.



Was it enrichment? Or gluttony? I’m prompted to ask by my experience at the FGC gathering of the food service at the dining hall as well as the spiritual riches that I felt in my workshop, singing, and other activities.

Was it just all too much?

For now, I'll leave the question of spiritual riches off the table. However, I previously posted about the “simple meal,” the lunch where rice and beans or peanut butter and jelly are served. The ice cream machines are turned off. There is no salad bar.

But there was as much as one wanted of what was offered. There were two kinds of rice – plain brown or Spanish rice with sauce. So, we certainly weren’t deprived.

While it felt in many ways like a token effort, one dad I spoke to said it gave their family a lot to think about. His ten year old had been extremely unhappy with the meal, didn’t like the two choices, and wanted to know why he couldn’t have ice cream. So it sparked discussion for them.

Especially because I blogged during the gathering about the idea of having 3/4 or 5/6 of our meals be “simple,” at meals throughout the week I tried to take only as much as I needed, not as much as I wanted. It grew more challenging as the week went on. At breakfast I usually eat two bowls of cold cereal, so that’s what I started with early in the week. Yet later in the week, when they had pancakes or waffles, I found myself getting one or two of them, as well as a bowl of cereal.

At lunch and dinner I usually helped Five Year Old get an ice cream cone. And usually I helped myself to one, as well. Sometimes only at dinner, but sometimes at lunch, too.

I wasn't alone in piling a fair amount of food onto my tray. Midway through the week a large handwritten sign was posted asking us to be mindful of quantities, and to eat all we take. The amount of food waste was apparently high. It’s especially true for the children, who will take what seems like a reasonable quantity of one item, but the number of choices was so big that they keep piling on one thing after another, until it’s too much to eat in one sitting.

The rumor or urban legend in the dining hall through the week was that someone had heard the staff say, “These Quakers have eaten more ice cream in one week than the students do all semester.” I’m sure it’s exaggerated, but it’s telling that we were repeating it to one another.

There was a simpler eating alternative. The food co-op group of about 40 people was headquartered in the basement of the dorm we stayed in. Perhaps more co-op clusters could be provided at the next gathering.

What is the balance between providing a sufficient variety of healthy food while also meeting a variety of dietary needs and restrictions? Where does enrichment end and gluttony begin? It may be harsh to call it gluttony, but it seems close to my personal experience on some days.


Home again home again jiggety jog

Hm, it's been a few days since we came back from the Friends General Conference Gathering of Friends in Wisconsin. Though I've already put up a post or two, it will take some time to process the week.

My workshop, which I blogged about ahead of time, turned out to be rich and deep. In meeting for worship back in San Francisco last Sunday, I took time to remember the names and faces of each of the 20 or so friends around the circle in our workshop, or "worship shop" as co-leader Peter Crysdale called it. (One of the other participants is the brother of a long-time attender of our meeting.) And then I spent time remembering who was actually in the room with me at that moment in San Francisco. The two exercises complemented each other nicely.

I appreciate Paul L.'s series of on-the-spot posts about the gathering. His blog, Showers of Blessings, is named for his favorite Sacred Harp tune. I joined the afternoon singing of the Sacred Harp group every afternoon, and also for the incidental music at the Heart of the Beast production on Wednesday evening. It is stirring stuff to sing loudly together about life and death, especially the latter.

Liz's "evaluation" of her "workshop" -- serving as co-clerk of the workshops committee -- is wonderful. It should show up on QuakerQuaker soon...

I didn't have the space to blog much while there. Robin served as "Friend in Residence" to the Junior Gathering (aka children's programs), so she was out of the dorm by 6:30 every morning to get breakfast and organize meeting for worship for the Junior Gathering staff. I got the boys up and breakfasted and to their programs and then myself to my workshop. Most days I had to choose between getting the boys and me to brush our teeth or getting on time to my workshop's opening worship. Usually, I chose toothbrushing. A friend in the workshop said she didn't like to say people are late, they're there whenever they get there. While I don't have that same sense of detachment, and believe it is better when I arrive on time, it was a comfort to me during the week.

For now, I must take the The Parting Hand...


Quaker bloggers at FGC Gathering

Here is a more complete list of Quaker bloggers I talked to at the FGC Gathering:
  • Claire R: That God

  • Erin: Quaker Scholar

  • James Riemermann: Nontheist Friends

  • Grampa Joe (I'm not sure how public he is about his blog; I haven't even seen it yet. Robin told me about it when we rode the bus with him from the airport to River Falls)

  • Karen Street: A Musing Environment

  • Kody: Unwavering Bands of Light (actually more active on livejournal)

  • Laura: The Potential of Yarn

  • Linda: Boundless Stores of Grace

  • Liz Opp: The Good Raised Up

  • Lovin' Life Liz: Lovin' Life Liz

  • Paul L.: Showers of Blessings

  • Peterson Toscano: A Musing

  • Robin M.: What Canst Thou Say?

  • Russ Nelson: Russ Nelson

  • Suzy: Luminiferous Ether

  • Timothy Travis: One Quaker Take

  • and me, Chris M.: Tables, Chairs and Oaken Chests

Okay, I didn't really talk to Russ, but I did play in the multigenerational game of "capture the flag" that he organized, so he talked to me in a group. That counts, right?

If there's anyone I missed, I'll try to add an update... I know there are other bloggers who were there but I didn't necessarily talk to them.

I'll try to update my sidebar with the links. They should all be there soon.

[Update, 7/14/07] LizOpp correctly pointed out that Carl was there, and I certainly talked to him, so I'm adding him to the list:
  • Carl Magruder: Confessions of an Earth Quaker

  • His blog had dropped out of my bloglines and he hadn't been writing that much lately, but he's got a couple of good posts there now.


    Marcus Borg on elements of thriving churches

    Marcus Borg was the evening plenary speaker at the FGC Gathering on Thursday night.

    Having read several of Marcus Borg's books and quite a bit of other popular literature about contemporary biblical scholarship, I didn't pick up much new information from Borg's talk. It was, however, wonderful to hear him deliver the talk in person, to an audience with varying levels of knowledge of the material, and to have him available to answer questions from the audience. And I tend to agree with his interpretations of many things.

    I did find one of his responses particularly interesting during Q&A at the end, just as Robin & I were getting up to leave because we had to pick up the children. A Friend asked Borg what signs of hope he sees for religion in the U.S. and the world today.

    Borg responded with a summary of Diana Butler Bass's book, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith. He said she had studied several hundred mainline Protestant congregations to determine what helps them thrive, and studied a much smaller sample in much more depth.

    A thriving or "emerging" congregation has the following four qualities, Borg contended:
    1. They are progressive.
    2. They are intentional.
    3. They reacquaint their members with their traditions.
    4. They are for justice and peace.
    Sounds like a good description of the thriving Quaker meetings I know! I also know of several meetings that tend to be weak on (2), intentionality, and fair-to-middling on (3), reacquaintance with traditions. How seriously do the majority of members and attenders take their meeting community except on Sunday? The answer varies widely, as it no doubt does in emerging mainline churches, too.

    Borg noted that "emergent" churches in the evangelical denominations probably account for about 15% of those congregations. If he said how many "emerging" churches there are, I missed it. (I was scribbling the notes on the back of my nametag, because I had put my notebook away in my backpack and was walking toward the back door to leave when he said all this.)

    I would hope most Friends meetings and churches would see the list above and aspire to do well on all four counts. I could also see a "convergence" of Friends happening here as meetings and churches decided to work on the areas they have paid less attention to in the last decade or so.


    Simple Meals – Plural

    The tradition at FGC Gathering is to have a simple meal on Wednesday at lunchtime. It is a time of solidarity with what Bob Barnes calls “the Two-Thirds World,” the portion of the world’s population living in poverty, many of them in hunger or at imminent risk of hunger.

    One night when I couldn't get back to sleep, I wondered why we don’t have simple meals two-thirds of the time. Then we could really feel in solidarity. And we could really mean it when we ask other people in our country and the world to give up the privilege of high per-capita energy and food consumption, having done it ourselves.

    Then, the last meal of the week could be what has become the standard contemporary American college cafeteria fare found here: meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, pizza, bagels, sandwich bar, salad bar, soft drinks, soft ice cream, hard ice cream, coffee, latt├ęs, tea, juice, and cold cereal: bran, granola, puffs, crunches, flakes.

    As a result, we could see it as the amazing cornucopia of riches that it truly is by world standards.

    It would be a little taste of the banquet table of heaven. Everyone welcome.

    Some bloggers spotted at FGC gathering so far plus personal highlights

    The list so far (Sunday, 10:10 pm):
    • Claire R
    • Erin the Quaker Scholar
    • James Riemermann
    • Grampa Joe (I'm not sure how public he is about his blog; I haven't even seen it yet. Robin told me about it when we rode the bus with him from the airport to River Falls)
    • Kody
    • Linda
    • Liz Opp
    • Paul L.
    • Robin M.
    • Russ Nelson
    • Timothy Travis
    • and me, Chris M.

    I'm sure there must be more but it's 10:10 pm and I'm not thinking clearly. I definitely enjoyed my day of the "summer camp" aspects of the gathering:
    • first workshop session, which was good and mostly consisted of introductions, and which began with a goodly period of worship;
    • a stirring romp through multigenerational "Capture the Flag," except for the time when I pulled Five Year Old too hard and he fell and skinned his knee (again); and
    • the first afternoon Shape Note Singing, co-led by Paul L. He was kind enough to encourage me to sit by him where it's easier to follow.
    Yesterday was brilliant, because the boys and I had no responsibilities. We took a nice long walk along the river in River Falls, where we saw a great blue heron, mallards including both juveniles and chicks, Canada geese, grackles (not found in SF), finches, swallows, sparrows, hundreds of a large species of mayfly (one of which we saw a sparrow take in mid-air), and a snake. Then another long walk on campus after some down time in the dorm. We found lots of grasshoppers and other insectivora in the grass. Boy heaven!

    And finally, Dairy Queen for dinner! Double boy heaven!

    It was so beautiful to have a full day to be together, with no agenda, no plans, just aimless wandering.


    I'm going to a gathering

    The Friends General Conference Gathering, that is. There are many workshops at the gathering, but few are chosen -- at least by me. There just weren't very many that appealed to me. I thought about Carl Magruder's EarthQuaker workshop, or the Sacred Harp singing, which was closed already by the time we were registering.

    However, one workshop really hit the spot. After all, one workshop is as many as I can take in one week. That's a sign that the workshop committee did a good job discerning a wide range of workshops to appeal to many Friends, not just me.

    Today, an email confirmed I will be in that one workshop: "Deepening the Silence, Inviting Vital Ministry," with Debbie Humphries and Peter Crysdale. Reading the full description, it feels right to me. I knew Peter when he was on staff at Friends Committee on Legislation and sometimes attended our meeting; I wrote about him a little once before. He is an inspired and inspiring vocal minister. Oh, and Rebecca Sullivan said she took this workshop last year and liked it pretty well. So, I am looking forward to it.

    Here's part of the workshop description:
    Can we create a new culture of ministry among Friends that guides and nudges our meetings towards being faithful in the Spirit? Since Friends’ silent worship is rooted and grounded in listening for the voice of God, how do we nurture a fresh understanding when the Voice of God is not a part of the culture or experience of some Friends and some Meetings?

    Sounds like it will complement nicely the interest group that Robin and Liz are organizing, "From Small Nudges to Faithful Obedience." Here's Robin's post and Liz's post, in case you missed them the first time around.

    I'm printing out half the advance reading -- Howard Brinton’s Prophetic Ministry. The other half is William Taber’s Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, which I read from the meeting library some time ago. Guess it's time to do so again.


    Hurray for things!

    Hurray for intervisitation among Friends: A big shoutout to The New Young Elder, who stayed at our house on her way to see old friends and get to a summer gig. It was great to see how both Nine Year Old and Five Year Old responded to her, how eager they were to tell her about things that were important to them at that moment. She was blown away by how talkative Five Year Old was, because in the large gatherings where she usually sees him, he often clams up and sticks pretty close to Daddy or Mommy.

    It was so nice to feel a part of the fabric of the Quaker community, sharing news from across the country, having a sense of this young woman who grew up immersed among Friends coming into her own as a leader. And ready to bring my sons along with her.

    Hurray for libraries: Got a bunch of CDs at the local branch (*try the new "street view" in Google Maps and you'll see it there). Been listening over and over to Moby's Hotel. I missed it when it came out. The John Prine CD in the player right now just got stuck -- ah, the peril of libraries!

    Just read from the library:
       » Gary Wills, What Jesus Meant
       » Walter Mosley, Life Out of Context
       » I am also listening to the book-on-cd of Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity by Elaine Pagels and Karen King. Interesting so far after two chapters.

    Hooray for the Internet: Just printed from the Pendle Hill website, and which I hope to read this weekend: Obstacles to Mystical Experience, by Scott Crom (Pendle Hill Pamphlet #132, 1963). I started it at our meeting's retreat late last month and didn't get very far.

    Oh, and I thought these were interesting pieces from Common Dreams:
    » America the progressive
    » Bush pushes Iraq oil law for US companies

    Hurrah Hurrah Hooray!
    Well, gotta go! See you on Firstday at QuakerMart: The Unprogrammed MegaMeeting.


    Mash Note 6/11/07

    (The following post contains sentimental, and heartfelt, personal statements. Click elsewhere if that's not your cup of tea. Otherwise, join the celebration!)

    On 6/11/1994, Robin M. and I were wed at 15th Street Meetinghouse after the manner of Friends. Rich Accetta-Evans explained the basics of Friends' meeting for worship for the guests, especially since neither Robin nor I are from Quaker families. We spoke our vows to each other, and a Unitarian minister, George Robinson, made it official. And then we had a blessed hour of worship. In the words of Denise Sherman, it was "beamy."

    Our Friend Kate Connell sang a set piece from the Incredible String Band's "A Very Cellular Song":
    May the long time sun shine upon you
    All love surround you
    And the pure light within you
    Guide you all the way on.

    Today I was listening to The Flatlanders and heard this song. While there are better songs, it's a nice one that captured how I was feeling today after a hard day at work. I offer it here to Robin as a public confession of my appreciation and love for her:

    It might not mean much to you babe
    But it means the world to me
    Just a simple touch of your hand
    Tells me what love can be

    In moments like this, when you are near me
    And I can see so far
    What ever you say what ever you seem
    I love you for all you are

    All you see
    All you feel
    All you are

    Somewhere between your heart and mine
    Windows open wide
    They let the light in with songs in the wind
    That send me to your side

    Whenever I find you, I'm lost no longer
    Wandering so far
    Where ever I go what ever I do
    I love you for all you are

    All you see
    All you feel
    All you are

    Happy anniversary!


    Jesus as technologist rather than object of belief

    I had an image of Jesus providing us with the technology of salvation...

    This technology is not dependent on what we believe about the technology. It depends on how we use it. It does not depend on one's uttering a particular statement of belief about it.

    For example. My five-year-old might say a car goes on its own, or might spin a terrific story about magic powers making it go. I "know" it goes because of internal combustion. I've never seen it in action directly -- I have faith it's there. And whatever either of us believes about the engine, it works! I can guide the car to take us places far faster than we ever could do on foot.

    Similarly, whatever guides the universe -- whether God is singing each present moment into being, or whether it's a simple logical and causal unfolding from the Big Bang (whatever caused the Big Bang in the first place being beyond the reach of present investigation) -- is sort of beside the point for me.

    Rather the point is twofold.

    First: Do we live in the present awareness of the Kingdom of Heaven among us? Do we love That which brings forth this state among us, That Which Will Be What it Will Be?

    Second: Do we love our enemies? and our neighbors as ourselves?

    If I do these things, the universe begins to open up in unexplained ways. And I can imagine a far better world, and live my life into that world. It could be "imaginary," in a sense, and also it is true to my vision, my dreams, my desires, my very soul. (Just as one can't say John Lennon's "Imagine" is true or untrue... Yes, including the line about God!)
    - - - -
    I also imagine that this was just a half-formed thought. It's not a master's thesis! :)
    - - - -
    One of my favorite quotes ever is from Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hahn, to the effect that: "I am so glad Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life,' rather than, 'I KNOW the way, the truth, and the life.'" [I can't find my copy of that book. Robin thinks I might have loaned it to someone. If you're reading this and you have it, can I have it back? :)]


    Rachel Muers and The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning

    Another find I made from the comments on Wess Daniels's post An apologetic for a Quaker theology:

    Rachel Muers is a British theologian at University of Exeter and a Quaker. She has written a book entitled Keeping God's Silence: Towards a Theological Ethics of Communication, which looks interesting. She contributed to Towards Tragedy, edited by Pink Dandelion.

    She also was the guest editor of a special issue of The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning on poverty and debt-release: Linked here.

    Here's a section of her essay in that journal; written in an academic style, I found it insightful:

    It is important to note, finally, that the connection between forgiveness and daily bread, and between both of these and forms of discourse about God, is, as the work of scriptural reasoners reflected elsewhere in this journal issue suggests, not merely metaphorical. A shortage of forgiveness is materially connected with a shortage of daily bread, and vice versa. This becomes particularly apparent when we consider, with a critical and troubled eye on the contemporary world situation, the unsustainability of debt....

    It is possible that, if most people in the world know this about debt, and yet things continue as they do, the logical and also (for theologians) rather unsurprising conclusion is that most people most of the time do not desire life enough to choose it above death and/or the fear of death. And hence that, if there are people who do desire life, enough to say prayers like this or to recite suras like this, the fostering of that desire - discourse on the past and future "bounty of the Lord," speech about the Kingdom of God, the singing of songs of ascents [eg The Lord's Prayer or Sura 93 in the Q'uran] is itself a crucial step towards a different economics.

    Lord, forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.


    There are Beans and there are Beanites

    I drafted this, didn't publish, and pretty much was going to send it out to pasture. And then Wess Daniels made a reference to Beanites in his recent post, An Apologetic for a Quaker Theology. So I decided to bring it out of the draft cellar and into the light of the published:

    College Park Quarterly Meeting may be the Beaniest of the Beanite meetings, at least historically speaking.

    I also found this link to Chuck Fager's essay about the Beans and Beanites. Especially given the lengthy discussion in response to Rich Accetta-Evans' review of Fager's "Without Apology": 73 comments and counting (5th Sixthmonth 2007)!
    - - - - - -
    Update, 6/6/07: I was a little careless in skimming the comments on Wess's post. It turns out Martin Kelley brought up the Beanites, not Wess! Wess and Martin then had a funny exchange about it in the comments.

    ALSO: Be sure to read Heather's thoughtful comment on THIS post...


    Activism: Inner condition made visible - Dan Seeger

    Here's another excerpt from the 1983 pamphlet by Dan Seeger that I recently read:
    One of the things we find when we examine closely the lives of great spirits is that the strategies, actions and events which are so likely to preoccupy our attention were really not their own main concern. True, they undertook everything they did with mindfulness. But they also understood that if a person in his inward nature is not great, then all his cleverness, all his stratagems, will come to nothing. They believed that we should be concerned not so much with what we do as with what we are. They were more interested in cultivating an inward rebirth than they were in designing their public strategies. And they saw the works of service and of social change in which they engaged, and which so captivate our attention, essentially as the outward expression of an inward condition, an expression which flowed naturally, as fragrance does from a flower. Their work was simply an inner condition made visible.

    --Dan Seeger, Practicing the Gospel of Hope in the Nuclear Age (Philadelphia: Wider Quaker Fellowship, 1983), p. 2.

    Doesn't that nicely sum up what a testimony is supposed to be for Friends? I think so.