Personal Quaker Playlist

I've just listened to Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth on CD. It's definitely an interesting experience to be listening in the car and thinking, "D'oh! I want to copy that passage down!" I liked it so much I borrowed the hard copy from the library today. It says a lot that, in my mind at least, would go toward bridging the perceived gaps between theist and nontheist Friends. Anyway, I haven't had a chance to go through the printed text and may not for a while.

Meanwhile, I was noodling around with the concept of a PQP (personal Quaker playlist) the other day. Here's what I came up with:
  • "Beginning to See the Light," Velvet Underground
  • "I Saw the Light," Hank Williams
  • "Green Light," Sonic Youth
  • "The Sheltering Sky," King Crimson
  • "St. Elmo's Fire," Brian Eno
  • "Evening Star," Brian Eno and Robert Fripp
  • "Moonlight in Glory," Ruth Bligen (from St. John's Island, N.C.); sampled on Byrne & Eno's track of the same name on "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts"
  • etc.
Or maybe it should start with ocean of darkness side first...
  • "R.O.D.," The Fall ("Realm of Dusk," that is...)
  • "New Face in Hell," The Fall
  • "The Lost Soul," The Watson Family
  • and so on
It's just a start. I know there's a lot more I should add, but I'm a little out of practice of DJing... and I don't have an ipod thingy.

(Here's a very different take by snarky and irreverent SFGate columnist Mark Morford: "What's on Jesus' iPod?")


Turnaround, an essential Pendle Hill pamphlet

I've just read Turnaround: Growing a Twenty-First Century Religious Society of Friends by Benjamin Lloyd; it's Pendle Hill Pamphlet 387.

I loved it! He starts with his vision: "Across the side of a city bus is a large, colorful poster featuring an attractive-yet-funky couple, and beneath them the words, 'Your Friendly Neighborhood Quakers. Come worship with them. Find a meeting near you at www.quakerfinder.org.'"

Brilliant! I've been noodling around with a text-based display ad that I really have no idea where our meeting could afford to publish it. It could be a handbill or small card that we distribute around town, like Freedom Friends Church does in Salem, Ore. (Theirs say something like, "Quakers: Not just for breakfast any more.")

The meeting is planning to get a listing on the religion page of the Chronicle, at least. I think it's in the budget. (Several years ago we started having three listings in the phone book, under Quakers, Friends, and San Francisco Friends Meeting.)

Anyway, Lloyd's goal is to "offer some strategies for nurturing a robust and growing Religious Society of Friends in the twenty-first century by promoting a stronger Quaker identity, by emphasizing membership, by improving pastoral care, and by nurturing new leadership."

One thing I take heart in is how my meeting has been doing some of these things. Ministry and Oversight set up a pastoral care subcommittee. Toward nurturing our Quaker identity, the adult religious ed programs have been strong and regular since 1990, at least.

And sometimes we've taken steps to nurture leadership, which can be hard for our urban meeting in an insanely expensive city (where people like me can earn a living advocating for more affordable housing as a result), where so many Friends are transient. At our best, we bring people in and risk losing them lovingly to other cities where we hope they will be good leaders. At our worst, we just let people shuffle in and out without much comment.

I could probably say more, but I'll finish with one thought for now: I do recognize that this pamphlet comes closer than might be wise to lifting up Quakerism per se as the goal, vs. connecting with God through the means of Quakerism.

I highly recommend this pamphlet!


Lesson on Leadings and Callings

I taught a lesson last week on leadings and callings. The source material was Samuel's calling by God, which he mistook for the voice of Eli (1 Sam. 3:1-14), and the December 2006 Friends Bulletin article about Rolene Walker's Walk With Earth.

(To reinforce the lesson for me, this past week, Open Mikey wrote about midnight calls, such as the one Samuel received: click here.)

I use the mnemonic formula "IOSRA: In Our School Results Appear," to plan lessons. The initials stand for: Introductions, Objectives, Strategies (what we will do to achieve our objectives), Results, and Affirmation.

Introductions: How was your New Year's? Did you stay up for New Year's Eve, or do anything special on New Year's Day?

Objective: Our objective this morning is to learn about leadings and callings from God, what they are, what they might look, feel or sound like, and how some Quakers have had leadings.

Strategy: The group read the Bible passage and the Friends Bulletin article aloud, taking turns. Then I asked if they wanted to act out the Bible story of Samuel's call. The girl (there was one boy and one girl) said yes, she wanted to do that. She wanted to be the narrator and God. I was Eli, lying on the floor pretending to be asleep, and Older Son was Samuel (looking longingly at the whiteboard, where he would have loved to be drawing dragons right then).

The girl asked if we could perform it as a play downstairs for the grownups. I said, of course. So we did it a few more times, rotating the cast.

We had a lovely conversation about Rolene's walk, and about all the terrible potential environmental problems in the world. This showed the truth of Rolene's point in the article that many children know a lot abstractly about the environment's problems; we as adults have to make sure that they see the beauty and power of nature, and experience why we need to save it, not just learn about the problems and risk despair. Well, these two kids know plenty about carbon emissions, sea level rise, and the threat to polar bears, and about the importance of recycling and composting (San Francisco has curbside composting which is SO GREAT!). I want to make sure they notice sunsets and moonrises and raptors soaring and warblers flitting and so on and so forth.

We also talked about how Rolene had felt this sense of calling and leading for many years, and now her life is arranging itself to make it possible for her to go from San Diego to Santiago, Chile. It helped that a few weeks earlier, I had done a lesson with the same two children where we drew outlines of the continents on a big sheet of paper, and illustrated it a bit with drawings, and Older Son drew the approximate line of Rolene's walk. (Interestingly, he put Africa and Asia right in the center of the map, so that the Americas-based walk is right at the very edge of the page!)

Results: The result was that the children learned the story of Samuel, learned about how ordinary people can be called to do something by God, and had a great conversation.

Affirmation: The affirmation was that we went downstairs and acted out the Bible story, and the meeting welcomed the children warmly.
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Who are the Quakers in your meeting with a leading or a calling? What can they say to your meeting's children about their own experiences?


Quick Takes

Today we celebrated now-Five Year Old's birthday with a baseball party at McCoppin Park. It was really fun to be out in the fresh air where the kids could run all around on the grass, the hill, and the path through the bushes, as well as some low-key tee-ball. Robin did a great job decorating the cake to look like a baseball diamond. (No photos to post yet, we still use film.) She also had the brilliant idea that, instead of a goody bag of cheap junk, we would give away a real baseball, a box of crackerjacks, and a few baseball stickers. The kids were excited!
  • Update on grace before mealtime: Tonight while Robin was speaking a prayer, Five Year Old licked the macaroni and cheese on his plate. It reminds me of Kathleen's original article about grace that sparked my post, in which her baby just couldn't resist that good food in front of him.
  • This morning a "flashmob" spelled out the word "impeach" on San Francisco's Ocean Beach. That's San Francisco Friend David Hartsough in the red jacket in this picture on the Chronicle's website.
  • This event follows Thursday's vigil for peace outside the Federal Office building. There was a special turnout by the Declaration of Peace in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, who is facing court martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq. Twenty-eight people were arrested for trespassing, of some 150 people who attended; probably the largest vigil yet. Here's the Chronicle's report. I highly recommend SFMike's Civic Center blog, which has lots of great photos. I appreciate his faithful witness to the witness for peace. [WARNING! Post contains Unitarian jokes!]
Well, time to put the children to bed and figure out more details of the lesson I'm teaching at First-Day School tomorrow. It will have something to do with leadings, and God calling Samuel, and I'm not sure what else...


Seekers Found by Douglas Gwyn

I read our meeting's copy of Douglas Gwyn's The Covenant Crucified: Quakers and the Rise of Capitalism and loved it. I kept it on my bedside table for months, intending to re-read it "immediately." Well, that didn't happen. Now it's been reprinted by Britain Yearly Meeting, and a copy is on order for me from Quaker Books, where it's out of stock (sigh). I can't wait! This time I really will re-read it.

In the meantime, I am posting the following brief excerpts from Gwyn's 2000 book, Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience. These quotes have been sitting around as a draft post for at least three months, waiting for me to come up with some kind of brilliant insight to tie it all together.

Well, that's not happening, either, so I'll offer this as a sampling in hopes that you'll read, or re-read, both of these books yourself.
- - - -
Page 367:
Truly, early Friends had emphasized strongly the present apocalypse of Christ's coming in terms of the light within. Any future coming was usually left unconfirmed. It was contrary to early Quaker witness to speculate upon future or past events. What mattered was to know the truth of Scripture's prophecy here and now.

Page 368:
In 1690, George Keith proposed to PhYM that membership should be limited to those who would give written testimony to key articles of Christian faith.... The demurral of the YM to act on his proposal only confirmed his unease... Keith was censured by the YM in 9/1692... on the basis of the disorderliness of his actions, rather than his beliefs. Keith and his followers responded with an expanded critique of the YM and Quaker political leadership. They cited anomalies such as oath-refusing Quakers administering oaths to non-Quakers and the Quaker government selling gunpowder to Indians and supplying the Crown with money and troops, despite Friends' well-established pacifist position. Finally, they denounced the rapid increase in slaveholding in the colony and called for its abolition.

Page 370:
Pennsylvania Friends also resisted confronting the conflict between their faith and their political power. It was not until the 1750s and the French and Indian War that Friends finally admitted their position to be untenable and began to withdraw from colonial leadership. And after fending off decades of prophetic criticsm from the time of George Keith to that of John Woolman, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting finally renounced slavery in 1755. "Not until Friends had forgotten George Keith were they willing to endorse his reforms."

Page 371:
Over the course of the next century, a slow, subliminal drift took place among Friends. Some became more orthodox, reclaiming more biblically based doctrinal standards and beginning to see potential allies in the evangelical renewal movement of the wider church. Others found both apocalypse and atonement to be increasingly meaninglesss doctrines, even considering them to be ancient supersitions. These Friends came to view Christ more humanistically as a moral teacher and example. They found new allies among Deists, liberal humanists, Transcendalists, Uniteraians and others. Thus, we see the reconciliation between two types of Seekers - radical Protestant and incipient liberal - begin to break down by 1700 as the atonement drama of the early Quaker movement ended. Two streams of modern consciousness, so powerful in their personal and social dynamics, thus become enervatingly conflicted, even mutually destructive, as they move apart from one another. Therein lies the fall, the alienation, apostasy, and captivity of our modern consciousness.