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!)
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I also imagine that this was just a half-formed thought. It's not a master's thesis! :)
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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)!
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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.