Convergent October, kind of: Ryan Bolger links Kos and Jesus

I haven't been maintaining my blog or reading other Quaker blogs much lately because I've been distracting myself with election news. Particularly by reading DailyKos, which critics have derided as "crack for liberals."

Well, imagine my surprise today during a little lunchtime reading to see a link from Kos himself to Ryan Bolger, Associate Professor of Church in Contemporary Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary—and thesis advisor to C. Wess Daniels, Quaker theologian, blogger, and QuakerQuaker contributor.

Here's what Kos wrote (look for the second bullet point in the "midday open thread"): "Theologian Ryan Bolger is mashing up Taking on the System [Kos's book] with the story of Jesus.... My book is obviously forward-thinking, but it's kind of cool seeing it applied to a completely unforseen field like this."

Here are the links to Bolger's posts:

Part 1: Jesus and Kos — A Mashup of Biblical Proportions

Part 2: Kos and Jesus Mashup #2 — Moving Past the Gatekeepers

Part 3: Jesus and Kos #3 — Mobilization

This is from part 2:
"Jesus-following bloggers must change the conventional wisdom of the church and the media through creating an alternative message to the status quo of church and culture. As they connect online, they facilitate conversations that threaten to bypass the gatekeepers of traditional church structures.... In addition, they push the culture to reconsider the practices that do not mesh with the dreams of God for humanity.... These bloggers do not have the power on their own to be the 'church'.... However, they can push both the church and the culture to listen to what they have to say and move the conversation and practices into more inclusive, just, participatory, and egalitarian directions. In turn, this will transform the conventional wisdom on what it means to follow Jesus."
To me, that could sum up what the "convergent Friends" aspire to be about, at least those who aspire to follow Jesus. How can we better see the conventional wisdom of whichever branch of Friends we're part of, and move the conversation?


Quarterly Meeting Fall Session

So I totally resonate with Liz Opp's recent post about being distracted from God by the events of this world. I think that's going to continue at least until November 5 or 6 for me. If not January 21~!

It doesn't help my ability to center that the work I do has been generously funded by banks. Until the past ten months, that is... It seems like every day for the past two months, when we get to work, we ask each other, "Did any major banks or small European countries fail last night?" If the answer is yes, we distract ourselves with the news. If the answer is no, we try to get back to work but still distract ourselves with the news from time to time. There's just a lot of uncertainty for lots of people right now. (Of course, I recognize there are billions of people who never stopped living with uncertainty in the first place.)

The M. family recently traveled to College Park Quarterly Meeting's fall session. We left the evening following the annual conference I organize at work. In time to be there for my birthday on Saturday. It was lovely to be there for the weekend.

I wrote the following for our monthly meeting's newsletter and decided to share it here.

Clerk's Corner: College Park Quarterly Meeting
Recently, several of us from San Francisco Meeting attended the fall session of College Park Quarterly Meeting. It was apparently the 200th session of our quarterly meeting. What became our quarterly meeting was founded by Joel and Hannah Bean in the College Park neighborhood of San Jose in 1889. You can read more at collegepark.quaker.org, as well as in A Western Quaker Reader, edited by Anthony Manousos.

(Anthony is the former editor of the monthly magazine for Western Quakers, then called Friends Bulletin. The magazine is now called Western Friend. Our member Stephen Matchett is the clerk of the Western Friend board of directors. Our meeting pays for each member to receive a subscription to the magazine, by the way.)

College Park Quarter extends from Humboldt County in the north to San Luis Obispo County in the mid-Coast, and from San Francisco in the west to Reno in the East. Just under 200 people gathered for the weekend in the crisp air of Sierra Friends Center in Grass Valley/Nevada City. The nighttime sky gave us a stunning view of the skies, including the Milky Way. (Ten Year Old loved it!)

The theme for the weekend was our peace witness. A panel of conscientious objectors gave us views from World War II, Vietnam, and the current war and occupation in Iraq. Pablo Paredes was an Iraq war resister while in the Navy. He is now a counter-recruiter with American Friends Service Committee and Bay Peace (www.baypeace.org). If you know a high school in the Bay Area where he could build relationships, please let me know!

During the final plenary (business) session at the quarterly meeting, I reflected on a lesson I recently led in Firstday School, when we explored where the Quaker peace testimony came from. We read several quotes from early Friends and imagined how being in meeting for worship led them to that place of peace.

What stuck with me from that lesson and rose up for me in the plenary was this story about George Fox. He was approached by Army recruiters from Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. They saw he was a good leader, that he was a charismatic speaker, and they wanted him to help them. He refused, saying he “live(d) in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.”

May we all find that same virtue, and discover there that same life and power.


Lesson on development of Quaker peace testimony

Recently I taught a Firstday School lesson that aimed to get the group of older elementary students to think about the origins of the Quaker peace testimony.

We specifically read quotes from George Fox ("I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars"), James Nayler ("There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil"), and the declaration to King Charles II in 1661 ("We utterly deny all outward wars...").

It helped that the week before the lesson had been a timeline from George Fox's first journeys through the north of England in the 1640s, through to Margaret Fell Fox's death in 1702. So they had a bit of the historical context.

I asked them to think about where the early Friends had developed this view, and where could we find it today. (I'm hoping to feed this into some preparation to being in meeting for worship for longer periods.) Then we went to change the window signs at our meetinghouse.

As grace would have it, the sign was the declaration of 1661! The children noticed it and made the connection right away. Through a modified business process, they reached unity on picking the sign for equality. It also gave them a chance to explore the meetinghouse basement, where the signs are stored, so that was a bonus for them. All in all, a pretty good lesson.

Here's my outline for the lesson:

Introductions and Check In:

· Tell us your name and about a time when you felt peaceful inside


· Learn about early Friends, the Inner Light and the testimonies in our window


1. Hear three passages from early Friends, including the peace testimony of 1661

2. Talk about where that sense of peace comes from

3. Discuss terms Inner Light, Inward Teacher, Christ Within, Seed, Spark

4. Review window signs from News Committee

5. Choose a new sign for October and replace it in the window


· Discussion happens

· New sign in window

Activity (this was filler, and we didn't have time for it):

Write what would you like to put on a sign in the window of the meetinghouse, your house, or your school


Shake hands, like at the end of meeting, and say, “Good morning.”


More Free Lunch

I posted about David Cay Johnston's book Free Lunch a few weeks ago ("Where It Is Easier to Mine Gold"), and now I've finished it. It's a tremendous expose of the costs and results of the unregulated, trickle-up economics of the last eight, if not twenty-eight, years in the U.S.

I can't resist posting a few pointers to some of the articles about the current crisis that I've found most insightful, including an interview with Johnston himself:


The Enduring Strength of Quakerism - Douglas Heath

I fear that many Friends schools and colleges [and meetings? ed.], not guarded by a strong inner certainty about the real strength of their religious tradition, may be too open to such cultural forces that could undermine the power of their tradition to leaven the insistent individualistic and anarchistic demands of the times. As anarchic as Friends may appear to others, Friends are severely, and sometimes too severely, self-disciplined persons who do not countenance a laissez faire morality. What is the enduring psychological strength of Quakerism? Contrary to what many students in Friends schools would like to believe (a belief some adroitly use by which to rationalize their attacks on any communal responsibilities), the strength of Quakerism does not lie in its emphasis on the right—in fact the duty—of each person to search for truth in his own way, to follow his own inner guidance. Meeting for worship, our institutionalized witness to such an experience, is, despite its anarchistic appearance to others, an effort to experience a divine corporateness. Nor does the strength of the Quaker tradition lie in its emphasis on the binding allocentric ties or social responsibility of one person to another—an emphasis we institutionalize, for example, in the American Friends Service Committee.
The enduring strength of Quakerism lies in the reciprocal and integral combination of both its individualistic and communal traditions. One emphasis without the other produces a caricature of Quakerism.
—Douglas Heath, Why a Friends School? To Educate for Today's Needs, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #164 (1969), page 7. Emphasis added.