November 4, 2010

Grappling with questions

I've been grappling with a few questions in recent weeks:

1. How can I get a grasp of whether or not Friends believe they know "enough" about Quakerism, and how do I do that so I come across as curious rather than judgmental?

2. How can I get a grasp of the needs and "readiness" Friends have to explore Quakerism more than they maybe did through a Quakerism 101? ...and how do I do so in such a way that Friends connect with my curiosity and not with my judgment (though I do have both, y'know)?

3. How can I get a grasp of how interested Friends are in attending workshops that would be presented by a Quaker not only from out of state but also from out of the yearly meeting territory?

4. What is it, really, that the local Quaker community is ready for and interested in about Quakerism?

5. Is it really true, as one distant Quaker has told me, that it's fairly typical that most Friends don't participate in other Quaker activities in their area, that they keep close to themselves and to their meetings? If it IS true, WHY is it true (other than, "People are busy; people are tired; people are overcommitted"), and how do we work to overcome that sort of isolation-insularization?

I've drafted an online survey I'm thinking of distributing to my local community. I could send the link to you if you're interested. It doesn't feel quite right, yet, to send it out to local Friends, so if you AREN'T part of my Quaker community (as in, you don't typically worship where I worship on First Day) and want to look at it, let me know.

You can leave me a note in the comment section, or send me an email at lizopp AT gmail DOT com. Many thanks.



HayQuaker said...

If your survey would be applicable to UK Friends then please send me a copy. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to look at it, though I'm not sure what I have to say on the matter. I can be reached at



James Riemermann said...

The question of judgment is a big one, isn't it? I mean, if you ask such questions in a way that implies any of the following...

* It is important that contemporary Quakers value Quaker history highly.
* It is important that contemporary Quakers seek to emulate early Quakers.
* It is important that contemporary Quakers interpret Quaker history in a certain way, for instance, that early Quakers were in greater unity than ourselves.
* It is important that contemporary Quakers get involved with Quakerism at the regional/national/cross-organizational level (e.g. cross FGC/FUM/EFI/Conservative lines). might not expect much success with people who disagree with some or all of those assumptions. Personally, I am of two minds about the first and last ones--they can easily be overdone, and are far less important than the feel of the local meeting. And I pretty strongly disagree with the middle two.

I'm not saying you are asserting any or all of these points, but they are pretty common assumptions in these kinds of discussions.

I guess I think this sort of effort needs to be steeped in humility, with questions that reflect that humility, assuming that those who do not seem interested have reasons that make sense to them.

ben said...

Please explain what your problem is with your"judgementalism", I'm sure you deserve to judge if'n you feel like it. Chill, if they don't like you for it straight, they won't like you for it anyway you present it.
Take your lumps for who you are and deal with it. You'll be much more relaxed.

ben said...

It occurs to me that this exercise is designed to protect your"judgementalism". If you let people see what you are about in that way, they will challenge you on your stuff---and you will have to change if you are wrong. That would suck wouldn't it?

Liz Opp said...

Thanks to those of you who expressed interest in looking at the survey. I'm not sure where, if anywhere, this will go, but at least I actually put a draft survey together!

James -

I appreciate some of the specific areas you mention where unspoken judgments can be embedded, consciously or unconsciously. In the case of the survey I'm considering using, some of the questions might be geared to draw out just how important Quakers feel about some of these issues.

Ben -

Much of my adult life has had me looking at how I've been acting in the world and how I've been acting with those who interact with me the most.

The "problem with my judgmentalism" is that when I examined the fruits of my life from my teens to my middle age, I recognized many broken friendships and a number of rocky paths--and not just in the Quaker community but in my personal and professional life as well.

The common denominator, of course, was me, and I began to look into becoming a person who brought more love into her desire to be faithful and in order to temper my "judgementalism."

The fruits are better these days and the challenges are different. But to be clear: I didn't change because people asked me to. I changed because of how the Spirit worked on my heart.


James Riemermann said...

Liz Opp said...

I appreciate some of the specific areas you mention where unspoken judgments can be embedded, consciously or unconsciously. In the case of the survey I'm considering using, some of the questions might be geared to draw out just how important Quakers feel about some of these issues.

Good, as long as you're aware as you're preparing the survey. Because some of those judgments and assumptions are embedded in this post, and if they were discernible in the survey it would undermine the results, at least among those who disagree with your assumptions.

Alyss said...

I just discovered your blog but am very interested in reading more of what you have to say about Quakerism. I have been attending a Northwest Yearly Meeting meeting for about a year and have had nothing but good experiences despite the fact that I disagree with the NWYM on a number of fundamental theological issues. It appears that the NWYM is very active at the yearly meeting level and I don't really feel a sense of insularization - though I am still new to the organization.

I wonder if there is a difference in that desire to engage or to not engage among different branches of Quakerism.

I am every interested in Quaker history and tradition. In fact, it is one of my favorite things about Quakerism... I feel like it is a tradition worthy of hanging my hat on, so to speak. I can speak of Quaker tradition and practices as a reason for attending church without getting into my own spirituality until I am ready to go there with someone. It feels good to me to have that history, tradition and background. But maybe thats just me :)