March 29, 2006

Confessions, part I

Those churches that have formal confession understand its value, but confession does not have to be formal to bring benefits. Speaking the unspeakable, admitting the shameful, to someone who can be trusted and who will accept you in love as you are, is enormously helpful.

- 12.01, Britain Yearly Meeting Faith & Practice
The other night during a workshop discussion at the monthly meeting, the conversation turned to confession among Quakers. The question was raised, "Do Friends have confession?"

Internally, intuitively, the answer that arose within me was "Yes," though I had never come across a Friend who spoke or wrote directly about confession in the way I have come across Friends' views on baptism or communion.

As I sat with the inward possibility that the practice of confession exists among Friends, my mind was turned to consider what is meant by "covenant community," a concept I had come across in the writings of Lloyd Lee Wilson:
The covenant relationship says that we are given in relationship to each other precisely in order to help one another through these painful times, into a fuller relationship with God and one another... Our individual sins and failures become opportunities for the community to practice true loving forgiveness, to offer spiritual counsel and guidance, and to offer spiritual and emotional healing.

- p. 69, Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order
Unlike "baptism" and "communion," the word "confession" is not explicit in these and other writings; why is that?

Yet I have experienced a sort of inward confession, when the Light has broken through my defenses and has shown me how I have wronged others or have spoken out of turn. And so I have opened myself to be made known by the Spirit even in my weakness... and mustn't I do something similiar, make known my private failings, to those in the covenant community in which I worship?


UPDATE, 10 Fourth Month 2006: I have lifted up Ken's comment that he makes below and posted it separately, since I feel he advances the conversation around the topic of Quakers and confession.

March 28, 2006

Iowa Conservative Midyear Meeting

This upcoming weekend, a group of us from Minnesota will travel to Iowa for Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)'s Midyear Meeting.

This year, the topic is What makes us Conservative Friends, and the presenter is Deborah Fisch.

The day-and-a-half-long get-together is primarily a time to hear an invited Friend or two provide a presentation, offer a workshop, or facilitate a break-out group. A little bit of business is also carried out, but a couple of years ago when I went to Midyear Meeting, business was clearly not the focus of the short weekend. This year, it looks as if Deborah will be the sole presenter (different from other years, I think), and will have several opportunities to speak with us about the theme.

Some of you might understand my enthusiasm for heading to Iowa, then, since the local worship group has been living with the question of whether or not we are in fact closer to Conservative rather than liberal Quakerism. And this year's Midyear Meeting comes after my experience of being at the annual sessions of IYM(C) last summer, which Deborah skillfully clerked.

Not to mention that she has become a fFriend I cherish.

This year's Midyear Meeting in particular is an opportunity for Friends from the small worship group--and its "older cousin," Yahara Friends Meeting--to be exposed to Conservative Quakerism directly and in larger numbers than when a few visitors meet with us to answer our questions.

So, as the weekend approaches and the carpools are being firmed up, I find I will have to discipline myself to let go of my [exceedingly high] expectations and [many] questions. Mostly, though, I feel filled with the Spirit, as I hold Deborah and the Friend who is traveling with her as an elder and spiritual companion in the Light.

UPDATE, 5 April 2006: I now have posted a report of my experiences.


March 24, 2006

On her journey: Barbara Greenler

When I'm on my journey
Won't you sing after me?
I just want you to sing after me.
These are alternate words to a song by the Weavers, whose original refrain was "When I'm on my journey/Don't you weep after me." Barbara Greenler died peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday night.

Barbara was an elder to me before I knew that the word used to leave such a bad taste in Friends' mouths. When I asked Barbara over lunch at an FGC Gathering one year if she would consider being an elder for me, she cautiously asked, "Well... What do YOU mean by 'being an elder'?"

It was only after I answered her question that she told me how "eldering" had become a dirty word. Barbara probably knew I was too young a Friend to have known there was any such concept, let alone the baggage that came with it, yet she cared enough to let me have my own experience around eldership and to find my own way.

We ate lunch together at least once a month for the next four years after that, until I eventually moved to Minnesota, where quarterly phone calls and intermittent get-togethers at annual sessions, Nightingales, or FGC Central Committee meetings had to suffice. During those calls and lunches, Barbara and I traded stories--or mostly she listened to mine!--about unrequited love; being wealthy but desiring simplicity; uncertainties about Quakerism and how to bend our life gently to come into greater accord with its discipline.

When my partner and I were clear to wed one another in the presence of God, fFriends, and family, we asked if Barbara would clerk the wedding. We were so happy that she said yes, despite the fact that we then lived in Minnesota and she lived in Wisconsin some 300 miles away.

I remember that the day of the wedding, she wore earrings with butterflies that I had made her some time ago; she so loved insects and bugs and any sort of critter. But she also had the gift of showing her love for her friends and family in just that way: wearing handmade jewelry; framing and hanging a grandchild's fingerpainting; remembering to ask how a certain school project had gone the previous day.

Barbara was engaged.

Two or three years after the wedding, Barbara brought some of her watercolors to the FGC Gathering to be displayed at the Gathering's Lemonade Art Gallery. My partner was taken by one painting in particular, of stones from the Great Lakes. Soon thereafter, I privately asked Barbara if I could commission her to do a painting as a present for my sweetie of the North Shore of Lake Superior that included stones. Barbara was delighted by the chance to paint some more, the painting made my partner cry, and it now hangs in our guestroom in our house.

When Barbara was asked by Friends General Conference to serve as co-clerk of the 1998 Gathering at River Falls, Wisconsin, she joked that she was now one of the Big Dogs, but my guess is that inwardly she was very humbled and conflicted about how to stay low in such a highly visible position.

I wonder if it was her experience as Gathering co-clerk that brought her under the burden of addressing a part of Quakers' "underbelly" about our sense of entitlement at the Gathering. Barbara was the kind of Friend who seldom spoke, so when she did, Friends knew to listen with an especially discerning ear and open heart.

Barbara also was one of the "Celestial Mamas" who, decades ago, started Nightingales, the fellowship-through-a capella-song group in Northern Yearly Meeting. I can imagine her joy at the 1998 Gathering at River Falls, Wisconsin, when she and so many other Nightingales found success with the experiment to carry out pre-plenary singing with no microphone, no stage, no pitchpipe, no instrumental accompaniment, and no leader. Just a large circle of Nightingales starting off a selected song and trusting that the 1,500 other Friends would catch the tune and join in.

This last fall, I nearly missed what would have been my last opportunity to see Barbara. Though her spirits and energy were high, it was known that the thyroid cancer had returned and that there were few treatment options to address the recurrence.

In November, I was in Madison, Wisconsin for a small meeting of Friends to talk about something that had happened at Central Committee. A week or two before, Barbara and I had made tentative plans for me to stop by after the meeting and before I headed back to Minnesota. I hadn't thought we firmed anything up, but in Barbara's mind we had, so she was clearly disappointed when I explained how drained I was by the emotional meeting and felt I needed to be on my way. I told her I would call her from my hotel room later that night.

As I headed out of town, though, the hand of God tapped me on my shoulder and I was compelled to reconsider. I pulled over, found a phone, and told Barbara I had changed my mind, could I still come by?

That chilly, wet night in November, Barbara showed me the woods outside Robert's and her apartment. She told me about the foxes and coyotes they had seen there, this wooded retreat tucked between two multi-lane urban thruways. Barbara showed me some more of her artwork and told me quite clearly that despite the growing list of doctor appointments, no one but her watercolor instructor got her time on Tuesdays.

I want to remember that commitment to Joy whenever it is that I may be failing in health and starting to make my own journey.

To you, Barbara, I'll keep a few of your favorite songs close to my heart, and I will sing after you:

That Cause Can Neither Be Lost Nor Stayed
Be then no more by a storm dismayed
For by it the full-grown seeds are laid
And tho' the tree by its might it shatters
What then if thousands of seeds it scatters
The Mary Ellen Carter
Rise again, rise again
Though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Music In My Mother's House
Those days come back so clearly, although I'm far away
She gave me the kind of gift I love to give away
And when my mother died, and she'd sung her last song
We sat in the living room, singing all night long.

P.S. For any of you who know the Greenler family, I believe cards and letters would be welcome, but for awhile now they have asked for no visits or phone calls. I'll plan to update this post when I receive information about a memorial.

UPDATE: The memorial is scheduled for Saturday April 15, 2006 at 3:00 pm. The service will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the main building of the Boerner Botanical Garden, followed by a traditional midwestern Quaker potluck at Milwaukee Meeting.

You can read more about Barbara, her life, and her love here.

March 23, 2006

Release of CPT workers

While I grieve the loss of a dear fFriend, I will share this joyous report of the release of the CPT workers in Iraq.


March 19, 2006

Lost traditions?

At a recent party where nearly all the guests were Friends--and friends or acquaintances of one another--the conversation of course had to ultimately turn to Quakerism.

Among us were twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, and one fortysomething; lifelong Friends, convinced Friends, and relatively new to Friends; Friends who had drifted away from the monthly meeting and Friends who are still very much engaged.

What most struck me were the questions that were raised. Some questions were made outright; others were implied or inferred.

Here's a partial list of what I compiled when I returned home that night:

How do we learn to support each other in our Quakerism when there is no training manual?

How do we hold one another accountable, and just what does that mean exactly?

When Friends seem to value being able to "disappear" or be anonymous in a large meeting, how do we help a meeting (or individual Friends) become okay with "being Known" so we can better care for one another and better tend to the life of the s/Spirit within one another?

How do we teach (or learn) the concept of listening for Truth in what others say?

How do we teach (or learn) the concept that resistance may be an indication of needing to hold a thing tenderly and prayerfully, allowing for the possibility that we ourselves, and our version of "the truth," can be transformed?

How do we teach (or learn) the value and belief that inward transformation is possible; that "giving up" to That Which Is Within Us And Beyond Us is a Quaker discipline which needs to be modeled, practiced, and openly talked about if it is to be retained?

(What do we do if our meetings don't value transformation and yielding to our Inward Teacher?!)

Among unprogrammed Friends, does affirming equality mean not "seeing" difference, including not acknowledging or calling out the gifts or measure of Light that individual Friends may have?

Among unprogrammed Friends, does having no clergy really mean having no ministers?
When I was done writing my questions, I thought about the lost traditions or weakened disciplines that could have addressed these concerns, had they been practiced, modeled, integrated, and talked about over the course of the life of the meeting:

  • Eldership.

  • Accountability.

  • Care and nurture of emerging gifts.

  • Intervisitation.

  • I feel as though these questions are already starting to haunt me. And I feel as though there is a deep, deep hunger that is driving these questions, too. One of the younger, newer Friends said, "I get a lot out of meeting, but I also want more."

    One final question: Now what?


    March 16, 2006

    Convention for progressive faith bloggers

    Today I fell down the rabbit hole of blogs and bloggers and came across the website for the upcoming Progressive Faith Blog Con. It will be held July 14-16, 2006 (just a week after FGC's Gathering!), not too far from New York City.

    Here is what the homepage for that event says:

    Faith and politics have the capacity to profoundly divide, or to profoundly connect. Progressive Faith BlogCon is a chance for progressive bloggers of faith to meet one another, talk with one another, and learn from one another.

    Our progressive politics are rooted in our theologies, and our theological stances inform our politics; why not celebrate them together? During this weekend gathering we'll break bread together, talk about the subjects that fire our passions, and put faces with the names on our blogrolls.
    I thought some of us Quaker bloggers and readers might be interested in this gathering.

    It looks like Velveteen Rabbi is in charge of gathering ideas for a panel. I can't help but think what it might be like to have Quaker bloggers involved somehow.

    Any takers?


    March 14, 2006

    Retreat for Traveling Ministries Program

    This past weekend I attended a retreat that was put on by the Traveling Ministries Program of Friends General Conference.... or, for those well versed in the Quaker alphabet, FGC's TMP.

    Towards the end of the retreat, I learned that there are primarily two types of TMP retreats, which are offered on alternate years. One is for Friends who currently travel in the ministry through FGC's program; the other is for Friends with emerging gifts and/or for Friends who may be traveling either through the TMP (which coordinates the visits of Friends to the meetings who ask for such visits) or within their own yearly meetings, whose visits are arranged independent of FGC.

    Each year, FGC invites a limited number of Friends to these retreats. My sense is that because they are "by invitation only," these retreat opportunities have a certain felt-sense that is different, say, from FGC's small regional conferences, which happen every 2-3 years and are open to any and all Friends, though there is usually a cap on enrollment.

    (I believe the next FGC small conference is planned for 2007 and will be related to religious education.)

    Back to the TMP retreat:

    This particular retreat was for those Friends who are carrying a spiritual Concern or who currently travel in the ministry, and for a Friend from each Friend's ongoing support committee (what FGC calls anchor committees), or a Friend from the meeting's Ministry & Counsel Committee (or equivalent).

    There were about 50 Friends in all, 25 "minister" Friends and 25 "anchor" Friends.

    As so often happens in my life, when I received a letter actually inviting me to participate in the retreat, I wasn't ready to receive that invitation! Surely they have made some mistake, I thought.

    I then experienced a sequence of inward struggles: my own rejection of my possible worthiness; a shadowy desire to inflate my ego for having been "selected"; a concern for what others might think; a question about why this opportunity seemingly coincided with the clearness process I had formally begun around an emerging ministry about how we convey our faith and identity as Friends.

    When I received the advance roster of Friends participating in the retreat, though, my struggles ended. I was a Friend among Friends, some of whom I had worshipped with, been in workshops with, or played with. I was grateful for what I can only describe as the "low feeling" that I was nobody special.

    During the retreat, though I wasn't transformed overnight with some earth-shattering mystical experience, I did have a few openings that touched me unexpectedly and are still working quietly on my soul at a slow, deep level.

    For one thing, I was able to hear directly from Friends more experienced than I about how they came to carry and travel with a given ministry. I heard reports of how the life of these Friends' meetings were made more vibrant over time as on-going support and anchor committees made reports to their monthly and yearly meetings.

    I heard Friends talk about their laboring with their meeting when they themselves came under the burden of being called to a particular ministry; how desperately they sought care and nurture, for they could not carry the burden alone and expect to stay the course and endure; and how naked and vulnerable they felt as they spoke with their clearness committees, elders, and anchor committees.

    Other times, such as during extended worship, I heard ministry from young adult Friends who clearly live in the virtue of the Light that calls us forward; and ministry from older Friends who call us to heed the call, despite any personal cost.

    We were seemingly all made so tender... and I felt myself being knit into the fabric of this gathered group.

    Each of these stories is my own story. Each of these callings is my own call.

    Here are some specific highlights of my experience, though as is often the case when the Living Presence moves among us, I am foggy on some of the details.

  • Large "peer" groups. For a portion of Saturday, we were asked to meet in two large groups--one for those identified as "minister" Friends and one for those identified as "anchor" Friends. (And yes, we spoke of how the lines between the two are blurred: Those on anchor committees certainly minister to the Friend who seeks support; and ministers certainly can provide care, support, and nurture to Friends who serve on their anchor committees.)

    For me to sit in a circle with 25 other Friends whose faith journey had brought them to such a place in their life... well, it was just huge for me. I feel like I was finally being seen for my measure of Light and what I was carrying. I cannot describe the inward freedom I felt just then...

    In fact, I am aware of it only as I prepare this post, that for once I was not worried that someone might have found me intimidating or arrogant. Gosh, I had not known til now how tired I have been of living with that tiny worry, when God asks me to do so much!

  • Hearing two other stories of brokenness and struggle. During the "peer group" time, we were asked to get into smaller groups and reflect on a number of queries. In my small group, no one chose to address any of the queries (gotta love us Quakers!), and instead we each followed our leading to share a bit of what we had experienced in pursuing a call to the ministry.

    The element that each of our stories had in common was how vulnerable and tender we are when we meet with our clearness and support committees. ...I was amazed, simply amazed, to find out that I was not the only Friend who had gone through such a trying and painful time during my process of striving to be faithful to a call.

  • Seeing evidence of the care and nurture of young adult Friends as ministers. In one case in particular, I was struck repeatedly by the right order of seeing a young "minister Friend," about 20 or 22 years of age, accompanied by an older "anchor Friend," about 55 or 60 years of age. The younger Friend seemed to stand spiritually on the shoulders of the other; the elder of the two seemed to draw great joy as a result of his support being so openly received by the first.

    Though I had spoken a word with neither, the love between them was palpable to me.

    At one point, towards the end of Saturday night, this particular young adult Friend made a comment like, "...and of course the meeting will recognize and welcome a Friend who is called to travel in the ministry." (I'm fuzzy on the details here.)

    An older Friend responded with a reality check of some sort, like, "Not always." To which the first Friend said, in all seriousness:

    "Don't ALL meetings support and nurture those who are called to this service?"

    Though the room filled with gentle knowing laughter, it gave me hope that there could be a Friend raised in a meeting where the assumption was that all gifts were nurtured, tended, and welcomed equally. May I be made as innocent as he in the years to come!
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    To close, I'll leave you with some quotes that emerged during the course of this retreat.

    Note: I am conflicted about attaching names to the quotes because there is no written document to refer to, and because I feel the words come as ministry from a Divine Depth that belongs to no single individual. At the same time, I include names where I know them because in some cases, the words given to a particular Friend may in fact be a part of the ministry that they carry.

    I hope that makes sense.
    We are but a pale shadow of who we are called to be.
    - Debbie Humphries

    What if one type of ministry is seeking out other ministers? ...Can you see the Minister in those who don't speak?
    - Rachel Stacy

    One of the most important travels is into one's own meeting.
    - Michael Gibson

    Ministry is not a geographical phenomenon. It is a relational one and is evocative for all of us.
    - ?

    We are called to stand naked in the midst of our meetings, having submitted, no longer obedient to the cultural norm of self-reliance.
    - ?

    The discomfort of not being perfect in our ministry is nothing compared to the discomfort of not being faithful.
    - ?

    March 13, 2006

    Where I've been, what I've heard

    This past weekend, 10-12 Third Month, I was in the Cincinnati area for a retreat sponsored by FGC's Traveling Ministries Program. Friends who travel in the ministry, or who have emerging gifts of ministry, were invited to attend and to bring along either a Friend from their ongoing support committee (FGC calls them "anchor committees") or from the meeting's Ministry & Counsel Committee.

    I was taken aback and made low to have received an invitation, since I do not yet have a travel minute from the meeting, but the committee that has been working with me for clearness was very encouraging--and insistent--about my being at the retreat.

    I need more time to consider what I may feel prompted to share about what happened at the retreat, other than this:

    While there, word came to one Friend, and then another, and another, about the discovery of Tom Fox's body. It was around 10:00 p.m. on Friday night when those first few Friends received word, and many Friends who had turned in early after a day of travel were awoken so they would hear it, Friend to Friend.

    The news of hearing about Tom Fox might be for me one of those moments that is sealed in time, like where you were when the space shuttle Challenger blew up, or when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, or if you are older, when Kennedy was shot.

    Five minutes prior to hearing about Tom Fox, I had received a phone call from my partner:

    She was in the emergency room with possible appendicitis.
    So it was that while 50 other Friends were integrating the news about a body in Baghdad, I was integrating the news that my beloved was a few hundred miles away in a hospital bed.

    I was able to tell a few Friends my own news, since some where there who know both of us. One Friend, already heavy-hearted with the CPT news, dropped her backpack and threw her arms around me in genuine concern when she heard. I was moved deeply that someone's heart had had enough space to carry my news, too.

    As the minutes ticked on for me on Friday night, I felt God's Grace alight in my heart. I was told I could rest easy, stay put, and get some sleep. I wondered how I could possibly sleep, but God made it so. I was awoken in the middle of the night by a follow-up call, that my partner was admitted; that there'd be more tests; that someone was with her; that everyone felt I should stay where I was.

    The next morning, I was told that my partner's counts were going down... and that our very own doctor was doing rounds at that hospital that particular day! Blessed indeed. I was also told that it was unlikely that surgery would be needed, and if my partner weren't discharged by the end of the day, she'd probably be discharged on Sunday.

    In-between my getting a few hours of solid sleep on Friday night and my getting an optimistic update on Saturday morning, the participants in the retreat gathered for a scheduled meeting for worship. The retreat planners were aware that not everyone would have heard the news from the night before, and as we settled into the early stillness of the day, one of the planners arose and read the letter that is posted on the CPT website about grieving Tom Fox.

    We fell into an impromptu sort of Meeting for Worship for Memorial, and we were also reminded by the planners that our work is to be faithful to how we are called, to live into the space between the feelings around Tom Fox's death and the work that God calls us to bring out into the world.

    As the weekend went on, we shifted from sharing our grief and shock to sharing what it means to be doing the work we are doing, be it as a Friend with a spiritual concern or as a Friend providing care and nurture to such a Friend.

    I also learned definitively that no surgery would be needed for my partner, despite the diagnosis of "slight appendicitis." More than a few of us back home and at the retreat chuckled over that: Is that like being a little bit pregnant?

    On First Day after extended worship and lunch, we all made our way to the airport or otherwise hit the road for the long trips home. I was scheduled to fly out the next day--I like having a bit slower pace for traveling to events like this--but I heard reports of a major snowstorm brewing for Minnesota. I had the sense that I'd be better off riding a small plane into the beginning of a storm on Sunday night rather than riding a bigger plane into the tail-end of a storm on Monday morning.

    My discernment paid off. The airport was closed on Monday, but I was already safe and warm--and with my partner, appendix and all!--on Sunday night.


    March 7, 2006

    Quaker preservatives?

    In recent days, I've begun wondering what the difference is between preserving a thing and conserving a thing. Why do some Friends talk about "conserving Quaker tradition" but few Friends talk about "preserving" it?

    I think of jams and preserves all jarred up on grocery store shelves in glass containers; and I thnk of someone who conserves energy by turning off unnecessary lights, biking instead of driving, or following the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).

    Maybe the first is an outward product, wonderful as it is, just sitting there waiting for a consumer, waiting for someone to discover its delight. Maybe the second is more of an inward lifestyle and attitude, something that others can observe and be influenced by; it is about keeping a thing alive and accessible.

    Here are a few definitions, from

    To maintain in safety from injury, peril, or harm; protect.
    To keep in perfect or unaltered condition; maintain unchanged.
    To keep or maintain intact.
    To prepare (food) for future use, as by canning or salting.
    To prevent (organic bodies) from decaying or spoiling.

    To protect from loss or harm; preserve.
    To use carefully or sparingly, avoiding waste.
    To keep (a quantity) constant through physical or chemical reactions or evolutionary changes.
    The two concepts are similar, as evidenced by the first definition of each, but in my thinking, I find I am making a few distinctions as related to Quakerism:

    1. PRESERVATIVE QUAKERISM, hypothetically speaking: A Quaker set of disciplines, traditions, and beliefs that are captured, suspended, isolated, or practiced in such a way so as to prevent change in the way the faith is praticed or experienced.

    I think of the Shakers. After all, the Shakers have a historical connection to Friends. Were they too committed to preserve their way of life, rather than working and practicing to conserve it?

    2. CONSERVATIVE QUAKERISM: A Quaker set of disciplines, traditions, and beliefs that are adaptable as circumstances change and as leadings emerge; that promote mindfulness and disciplined action of how the faith is to be integrated, practiced, or, if deemed necessary, discarded.

    While there is a genuine branch of Conservative Friends, can't the secular concept of conservation be applied to any branch of Friends or to individual meetings...?

    It seems to me that a preservative form of Quakerism may allow us to study and replicate it, but it may die because of its rigidity ("keep in perfect or unaltered condition").

    But a conservative form of Quakerism may live on, because the intention is not to preserve it unchanged until the end of time. Ours is to open ourselves to new Light in such a way that we ourselves are changed, that we can be responsive to the events of our day, and that Quakerism itself is not lost--To keep [it] constant through... evolutionary changes."


    March 2, 2006

    Posters, themes, and history
    of FGC's annual Gathering

    Over at the Quaker Ranter, Martin writes about, and I comment on, the opportunity for intervisitation at FGC's Gathering.

    Within my comment to that post, I reference a page on FGC's website that has a collection of posters from 30 or so of the 40+ years of when the Gathering was held annually. The themes over the years (1970-2001) are like genetic traces of the heritage and Quaker family from which we come:

    1970 - not a theme, but a quotation is lifted up: "You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?"

    1980 - "Here Am I! Send Me."

    1990 - "A Time to Mend"

    2000 - "Deep Roots: New Growth"

    2005 - "Weaving the Blessed Tapestry"

    2006 - "Swimming in Living Waters"

    Some of these themes over the decades are nice, but only a few are distinctively Quaker. And though it's likely I'll be on the 2007 Gathering Committee for River Falls, it's unlikely that I will be called to labor with and bend an entire committee to the idea of selecting a distinctively Quaker theme. (I pray I am not so called. Oy, the pain I and the committee would have to endure!)

    But the other jewel that is hidden in this part of FGC's website is the history of the Gathering, how it moved from being a group of separate conferences, sometimes held concurrently (leading to the formation of Friends General Conference), to biannual conferences held at the same site every two years for decades, to its current form of annual Gatherings.

    Yum! Every now and then, I want to call on Friends to donate their posters from the missing years for this collection and seek to have the collection (and the webpage) updated... (A task for a certain blogger who works at FGC, perhaps?)

    And every now and then I get the nudge to look through these lists and images, and I begin to understand how it is that liberal Friends are where we are today in the Quaker continuum.


    UPDATE, 30 Third Month 2006: In the comments is now a list of all the Gathering themes and locations between 1975-2005, in case anyone is interested.

    Elizabeth Watson has passed away


    Last Friday, February 24, 2006, word reached me that long-time Friend Elizabeth Watson had passed away. Her health had been declining over the past year.

    I had been waiting to share this news, in part hoping to have a link to an obituary, but I have not come across one.*

    Not finding an obituary is a bit unsettling for me, for I'm sure it would be quite extensive, given her prominence among Friends, her many writings on Quaker universalism and other topics (a search at QuakerBooks of FGC turns up a few titles), her curatorship at Walt Whitman's birthplace (1973-1977), being a long-time ally to the LGBTQ community, etc.


    *UPDATE: The Minneapolis Star Tribune printed Elizabeth's obituary after all, but I don't know how long the link will be active. [It's not any longer.]