May 28, 2007

QuakerPagan tags TGRUp as a Thinking Blog

From a comment I posted to Cat on QuakerPagan Reflections, after she tagged me for a "Blogs that Make You Think" meme:

Ah, blog memes.

Thanks so much, Cat, for including The Good Raised Up in the list of those blogs you've tagged.

And now I am in that awkward position of figuring out what to do about it.

I guess I'd have to say that as a blog writer, I don't typically "play well with others." The blog writing I do is very often an extension of the concern I carry among Friends. As a number of readers point out, I don't stray very far from the theme of Quakerism!

Some memes I've been tagged with I've simply ignored. On a rare occasion, I might pick up on someone else's "generic meme," in which no one has been tagged per se, but the theme travels among Quaker blogs at the very least.

Well now: You've given me something to think about (again). Maybe a girl like me can learn to play after all!
And now I'll pass along the Thinking Blogger Award (and all the relevant info) to:

1. Of course I'll point to Martin, the Quaker Ranter himself. Many of his Quaker posts make me think quite a bit about the state of the Religious Society of Friends, but more than that, it's how he's set up his blog and the spin-off site QuakerQuaker that gives me things to think about, about how best to connect with others through use of the internet.

2. Peterson of A Musing writes about his own experiences as a gay man, a survivor of the ex-gay movement, a theatrical performance artist and activist, his Quakerism, etc.

3. Heather of A Friend in Need writes stories about her experiences among Quakers and elsewhere move me in unexpected ways.

4. Rachel of the Velveteen Rabbi, gives me much opportunity to revisit the Jewish tradition of my family--and has helped me make better sense out of Judaism I grew up with. I don't visit the VR frequently but when I do, I am bound to rethink much about my early years...

5. James of Nontheist Friends--which isn't a blog at all, of course, but the website includes posts that have really stretched me. Plus, leave it to me to color outside the lines...

Of course there are lots of other Quaker blogs I could point to, but hey, I have to let others tag 'em, don't I?
AMENDMENT, a few days later: I heard from Martin that he's likely to be too busy to respond to the tag, so I'm going to tag my friend Robin of What Canst Thou Say. And, if I could do it over again, I would have "broken the rule" and gone ahead and tagged her earlier as #6, because I enjoy so many of her posts!
Here are the expectations for participating that I'm supposed to post. They're called "rules" in the original post from The Thinking Blog:

If you’ve been tagged, here’s how you play:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think;
2. List to this post at The Thinking Blog so that people can find the exact origin of the meme;
3. Optional: Display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award.’

May 27, 2007

Hard choices to make at the Gathering

This week I sent an email off to the assistant clerk of the Workshops Committee for FGC's 2007 Gathering in River Falls, Wisconsin. Basically the email said:

Hi, K--. I'd like for you and me to start thinking about what 2-3 events we each really would like to be able to attend or participate in during the Gathering, so that we can support one another in helping get to those things. I hate the idea of building up resentment or having regrets about missing something because we've forced ourselves both to attend to the onsite work of the Workshops Committee without giving forethought to how else we'd hoped to have spent our time. And maybe only one of us needs to be "on call" at any given time, for the most part...
Between the two of us, we'll have daily meetings to attend each afternoon to provide updates to the larger Gathering Committee, the Gathering co-clerks, and the FGC staff who support all of us. We'll also have our own share of mishaps, concerns, and messages to respond to, and I can't imagine both of us would enjoy doing only that for the entire week...

...not when there are 1,500 other Quakers to meet, worship with, and play with!

I've begun making my list. I'm afraid there's a few more than just "2-3 events" that I'll want to get to!

  • Attend with my sweetie at least one of the wildly popular "noon sings" that happens each weekday immediately after workshops. The "noon sings" are a time to sing from Annie and Peter Blood's popular Rise Up Singing with all the heart, love, and joy a person can muster. There are dozens of devoted noon-sing attenders and families, and handfuls more who drop in. It's hard to imagine missing all of the noon sings during the week, but it might be a stretch for me to get to one, let alone two of them.

  • Have lunch or dinner with my dear friend MC, who I've known for about 8 years, ever since she was about 5 or 6 years old. We see each other, if we're lucky, only twice a year: once at yearly meeting and once at Gathering. Boy, do I ever see my younger self in MC! The shyness borne out of feeling different from her peers; the fierce resolve to be who she is; the concern that she'll hurt her friends' feelings by being who she is; the yearning to be understood, even if what she's going through doesn't make logical sense. I do what I can to allow MC the space to continue discovering herself, and it's a blessing to be invited into a young person's life the way that MC has invited me into hers... I'll definitely want to carve out time with her.

  • Be present to prepare for and facilitate the interest group with Robin that I've already committed to. Just thinking about spending time together and worshipfully considering how to structure the interest group gets me excited. I love witnessing how the Spirit shapes us and moves us and brings us together as we share our faith journeys in formats like workshops and interest groups.

  • So right there, that's three things, three events, three people! But also on my "would have regrets if I didn't get a chance to see or do this" list are:

  • Get together with my dear, sweet friends N & P, who have been dealing with a chronic disease in the family that has been hard and tender to witness as it takes its toll... These two fFriends are family to me. When my partner was suddenly unable to travel to help move her own parents from Delaware to Florida, P flew with me to pack up what was to her a complete stranger's house. And in contrast to my own folks who were slow in coming around to support our wedding under the care of the meeting, N & P made the 3-1/2 hour drive each way to serve on our clearness committee, which met several times. I'd feel bad if I didn't have a chance to spend some quality time with them at Gathering.

  • Attend the Wednesday night performance of In the Heart of the Beast (HOBT). (I think HOBT will be the sleeper event of the Gathering.) This amazing, family-friendly theater group will be working with one or two groups of Junior Gathering to create oversized puppets, masks, and other props that will help tell the story of the Good Samaritan, in response to the Gathering's theme, "...but who is my neighbor?" If I were to combine going to HOBT with my meet-up with MC and with N & P and with my sweetie, that would take care of all those opportunities in just one evening!

  • To cap off the week of noon sings, there's usually a very fun Friday night last hurrah sing as well. If the group has been in fine voice all week ("fine" is defined as a willingness to sing at all!), this final sing is amazing and very Spirit-filled.

  • Attend at least a couple of Meetings for Worship in the afternoons, under the care of FLGBTQC. These meetings for worship are consistently among the most grounded, most tender opportunities I've experienced to listen as a people for God in our hearts.

  • I'm sure I'm forgetting a number of other events I'd want to attend and people who are incredibly important to me with whom I'd like to "do lunch." I'm also sure that I will be mindful of carrying out the service that has been asked of me, in my role as clerk of the Workshops Committee.

    After all, that was an opportunity last year that I consciously stepped into. I haven't looked back.


    May 21, 2007

    2007 Interest Group proposal for Gathering

    As mentioned in a previous post, Robin M and I have submitted a proposal for an interest group to be held at FGC's 2007 Gathering in western Wisconsin. The proposal reads this way:

    On Fire! From Small Nudges to Faithful Obedience

    Faithfulness and obedience in small things is what makes obedience and faithfulness in the big things possible. Phrases and queries such as "Not my will, Lord, but thine" and "How might I be of service?" help us in our yearning to be faithful. How might we support one another to stay faithful amidst busy lives and chaotic times? How might our individual faithfulness support the renewal of the Religious Society of Friends?
    It took Robin and me some time to understand that neither of us were called or led to offer a purely "Convergent" topic. It took a phone call here and there to understand that we felt there was an opening to do something together, and then a little bit more time to discern together a topic that had Life for both of us.

    Robin will be posting/has posted her own thoughts on how the interest group ties in with Convergent Quakerism. [UPDATE: here's the link to Robin's post.] I've been overly busy with continuing to make preparations for the FGC Gathering, namely supporting the twenty or so Friends who are supporting the ninety or so workshop leaders who are offering the seventy or so workshops over the course of the week.

    On a side note, given the importance of maintaining a line of communication and interaction between young adult Friends and old(er) adult Friends, I have been in touch with clerk of FGC's Youth Ministries Program about possibly having a "meet-up" during the Gathering, much like what happened last year.

    Of course, I realize there is no way to repeat what happened in 2006, but my hope is that Robin and I can stay faithful to what we've been given and, during the course of the interest group itself--if it's a go--continue to open ourselves to any unexpected promptings of the Spirit.


    May 17, 2007

    Guest Piece: Making our message accessible

    Fellow blogger Wess Daniels of Gathering in Light responds to the questions raised at the end of the previous post with queries of his own.

    Though Wess interpreted the original questions as defensive, in an online exchange with him I explained that I knew the hearts of each Friend who had attended the adult education program; and that I was moved by their curiosity and genuine amazement for how some Friends are able to dedicate the time to read and participate thoughtfully in the online conversation.

    This guest piece is a reprint of Wess' original comment, and is posted here with his permission. The questions to which Wess refers start this post for easier reference. -Liz

    Does the internet break down or undermine face-to-face interaction and genuine person-to-person contact?

    If "all of us" are always blogging (or emailing or...), who's doing any listening?

    What do we give up in our life in order to have time to use the internet for email, blogging, and so on?

    What made us start to blog? Why do we continue blogging?

    Is the quickness of the internet and the convenience of post-comment-respond a good thing?

    Are traditional Quaker journals and magazines (e.g. Friends Journal) weakening in their content as a result of blogs?

    I'm surprised how defensive the majority of those questions are - they all seem to come from a position of trying to protect something, a holding back, as opposed to a digging in, on the offense kind of approach.

    I hope that Quakers can begin to lead the pack again in various ways of communicating, as we once did with the first Publishers of Truth, as well as other ways of engaging our world. We can't afford to be on the defensive for much longer, I am afraid that in many ways the world has already passed us by.

    This isn't to say we adopt every new thing whole-heartedly and without reflection - but queries of discipline and discernment are different than self-preservation and defense. Maybe I've read the questions wrong, but I feel as though our questions reflect how we feel about our witness to the world and seems to assume God couldn't be in any of this.

    Why not ask where is God working in this? What do these rising communities and online culture teach us about the Spirit of God? Or how is Gospel Order displayed within these new spheres? What does it look like, and mean, for one to be a Quaker blogger? Are there any virtues and characteristics that make our witness in this way to the world Christ-like? Or are we just like everybody else? And yes, what ways are these technologies oppressive and go against God's work in the world?

    I am also curious as to how many people actually read our academic Journals? I personally read that stuff as much as possible, my world is surrounded by those things, and I certainly hope (even though I am a blogger) that a blog doesn't replace the work of the academy anytime soon!

    But on the other hand, don't blogs make the message free for all, accessible to all, and again stress the importance of the "laity," to use a hierarchical term? I think lay-theology, if we dare call it that, is essential to the Quaker tradition.

    Another question would be in what ways have our magazines, and academic periodicals put up false walls between us by only communicating the messages that suite the institutions which preside over those publications? Are there any convergent publications? (I do believe there are a couple) But, how much more have we discovered by hearing the voices and stories of those who are outside the walls of our various Quaker institutions by the free access to blogs which anyone, from any branch can write and read easily?

    I hope we continue to forge ahead, and press into our calling to be a light to the world by engaging it in radical ways.

    For me, I blog to share my own story and write theology that subverts the powers of both the world and the church in the Spirit and love of Christ.

    May 14, 2007

    Adult education program:
    Quakers on the internet

    This past First Day morning, four of us from the meeting served on a panel of Friends to talk about our experience on the internet. Three of us are active in the Quaker blogosphere, though to different degrees; the fourth has a website to address his concerns for care for the Earth.

    The panel was suggested in part because it seems as though the Quaker blogosphere is disproportionately represented by a single meeting, though I can't say that for sure.

    In addition to myself, there was Paul L from Showers of Blessings and occasional commenter James R from Nontheist Friends. Originally, fellow blogger Pam was scheduled to participate on the panel, but her plans shifted. In her stead we invited Gaia Troubadour Richard from Gaia Voices.

    After we each identified the blogs, websites, and listservs we typically access, Paul L gave a wonderful overview of the various types of websites and services out there, from online libraries to listservs and blogs, organizing them from least interactive to most interactive. (Perhaps he or James will figure out a way to put his handout online...).

    For Friends who maybe were internet-shy, I also had prepared two identical packets to be passed around that contained print-outs of a number of homepages, so folks could get an idea of what a Quaker blog aggregator looked like (e.g. QuakerQuaker and Planet Quaker); and what each of our own blogs and websites looked like as well.

    Even though the turnout was only slightly bigger than the number of Friends serving on the panel (!), the questions and comments were very rich. Rather than share any responses that were offered, I'll let these questions remain for others to consider:

    Does the internet break down or undermine face-to-face interaction and genuine person-to-person contact?

    If "all of us" are always blogging (or emailing or...), who's doing any listening?

    What do we give up in our life in order to have time to use the internet for email, blogging, and so on?

    What made us start to blog? Why do we continue blogging?

    Is the quickness of the internet and the convenience of post-comment-respond a good thing?

    Are traditional Quaker journals and magazines (e.g. Friends Journal) weakening in their content as a result of blogs?


    Martin Kelley (Quaker Ranter) writes about his own experience at an adult education program.

    May 7, 2007

    Coming under the weight of a concern

    In recent months, I have wondered how to describe what it means for an individual, a committee, or a meeting to "come under the weight of a concern."

    No matter how much experience a Friend has with the concern at hand, it doesn't seem like it's enough for that Friend to say, "This is important; we need to do something about it!"

    In my experience, even if a larger group finds itself united with the concern--for example, witnessing to the support for the GLBTQ community--the group may never move from saying the words to taking the corresponding action or providing the relevant outward witness.

    It worries me, frankly.

    "The meeting is so large that we no longer know one another well enough to provide the pastoral care and nurture we wish to."

    "Not enough Friends are stepping forward to serve on the committees or in positions that require the greatest amount of dedication and service but we can't twist people's arms to do that."

    "The number of Friends who understand the foundation of our faith and what gives rise to Spirit-led vocal ministry is diminishing and we need to do something to revitalize the meeting."

    "So few adults even know who the teenage Friends
    are in the meeting!"
    All of these comments, or some variation, are things I have heard over the years and during my travels among Friends. Sometimes a committee addresses the concern and then presents a report to the meeting, which in turn often records a minute, hoping that that will move things along to resolution, to new practices, to greater cohesiveness.

    But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    What is it, then, that stirs a committee, let alone a meeting, to come under the weight of a concern, to the extent that our inward condition is changed as well as our outward witness?

    In addition, while I understand that much of this inner work is left to God and the workings on our heart of the Inward Light, I also believe that as a corporate body, God does work through us, speak through us, love through us. I worry that entire meetings might experience the promptings of the Spirit but end up dropping the ball rather than taking it the distance.

    I worry because if our meetings are not faithful to the small nudges of the Spirit, how can we prepare ourselves to be faithful to the larger prompts and leadings off the Spirit?

    Still, I can point to some comtemporary examples of a subgroup, monthly meeting, or yearly meeting that has come under the weight of a concern, to the extent that the faithfulness of these Friends is now bearing fruit:
  • In 2004, the Central Committee of Friends General Conference came under the weight of affirming that spiritual gifts are not distributed according to sexual orientation or gender identity. That minute and corresponding epistle still is causing some positive ripples among American Friends. It has also provided the challenging opportunity for liberal Friends and evangelical Friends, for North American Friends and African Friends to labor with one another around the same concern.

  • A number of years ago, the monthly meeting I was attending at the time discerned that it would bring the meeting community together in an intergenerational retreat setting. For a number of years after the initial experience, the meeting continued to offer the retreat annually, which allowed the whole of the meeting to see itself with new eyes and without the usual separations that occur during First Days (i.e. adults stay for worship; kids go to First Day School). Adults and children sang together, did crafts projects together, engaged in worship-sharing together. I believe the meeting still seeks opportunities to come together in fellowship as a whole, away from traditional First Day activities.

  • I remember being prodded and moved when I learned that New England Yearly Meeting had come under the weight of the concern to address racism. The minute that the yearly meeting approved mentions a "working party" within the yearly meeting's Ministry & Counsel--which says to me that the yearly meeting has made a commitment to carry this concern for a long time.
  • But what is it about these particular events that lend themselves to large-group action and commitment; to a sense of the meeting that is written in our hearts and brought forward in a living testimony based on the inward motion of the Spirit, rather than allowing the sense of the meeting to be frozen in words that are recorded on a page and placed into an archive somewhere?

    Certainly each of these events required a few dedicated and faithful Friends... but each meeting certainly has some of those, right?

    Certainly each of these events required close and careful listening for the movement of the Spirit and testing of what would be in harmony with bringing about the city of God right here, right now... but each meeting certainly engages in that sort of discernment process, right?

    Or does it?

    So I am left with asking the questions:
  • What does it mean to come under the weight of a concern? How do we help Friends understand what is meant by this concept?

  • How does a meeting or committee come under the weight of a concern? How do we know that's what's happened?

  • If it's "simply" a matter of experiencing the Shepherd's guidance together and then being faithful to following its Voice as a community, then why does it seem so many times we go astray?

  • If a group or meeting affirms that it is under the weight of a concern, how do we hold one another accountable to bearing that burden and participating in relevant activities over time, especially as a faith community?

  • How can a subgroup or a committee or a meeting ask Friends to come under the weight of a concern, especially if a clerk or if another subgroup doesn't see the value of the thing?
  • Somewhere in my heart, I feel I know the answer. Yet I wrestle with how to bring the concern forward of what it means to come under the weight of a concern.

    It's a Catch-22: waiting for others to come under the weight of the concern for how we come under the weight of a concern...

    Thank you, in advance, for helping me consider these questions prayerfully.