January 26, 2009

Convergent Friends Reader - Call for submissions and nominations


Since 2004 or 2005, increasing numbers of Friends from across Quakerism's branches have been engaged in dialogue and discussion through their blogs. The conversation has ranged from concerns for restoring and maintaining our faith traditions; reflecting on our historical roots; considering our future as a religious society; and sharing with great vulnerability and openness our struggles and questions in the here-and-now, helping to live into God's kin(g)dom on earth as Friends.

Through the medium of blogs and the internet, the mending of Quakerism's historic schisms is being helped by the interweaving of this online discussion and its resulting friendships and meet-ups. In turn, the glimpses of renewal and excitement that has emerged out of that discussion has been labeled as "convergent."

In early September 2008, I wrote a post about how we in the blogosphere might broaden the conversation about the interest in Convergent Friends and about the growing sense of Quaker renewal that has been helped by the online conversation.

After having had a conversation with a Quaker acquaintance who is involved in the world of Quaker publishing, I felt a sort of courage grow within me:

It now seems time for me to take the next step toward the publication of a compilation of blog posts.

The publication would be a sort of "reader," similar in format to Martin Kelley's self-published Quaker Ranter Reader from 2005.

What follows below are the details of how to submit blog posts of your own as well as how to nominate blog posts that you would like to be considered for inclusion in the publication. So even if you are a lurker--or especially if you are lurker!--you can have a role in shaping the contents of the final product.


UPDATE, Second Month 2009: For an easier way to share your thoughts, you can take a brief online survey. The URL is


or you can click here and go there!

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Call for submissions.

All Quaker bloggers and blog readers are encouraged to submit or nominate blog posts by March 15, 2009 that exemplify the "convergent conversation" that has been occurring online in recent years.

To provide a printed quality publication of a sampling of online writing that represents the convergent conversation among Friends.

To provide greater access to these online writings to Friends meetings, Friends churches, and Quaker individuals who may not have easy access to the internet or who may prefer print media over electronic media.

To provide an easier way for Friends' faith communities to refer to and discuss ideas contained in these online writings (e.g. study groups).

DETAILS: In keeping with the purpose of this publication, all submissions and nominations must be blog posts, must have the permission from the blog writer to be considered, and must not have appeared elsewhere in print. (We wish to avoid the complication of dealing with copyrights, permissions, etc.)

LENGTH: Length is not a primary consideration: As in vocal ministry during worship, the nature of the content and substance are more important than length, since some of the shortest posts (messages) can raise significant points for reflection and can help advance, deepen, or enrich the conversation.

HYPERLINKS: All links that appear in the original blog post must be footnoted to include either the corresponding URL or a relevant remark intended by the original link or both.

Links that appear in the original blog post may be omitted [changed into plain text] within the submission at the discretion of the blogger.

Links in posts that are *nominated* will be left to the writer of the original blog post when possible or otherwise will be dealt with at the discretion of the editors.

TOPICS: Submissions and nominated posts can cover a range of topics that is as broad as the Quaker blogosphere itself.

Keep in mind the purpose of the publication. Just because a blog post exists online doesn't mean it speaks to the intended theme of this publication.


Personal story
Personal concerns
Meeting for Worship
Faith and practice
Quaker schisms and branches
Quaker language and terminology
The Testimonies
Families and children
First Day School
Adult Young Friends
Quaker renewal
History and early Friends
NUMBER OF SUBMISSIONS or NOMINATIONS: There is no upper limit. However, if it's helpful to have one, how about we say that each blogger can submit up to four posts of her or his own choosing; and each person who nominates blog posts can nominate up to six (assuming the nominations will not be from the same single blogger).

DEADLINE: March 15, 2009. Our hope is to have this publication available at the 2009 FGC Gathering! Get your submissions and nominations to us by March 15, 2009 to allow us to review the blog posts and begin the self-publishing process.

HOW TO SUBMIT or NOMINATE BLOG POSTS: Send the following information to lizoppATgmailDOTcom:
    Blogger's name
    Blog post's title
    Blog post's URL

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please email lizoppATgmailDOTcom directly, or post a question here.

January 12, 2009

Hearts and minds prepared

I recently sat in on a committee meeting that was responding to an overall (and age-old) concern about how to encourage Friends to arrive on time on First Day mornings.

The concern was reframed for the small group of us, and we were asked instead to consider the question:

    How do we change the culture of the meeting that has (unintentionally) made it okay to be loud, talkative, and rushed outside the meetingroom until the very last moment before the doors to the meetingroom are closed?
Well, that wasn't the exact wording of the question, but it gets to the heart of the matter.

Somehow over time, the entry area near the meetingroom, including the hallway and library, has morphed from being a transition space for people to slow themselves down to being the "red zone" where folks better hurry themselves up, all in the name of preparing themselves to enter worship.

The committee considered the popular advice about coming to meeting with "our hearts and minds prepared":
In worship we enter with reverence into communion with God and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Come to meeting for worship with heart and mind prepared...
--Britain Yearly Meeting 1.02.9
How can Friends be reminded of that advice? What needs to happen so that inward preparation is not just tended to when folks enter the meetinghouse but when they get out of their cars and cross the parking lot, when they leave their house to head to meeting, or when they rise in the morning on First Day?

Is it enough to leave the radio off when driving to meeting? to turn off the television the night before? to ignore the newspaper that's tossed on the stoop at dawn on First Day?

Is it only about removing distractions from the first part of First Day? Can we also be intentional about where we do place our focus as well?

Can we read a snippet of a Quaker pamphlet that morning, or read a verse or two from Scripture, or spend a few moments considering what we are grateful for?

Can we help our children get accustomed to the practice of stopping in their tracks, taking a breath, and being still for even half a beat before grabbing the door's handle and going into the building?

Can we shift our focus away from worrying about getting to meeting "on time" and instead turn our intention to one of arriving at meeting "on purpose"?

It's not about when we arrive, it's about how we arrive.

Not only that, but at what point do we move from focusing on helping ourselves prepare for worship as individuals and turn to recognizing and affirming that we are, in fact, part of a corporate body that is also preparing for worship?


RELATED POST: What if Quaker worship came with instructions?

January 10, 2009

Guest Piece: Marshall on the historical nature of Quaker journals

What follows below is a couple of informative comments that Marshall Massey left on my previous post.

At one point in our exchange of comments, I posed to Marshall, "How can we know what it was that Woolman wanted to convey [in his journal] with that story?"--that story being the one where Woolman is worshiping with a group of Native Americans, offers some vocal ministry, and is met with with the words of Native American worshiper among them: "I love to feel where the words come from..."

In his thoughtful replies, Marshall describes the historical nature, purpose, and structure of the journals of early Friends and of journal writers long before--and since--that era. For any of us who might be keeping a journal, whether for personal reasons, for purposes of accountability, or out of a sense of God's leading, this post might be of interest.

I present this guest piece, then, with Marshall's permission. I have set it up as a sort of dialogue between him and me, since his comments emerge in response to my own questions. The hope is that by viewing my original questions, readers will understand the context out of which Marshall answers.

I have added line breaks and blockquotes in some places as well. Lastly, wherever convenient and available, I've included links to items that Marshall references.

LIZ: How can we know what it was that Woolman wanted to convey with that story--or did he explicitly say, This is why I'm writing this...?

MARSHALL: How we can know, dear Liz, is because this was the traditional purpose of Quaker journals, for a hundred years before Woolman and a hundred years after him: to record the evidence of divine grace working through the writer.

It was also the purpose of Calvinists' journals, from long before Quakerism got started through the time of Jonathan Edwards and beyond. The Quaker journal-writing tradition was, in fact, an adaptation of the Calvinist journal-writing tradition.

Woolman was working within a well-established, well-defined Quaker spiritual discipline. There is no evidence that he rejected Quaker discipline of any sort.

LIZ: As usual, I appreciate how you are able to put things into a larger historical and Quaker context. My guess is, though, that if I asked five other Quaker historians about why Quaker ministers kept journals, I might get another five or six answers!

MARSHALL: Hi again, Liz!

I would certainly encourage you to ask other Quaker historians about the reason, if you have the time.

Failing that, there is actually a wealth of scholarly opinion about the topic available in book form. Daniel B. Shea's Spiritual Autobiography in Early America (University of Wisconsin Press, 1968, 1988) might be a good place to start, since Woolman's Journal is one of the ones he examines.

Shea, who is regarded as a leading figure in this field, writes,
"The explicit arguments of early spiritual narratives were highly conventional. ... The spiritual autobiographer is primarily concerned with the question of grace: whether or not the individual has been accepted into divine life, an acceptance signified by psychological and moral changes which the autobiographer comes to discern in his past experience. ... Quaker journalists dealt less with the subtleties of the conversion process than with the witnessing life wrought by conversion. ... Each of these selections [reviewed in Shea's book] obeys conventions established for the journal in seventeenth-century England, in content and vocabulary, and in the vindication of Quaker habits and beliefs. ....Outbursts of originality were incidental, brief, and contained within the larger structure of the journal, which was already well established by 1700. Conformity to this structure resulted from a group mentality, but also of course from the common experiences of traveling Friends." (Pp. xxv-xxvii, 9-10, 39-40.)
If your quarrel is with my statement that "the traditional purpose of Quaker journals ... [was] to record the evidence of divine grace working through the writer," you might also want to give some consideration to the opening words of Woolman's Journal: "I have often felt a motion of Love to leave some hints of my experience of the Goodness of God...."

As Shea points out, these words are not very different from the opening words of the memoirs of Jane Reynolds and Elizabeth Collins; nor, I might add, from those of the memoirs of Elizabeth Ashbridge, Thomas Chalkley, Ruth Follows, John Griffith, Alice Hayes, Jane Hoskens, Henry Hull, Joseph Oxley, Jane Pearson, Joseph Pike, Elizabeth Stirredge, and many other Quaker journal-keepers.

The standard formula was something along the lines of
"[I have had it on my mind/I have felt drawings/It hath been in my heart] for many years to [write an account/leave some hints/leave a short testimony] of the [providence/precious visitations] and [tender/gracious/merciful dealings] of the [Almighty/Lord/All-Wise] with me from my youth up."
Often the writer adds this is "for the benefit of my children" or "for those who come after" or something similar.

A few writers elaborate the basic idea more fully, such as Thomas Shillitoe, who began, "Believing it required of me in my early life, to keep a record of the merciful dealings of the Lord with me, and the remarkable manner in which he, in his tender compassion, has followed me by his reproofs of instruction, accompanied by such offers of help, as when faithfully co-operated with, never have failed to be all-sufficient for every work and service He has been pleased to call me to perform...."

Or Daniel Wheeler, who opened by saying, "Having frequently derived much valuable instruction, from the perusal of the narratives of those who have long since exchanged an earthly for an heavenly inheritance, the thought has at times occurred to me, that a short memoir of my own life, — however evil 'the days of the years of my pilgrimage' have been; might, under the divine blessing, be made in like manner useful to others."

In every case, the words amount to the writer's own ideas of the journal's purpose, which is a fusion of (1) wanting to note how she has been a beneficiary of grace, (2) wanting to show that she has been blessed to be an instrument through which grace came to others, and (3) wanting the journal itself to serve as such an instrument. The three motives do not seem to me to be separable; they are, in fact, three aspects of a single motive driving the work.

Perhaps the other historians you have in mind will be able to offer the other understandings to which you refer. If so, I'll be most interested to read them!

With all good wishes —