April 25, 2009

Maxxed out

The last two to three weeks have been a blur for me. I think the blur may begin to diminish during this upcoming week. Here's what I've been up to:

1. The father of two Quaker friends of mine who are siblings took a turn for the worse about two weeks ago and passed away shortly after that. I have been supporting my friends as they and their partners--also friends of mine--were supporting their parents. The memorial Meeting for Worship was this afternoon.

2. The meetinghouse is needing to close down, literally, for at least two months to begin major repairs, including mold abatement, replacing a portion of the roof, and a number of other things. I've been on the periphery of preparations, helping get the word out, communicating with the smaller of the three Meetings for Worship that we have, etc. Of course, lots of us have been doing these things, and a sizeable committee has been carrying the lion's share, including relocating all major Meeting activities. But still.

3. I've been working on all things Ministry & Counsel. Not just the memorial, for which I had little logistical work to do, and not just the additional support in preparation for the building's closing, but also continuing to address the nitty gritty of the committee. Hmm: Committy nitty gritty. (Oh boy, I'm tired.)

4. I'm continuing to work on the Quaker blog reader. Here's a progress report:

I continue to work on pulling together the book by compiling blogposts about our Quaker experience, faith, and practice. I now think of it as a "Quaker blog reader" rather than a Convergent Friends reader, in part because of comments that many Friends have shared with me through phone conversations, email correspondence, and survey responses.

Chris M has been a supportive sidekick and has helped me think through a number of challenges along the way. He and I have also been comparing notes about what blog posts might be included in the final publication, and those decisions are likely to be made in the upcoming week or two. There are about 150 blog posts from nearly 40 bloggers to consider, based on survey responses, personal recommendations, and a few Del.icio.us tags. w00t!

I anticipate that the book will have a 5-8 sections or chapters, with each section having 4-5 blog essays. I suspect the whole thing will total 35-40 entries, and I'm excited to be at this part of the process!
5. I've been connecting with my partner from time to time at a big international film festival that's in town. She goes to about 45-50 films in a two-and-a-half-week period. I go to about eight. That's a lot of time apart. If I want to see her, I have to see her at a movie house until after the festival is over. Thankfully, there are some films that I've enjoyed going with her to see.

6. I pulled together a large book sale of Quaker books. It was supposed to run over the course of a few weeks but given the somewhat accelerated pace of dealing with the Meeting's repairs, the book sale got cut short. Still, I had over 120 titles available--all Quaker books--and Friends seemed really jazz by it. The book sale was held between the two largest Meetings for Worship on First Day, and I put out a much smaller selection for the Midweek worship later that week. If anyone wants a copy of the book list I put together, let me know and I'll send it to you.

Okay, now it's off to bed at a reasonable hour so I can attend worship tomorrow!


April 12, 2009

Darkness at the time called Easter

The other day I learned something new about the whole Easter thing. I learned that on Good Friday, in many Christian denominations, a Tenebrae service is held. Through Facebook, of all places, I learned just what that means and from what context it arises.

Something's been working on me ever since.

For one thing, since I was not raised in the Christian tradition and nearly all of my peers and childhood friends have been, I lack that experience. I cannot connect around the rituals and traditions that surround the time called Easter.

It puzzles me that as members of a faith tradition that purportedly strips away what is not God, we as Friends often organize Easter egg hunts for the kids and celebrate with chocolate. But do we tell one another about how we sometimes feel God has left us, God is dead to us, and about how at other times we rejoice when we feel God's presence resurrected within us...?

I guess we do, but maybe it's more often talked about in our homes and not so much in our meetings. Instead, at this time of year, a number of Friends offer ministry or afterthoughts about their experiences at church, and I just can't connect. I don't feel a part of the corporate body at the time called Easter. I have to work on remembering God's Love for me is still present...

And then last night, I was talking with a good friend of mine who is a long-time attender among Friends. I told her about my discovery of what a Tenebrae service was, and she in turn opened up to me about how much she enjoys Easter morning and the trumpets during the church service and the singing Hallelujah He is Risen!

I was pleased to see my friend's joy and excitement for the coming day, and I can sense the power of the stories and of the Good Friday and Easter worship services. Friends spoke of them during Meeting for Worship this morning and a couple of people even broke out in song at the rise of meeting.

I won't deny anyone their joy. But neither can I deny my grief.

Over and over again, I grieve the connections I will never have. I mourn the experiences that are not my own and, as a result, tell me I'm different.

Is this truly the right faith tradition for me if I cannot relate to the Christian narrative that undergirds it?

I have to work on remembering God's Love for me is still present; God's Love will arise again in me...

But will I be with others to recognize that and to sing Hallelujah..?

So it is that at a time of jubilation and celebration for many--He is Risen--I find myself in my own darkness, my own Good Friday, on First Day.


April 6, 2009

My experience as a contributing editor to QuakerQuaker

Over on her blog, Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones, Gil has a post that touches on the tension between ministry and vanity. In that post, Gil inserts a statement with which a few commenters resonate:

I gain a lot from listening to others, but I realise that part of me also wants to be heard. I want to be recognised by the 'proper Quaker bloggers' who choose which posts appear on QuakerQuaker and sometimes I find myself wondering what I have to write to make that happen!
That got me thinking:

How effective have I been in my service to the Quaker blogosphere as a "contributing editor" to QuakerQuaker?

From time to time, I review the guidelines for editors, the pertinent points being these:
  • Post should be explicitly Quaker.

  • Post should be timely.

  • Post should be interesting.
Tucked away in the guidelines are a few other notes of interest, including this one:
  • Don't bookmark everything you find. If the post feels predictable or snoozy, just ignore it (even if the writer or topic is important).

But now let me talk about my own experience in tagging posts--or not tagging posts--for QuakerQuaker.

There certainly are posts I've come across that I've liked but seem to cover territory that is familiar to many blog readers, like the basics of worship. So I leave those untagged.

There are other posts that seem to me to be too specific to the situation of a particular meeting or committee, and those go untagged as well.

And there's a third type of post that may have everything to do with the spiritual development of the Quaker blogger but little to do with how that person is growing into her or his own Quakerism. No tag.

I don't think any of this information, though, speaks to Gil's initial musing.

For me, the reality has been that in the past two years or so, I haven't been able to keep up with the number of Quaker blogs that have come into being. I don't read as much or as regularly as I used to, and I imagine that I simply never get to a large majority of all that is out there. To Gil and Heather, I can tell you until this past week, I didn't look at your blogs unless another blogger whom I read regularly linked to you.

I completely understand how that comes across as elitist, and I'm sorry for that.

On the other hand, I certainly don't feel like "a proper Quaker blogger"--I don't think any of the contributing editors do!--so how can I (or we) work to erase that image?

I also can tell you, even though I've added to my bookmarks in the past two weeks a half-dozen blogs that are new to me, I have yet to look at them since. Circumstances in my life currently require me to be more selective in how use my time:

I read less therefore I tag less.

Maybe all of the other contributing editors of QuakerQuaker have experienced severe time crunches, too, or have fallen into the blackhole of Facebook...

When I first got involved in blogs in 2004-2005, there were a handful of active Quaker blogs, maybe four or five. It was fairly easy to visit each of the blogs, read an entry one day, make a comment, and return to the blog the next day to read other comments as well as see the blogger's personal reply.

As the Quakersphere (Chris M's word) expanded, it was harder to remember where I had left a comment, but worse, it was harder to keep up with the new reading while also continuing to work on The Good Raised Up. Somewhere in there, Martin set up his own "Blogwatch" in which he alone tagged and listed those blog posts there were "explicitly Quaker, timely, and interesting."

The Quakersphere continued to grow, though, and that's when Martin overhauled his Blogwatch and invited a few bloggers and frequent blog-commenters to serve as additional contributors to it. Later Martin turned the whole darn thing into the website QuakerQuaker. (Martin, feel free to correct and/or expand on my oversimplification of QQ's history.)

It seems as if the larger the blogosphere has become, the more infrastructure to the site has been needed. Sometimes infrastructure leads to a perceived but not necessarily real distance between blogger and contributing editor.

I do my best to minimize that distance by commenting on blogs, especially the ones that are new to me and speak to my condition. On very rare occasions, a blogger will send me an email privately, either to say, "Hey, I wrote this post that may have some bearing on QuakerQuaker; will you take a look at it?" or to say "Hey, I read this item that talks about Quakerism; you should take a look at it."

To be clear: I'm not "friendly" to frequent emails of either type and fortunately I've been spared them. When I do get such an email (only one or two a year), I send a personal reply.

Despite its very human and somewhat imperfect tagging system, beyond a doubt QuakerQuaker has been a key entry point for the newest cohort of bloggers, as evidenced in part by the 2007 online "carnival" to celebrate the website and the Blogfather.

Times certainly have changed as the blogosphere has grown up. But as the blogs have ballooned, the number of QQ editors has stayed the same, and some of us, like myself, are dedicating fewer hours, not more, to "scanning hundreds of websites" that might provide material for QuakerQuaker.

I don't know if anything will change. I don't know if my explanation and description of my experience helps. I certainly don't speak for each of the other contributing editors or for Martin as the web manager/web minister.

But what I like about Gil's post is, in the spirit of thoughtful and sometime rigorous exchanges in the Quaker blogosphere, the perceptions and questions about just how things get tagged for QuakerQuaker are now out in the open, and the topic has a bit more breathing room for all of us to consider it more fully.