Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Our Quaker toolbox includes what one might call “an educative network for Spirit-led workers.” I base this on what I understand of the practice of Friends in the first few years of our movement. This is not out of antiquarian interest, or nostalgia for some by-gone “golden era,” but rather because in that practice I see several characteristics that are well-suited to our times.
Individual Quakers were involved in a broad range of these activities including staffing a medical tent set up to serve protesters in McGuffey Park. The Peace & Social Concerns Committee of our Quaker meeting made a number of decisions regarding what the meeting might do in a corporate way
Disparaged and abandoned by his fellow Quakers, Lay eventually helped win the debate over slavery. He wanted to provoke, to unsettle, even to confound — to make people think and act. His greatest power, indeed his genius, lay in his gift as an agitator. In every meeting he attended, public or private, he drew a line over the issue of slavery. He asked everyone he met, Which side are you on?
However, the geography is not the main problem. This yearly meeting barely functions. One of the Ohio quarters does not meet, and quiet a few meetings do not participate in yearly meeting activities, apparently having no need for the yearly meeting. Like other volunteer organizations, most of the work is done by committees, and in this yearly meeting, most of the committees do not work… When Community Friends Meeting, another bridge meeting, took the marriage of two women under its care in the late 90’s, there was plenty of energy. Suddenly, the session was overflowing with angry Friends…
The most difficult moment for me since the talk’s cancellation came after speaking at an American Friends Service Committee event. A Friends’ Central student approached me, sharing that she had come imagining a “monster” based on what she was told about Palestinians. She was genuinely surprised to see that was not the case and felt comfortable approaching me. It took a lot for me to restrain my tears.
We should never be asking the question, “Are we going to provide childcare?” Instead, I’d suggest the question, “How are we going to provide childcare?” Do we need to step up our donations so that we can hire a paid person to take on this role? Or do we need to set up some kind of rotation-based system so that we all provide childcare, so that parents do not have to fill this role themselves instead of participating in meeting activities? Or do we need to find a third option?
We talked of different types of Quakers, because Quaker meetings have many styles. What unites them is that at least part of their worship includes open worship; they don’t have a hierarchy of leadership but rather share decision-making; and change in the Quaker church is slow, because Quakers don’t vote or debate. I thought I was familiar with the different types of Quaker worship styles, but Mr. Morrison told me that there are some “really different” Quaker churches in North Carolina.
I have not been arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience since the Vietnam War. But after a period of worship at the gates of the Bow plant I felt compelled to join a group who engaged in civil disobedience against this plant that is producing electricity in a way so damaging to our earth. We camped out for 24 hours across the railroad spur where coal is delivered to the plant.
And this kind of writing doesn’t only exclude our children and youth. It also makes life difficult for people who never went to college, people who are still learning English, and people living with a learning disability.
Ministers hold to the awareness of their own ineptitude, first because it’s true, and second because they have come to know the promise fulfilled in them, that the real life and power does come from God. This daily cross, this mortification, is a necessary preamble to knowing God’s power and glory, just as Christ’s death and entombment preceded his resurrection to power and glory.
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What follows are field notes from my experience serving at the intersection of institutional leadership and renewal in the Quaker movement. I hope this reflection might offer encouragement to your work of exploration and discovery in your own context: your local meeting, yearly meeting, other Friends institution, or in some new garden where you find yourself called to labor.
Includes views from Joyce Ajlouny, director of the Ramallah Friends School, and incoming general secretary of American Friends Service Committee.
“Quaker time” is not a thing. We’ve made it a thing. Discernment is not about doing things in “Quaker time,” it’s about doing things in God’s time, which is sometimes much slower than earthly time and other times faster. I don’t think early Friends, the Publishers of Truth, often wrote a pamphlet and then sat on it for six months because they weren’t completely sure about the placement of a comma.
Professor 'Ben' Pink Dandelion, Editor of Quaker Studies, said “This is a very exciting moment for the journal and for Quaker studies as a whole. The new arrangement will be of great benefit to scholars worldwide, in Quaker studies and in the wider humanities.