We have at least one prominent, highly responsible member who "isn't sure it's a good idea" to have a Meeting blog in which "anyone [of us] can post anything."

Whew! I myself much like the idea, but I'm also beginning to see why others have misgivings.

Many of my ideas differ significantly from some I commonly hear expressed by members and attenders of the Meeting. I consider truth a large advantage in controversies, but when I'm with a group that takes other views for granted, I don't think I can speak well enough to have much chance of changing anybody's mind.

Now once a controversy shifts into writing, I can hold my own with anyone willing to read and follow what I'm saying. I'm comfortable with this; it's how I do much of my thinking, an activity I sometimes enjoy.

Many perfectly nice people, competent and intelligent enough to have absorbed the required quota of complex information, have devoted their post-education life to other pursuits--leaving their minds safely anchored to thoughts they first encountered some long time ago, thoughts which they've been using for comfortable mental furniture ever since. Having these thoughts dug up, stirred, played with by the irreverent, gives them no joy.

That, I say, is misuse of a wonderful toy, the human mind. [Is the term "toy" insufficiently serious here? I am extrapolating from experience, from having observed that 1) The best toys require attentive effort for full enjoyment, while 2) People become expert in skills and activities they practice playfully, but are frustrated and reluctant about doing anything they approach as a chore!]

Suffice it to say that my crazy ideas (and others) could be posted here, perhaps seeming to represent the Meeting--while more conventional members would not enjoy posting their own ideas.

The Quaker movement formed amid a spiritually-passionate, contentious, tumultuous period of English history in which Quaker preachers debated vituperatively with spokespeople of other denominations--frequently on issues such as: which of them were false prophets, minions of AntiChrist, or (more charitably) merely blind guides? Many of their contemporaries expected the end of the world soon, or occasionally did things like going naked as a prophetic sign--or (conversely) persecuted unconventional religious behavior. Friends Meetings needed to, and did, recommend some people as ministers authorized to speak for them, while "disowning" the doctrines and practices of people they felt misrepresented them.

Over some 300 years, we've evolved ways to handle the tension between what some individual member might feel divinely led to say or do, and what his Quaker Meeting as a whole could approve. We tend to be free about individual stands, cautious about anything said in the name of a Meeting. A modern Quaker might write a book, include the fact that he belonged to a certain Meeting, and so long his material wasn't too disreputable, not need to ask the Meeting's approval.

A blog moves the tension into a whole new context. People aren't always rational, attentive, or nice online; mistakes could be made, fusses erupt in public!

So, why do I consider the risks worth taking?

A basic issue, to me, is whether Friends have anything in our tradition that the contemporary world needs, perhaps desperately, to hear. Look about; read the news! What can you observe and conclude from that?

Have we been given a message? I can't doubt it! But silence, in itself, has not sufficed to let us agree, even between ourselves, what that message should be.

I was struck by some observations by Samuel Bownas, a Quaker preacher who came to the American colonies around 1700, early enough to be jailed here for his preaching. When he later returned to England, he felt a kind of deadness had crept into some meetings, that made it difficult to speak there. "I found it very hard work in many places, and in some meetings was quite shut up, but where the people who did not profess with us came in plentifully it was not so, there being an open door." He approached another Friend, and asked "what he thought might be the reason, why it seemed more dead amongst Friends in this nation now, than in some other places. He gave this as a reason, that ‘the professors of truth in that nation were very strict and exact in some things, and placed much in outward appearance, but too much neglected the reformation and change of the mind, and having the inside thoroughly cleansed from pride and iniquity, for thou knowest,' said he, ‘the leaven of the Pharisees was always hurtful to the life of religion in all shapes.'"

Friends consider ourselves called to mitigate the political process in our nation, to persuade public officials, and the public, to wiser, more enlightened policies. We struggle to craft reasonable statements, persuasively written, that a whole Meeting full of idiosyncratic persons can agree to. This, I think, helps clarify our own thinking--but we do not find the world begging us for our opinion, no matter how considered.

What's needed more, I believe, is more honest give and take between us as fallible human beings. I know I can be foolish, never more so than when I struggle to pretend otherwise! What I often feel the Spirit demands from people, is that we hold up our end of disagreements--but keep listening!

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I love the idea of the internet giving Quakers permission to be imperfect and messy in a way that we're not generally with each other. I've been talking about this middle and owning class cultural norm for a while. So I applaud you for wanting to find a way through the walls we keep between us.

The misgiving I have about such a thing is about corporate discernment.

A blog where any member of a meeting can post something is simply a collection of individual thoughts, ideas, discernments and musings.

To call such a thing a meeting blog misses one of the most important parts of a Quaker meeting for me--its corporate nature.

We come together and struggle with each other to discern how we as a group are led to act, or not act, and as you say it relies on a free exchange, an honest exchange, an exchange that lifts up the quietest truth rather than bows to the loudest voice. And as you point out, we listen.

But we listen as a group.

I find that when I'm in a group of Quakers who are trying to discern capital T Truth, it's easier for me to capital L listen than when I'm alone. I've felt that sense of unity when we've found that Truth, and nothing meets that feeling as I sit in front of a computer screen, typing or reading.

I have another suggestion--how about your meeting have a ning network like this one where everyone has the opportunity to blog, but you do so together?
I don't know if this is what you have in mind, but Freedom Friends Church has an online forum where anyone from the church (or visitors) can post. Some Friends use the forum like a blog. For others, it is a way to stay in touch and share what is going on in our lives. The clerk also posts the minutes from business meeting and other announcements from the church. We have had the forum for a few years now and I don't think it has upset too many people!

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