I’m grateful that I came to the Christian community through the Quaker door, because, for us, even these crucial doctrines — about Jesus, the Bible, evangelism — are to be engaged with discernment and in community rather than understood or imposed mechanically. I don’t panic if someone else rejects a label that I accept. No doubt they’ve learned something on their path that I have yet to encounter. And maybe I have something precious for them as well.
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.
I spent a week last month walking across New Hampshire on a climate pilgrimage sponsored by New England Quakers. Friends in New England are united in our concern for what we see as the tremendous damage humans are doing to God’s creation.Twenty of us...
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.