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Quaker Jazz

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 1:03pm

This week’s QuakerSpeak interviews musician Colton Weatherston. I love the way he relates the communication and collaboration of jazz musicians to Quaker worship:

Especially artists and musicians, we often don’t have the same point of view or even the same background. Each of us will bring a lot of baggage into the meeting of the musicians and we have to build trust with each other and people need to feel free to express their ideas as a soloist without feeling told by the leader how exactly to play—we have to work it out as an ensemble. And I think that’s very true with meetings also.

Those with long memories might remember that I interviewed Chad Stephenson after he made a comparison between new jazz traditionalists and Convergent Friends at the 2009 Ben Lomond conference (I believe he wrote an expanded version for the Spirit Rising Quaker anthology but I can’t find a link).

How Quaker Meeting is Like Jazz

As a jazz musician, Colton Weatherston finds solace in silent Quaker meeting, where he doesn’t have to to…

Categories: Blogs

I’m not the only one who digs archives

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 12:28pm

Philadelphia Friends are so modest that blog posts on Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s website don’t even have bylines. Or maybe someone forgot to fill out a field. Either way, here’s a first-person account by an anonymous Philadelphia-area Friend in their early 60s who started reading Friends Journal archives: Some Thoughts from the 1955 Friends Journal

I selected the issue closest to my birth date and began reading. The discussion of the Korean conflict, of the arms race, of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, could all have been written today. And for a lunch-time meditation, this article, on preparing for meeting, was just the right size for reading over my soup and sandwich.

Categories: Blogs

Reedwood Friends Church Seeks Full-Time Pastor

Friends United Meeting - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 7:38am

Reedwood Friends Church, an independent, multi-cultural Quaker Church, located in southeast Portland, Oregon, and until recently a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting, is seeking applications for a full-time pastor.

They are seeking an experienced Christ-centered pastor who has a proven track record in effective community building and organizing, a strong ability to recruit, supervise and energize volunteers, experience working with cross-cultural and inter-generational communities. Successful candidates will deliver challenging and inspiring sermons and show a demonstrated ability to pursue active, continuous personal, professional and spiritual development.

For complete job description go to www.reedwood.org. Applications may be made by sending a cover letter, CV/resume, and written statement showing personal commitment to Quaker values and testimonies to jobs@reedwood.org.

Categories: Articles & News


Quaker Mystics - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 10:36pm

For uncounted generations
priest told congregation

Dominus vobiscum
God be with you

They replied

Ed cum spiritu tuo
And also with you

Marvelous blessings to share
Grant one another

What a change
if instead

We blessed
May you know that God is with you

Responded with
And may you know as well

The difference between



How to let people know
God lives
tucked warmly behind
each person’s heart

Waiting to be found

Categories: Blogs

Does this need to be said?

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 6:21am

A great piece from newish Quaker blogger Josh Talbot on the personal struggle to follow the peace testimony: Not Falling Into the Fire of My Own Ire.

Losing yourself to anger is possible even with anger focused against injustice and cruelty. You can become so focused on the target of your rage. That you do not notice when you have lost sight of your goals and are only in it for the fight. Even following the Peace Testimony of Non-Violence we need to recognize when we are no longer being Non-Aggressive.

Like many convinced Friends, I came to the society through activism. I had met plenty of people who let righteous anger serve as cover for more visceral hatred. One eye-opening protest in the 90s was in a rural part of Pennsylvania. When one of the locals screamed the cliche of the era—“Go get a job!”—a protestor shouted back, “I’ve got a job and I make more than you.” It was true even as it was cruel and irrelevant and braggy.

I didn’t see this kind of behavior as much with the Friends I saw at various protests, which is largely why I started gravitating toward them whenever possible. I could see that there was something in the Quaker culture and value system that was able to navigate between righteous and personal anger and draw the line in difficult situations. I love Josh’s description of the “Craig Ferguson” method:

I ask myself. “Does this need to be said?” “Does this need to be said by me?” “Does this need to be said by me right now?” Doing this cuts down on moments of spontaneous anger.

This could also describe the Quaker discernment method for ministry. Maybe there’s something to the care we take (or at least aim for) in that process that gives us a little more self-discipline in the heat of protest or that helps us sort through thorny ethical issues that run through our own community.

Not Falling Into the Fire of My Own Ire.

The hardest of the Quaker testimonies for me to personally follow is the Peace Testimony. I’m positive that…

Categories: Blogs

"Between the Lies" -- a Book Review

Holy Ordinary (Brent Bill) - Tue, 04/10/2018 - 1:13pm
Between the Lies is Cynthia Graham's newest book, a contemporary Southern Gothic mystery set in the 1950s.

It tells the story of how Sheriff Hick Blackburn of Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas finds himself enmeshed in a case of a young Black man being railroaded for a crime that Blackburn's pretty sure the boy didn't commit -- but is in a town outside his jurisdiction. This is set in a few hot, humid July days in 1954. And more than the weather is hot and sticky. Graham's story deals with small town corruption and racism, the power and abuse of white privilege, political expediency, Jim Crow, family loyalty, and more.  She weaves all these together into a compelling tale well told.

The landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring state laws that established "separate but equal" public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional figures prominently in Between the Lies. So does the burgeoning role of the U.S. Department of Justice in the field of civil rights (though the Department of Justice did not have a full division addressing civil rights until 1957).

Primarily, though, this is the story of one man and two towns coming to grips with insidious racism and corruption engendered by it. Broken Creek, Arkansas is not Mayberry, North Carolina. And Sheriff Earl Brewster is no Sheriff Andy Taylor. Broken Creek and Brewster are both dark -- even in the light of day. Perhaps even more so in the light of day.

Graham's story-line is tight and her characters are well-written and believable. Hick is a good guy who's flawed, Brewster is a baddie who you love to hate but who has some (hard to find) redeeming motivations, there's a Pulitzer seeking small town newspaper man, befuddled mostly good-hearted deputies, an earnest young female lawyer, parents trying to do their best for their children, moonshiners, compromised clergy, and more. Each character is integral to the story. There's not a wasted bit of dialogue and the story moves at a good pace.

I won't say more about the story-line. To do so would, I fear, ruin it for readers. Let me just say that this was a book that kept me reading. Though set in 1954, it has a lot to say to us today (without being preachy -- which it could have easily become). It held my interest all the way through. There were a number of things that I didn't see coming (always good in a mystery). And the ending was a mixture of relief, wondering, and sadness.

I am looking forward to reading more about Hick Blackburn. I like this man who struggles with his past and grows into his future.
Categories: Blogs

Profiting on empire

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 04/10/2018 - 6:23am

We think of slavery as issue that tore Friends apart as the consensus on its acceptability shifted in our religious society. A review of a book shows that in the U.K., gun manufacturing underwent this shift: Review: ‘Empire of Guns’ Challenges the Role of War in Industrialization

On its face, the decision by the Society of Friends to censure a flagrant arms merchant in its ranks may not seem surprising. Pacifist principles were central to Quaker ideology, as was opposition to slavery. Guns fueled not just war but the slave trade. Yet Mr. Galton’s father, and his father before him — and indeed many other Quakers who long dominated Birmingham’s arms industry — had been unapologetic gunmakers for 70 years without attracting rebuke. What had changed in the interim, in ways that are deeply interrelated, were society and the guns themselves.

Today the debate on guns in the U.S. is focused on assault weapons being used by individuals but the Galton debate is more about the role of a Quaker-produced product in war. Britain of course was an empire, an empire held together by force of weapons. Some percentage of the industrial revolution in Britain was financed by war and its products often were employed overseas in the maintenance and extension of the empire (I’m thinking for example of trains).

When I first read John Woolman I was struck by his calling slavery a product of war. I usually think of it as a human rights and dignity issue (and of course it was and Woolman was particularly sensitive to the human dimension) but it was also a type of highly organized warfare. Seeing the systemic nature of the trade as a whole let Friends better see the unacceptability of slavery—and imperial weapons manufacturing.

Review: ‘Empire of Guns’ Challenges the Role of War in Industrialization

In her new book, Professor Priya Satia aims to overturn the conventional wisdom about the role of guns…

Categories: Blogs

AFSC South Star Newsletter: Spring 2018

American Friends Service Committee - Tue, 04/10/2018 - 2:51am
AFSC South Star Newsletter Spring 2018 Cover Photo: Photo: AFSC

The spring 2018 issue of the South Star shares work the AFSC is doing to loosen the hold that the roots of oppression have on poor and marginalized communities. Our South Region weed-pullers have been hard at work in the West Virginia teachers’ strike, in offering sanctuary to five undocumented individuals in North Carolina; to literally planting the seeds of growth in community farms in New Orleans and Baltimore; and in so many more places, in many more ways.

Categories: Articles & News

Is “Christian Democracy” Possible in the U.S.?

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 9:36pm

The Guardian: “Christian democracy, a political ideology embodied by figures like Germany’s Angela Merkel, contributed to establishing stable democracies in Europe in the aftermath of the second world war. The US was often deeply supportive of this process, yet never cultivated an analogous political movement at home. Now that it is facing a serious institutional threat of its own, it can perhaps learn from what it has long preached abroad.

The role of Christian democratic parties and agents in the creation of the United Nations, the European Union and the international human rights regime was decisive.

Given how different all this is from the direction taken by the American right of late, is there any chance that something of the sort might actually take hold in the US? Far from a fanciful speculation, there is a clear constituency for a political movement founded on such premises in this country. As George W Bush’s former speechwriter Michael Gerson notes in the Atlantic’s latest cover piece: “One of the most extraordinary things about current politics … is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump.” It’s so extraordinary, in fact, that it is hard to imagine Christian voters remaining loyal to Trump if faced with a better alternative.

Well, maybe. But finding “a better alternative” won’t be easy.

Still, there’s plenty  of wisdom here. American evangelical Christianity COULD in theory move way from the current regime, which mocks almost every aspect of its core.

But I see four BIG hazards that will need to be overcome on the way to becoming a better option:

1. The Mormon hegemony. While most evangelicals supposedly condemn Mormonism as a “cult,” it has become a major power center in their political world (cf. Mitt Romney), one which is organized behind a solidly reactionary social-economic agenda, and it will not yield the floor easily.

2. Christian Zionism: a tenacious, well-funded crusade, with a wide following, firmly allied with most of the most dangerous & reactionary elements of the Israeli government, and panting for its chance to bring on Armageddon.

Christian Zionism

 3. “Christian Dominionism.” These are the cadres who firmly believe that their sort should rule like Old Testament Kings, enforcing the most brutal Old Testament strictures (i. e., death to LGBTs & others). Roy Moore is their kind of guy.

And last but hardly least—

4. Racism. Sure, racism is everywhere in American religion. But major chunks of evangelicalism  long ago abandoned its initial reformist notions and retreated into a segregated nativist ghetto, which made it the seedbed for the second rising of the Ku Klux Klan, the host for many less well-known pillars of Jim Crow, the key to the GOP’s “Southern Strategy,” and now shelter the most loyal legions of the 45 regime. A few voices are crying out in that wilderness, but they are still lonely & mostly scorned.

I’m no expert on how their European counterparts overcame their own obstacles, which were the opposite of trivial, but for two generations they’ve done well enough to produce leaders of the caliber of Angela Merkel. Yet Merkel’s hold is slipping there, and the alternatives look grim. 

Considering the state of American evangelicalism in 2018, it’s hard to imagine this movement evolving and spawning a resurgence of humane “Christian Democracy” here, or shoring up its beleaguered outposts across the Atlantic.

Germany’s Angela Merkel: the last Christian Democratic leader standing in Europe?

The post Is “Christian Democracy” Possible in the U.S.? appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

The Kingdom of God is Freedom – Why Are We So Busy and Anxious?

Micah Bales - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 5:54pm

When I first moved to Washington, DC, one of the first things I noticed was how busy everyone was. The capital of the United States is a place where people come to fight for their dreams. This city draws ambitious, well-educated, high-achieving people from all over the world.

Few other cities offer the kind of intellectual stimulation and challenge that our city does. Living here, we think fast and talk fast. We work hard to achieve a more positive and prosperous social order through business, science, and government.

But there’s a dark side to living in a land of such high expectations. Our culture leads to high performance and innovation, yes – but also to stress, workaholism, burnout, and even despair. When work becomes an all-consuming identity, all our other relationships – family, friends, hobbies, faith community – risk being diminished. Work and career success becomes the bright center of our universe, and all else must find its place in orbit.

For those of us who want to follow Jesus, this is an especially challenging dynamic. Jesus calls us to surrender our whole lives to loving God and neighbor. He commands us not to worry, and to give away what we have to those who are in need. He says, “don’t concern yourself with tomorrow, but show love to others – even your enemies – today.”

Our collective focus on career success is at odds with the life of gospel simplicity that Jesus teaches us. The unceasing treadmill of achievement threatens to overwhelm the joy and rest that Jesus offers us. The peace of Christ is swallowed up by the demands of sixty hour work weeks, networking, and an endless parade of goal-oriented tasks.

In this environment, even our faith can feel like just another task to be completed. Sunday morning worship – check. Spiritual disciplines – check. Grace before dinner – check. Prayer is yet another conference call we need to fit in before dinner.

But that’s not the gospel. The good news of Jesus is abundant life – freedom from fear, hatred, and the tyranny of busyness. As we learn to follow him, Jesus becomes the center – not another task to perform, but the unitive meaning and foundation of our lives. He liberates us from our task-oriented, success-dominated culture. He relativizes all those other demands in our lives. He reminds us that there is only one thing that is needful – his life, his presence, his love.

In Jesus we can find rest, relief from the burden of busyness. This is good news. Yet few of us are willing to walk this path, because it demands that we surrender our need to be important, be productive, be affirmed by our culture, colleagues, and bosses. It means giving up the security that this world offers in order to inherit the peace that the world cannot give.

What does this look like for you and me? How is Jesus calling us to embrace the bold and courageous spirit of the gospel in our daily lives? What would it mean to reject the culture of anxiety and overwork? How can we support one another in living as friends of Jesus, and inviting others to join us?

Related Posts: Is My Life Too Busy for Contemplation? What Does it Mean for Me To Believe In the Resurrection?

The post The Kingdom of God is Freedom – Why Are We So Busy and Anxious? appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Do Friends Query?

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 1:45pm

Doug Gwyn is next up on QuakerSpeak, this time answering What is a Quaker Query?

The Quaker Queries are a wonderful invention of asking ourselves some simple questions… I’ve heard it said that throughout much of our history, we were shopkeepers and business people, and we were used to doing inventory all the time. And the queries are a kind of spiritual and moral inventory that Friends do well to keep track of.

It’s become kind of easy to make fun of queries. The classic use was as questions formally asked and formally answered in Quaker meetings for business. As Gwyn says they were a form of accounting. Local congregations would go though a set list and send them to quarter meetings to sift and answer so they could in turn send it up to yearly meeting sessions. I’ve seen this process followed at Ohio Yearly Meeting. It’s fascinating if a bit tedious.

I could imagine the process being useful if for no other reason that it gave Friends a chance to pry a bit into one another’s lives. Do all the members of our community have their alcohol use under control? Are we really committed to peace in our communities?

These days a form of over-simplistic query is are written on the fly, with an implicit “or” that I don’t always find particularly helpful. “Do Friends avoid the use of styrofoam cups?” [or do you all hate the Earth?]. Used this way, queries risk becoming a list of busybody norms to followed. We congratulate ourselves for not using paper napkins at a conference we flew to.

As Doug points out, it helps to have a little humility when it comes to queries. They’re one of the more useful items in the Quaker toolbox. A good query will have something to say to each of us, no matter where we individually are in our spiritual journey.

What is a Quaker Query?

What is a Quaker query? As shopkeepers and businesspeople, Quakers developed queries as a way of taking “moral…

Categories: Blogs

"Eva": Peace. Humanity. Forgiveness. A Film You Must See

Holy Ordinary (Brent Bill) - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 8:51am
I went to a film premiere last evening. That's not something I often do. Peggy Tierney, a good friend and fellow Quaker, gave Nancy and me tickets to the premiere of "Eva," the story of a remarkable woman.

Nancy and I knew some of Eva Mozes Kor's story. We had visited her CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana where she met with us. And I'd read (and blurbed) her book Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of A Mengele Twin in Auschwitz published by my friend Peggy's Tanglewood Publishing. It's a powerful book for readers from 6th grade on through adult.

Despite this I was not prepared for the effect being at the premiere had on me.

At one level it was a very nice evening. I enjoyed seeing friends and learning more about the production of the film. And as the film progressed it was grand to see Peggy and her son Gabriel featured in the film, along with my rabbi friends Sandy and Dennis Sasso.

Peggy had told me that Gabriel's going with Eva to Auschwitz changed his life. It was good to hear him tell that story himself.  Gabriel was a natural on screen -- so composed, well-spoken, and passionate. My favorite line of his was, "Eva's a 4'9" badass!"

The Sassos both talked about how forgiveness is at the heart of Judaism (other theologians/rabbis in the film disagreed), citing the opening prayer of Yom Kippur. Sandy, though, noted that not everyone can pray it or forgive others of the sins committed against themselves. I especially appreciated her comments (as I recall them) about how criticizing others who can't forgive is not helpful or good. I certainly can understand why some of the victims feel unable to forgive. While I hope that I could, flawed as I am, I'm not certain I could.

The film, though certainly presenting Eva as a heroic figure, pulled no punches. She is portrayed not as a saint but as a real life woman who suffered horribly (her parents and two of her sisters were killed in the camp and her twin died as a result of Nazi "experiments" performed on her) and who eventually learned the power of forgiveness. The film shows Eva's life as an angry activist, pushing countries and media to search for Dr. Mengele, disrupting the "nice" Holocaust memorials (she was arrested at one in the US Capitol rotunda), and more. It tells how she came to forgive and why. The film also interviews other survivors who vehemently disapprove of her forgiveness stance. It showed Eva's work since to promote forgiveness, healing, and peace as the way this world needs to go. The film shows her moving from anger to love, all the while never forgetting what she and the others interred in those camps endured. She bears witness both to the evils and horrors of Nazi brutality and to the power of forgiveness.

This film shows how Eva models the truth of Quaker William Penn's statement, "Force may subdue, but love gains, and he that forgives first wins the laurel", the laurel, in Eva's case, being a release of the anger and bitterness that was consuming her. It is a story of triumph of the human spirit when it's empowered by reconciliation and forgiveness -- even in the face of the unforgivable.

Eva is a powerhouse -- and a scamp. She has a delightful sense of humor, speaks her mind (often without a filter), and feels she has lots of work still do (at 84). She gave remarks after the film and our Governor, Eric Holcomb, who also appears in the film presented her with a bouquet and a big hug (he's 6'6" -- so quite a contrast between the two).

This powerful film deserves a wide viewership. It will be in film festivals around the US and world and hopefully distributed to movie theaters and PBS stations (the producers and sponsor are working on distribution deals). It will be on WFYI-TV in Indianapolis on October 25.

The film's website says:
Eva Mozes Kor
At 10, she survived experiments by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. At 50, she helped launch the biggest manhunt in history.
Now 83, after decades of pain and anger, she travels the world to promote what her life journey has taught:
Peace. Humanity. Forgiveness.

Peace. Humanity. Forgiveness. Three things this world so desperately needs. Thank you, Eva.
Categories: Blogs
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