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Weymouth NJ Church

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 8:06pm

Weymouth NJ Church

Categories: Blogs

Wait, a new Quaker blog, what retroness is this?

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 5:54pm

And just as we’re talking about the continued downward entropy of blogging, here’s a new Quaker blog. Isaac Smith of Frederick (Md.) Meeting (and Twitter) has the first post in a time-limited, “pop-up” blog. He’s calling it “The Anarchy of the Ranters.” I’ll overlook the similarity to this blog’s name in the hope that the people who have been dropping comments on mine since 2004 asking about the difference between Quakers and Ranters will start bothering him now.

The first post is “Defensiveness as a Theological Problem for Friends,” a good blogging debut.

The question of who belongs in the church, which has always been of central importance, is what’s at stake here, and unfortunately, it is often being answered in ways that are hurtful and alienating—the opposite of what the gospel promises.

Categories: Blogs

Jason Kottke on blogging, 2018 edition

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 3:56pm

Two things on the internet that I consistently like are NeimanLab and Kottke.org. The former is Harvard’s journalism foundation and its associated blog. They consistently publish thought-provoking lessons from media pioneers. If there’s an interesting online publishing model being tried, Neiman Labs will profile it. Kottke is one of the original old school blogs. Jason highlights things that are interesting to him and by and large, most of the posts happen to be interesting to me. He’s also one of the few breakout blogging stars who has kept going.

So today Neiman Labs posted an interview with Jason Kottke. Of course I like it.

There are a few things that Jason has done that I find remarkable. One is that he’s threaded an almost impossible path that has held back the centrifugal forces of the modern internet. He never went big and he never went small. By big, I mean he never tried to ramp his site up to become a media empire. No venture capitalist money, no clickbait headlines, no pivot to video or other trendy media chimera. He also didn’t go small: his blog has never been a confessional. While that traffic when to Facebook, his kind of curated links and thoughts is something that still works best as a blog.

Although I don’t blog myself too much anymore, I do think a lot about media models for Friends Journal. Its reliance on non-professional opinion writing prefigured blogs. It’s a fully digital magazine now, even as it continues as a print magazine. The membership model Kottke talks about (and Neiman Labs frequently profiles) is a likely one for us going into the long term.

Last blog standing, “last guy dancing”: How Jason Kottke is thinking about kottke.org at 20

Categories: Blogs


Quaker Mystics - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 11:16pm

sky sighed to the earth

let us make a world


mountains thrust


wind and rain

so soft



wore down all






primordial soup


fed by sunlight




the mind of God

a million million years ago


planned a cell


life began




till capable of carrying

a soul


container for speck

of God’s love


so we could love in return


adding a particle of love

to the universe

Categories: Blogs

SJLI February 2018 BiMonthly Gathering

American Friends Service Committee - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 2:07pm
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 5:30pm to 7:30pm SJLI February 2018 BiMonthly Gathering

You are invited to join the Social Justice Leadership Institute for our first BiMonthly Gathering of 2018 on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 from 5:30-7:30PM at the Friends Center (1501 Cherry Street Phila, PA 19102).  We will have refreshments, speakers, and fun activities.  Join us as we explore history and decolonization.  Please submit your RSVP by Monday, February 19, 2018 at 5PM.

Photo: AFSC/
Categories: Articles & News

Send a #ValentineToGaza

American Friends Service Committee - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 1:53pm
Electronic Intifada logo Photo: AFSC/ News Source: Electronic Intifada
Categories: Articles & News

The Deaths Of Racism, And Racism In Deaths

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 7:31am

Charlottesville VA – I came here for a panel on Dr. King’s Ill-fated Poor Peoples Campaign of 1968, 50 years past and now aiming to be re-launched.

Charlottesville’s Lee, the (somewhat) hidden monument.

I did my part in the event (having written a book about the 1968 campaign); but I want to admit here that my mind frequently wandered, hankering to head downtown to visit some of Charlottesville’s new & newly-more historic sites while I was nearby.

Two in particular: the shrouded statue of Robert E. Lee, awaiting its fate, and a few blocks away the graffiti wall on the stretch of 4th Street now rechristened “Heather Heyer Way.”

Late that rainy afternoon, the panel finished, and the chance came. My activist photographer friend Laura from Toronto, also a panelist, felt a similar urge, and soon we were in “Emancipation (neé Lee) Park” clicking away. 

The statue’s future is as shrouded as its visage: the city says “Move it!” But the state says, “No!” Perhaps a judge will decide.

And the struggle continues more concretely: several locals told us that the shroud has repeatedly been removed under cover of darkness, leaving some unknown persons’ icon on horseback once more boldly facing the rising sun. These “strippers” remain uncaught, the shroud is quickly remounted; and the cycle goes on.

We had no time to keep vigil to see the next unveiling; daylight was fading, and we wanted to pay respects at the touching Heather Heyer memorial, which feels already timeless though it is entirely of chalk drawn on a brick wall. 

These two sites were impressive enough, but another, unknown to us then, was waiting.

Our gracious hostess Helena, an activist publisher, told us about it: a Confederate cemetery near her house, owned by the University of Virginia.

When we got there a grey morning rain was falling. Helena explained that the cemetery was originally for UVA faculty, and all around us were headstones commemorating the resting places of professors of this & scholars of that.

“Confederate Dead.” “Fate denied them victory. but crowned them with glorious immortality.” A few of the “new” state-supplied headstones for the rebel soldiers.

Then during the Civil War, a sizable chunk of it had been requisitioned by the Confederate army, which set up a field hospital nearby. In its beds — as was true in most such facilities on both sides — disease killed as many or more as formal combat. So the ground here was essentially a mass soldiers’ grave; there were records of the occupants, but their actual locations were hazy.

Here too was the city’s civil war memorial which will likely be left alone, to mark and celebrate the Confederate Dead. (That by the way is fine by me; the bravado of its base inscription rang with an emptiness that ought to be obvious to all but the diminishing ranks of the hard core.)

Still, there were wrinkles even here: Helena pointed out bright, new-looking headstones, dating burials from 1862 to 1865. They not only looked new, but were in fact so, placed by order of the state government, which was funding the refurbishment of such Confederate cemeteries statewide. Further, these new markers do not stand where the soldiers they named yet lie;  but never mind.

Helena then beckoned us through an opening in the low wall, into what seemed an empty field next to the rows of scholars and fighters.

This plot had once been selected to be added to the cemetery (since UVA professors keep stubbornly falling short of immortality, glorious or in). But when archaeologists tested the ground, they discovered that it too was full of graves, unmarked, and previously unknown.

Have you guessed where we’re going with this?
This unmarked and long-forgotten additional cemetery contains the remains of 67 persons of color, many but maybe not all enslaved, who worked for (& likely were owned by) UVA.

Once this fact was verified, the University reacted, with the markers shown here. Note that those listed on the sign Helena is pausing to read (shown below), may include some of those resting here, but that is no more than somewhat educated guesswork, as incomplete as most of the names it records.

We took more pictures, and then went on to join meeting for worship with Charlottesville Quakers. Then I headed home, leaving behind the images of funerary splendor for deceased academics, nameless unmarked grass for their onetime chattels, and continued mawkish attention by the state to those who died to keep them subject to such enforced forgetting.

No wonder Lee’s shroud keeps coming off.  But at least, Heather’s  graffiti is still there.

The post The Deaths Of Racism, And Racism In Deaths appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

February Flashbacks

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Fri, 02/09/2018 - 4:16pm

I’m terrible with blogging these days, aren’t I? Actually my last few bits of writing have been for Friends Journal. I’m posting once a month for the Editor’s Desk series highlighting upcoming themes and I’m writing every other introductory column for the print magazine. For example, here’s February’s The Roots of Our Lifestyle. I chime in when a vintage post of mine hits Reddit as happens every so often and I often drop “hey, this would make a interesting article” comments in lively Facebook threads, along with a link to the Friends Journal submissions page.

Well, one way I’m trying to psych myself is to look at my history of blogging every month.

1 Year Ago: February 2017

A rare juicy post of mine from the last few years and one of the few times anyone has followed my blog’s Ask Me Anything link.

AMA: Conservative and Liberal Friends? But even these brief observations are imprecise and can mask surprisingly similar talents and stumbling blocks. We all of us are humans, after all. The Inward Christ is always available to instruct and comfort, just as we are all broken and prone to act impulsively against that advice.

5 Years Ago: February 2013

Some fun!

Sectarian Symptoms: Jumpers, Shakers, Quakers, and… 

10 Years Ago: February 2008

Oh look at that, I was commenting about a Friends Journal article!

Looking at North American Friends and theological hotspots. Over on Friends Journal site, some recent stats on Friends mostly in the US and Canada. Written by Margaret Fraser, the head of FWCC, a group that tries to unite the different bodies of Friends, it’s a bit of cold water for most of us.

15 Years Ago January 2003

I was writing about U.S. foreign policy seemed to be avoiding a growing situation in North Korea. Oh my, too timely still.

Tough Time to Love War(Making). President Bush and his team of war mongerers have been so busy looking at Iraq that they’ve given North Korea just sporadic attention. Recently-declassified reports show that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has known much more about North Korea’s nuclear bomb making over the last dozen years than anyone’s been admitting.

20 Years Ago: Early 1998

This is like one of those Facebook memes where you present a preschooler with a piece of technology that disappeared decades ago and ask them to guess at the use. Hey kids, gather round: have you ever heard of the Polaroid 600 and Spectra series? I had them both.

Burnished Polaroids. This is a style of photography I got into a few years ago. It’s appeal is simple: it takes little technical expertise and the process itself is limited in time. Everything boils down to basic form: a successful photo depends on setting up a good shot and then bringing it’s potential out in the burnishing. 

Categories: Blogs

Human Rights City Report Press Conference

American Friends Service Committee - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 12:48pm
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 10:00am
Categories: Articles & News


Quaker Mystics - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 11:18am

It’s late at night

A dangerous time

on the computer


Conscious mind drifts


Out comes my soul

to lead my heart


I am closer to God

when my mind is less –

perhaps grieving, scared

tired, confused


And I remember

There is nothing I can do

to be worthy of God’s love


And I need do nothing

to earn that precious gift


God loves me

Is with me


I am

because God is


All powerful,

I could have been made a bug or tree


I was instead assembled as me

Just the way intended


Set down with only

the faintest memory

of living in God’s heart


Free to wander

this three-dimensional world

trying to figure out


my only task is to love




I feel led to publish a poem each week. Writing in my ministry, and this is a way to let others know how God can work in people’s lives. My prayer is that they will be useful.

Categories: Blogs

Writing Opp: Creativity and the Arts (Due 3/5)

Friends Journal - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:49pm

We know there are plenty of Quakers who only need a little nudge to share their perspectives with a wider audience. If you know anyone who should write about Quakers creativity and the arts, please share this with them!

Early Friends were famously skeptical of art; modern Friends pretty much fully embrace it. Why the abrupt turnaround? What reasons might there have been for early strictures? And what cautions from early Friends might they still hold for us today?

Is all art the same or is there such a thing as Quaker art? Are some types of art more conducive to bringing us to a worshipful mode? To inspire us to change the world? To understand the life experiences of others? Does it even matter if art accomplishes any of this?

We don’t want only want articles that ponder existential questions: We’d love to reproduce Quaker art alongside stories of how artists found their medium. We’d also be interested to hear about the business side of being a Quaker artist: is there a way to promote ourselves and our art without being a self-promoter? Is a humble Quaker artist bound to stay an unknown Quaker artist?

And finally: the last time Friends Journal published an issue specifically devoted to the arts, we were in our final months of being a black-and-white magazine. We’d love to reproduce some art in full color! Here’s our description for our June/July issue, “Creativity and the Arts”:

Show us your art! Is there a kind of Quaker visual or musical aesthetic? How do we relate to early Quaker’s love/hate relationship to the arts?

Join the conversation and write something for us by March 5, 2018:


We’re always looking for new voices and perspectives from our community. Is there a side of the story you think isn’t being told or heard among Friends? Contact me with questions or ideas at martink@friendsjournal.org.

The post Writing Opp: Creativity and the Arts (Due 3/5) appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

An Infinite Number of Second Chances: Three Books About Life Between Lives

What Canst Thou Say - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 11:18am

Three Books About Life Between Lives recommended by Rhonda Ashurst and reviewed by Mariellen Gilpin for preparation for the May issue of What Canst Thou Say on the theme “Other Lives”

Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives. Michael Newton, Ph.D. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN. 1994.

Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives. Michael Newton, Ph.D. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN. 2000.

Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives. Brian L. Weiss, M.D. © 1988. Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Michael Newton is a hypnotherapist who began interviewing people with severe pain issues without clear physiological causation. His books record snippets of his conversations/interviews with some of his patients, in which he explores their traumas in earlier lives to learn how to relieve physical ailments in their present lives. Along the way, he began to investigate what a soul’s journey is like between one life and the next. If one were to read Newton’s books expecting to explore his reasoning about whether and how one might have consciousness between a death in one life and a birth into the next, the reader will be disappointed. Newton’s objective is not an argument for the existence of souls based on his interview data, but socio-anthropological studies, if you will, which explore the structure and the milestones of a soul’s journey between lives.

Journey of Souls, first published in 1994 and revised five times by the 38th printing in 2017, focuses largely on the stages of a soul’s journey from one life to the next: first passing the gateway into the spirit world; then one’s homecoming party, so to speak, with others in our group of soul-intimates; our review of our learnings (or not) in one’s past life; choosing a new life and a new body; and the experience of rebirth. He also reviews the journey of a soul as it moves from beginner to intermediate and then advanced soul-hood over the course of many lives, many centuries.

Destiny of Souls, published in 2000 and reprinted 24 times by 2017, explores in some depth various aspects of a soul’s journey: the ways spirits connect with the living; forms and functions souls may take when they wish to stay connected to earth between lives; how souls may undertake to restore themselves between lives on earth; the group systems that souls may choose between lives; how souls undergo evaluation (not judgment and punishment) of their lives; the linkages between spiritual and human families, including reuniting with souls who have hurt us; and some specializations that advancing souls may choose (ethicists or nursery teachers, for instance); and finally, how souls are supported and guided in their choices of future lives.

Once the reader adapts to the lack of support for those of us thrown in at the deep end of Newton’s pool, we can notice that there is actually a great deal of support for souls during their lives between lives. The Universe, according to Newton, seems to understand that we are all in a process of learning how to do things better. There is much less emphasis in Newton’s universe on depicting the horrors of eternal punishment; much more emphasis on reflecting on one’s life and how we can do it all better next time, and the time after that. It is a universe with perhaps an infinite number of second chances; opportunities to do it better. One can hope in Newton’s universe, also, for an infinite number of opportunities to rest, reflect, think it over before trying again.

Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives. Brian L. Weiss, M.D. © 1988. Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

This book will provide some of the narrative background for the change in therapeutic methods and thinking one lacked when reading Newton’s works (see above). We can follow the developments when traditional psychotherapist Brian Weiss first interviewed Catherine under hypnosis, and stumbled on something he knew very little about: reincarnation and past-life memories. His scientifically-trained mind resisted, but he couldn’t deny the reality of his observations either. And, as her traumas in past lives emerged under hypnosis, Catherine’s lifelong anxieties and phobias began to diminish—sometimes disappearing entirely after just one session. As they continued to work together, she began to develop psychic abilities, among other things sharing some remarkable revelations about Weiss’s own family and his dead son. She was also able to serve as a conduit of information about life and death from highly-evolved spirit entities. Weiss’s style of questioning Catherine became much less conventionally therapeutic, and her pace of progress much more rapid. Weiss himself was no longer so fearful about his own death, although he continued to scrutinize carefully every new piece of information from their sessions together. Using past-life therapy, he was able not only to cure Catherine but begin an innovative and highly effective treatment modality.

One cannot help but reflect, upon reading Newton and Weiss’s works, how their views of a constantly-evolving human potential over the course of many second chances, many lives, fit with the more traditional psychological framework, which tends to assume that some diagnoses/labels, such as sociopathy for instance, may be organic in origin. Does such a label remain in place for a single soul through the course of many lives? Stay tuned for more information from later researchers.

Categories: Blogs

Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes–Sing us a bit of your famous Blues!

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 8:45am

From Not Without Laughter, by Langston Hughes

It’s Langston Hughes’s birthday (Feb. 1, 1902- May 22, 1967). Known primarily as a poet, Hughes was a versatile writer: by his mid-twenties he had published challenging essays in national periodicals, and two books of poetry. I’m now reading his first novel, Not Without Laughter, published in 1930, when he was 28.

This passage evokes a domestic scene in a small Kansas city, modeled on Lawrence, where Hughes spent several boyhood years. Hughes was proud of his humble roots, and the creativity it wrung from hardship, like the largely homemade blues songs by the itinerant laborer Jimboy. Here he has returned after a long absence seeking work. In Hughes’s prose, we can hear the poetry woven through it.

Jimboy was home. All the neighborhood could hear his rich low baritone voice giving birth to the blues. On Saturday night he and Annjee went to bed early. On Sunday night Aunt Hager said: “Put that guitar right up, less’n it’s hymns you plans on playin’. An’ I don’t want too much o’ them, ‘larmin’ de white neighbors.”

But this was Monday, and the sun had scarcely fallen below the horizon before the music had begun to float down the alley, over back fences and into kitchen-windows where nice white ladies sedately washed their supper dishes. . . .

Long, lazy length resting on the kitchen-door-sill, back against the jamb, feet in the yard, fingers picking his sweet guitar, left hand holding against its finger-board the back of an old pocket-knife, sliding the knife upward, downward, getting thus weird croons and sighs from the vibrating strings:

O, I left ma mother
An’ I cert’ly can leave you.
Indeed I left ma mother
An’ I cert’ly can leave you,
For I’d leave any woman
That mistreats me like you do. . . .

It was all great fun, and innocent fun except when one stopped to think, as white folks did, that some of the blues lines had, not only double, but triple meanings, and some of the dance steps required very definite movements of the hips. But neither Harriett nor Jimboy soiled their minds by thinking. . . .

“Do you know this one, Annjee?’ calling his wife’s name out of sudden politeness because he had forgotten to eat her food, had hardly looked at her, in fact, since she came home. Now he glanced towards her in the darkness where she sat plump on a kitchen chair in the yard , apart from the others, with her back to the growing corn in the garden. Softly he ran his fingers, light as a breeze, over his guitar strings, imitating the wind rustling through the long leaves of the corn. A rectangle of light from the kitchen-door fell into the yard striking sidewise across the healthy orange-yellow of his skin above the unbuttoned neck of his blue laborer’s shirt. 

“Come on, sing it with us, Annjee,” he said.

“I don’t know it,” Annjee replied, with a lump in her throat, and her eyes on the silhouette of his long, muscular, animal-hard body. She loved Jimboy too much, that’s what was the matter with her! She knew there was nothing between him and her young sister except the love of music, yet he might have dropped the guitar and left Harriett in the yard for a little while to come eat the nice cold slice of ham she had brought him. She hadn’t seen him all day long. When she went to work this morning, he was still in bed–and now the blues claimed him.

In the starry blackness the singing notes of the guitar became a plaintive hum, like a breeze in a grove of palmettos; became a low moan , like the wind in a forest of live-oaks strung with long strands of hanging moss. The voice of Annjee’s golden, handsome husband on the door-step rang high and far away, lonely-like, crying with only the guitar, not his wife, to understand; crying grotesquely, crying absurdly in the summer night:

I got a mule to ride.
I got a mule to ride.
Down in the South somewhere
I got a mule to ride.

Then asking the question as an anxious left-lonesome girl-sweetheart would ask it:

You say you goin’ North
You say you goin’ North
How ‘bout yo’ … lovin’ gal?
You say you goin’ North.

Then sighing in rhythmical despair:

O, don’t you leave me here,
Babe, don’t you leave me here.
Dog-gone yo’ comin’ back!
Said don’t you leave me here.

On and on the song complained, man-verses and woman-verses, to the evening air in stanzas that Jimboy had heard in the pine-woods of Arkansas from the lumber-camp workers; in other stanzas that were desperate and dirty like the weary roads where they were sung; and in still others that the singer created spontaneously in his own mouth then and there:

O, I done made ma bed,
Says I done made ma bed.
Down in some lonesome grave
I done made ma bed.

It closed with a sad eerie twang.

“That’s right decent,” said Hager. “Now I wish you-all’d play some o’ ma pieces like When de Saints Come Marchin’ In or This World Is Not Ma Home–something Christian from de church.”

“Aw, mama, it’s not Sunday yet,” said Harriett.

“Sing Casey Jones,” called old man Tom Johnson. “That’s ma song.”

So the ballad of the immortal engineer with another mama in the Promised Land rang out promptly in the starry darkness, while everybody joined in the choruses.

“Aw, pick it, boy,” yelled the old man. “Can’t nobody play like you.”

And Jimboy remembered when he was a lad in Memphis that W. C. Handy had said: “You ought to make your living out of that, son.” But he hadn’t followed it up–too many things to see, too many places to go, too many other jobs.

“What song do you like, Annjee?” he asked, remembering her presence again. . . .


Not Without Laughter is a rich novel, packed with color and insight and compassion. Hughes is frank abut the impact of racism, and the anger many people of color carried because of it. Yet he is also candid about the internal tensions of this community:  lighter vs. darker color discrimination; jagged class distinctions and snobbery; even struggles over religion. 
Yet there is an underlying generosity to his storytelling, a sense of a people being beleaguered but not defeated.


Langston Hughes


The post Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes–Sing us a bit of your famous Blues! appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs
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