Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly)

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An Email Newsletter & Blog from Martin Kelley
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Making Sense of the Starbucks Incident

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 7:28am

Here’s a piece we’ve published in the current Friends Journal, written by a seventh-grader from the Friends School in Newtown, Pa. We regularly publish middle- and high-schoolers in our annual Student Voices Project but this is a general feature we published because it’s interesting and fresh and intriguing. Here’s what I wrote about it in my opening column in the magazine:

In Making Sense of the Starbucks Incident, Newtown Friends School seventh-grader Ankita Achanta shows how the Quaker values she’s been taught in classes could have defused a nationally publicized racial incident in a Philadelphia Starbucks. It’s sometimes easy to be skeptical of the Quaker identity of Friends schools, but Achanta reflects back the powerful impact of our collective witness in these institutions.

In Ankita Achanta’s reckoning, Quaker values like integrity are basic universal values of decency. By claiming them, Friends could (and often do) easily fall into the trap of Quaker exceptionalism, but in Achanta’s piece, I see them as something we put special emphasis into. Early Friends didn’t expect to found a denomination; Fox went across the land assuming everyone could be a Friend of the Truth, of Christ, of the Light. The leading influence of the Inward Light is available to all and we can expect to see inspiring incidents of it in action everywhere—even in viral Twitter videos.

Achanta also gave a new-to-me neologism:

As a seventh-grade student attending a Friends school, I have been taught Quaker values. Although I am a Hindu and not formally a Quaker, Quaker values are well aligned with my own religious principles. I am committed to living by them and consider myself a “Quindu.”

Making Sense of the Starbucks Incident

Quaker values do not need to be mere theoretical ideas.

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

Friend Jocelyn Bell Burnell gets Breakthrough Prize

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 9:49am

Famously overlooked for a Nobel, the Quaker scientist has won an award that she will put toward diversifying future researchers:

She’s being given the award for her “fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community,” according to a statement from the prize board. Bell Burnell told the BBC she plans to give all of her prize money to women, ethnic minorities and refugee students aiming to become physics researchers. 

You can read more about Bell Burnell on her Quakers in the World page.

Woman behind 1967 Nobel work finally recognized as top scientist with Breakthrough Prize, awarded $3 million

Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s male colleagues were given a Nobel in 1974 for her discovery of radio pulsars. Now,…


Tip of the hat to Doug Bennett for the suggestion and links.

Categories: Blogs

Doug Gwyn on QuakerSpeak: What Does Quakerism Teach About Connecting to Nature?

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 8:29pm

A new video from Quaker historian Gwyn:

Connecting with nature is about more than just exercise or tranquility. As Quaker author Doug Gwyn shares, even in the 17th century, Quakers were concerned about our disconnection with the natural world and what it would mean for the future.

What Does Quakerism Teach About Connecting to Nature?

Connecting with nature is about more than just exercise or tranquility. As Quaker author Doug Gwyn shares, even…

Categories: Blogs

NYC Friends school back in the spotlight in the NYTimes Magazine

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 6:58pm

A deep dive into a controversy more complicated than it first appears, “A Teacher Made a Hitler Joke in the Classroom. It Tore the School Apart”:

At a meeting with administrators about the incident in late February, members of the high school’s Parents Association said that keeping Frisch would send the message that the school didn’t take anti-Semitism seriously. Another parent told Lauder that this was not the first time Frisch had said or done something inappropriate.

A Teacher Made a Hitler Joke in the Classroom. It Tore the School Apart.

At Friends Seminary, an elite private school in Manhattan, an awkward parody of a Nazi salute opened a…

Categories: Blogs

Quaker cultures and young Friends

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 6:57pm

Emily Provance is back talking about the disconnect between different Quaker subcultures:

In other words, as far as your personal experience tells you, Quaker meeting is supposed to be about fun and excitement—but suddenly, you’re seeing planning and structure instead. Quaker meeting is supposed to be about light-heartedness—but suddenly, you’re seeing methodical rule-following. Quaker meeting is supposed to be about playfulness—but suddenly, you’re seeing cautious cooperation.

Last month I talked a little bit about the problem when Quaker youth culture and meeting culture don’t quite line up.

Transitions: An Application of Cultural Theory

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this article based on some research I came across in the…

Turning, Turning
Categories: Blogs

Friendly Fire: Friends Need to Tell the Truth

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 3:13pm

Are we shortchanging truth?

Friends, if our Quakerism is not prophetic, if it fails to speak truth to power, then what’s the use of it? If it is not grounded in an apocalyptic vision, a conviction that the Kingdom is at hand, then what do we have to offer the world?

Friends Need to Tell the Truth

Originally written in 2016 Truth-telling. It’s hard to say for Quakers today if it matters the way it…

Friendly Fire Collective
Categories: Blogs

Isaac Smith on Quaker Faith & Podcast on Plainness

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 3:07pm

Thoughts after listening to the latest edition of the podcast:

So we can imagine Mark Zuckerberg and his assistant both wearing t-shirts and jeans, but one of them buys from, say, DKNY or Kenneth Cole, while the other buys from Target or Wal-Mart. This would count as a responsible form of plain dress, per Barclay.

Quaker Faith & Podcast on Plainness

This is a really good episode. The leveling up/leveling down question, in particular, is important for Quakers to…

The Anarchy of the Ranters
Categories: Blogs

Facebook superposters and the loss of our own narrative

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 12:24pm

In the NYTimes, a fascinating piece on filter bubbles and the ability of Facebook “superposters” to dominate feeds, distort reality, and promote paranoia and violence.

Superposters tend to be “more opinionated, more extreme, more engaged, more everything,” said Andrew Guess, a Princeton University social scientist. When more casual users open Facebook, often what they see is a world shaped by superposters like Mr. Wasserman. Their exaggerated worldviews play well on the algorithm, allowing them to collectively — and often unknowingly — dominate newsfeeds. “That’s something special about Facebook,” Dr. Paluck said. “If you end up getting a lot of time on the feed, you are influential. It’s a difference with real life.”

A great many general-interest Facebook groups that I see are dominated by trollish people whose visibility relies on how provocative they can get without being banned. This is true in many Quaker-focused groups. Facebook prioritizes engagement and nothing seems to get our fingers madly tapping more than provocation by someone half-informed.

Formal membership in a Quaker meeting is a considered process; for many Quaker groups, public ministry is also a deliberated process, with clearness committees, anchor committees, etc. On Facebook, membership consists of clicking a like button; public ministry, aka visibility, is a matter of having a lot of time to post comments. Public groups with minimal moderation which run on Facebook’s engagement-inducing algorithms are the public face of Friends these days, far more visible than any publication or recognized Quaker body’s Facebook presence. I written before of my long-term worry that with the rise of social media gatekeeping sites, we’re not the ones writing our story anymore.

I don’t have any answers. But the NYTimes piece helped give me some useful ways of thinking about these phenomena.

Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany, New Research Suggests

Towns where people use Facebook more also had more attacks on refugees, building on suspicions that the platform…

Categories: Blogs

Paul Parker: 5 ways to make Quaker meeting houses work for the future

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 8:55am

The recording clerk of Britain Yearly Meeting looks at five ways we can keep our worship spaces active and visible:

We can often get very loyal to our meeting places, and I think that’s natural. We’ve often had some of our most profound personal experiences there. They are important places of community and worship, and they can and do work hard for us. But our loyalty to them doesn’t mean that they’re going to work for everyone, and if they’re not going to become ‘steeple houses’, then I think it’s important that we look at them every now and again and ask ourselves some questions.

5 ways to make Quaker meeting houses work for the future

Quaker meeting houses have long played a key role as places of community and worship. But, asks Paul…

Categories: Blogs

Sam Walton: Putting the protest back in Protestant

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 7:46am

From the Peace and Disarmament Programme Manger for British Friends comes a plea for us not to be afraid of going back to Quaker roots and challenge the abuse of power.

Society’s values are so often in opposition to God’s purposes. Slavery used to be legal. Love between two people of the same sex was illegal in our lifetimes. Our economic system is based on greed and pays no heed to God’s creation. Nation states exist and act for their own enrichment rather than loyalties lying with the Kingdom of Heaven and working for the enrichment of all humanity. When being loyal to God’s purposes runs counter to what society expects it can get pretty rough. There may be persecution, though it varies a lot: from tutting, telling you off for being vegetarian, being given white feathers, right through to imprisonment, jails and the lions of the Colosseum.

Putting the protest back in Protestant — Greenbelt

A blog from Sam Walton of our associate Quakers in Britain As a person of faith, my first…

Categories: Blogs

A New Creation Story

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 8:02pm

A nice piece on Philadelphia Friend O:

For O., a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, carrying this query for pastoral ministry awakens joy in her heart. It raises important questions: Are we transformed by the power of love, during our biological conception as human beings? Might our lives be a measureless love story about creation?

It’s hard to capture O’s personality in ASCII characters. She’s been in a few QuakerSpeak videos.

A New Creation Story: Embracing Love — Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

As Friends, we understand that scripture uses stories about the natural world to describe the spiritual life. But, do…

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Categories: Blogs

Becoming a Quaker Minister

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 8:01pm

I love the gentle, deliberate way Stephanie talks in her QuakerSpeak videos. In this week’s she talks about Quake ministry:

Joining up in that includes making my particular gifts and skills available and not needing it to be about me or accomplishment, but about seeking to really be a part of what God is trying to make happen with and through me and others, and to rejoice in that.

Becoming a Quaker Minister

Stephanie Crumley-Effinger was “recorded” as a minister in Indiana Yearly Meeting in 1982. We talked with her about…

Categories: Blogs

“I Guess I’ll Read My Bible Elsewhere”

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 7:59pm

Mike Bevel with a funny/sad account of a kind of pathetic series of incidents.

The help we want to give — the showy, busy, selfless work — is rarely the help that is needed. And the help that is needed is often boring, with no glamour to it. So, what is to be done? I don’t know. I want to continue my spiritual journey towards/with God; however, I am worried that maybe the Quakers aren’t the home for me that I want.

The post’s title is a response Mike gave in which he channeled his mother’s voice. It’s so spot-on that I can almost hear her say it (I have never met Mike or any of his family but have friends who could deliver that kind of a line with such under-the-radar nuance that more clueless listeners might miss the acres of shade in the tone.

“I Guess I’ll Read My Bible Elsewhere”

A few weeks ago, at the Meeting House in Bethesda, Zach was breathing too loudly while he was…

Small | Wire
Categories: Blogs

Civility Can Be Dangerous

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 12:07pm

From the AFSC’s Lucy Duncan, a look back at Henry Cadbury’s now-infamous 1934 speech to American rabbis and a look at the civility debate in modern America.

Standing up for peace means standing on the side of the oppressed, not throwing them into the lion’s mouth in the name of civility. And interrupting racist violence takes more than civil discourse: active disruption is needed in order for racism to be revealed and dismantled. What good is ineffective pacifism? My commitment to nonviolence is about saving lives.

I gave my take on Cadbury’s speech back in June. I was a little easier on Cadbury, mostly because I think we need to understand the Quaker worldview out of which he was speaking. It’s never good to lecture the oppressed on their oppression, but the classic Quaker idea of speaking truth to all sides still holds value and is something I think we miss sometimes nowadays.

Civility Can Be Dangerous

In 1934, AFSC co-founder Henry Cadbury advised Jewish rabbis to be gentler on Hitler. Is civility a substitute…

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

What gifts of the Spirit are we marginalizing?

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 7:49am

Powerful warnings from Adria Gulizia about what happens when a faith community doesn’t exercise all of its gifts :

Even worse, when we routinely marginalize certain gifts, we begin to see their exercise as dysfunctional and their absence as normative, rather than the reverse. When the prophet challenges us with uncomfortable truths, rather than using our discomfort as an opportunity for reflection and discernment, we tell her to tone it down, complain that she is “unwelcoming” and, if she doesn’t get the message, we run her off.

Welcoming the Gifts God Sends Us

In order to remain healthy and faithful, we must nurture all spiritual gifts, not just the ones that…

In the Shadow of Babylon
Categories: Blogs

Is this what people want?

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 9:05am

Don McCormick is back with this week’s Friends Journal feature. His February article, “Can Quakerism Survive,” sparked all sorts of conversations and is now at 110 comments. Now he’s back with specific suggestions for Quaker growth, inspired by megachurch church growth research and models.

When I read this, I asked myself if we Quakers are providing the equivalent of this type of spiritual guidance. Do newcomers and others see us as meeting their spiritual needs? If they do, do they see this right away, or does it take a while? To answer these questions, I had to learn more about the “clear pathway” that the Reveal literature described. Although Quakerism has great wisdom in the area of spiritual guidance, at first it seemed that it was inconsistent with the spiritual guidance described in the survey.

When I’ve taught Quakerism 101 classes, I’ve try to explain the branches of Friends—and the schisms—not just as theological or cultural phenomenon but as problem-solving preferences. What tools do we reach for in crisis? Do we go inward and recommit ourselves to distinctive practices that we’ve been slacking off on? Do we start reading groups and spiritual friendship programs to train each member to carry the work? Do we blame our Quaker oddities and start using the language and liturgical models of the more successful churches near us? Do we set up committees and produce curricula to support local efforts? Do we look to experts and craft nationwide programs and hire staff and problem solve? I’m not sure these tools need to be mutually exclusive, but in practice I see most Quaker bodies tend to reach for only one or two of these tools. And of course, the tools we chose largely determine both the problems we solve and the unintended ones we create.

What People Really Want from Church and Quaker Meeting

Looking at successful church growth models for ideas to grow our fellowship.

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

Cool historical find of the day

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 6:29am

This is totally cool. The Historic Charleston Foundation in South Carolina is restoring the Nathanial Russell House, a remarkable example of neoclassical architecture on the National Historic Register, and found a fragment what they list as 1868 Friends Intelligencer above the kitchen firebox.

More fascinating discoveries from the walls of the #russellhousekitchen – new artifacts were extracted from cavities above the kitchen firebox on the first floor! This latest batch of artifacts dates to the 1850’s and 1860’s, which I think we can agree is an interesting and… fractious time in Charleston’s history. The most intriguing scrap of paper recovered from the walls is pictured here: a page ripped from a Quaker periodical entitled “Friends’ Intelligencer,” published in Philadelphia in 1868.

Who were the Friends in Charleston in the years right after the Civil War? Was the Intelligencer hidden or just recycled to plug up a draft? I wonder if this could be related to Quaker relief work in South Carolina. The most well-known example was the Penn School on St Helena Island, founded by northern Unitarians and Quakers in 1862 to educate freed Gullah after the slaveowners fled Union troops.

Curious about the fragment, I typed a few of its legible words into Google and sure enough, they’ve scanned that volume of the Intelligencer (hattip to my FJ colleague Gail, who found this link). It shows a date of Fourth Month 20, 1868, though curiously FI also republished it in 1874, which I first found. The poem is credited to Bessie Charles, the English poet also credited as Elizabeth Bundle Charles; it seems to have been published in various collections around that time. The Intelligencer continues today of course.

Historic Charleston Foundation on Instagram: “More fascinating discoveries from the walls of the #russellhousekitchen – new artifacts were extracted from cavities above the kitchen…”

1,003 Likes, 31 Comments — Historic Charleston Foundation (@historiccharlestonfoundation) on Instagram: “More fascinating discoveries from the walls of…

Categories: Blogs

Friends Journal seeking articles on Quakers and Christianity

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 10:38am

The December theme of Friends Journal will look at the juicy topic of Friends’ relationship with Christianity. I wrote up an “Editor’s Desk” post about the kinds of articles we might expect. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s a series of questions that has dogged Friends since we did away with clergy and started calling baptism a “sprinkling,” and it has been an issue of contention in every Quaker schism: Are we Christian? Are we really Christian? Does it matter if we’re Christian? What does it even mean to be Christian in the world?

One reason we began publishing more themed issues beginning in 2012 was so we use the topics to invite fresh voices to write for us. While we’ve long had regulars who will send us a few articles a year on miscellaneous topics, themes allow us to tempt people with specific interests and ministries: reconciliation from war, climate activism, workplace reform, mentorship, ecumenical relationships, the wider family of Friends, etc.

More recently I’ve started these “Editor’s Desk” posts as a way of sharing some of the ideas we have around particular upcoming issues. The post also gives us a URL that we can share on social media to drum up submissions. I also hope that others will share the URL via email.

The absolute best way of reaching new people is when someone we know shares an upcoming theme with someone we don’t know. There are many people who by chance or inclination seem to straddle Quaker worlds. They are invaluable in amplifying our calls for submissions. Question: would it help if we started an email list just for writers or for people who want to be reminded of upcoming themes so they can share them with Friends?

Writing Opp: Quakers and Christianity

It’s a series of questions that has dogged Friends since we did away with clergy and started calling…

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs