by C. Wess Daniels who is the William R Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College. Writing here about Quaker faith, participatory culture and pedagogy, Quaker faith, Christianity in the West & sketchnoting.
“John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7–9 NRSV)
Usually, when we think and talk about Christmas, we think of it as a time to be together with loved ones. Christmas is the time when school shut down and students return home. It’s a time when the airports are full of hustle and bustle as sons and daughters try to make their way back home with the grandchildren in tow. It’s a time of the equally loved and hated office Christmas parties. There’s carol singing with friends. And at least for me, I can count on gaining at least a few pounds, because of all the baked goods that enter circulation. It’s also a time of great family tradition and religious traditions. I really do love this time of year, I love the opportunity to reflect on the biblical texts that surround this particular narrative. I love considering the Spirit of Christmas.
I love Christmas eve services and yes, I love all the Trader Joe’s Christmas cookies.
If we are fortunate, if things have gone more or less okay in our lives than most of us don’t have to do any of these things alone.
The fireweed flower loves the hurting and dying places. It helps to heal the ground…
During Advent, I want to remember that the frozen soil never forgets Spring.
I want to never forget the light within, and the reality of Jesus in all life, and live into Heaven here and now, as it is, and in so doing to anticipate and feel the truth of Jesus’ words, that it is already here, and that it is coming.
And here and now, I think it looks and feels a lot like bomb craters and industrial clear-cuts ablaze with Fireweed’s purples and reds and greens. And Korean elders singing, holding hands and standing in the way of cement trucks trying to lay foundations for a new naval base on top of their home, Gangjeong Village (Jeju Island, South Korea). And standing in the streets of every major city in the US, demanding a better and more just society in which Black Lives Matter. And learning traditional ways and affirming elders on Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, while crying for the earth and future generations and swearing to do everything in one’s power to stand up to the Keystone Oil snake trying to illegally run through native lands against the people’s wills.
And it looks a whole lot like eating and singing and telling stories together. Face to face.
I believe very strongly in creating a participatory learning environment for students but when it comes to creating a syllabus it seems like the only option is to use the standard “banking” model of education (Freire). As the instructor for a course, I lay out specific texts, assignments and themes for the students to digest in class and organize it in an easy to follow document we call the syllabus. [^1] But I want something that can move beyond this parameter and allow the students to participate in the actual development of the content within the syllabus.
My question is: How do I get the students more involved and interacting with the actual syllabus from its very creation to how it gets used in class throughout the semester?
I have, for most of my life, been someone trying to organize community, bringing people together, and building connections. For a lot of that time, I put emphasis on showing up for one another: presence is key I would say.
I got a monumental lesson in presence twelve years ago. When my step-father committed suicide in 2003, those who were the most helpful during that crisis, were the people who showed up. Those who came and sat with us. Brought the ministry of cookies and casseroles. They offered no grand theories. No trite explanations. What they offered were silent bodies, sitting in prayerful support. Like a silent cloud of witnesses visible to the naked eye. It was here that I learned how presence is the roots and the ligaments of community. It was faithful presence that got us through that dark night. Continue reading Moving Deeper Still: Three Roots of Community
A revolutionary age is an age of action; ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere. In the present age a rebellion is, of all things, the most unthinkable. Such an expression of strength would seem ridiculous to the calculating intelligence of our times. On the other hand a political virtuoso might bring off a feat almost as remarkable. He might write a manifesto suggesting a general assembly at which people should decide upon a rebellion, and it would be so carefully worded that even the censor would let it pass. At the meeting itself he would be able to create the impression that his audience had rebelled, after which they would all go quietly home – having spent a very pleasant evening. -Soren Kierkegaard (The present Age, p. 35)
There is an interesting article on how various people find themselves studying religion in the NY Times today. In the article, they talk about how attaching religious conversation and shared language to a tradition helps create a place to build community and that it is keeping these things connected that is one of the gifts and challenges of education today:
Within higher education, divinity programs often stand apart from the cult of relativism in the liberal arts and the utilitarian emphasis in professional schools focusing on business and law, for example.
“If you were simply looking for the skills, you might go to the Kennedy School of Government,” said the Rev. Dudley C. Rose, the associate dean for ministry studies at Harvard. “And philosophy and liberal-arts fields have given up on the project of finding a moral language, an articulation of values. That language isn’t found in many places. And when you find it, it’s not easy to abstract it. You have to connect it to a tradition.”
What Rose is suggesting has been given up at other institutions, I see as taking place at a school like Guilford College, where I now work. I think the tension is being held between these differing fields at Guilford. There is a diversity of religion and non-religious expressions, but students come together in various ways, learning how to articulate moral language and values or working out in deeper ways what they already come with, that are connected to the Quaker tradition (or challenge it). Of course, not every class does this explicitly, but my sense so far is that the campus as a whole tries to embody this grounding in tradition in ways that make the school rather unique within the landscape of offerings.
“If God is Love, then all Love is of God. Where Love is—there God is—without exception. If you truly love, or are loved, by anyone, then God is in that relationship, named or unnamed. God touches them through your love. And because God is love, and love is indestructible, as long as you love them you cannot loose them” (Peggy Morrison, Miracle Motors, p. 201).