On Learning How to Lose

It occurred to me recently how hard it is for people to lose, to give up, let go, or just admit that maybe they had it wrong. Why do we fight tooth and nail to get our own way? While this may not seem all that new, the part of this that really had an edge for me was when I realized that the people who seem to have the hardest time with losing are those who identify as Christians!

But surely this is all wrong!

People of faith, certainly within the Christian tradition, should be great examples of how to lose well. Shouldn’t we be known for people who don’t throw tantrums when we don’t get our own way, rather than being willing to – in some cases quite literally – go to all-out war over something? In Christian theology there is a larger perspective than one’s own – so if I consider myself a Christian I become a part of something much bigger. I learn that I can let go because I trust that there are greater forces at work in the world. Everything really is not all up to me. There may be other needs, perspectives, or desires at work.

But beyond this, losing is built into the Christian narrative.

Continue reading On Learning How to Lose

Rebuilding Faith Community

W hen we think about renewal and “rebuilding” our faith communities, practices, and programs we are a part of, it is important that we focus on the strengths and places of life so that we are building on that which is most alive, rather than spending so much time or focus on the pathologies and weaknesses of the places we find ourselves. I have found that these weaknesses and pathologies persist whether you give them energy or not, but containing them within a framework of strengths helps the community not become overwhelmed by the issues.

One of the tools I have found extremely valuable for doing this is the social model of Appreciative Inquiry, a model of renewal that I have had the privilege of walking a number of communities through. Appreciative inquiry is a participatory change process that helps a community focus on the life that is already within the community. While there is a whole process to Appreciative Inquiry, it all starts with the kinds of questions you ask. A.I. puts a lot of care into the designing of questions that are meant to stimulate passion and gratefulness for the community, in order to draw out the kinds of insights that might help us to build upon the strengths. 

For instance, A.I. asks questions such as:

  • What brought you to this community and what keeps you here?
  • What are three dreams you have for this community?
  • In your opinion, what is the best part of this community? What is the core?
  • What do you bring to the community – this could be something that is common knowledge or things that people may not know about?

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask these questions as a part of a series of Sunday morning sessions I led on the topic of renewing faith traditions at a Quaker meeting. The class was a combination of some of my work and Brent Bill’s great pamphlet: A Modest Proposal for The Revitalization of the Quaker Message. There were about 20-25 of us who worked through this reading and topic over the course of about 5 weeks. 

I think the conversation was worthwhile and would highly recommend Friends wanting to have a discussion around renewal of their meetings to reading through Bill’s pamphlet. As a part of the discussion series, I also put together an eBook with some of my thinking on the subject that can be found here. I think both resources work well together.

Continue reading Rebuilding Faith Community

Upcoming Visit to the Pacific Northwest

Dear Friends on the West Coast,Recorded Minister, Lloyd Lee Wilson and I will be traveling to the Pacific Northwest in June. Our goal is to travel in the ministry “in the old style,” no program, no agenda, just show up, share in worship together, and see what God might do among us. I wanted to share the itinerary with you in case you are interested in connecting while we are there. I look forward to reconnecting with folks, sharing in the ministry that the Spirit is doing among you there, uplifting and encouraging that work, and sharing about the work we are doing here in Greensboro and Guilford College.Tuesday June 5, 2018 – 7 PM – North Seattle Friends Church (Seattle, WA)

Wednesday June 6, 2018 – 7 PM – Camas Friends Church (Camas, WA)

Friday June 8th, 2018 – 7 PM – Freedom Friends Church (Salem, OR)

Saturday June 9, 2018 – 7 PM – Newberg Area Churches (Newberg, OR)

Sunday June 10, 2018 – Portland Area Churches/Meetings (Portland, OR)
* 10–12:30 PM – Reedwood Sunday Morning
* 6:30 PM – Multnomah Evening

Monday June 11, 2018 – Multnomah & Eugene / Klamath Falls Friends Church (Portland , OR)
* 7am – Multnomah Monthly Meeting Bible Study
* TBD PM – Eugene Friends Church

Using an Evernote Template for Research

I have become increasingly interested in creating templates for Evernote. A template is useful for things you might come back to a lot, such as a basic project plan or for a process you use a lot. Recently, I created a “template” with a checklist of steps I want to remember to do everytime we want to publicize an event at the college.

One template I recently created is a template for doing (Quaker) research. I wanted to share this because you could create something similar for your own writing and research in your own field.

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Background: This template is was created for an assignment I like to have my students do in class called a “biography as theology” paper.  In these papers, students are asked to write a biographical account that looks at how their person lived and what their living says about their believing (the idea is taken from James Wm. McClendon Jr.). This template lays out in pretty clearly the steps needed to develop a well-researched paper on their subject with all the links and necessary information to make it as easy as possible on the researcher later.

It occured to me after creating this, with a good bit of help from my Guilford College colleague and archivist Gwen Gosney Erickson, that this kind of template would be useful to me for my research as well. I can easily duplicate the note, put it into a new notebook created for my current research topic, and then plug in any specific sites and steps to fit the needs of the project. Not only do I not have to recreate the wheel, I a robust process already in place that can help me get started.

If you’re an Evernote user, feel free to click on the template link and click save to save it to your own Evernote library. If you’re not an Evernote user, what are you waiting for? After saving it, I’d encourage you to adapt it to your needs or create your own step by step template for your writing and research process.

Let me know if you have any questions or what you come up with in the comments below.

Soulforce Bible Study

I know that many of you who read this blog have interest in learning more about the bible from a liberatory / inclusive / radical framework. I cannot recommend the work of Soulforce enough in this vain. Their work is to challenge “Sabotage Christian Supremacy” and they do this as Christians and other folks who are drawn to spiritual work but may not identify as Christians. I have known about the work of Soulforce for some time and am inspired by what they do.

That is why I am sharing this with you:

Starting in July they are hosting an online “Vacation Bible School” specifically for LGBTQI and questioning students ages 18-24.

Register for free here: http://www.soulforce.org/vacation-bible-school

They write:

Our theme this summer is The Wild and Magical World of God’s Good Creation!

In order to prioritize youth-only space, we are hosting two sessions, one for youth* ages 18-24, and one for folks 25+

When: Tuesdays & Thursdays in July-
July 6 to July 27th (7 sessions):
Youth*: 1pm EST / 10am PST (90-min)
Folks 25+: 7PM EST / 4PM PST (60-min)

*This curriculum is specifically tailored for LGBTQI students attending Christian colleges, but all LGBTQI and questioning youth ages 18-24 are welcome in this space.

Join us as we create spiritual community together that is based on the Biblical principles of life, abundance, and liberation.

Register here: http://www.soulforce.org/vacation-bible-school

A Radical, Liberation Christian Quakerism

noun_964988_cc.pngAs with many, I have been wrestling to understand where the various new groups forming within Quakerism fit – as with the New Association of Friends in Indiana and the new groups discerning their way forward in North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest. Will they just be replicas of the institutions that kicked them out, or is there space for something truly new to emerge?

In the very broad base of Quaker categories what we have today in the United States are two main theological trends: secular liberalism and conservative Evangelicalism.  On the one side, there is a group that now seems to be largely influenced by the secular left. These yearly meetings and meetings may be “spiritual but not religious,” think of themselves as secular or even anti-religious, while still being interested in the “values” of Quakerism or some of its specific practices, like communal silence and consensus building. Not everyone within these groups identifies this way but the larger trend seems to suggest that there is far more emphasis on this “secular liberalism” than the socially aware Christianity that one can find within these groups as well.  Continue reading A Radical, Liberation Christian Quakerism

Re-Reading the Bible with Peterson Toscano

Last week we had the privilege of hosting Peggy Senger Morrison (more on her coming) and Peterson Toscano, a comedian, biblical scholar, performer and LGBTQ advocate, at Guilford College this past week. Peterson became a Quaker after spending 17 years “conversion therapy trying to de-gay himself.” When he tells the story he often ends with talking about how wonderous a failure all of that was and how surviving all of that as a gay man has changed his life and ministry forever. 

Because of his Evangelical background, Peterson knows his bible very well. And even though he experienced a lot of pain through the ex-gay movement and how the Bible was used against him, he has retained a love for Scripture. It is this love for Scripture that felt important to draw your attention to today. Peterson’s work around the Bible is inspiring, intellectually rigourous, and creative. 

On Friday, I invited Peterson to come speak to my contextual theology class about gender roles in the Bible. Not only did he engage the students through very active “bibliodrama” as he calls it, having the class act out parts of the Bible to help them “get into the story,” but he talked positively about different people in the Bible who transcended or transgressed gender norms in their time and context. His main focus for our class was on the Ethiopian Eunuch of Acts 8, a story about a person who transcended both gender and class norms and who is a central character in the life of the early Church. It was clear to me that Peterson’s approach of reenactmenting Scripture and reading it off-center is what T. Vail Palmer, Jr. calls, an “Empathetic” reading of the Bible, two tactics that really open up possibilities for experiencing the story in new and really powerful ways.

Peteron’s new DVD, “Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible” is perfect for a church or meeting wanting to have a bible study around different ways of reading the Bible and I cannot recommend it enough. 

You can learn more about Peterson on his website.

Here is more info about the DVD Transfigurations.

Here is a blog post from Peterson on the Ethiopian Eunuch

And if you are interested, I’d encourage you to search around on YouTube for some of the videos of Peterson leading Bible studies.