Write the Vision: Quakers, Zines and Participatory Culture

Flickr credit: cibergaita

This is a synchroblog written for Quaker Voluntary Service, of which I am a board member. The theme is “Quakers and new media.” (Twitter Link #qvssynchroblog)

“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:2–3 NRSV)

Early Publishers of Truth

Early Quakers called themselves, among other things, “Publishers of Truth.” They published truth with a missionary fervor, writing in order that a new world would be given forth from their written, as well as spoken, words. As I read early Friends, I see their publishing being very much related to how they understood the mission of the church to be, at its heart, participatory. As we think about who and what are the publishers of truth today – and if there is even such a thing left – I can’t help but suggest that any form of publishing that is not at its core participatory, inclusive and prophetic in nature is not rooted in the identity of these “Publishers of Truth.”

Just by way of background, these Publishers of Truth were an almost unstoppable force. Consider what Quaker historian, Elbert Russell, says in his “The History of Quakerism” (1979),

In spite of some arrests for owning, circulating or selling Quaker publications, and in a few cases the seizure of destruction of offending presses, there was a large output of printed matter. In the seven decades after 1653 there were 440 Quaker writers, who published 2,678 separate publications, varying from a single page tract to folios of nearly a thousand pages (79).

Russell goes on to explain how censorship worked back then, first oversight was given by George Fox, then it moved to a designated meeting of elders. The nature of the writing was often publicly articulating their beliefs, writing epistles to other meetings, creating pamphlets and responding to attacks from their detractors (80). There are others who can track the history of publication far better than me, but for much of Quaker history Friends have kept a steady hand on the printing press and they left us something to learn from and build on today. It was an essential thread to who the early Friends were. Continue reading Write the Vision: Quakers, Zines and Participatory Culture

Getting Found in Translation: Reflecting on Issues of Theological Translation


Whenever Quakers from various streams get together, similarities and differences quickly arise. This is the current state of our tradition; it’s not something we should fight against. Instead, we need to learn how to move within it by being clear about who we are while “moving towards sympathy,” as Howard Thurman says, with another. This work of being clear about who I am while embracing someone else is part-and-parcel of what it means to translate. Continue reading Getting Found in Translation: Reflecting on Issues of Theological Translation

The Possibilities and Challenges of Building a Participatory Church


I love the word participation. It’s stem means “taking part” or to “partner.” The Quaker meeting of which I am the ‘released minister,’ Camas Friends, strives to be a participatory church. A partnering church. A church that welcomes the contributions, leadership, insights, resources, personalities and concerns of those who are in the meeting.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we live in a participatory culture. And the church would do well to learn from it. What was once reflective of the one-directional movement of consumer culture, there is much more interplay between producer and consumer today. Continue reading The Possibilities and Challenges of Building a Participatory Church

Nursery of Truth: A New Convergent Friends Project

nursery banner

For almost a year now Quakers from 8-10 different meetings in the Northwest have been getting together once a month for a “convergent worship gathering.” We move around to different meetinghouses and enjoy a time of bible reading, silence and worship sharing. Programmed and unprogrammed Friends alike enjoy the space as an opportunity to build friendships, experiment in form and worship together.

Out of this grew the leading to build on the momentum from this group and other convergent Friends work and so Peggy Parsons (Freedom Friends Church), Kathy Hyzy (Multnomah Monthly Meeing), and myself are organizing a convergent Friends weekend gathering this coming January 18-20, 2013 called the Nursery of Truth.

Continue reading Nursery of Truth: A New Convergent Friends Project

Remix Culture and the Church

During Quaker Heritage Day one of the key themes I discussed was the idea of remix culture recently written about by Lawrence Lessig in his book with the same title. ((You can download Remix for free from here)) Remix culture has a long history that began back with the advent of the record player (here is a lecture by Lessig covering some of this history). Much of remix culture is based on who has permission to publish and disseminate content? Remix has most clearly been developed through the advent of DJs and Hip-Hop culture, where sampling is heavily relied upon to create music. Here sampling is a building upon often well-known loops from other songs, which (at its best) carries the meaning (or subverts the meaning) from that original piece into a new and creative way.

Often in remix the artist transgresses the text’s original intent, blending it with other popular or personal “texts.” These new readings challenge “the sanctioned expert interpretations and readings of the text.” ((Jenkins 1992: 25)) Remix is the difference between Read-Only material (copy-write protected) and Read-Write (free or remix culture). The “one emphasizes learning. The other emphasizes learning by speaking. One preserves its integrity. The other teaches integrity. One emphasizes a hierarchy. The other hides the hierarchy.” ((Lessig 2008: 87)) Remix is about leveling the playing field for what counts as a legitimate production of culture; it does not have to come just from authorized places. Continue reading Remix Culture and the Church

Follow-Up Materials From Quaker Heritage Day

For now, I’d like to share the materials that were requested by those there at the Quaker Heritage Day event in Berkeley, CA this past weekend. A number of folks hoped I’d share the slides, and other documents. You can find those things below. Hopefully these things can aid in jogging memories and help with further reflection. Thanks for a great weekend! I hope to post some more personal reflections soon.


Session #1: Mission, Quakers, and Culture

Session #2 (part a): Participation in the Quaker Tradition

Session #2 (part b): Heralding the New Creation

Session #3: Re-Enacting the New Creation


Preparatory Handout

Small Group Discussion, Query and Quotation Handout

Bibliography for Quaker Heritage Day 2011

Session #3: Outline

Book Giveaway: Three Copies of Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices

I don’t know about you but I love free books! So, in the spirit of Christmas I wanted to gift three people with a copy of the book I helped edit and love to share around. The book was published this year by Quaker Press and has been well received by many. The book is a collection of essays representing an international community of young Quakers (between 15 and 35 years old) and covers a broad span of theological convictions, as well as cultures and ways of practicing faith. It is a great snapshot of what it means to be a Quaker in today’s world.  The book was compiled over the course of two years by a team of ten editors. We are proud of the book and feel that there are many very rich writings, poetry, short stories, and reflections that are creative, inspiring and engaging. I think you’ll enjoy it as well (or may find it to be a nice gift for someone else!). If you want to purchase a copy you can go to Quaker Books online and you can find more out about the book on the book’s main webpage. Continue reading Book Giveaway: Three Copies of Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices