Four Key Aspects to Understanding Renewal in Faith Communities

“Kindness eases change
Love quiets fear”
― Octavia E. Butler

In a lot of my classes and work at Guilford College, I talk about renewal. I think that much of my work is focused around renewal, not because of a failure in the institution but because change is constant, change is inevitable, and with each new shift in leadership, change can be dramatic. These shifts unfold within the larger community and political systems in coordinated and inevitable. Therefore, some intentional approach to renewal is needed and necessary.

Without renewal we get stuck in the past.
Without renewal we devalue all that has been done before us.
We need someways of approach change-work that helps us hold these various pieces of the puzzle together.

Plenty of books have been written on the subject, including my own, which most readers of this blog are familiar with. A few other books that have been instructive to me in the past are: Managing Transitions by William and Susan; A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman; and Originals by Adam Grant.*

Regardless of what you draw on when you are working within a community, large or small, you will draw on something. We all have our own desires, ethics, and biases. If we’re not paying attention and being intentional with what we do and how we approach this work, it is very possible that we can do more harm than good. Secondly, while it is important to be aware of the things we bring to this work, it is equally important to know what the communities we are in or are working with bring. What are their own contexts, histories, biases, successes and failures? How will all of this play into the final mix?

Continue reading Four Key Aspects to Understanding Renewal in Faith Communities

Becoming Facebook Free

I’ve struggled with Facebook for some time. For about the last 2.5 years, I’ve basically wanted to deactivate my account and have even downloaded all my information from it more than once in preparation but then I chickened out or lost my motivation. So I’ve settled on not using it but still having an account. By “Not Using It” I mean, that I literally go weeks without checking anything on it, at most spending 5-10 mins a week clearing out notifications just to make sure I didn’t miss something that needs my attention, and removing the app from my iOS devices. But the reality is, I really don’t like Facebook and don’t want to be on there but feel that in some way I’m obligated to have an active profile there.

I don’t like it for three main reasons:

  • I think it is an attention black hole
  • I have found it to have largely negative impacts on community and face-to-face relationships
  • I think Facebook is increasingly unethical and corrupt and I don’t like what they’re doing with our data

To this third point, there is a lot of data and journalism that’s been written about Facebook’s impact on political ads and the presidential campaign, Cambridge Analytica, and more. 2018 was a particularly terrible year for Facebook in terms of their ethical screw-ups. If you are unfamiliar with these events, here are few articles that outline what I’m talking about:

And here are a couple podcasts from Note To Self on what Facebook does with our data, which I find equally troubling:

For me, I can’t help but feel like using this platform is a vote for the platform, no matter what small goods may come from trying to leverage it. This makes me uncomfortable, and yet, I still feel tied to it like so many.

Things shifted for me recently after listening to one of my favorite podcasts called “Rework” by the folks at Basecamp, a company whose values I am inspired by. Their recent episode, “100% Facebook-Free” was deeply motivating. See their post here that goes into a little more detail on the subject.

I was impressed that a business as big as theirs was willing to make a stand against these actions by pulling their company off all of Facebook’s apps: Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp.

Here is how they describe “being a Facebook-free business.”

Being a Facebook-Free Business means your customers can trust that you aren’t collaborators with the Facebook machine. That when you spend your money with a Facebook-Free Business, none of that money will find its way back to Facebook’s coffers.

The rules are pretty simple. Being Facebook Free means:

  1. We do not buy advertisement on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp.
  2. We do not use Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp to promote or represent our business or to communicate with our customers.
  3. We do not assist Facebook in its data collection regime through use of Facebook social Like buttons or by offering Facebook logins.

In short, that the business does not use Facebook or its subsidiaries in any way shape or form to operate, further, or conduct itself.

This all got me thinking about the small steps I could take to get off of Facebook. I tend to think in terms of all-or-nothing and that has made it hard for me to act, but when I think about this blog and my small coffee roasting hobby as two places I could start, I realized I could make some movement. And the values behind both these sites are not reflected in what FB stands for anyway. So last week, I went through Gathering In Light and I removed all FB like links from the site so that FB cannot track your data here. Next, I deleted both Gathering In Light and Fireweed Coffee Pages from Facebook. The next step is to build my email list for Fireweed and then remove it from Instagram (My hope is to do that sometime in the coming months). Because it is so small, something like IG does help with my communication and promotion. However, with a little more work, I can strengthen visibility in alternative ways, making it easier to cut loose from these platforms.

I wanted to share these thoughts with you not because I hope you’ll necessarily follow me in taking these steps, but more to share the process I’m going through to my online life and IRL in alignment with each other. And also to communicate, if you notice why I am not present on some of these other platforms as much or at all. I’m interested in hearing how others process this information and if you’ve taken any steps to protect yourself, your data, and others online as well.

End of the Year Reflections

We had some friends over for New Year’s, which was a lot of fun and just the right way to close out the year. Having a variety of people from across various social groups gather and enjoy one another’s company was a very real way for us to see how far we’ve come in Greensboro over the past 3.5 years. We really are starting to root ourselves, build community, and make this place home.

Finding New Ways to “Not Always Be Working”

In keeping with some of the things I’ve been reflecting on since reading marlee grace’s book, How To Not Always Be Working, over break, I decided to take the opportunity of having a little get together at the house to do something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while: smoke meat on my charcoal grill. I think this is part of my learning more about Southern culture, and partly because I really love smoke meats that I thought it would be fun to try something new. So, I smoked a turkey. I found the process of learning about how to do it, reading a variety of recipes, and talking to people on the phone who I know are great at smoking meat (including my dad and a good friend who lives in town), really added a whole extra layer of interest to the adventure. It all turned out great, our friends loved it, and I found the whole experience to be a restful one, reminding me that rest can be something that comes in many forms. Here are some photos from the experience.

How about for you? If you have had a little time off over the holidays how did you spend your time? What did you do to rest and “not work?” Make a list of 3-5 things you did to rejeuvenate and stick that list in your notebook. Next time things get a little wild or stressful pull it out and do one of those things on the list. Or better yet, make it a habit to do some things each week that help you pull away from work so you can have increase your self-awareness and care.

Continue reading End of the Year Reflections

Conducting an Annual Review

I posted this article last year on a different blog. It’s still pretty useful and worth sharing here for those of you interested in doing an annual review or learning about the process I follow. Some things have adapted or changed for me in the past year but this is still generally what I am following.

Since taking Tiago Forte’s exceptional course on personal knowledge management, Building a Second Brain, this past summer, I have not only seen and put into practice the morning, weekly and monthly reviews, I have tried to use them to build new habits into my life.

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Reviews

Besides learning and putting into practice things such as, Progressive Summarization, P.A.R.A. and “Just in Time Project Management,” that are core to Tiago’s Personal Knowledge Management’s curriculum, the practice of “reviewing” my work, specifically the morning review , where I put into practices the principles noted in Forte’s Zero Inbox Post, has had a greater impact on my work life more than anything else I’ve done, maybe ever.

Here is an example of my Morning Review, based largely off of Tiago’s system with a few tweaks of my own.

I take Tiago’s advice and use the sticky app on my mac. I like it because I don’t use stickies for anything but my different reviews. When I wake up in the morning all I need to remember to do is open stickies, and then I just go step by step. This works well for me because when I wake up in the morning I need as low a threshold as possible to help me get started. “Open Stickies” and “Go step by step through the list” is a pretty low threshold.

Continue reading Conducting an Annual Review

On Traveling in the Ministry

Learning How to Travel in the Ministry: The Past Bears Weight on the Present

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write about my traveling in the ministry with Lloyd Lee Wilson, a member of Friendship Friends Meeting and North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) this past June. It is about my first experience of traveling in ministry and what I learned in the process.

Lloyd Lee and I have gotten to know each other since we moved to Greensboro in 2015. With monthly lunches at a favorite local spot, he and I “talk shop,” swap ideas, and enjoy challenging ideas and imagining new ways to help revitalize Quaker community. One of the things I know about Lloyd Lee is he does a lot of what Quakers call, “Traveling in the Ministry,” and to be more specific to Lloyd Lee’s approach, “traveling in the ministry in the old style.”

Continue reading On Traveling in the Ministry

A New Kind of Nursery of Truth – Part 3

Revisioning
Photo Credit – Eric Muhr

This is the third of a three-part series on whether or not Quakers can be “Publishers of Truth” today. In this series I want to talk about how I think early Quakers understood what it meant to be “publishers of truth” in earlier years (Part 1), just a couple challenges we face when it comes to a conversation about “truth” as Friends in 2017 (Part 2), and what it might look like for us to have a new the nursery of truth and be “Publishers of the pert near true” today (Part 3).*

For a quick recap, in the previous post, I suggested that those who consider themselves politically/theologically progressive can get caught in a cycle of thinking of truth as facts stripped of any emotion, narrative, or even joy. If this is anywhere near an accurate assessment then the next step is to invite you, my dear readers, to consider becoming people who utilize ethical and creative storytelling, humor and other similar methods, such as what Stephen Duncombe calls “Ethical Spectacles,” to subvert dominant narratives and to serve social justice. Telling the truth slant and or being purveyors of the “pert near true” (something that is so true that it doesn’t really matter whether it happened or not) is something that can and should be used in service for the good, just as Jesus himself exemplified.

In this final post, I want to suggest a few, very limited, ideas about what we might do to create a new kind of nursery of truth for today, where we could learn these practices together in community.

A New Nursery of Truth

How do we take all of this into account and really begin to re-envision a nursery of truth for today?

Are there ways in which we can respond to polarizations, speak into pluralistic spaces and be far more creative in our approach to truth?

If we are to be publishers of truth today (or the “pert near true” if you like), we need a nursery of truth that takes into account the many challenges we, and the people in our communities face in these times of racial injustice, religious bigotry, class struggle, and attacks on LGBTQ+ people. One that understands that any claims to truth must really be able to account for and be in solidarity with those most vulnerable.

How do we publish this truth, and more importantly live it, in ways that are effective and shape a new generation’s imagination and practice? Continue reading A New Kind of Nursery of Truth – Part 3

The Original Nursery of Truth – Part 1

Revisioning
Photo Credit – Eric Muhr

This is the first of a three-part post on whether or not Quakers can be “Publishers of Truth” today. In this series I want to talk about how I think early Quakers understood what it meant to be “publishers of truth” in earlier years (Part 1), just a couple challenges we face when it comes to a conversation about “truth” as Friends in 2017 (Part 2), and what it might look like for us to have a new the nursery of truth and be “Publishers of the pert near true” today (Part 3).*

The following two parts will be posted in the coming week. Therefore, the links are currently “dead.”

Some of you are already familiar with the idea behind the historical “Nursery of Truth” (and here is a link to a more contemporary version). The idea comes from early Quaker history. As Friends were traveling from Britain to the colonies they often stopped off in Barbados where there was a large amount of Quakers at the time. According to Elbert Russell, it was shortly after 1656 that Barbados became a “major distributing point for most Friends.” As early as 1657 Friends there received a letter from George Fox about his concern for the enslavement of people by those living there.

Barbados

It became a kind of gateway into the colonies for many traveling Quaker ministers. As missionaries, early friends knew the importances of training and preparation in the truth before heading to America to spread Good News and establish more Quaker meetings. By 1661 George Rofe calls it “the nursery of Truth” (Russell 1979: 39). The nursery of truth was a spiritual nursery where Quaker missionaries and ministers went to grow, be nurtured and pruned.
Continue reading The Original Nursery of Truth – Part 1