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.”
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.
“He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” (Luke 22:39–46 NRSV)
Participation as Production
The word participation is an important word for our church. We talk about being a participatory church but what do we mean by that? I want to unpack that a little here.
Participation means to partake, to partner.
We live in a participatory culture. Back 50 or 60 years ago when you listened to a story around a radio, it was one way. TV in its earliest stages was one way. There was someone who wrote a story, produced a show that he or she thought consumers would like. But nowadays things are very different. Reality shows like Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance (my favorite), American Idol and many others build on the content that the audience gives. It could be through voting. It could be through suggestive story lines. Producers are constantly looking for interest of fans and which characters they like most, which ones they connect with, which story lines are most popular. There are shows like Arrested Development, Veronica Mars or Joss Wheadon’s Firefly where when they go off the air the Fans rally and actually get the producers to make more of their favorite show, even in helping raise money for the show to get it back on the air.
This is a guest post written by Chad Stephenson a Quaker from San Francisco. It is a response to the Friends Journal article “Bringing Children to Worship” and my follow-up article found here. This article comes largely from Chad’s work with children as a librarian as the San Francisco Friends School. He’s a good friend of mine and I’ve always appreciated his insights and thoughts, I think you’ll find the same is true for what he’s written here.
Awhile back I did a Godly Play story during our meeting for worship. We invited the children to say with the adults and participate in our listening to the story. After the story we had our normal 15 minutes of silent, or waiting, worship. This is a description I wrote up and used that Sunday. I borrowed some ideas from my friend Chad Stephenson who is the librarian at the San Francisco Friends School where their students have meeting for worship during the school day.
Mind you this is just one attempt and there are things missing from here that I would like to say. I tried to connect it to the language of Godly Play since that’s what our kids are most used to. In trying to write up a description I was challenged to be concrete, simple and succinct in describing worship to our children. It is a good exercise for all of us to try. Continue reading Describing “Silent” Worship to Children
As parents bringing children and teens to a time of worship can be a struggle. We place a lot of expectations on our kids and often hope they won’t “misbehave” during church. Plus, it is easy to succumb to their rowdiness, distraction and desire for entertainment. The last thing on earth most parents seem to want to hear from their kids is “I am bored.” The response often tends to turn our time of gathered worship into an opportunity to have free babysitting or shuffle them away to some place else, entertain them, or even give them a gadget that will hold their attention. Continue reading Thoughts on Bringing Children To Worship