I’ve been in the UK for almost 5 weeks now and it feels like the time is flying (I arrived on May 2nd). My Wife, Emily, will be here in approximately 22 days, 11 hours 53 min and 39 seconds. Of course, that was when I wrote that sentence, now it’s much sooner! Life has been fairly hectic since I got here and it’s kept me from reflecting too much on what’s been happening since I arrived but I thought it’d be good to at least say a few things about life in Birmingham at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center thus far.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Newcastle and hang out at the Young Friends General Meeting. Simon and I stopped on the way up north (Newcastle is about 3.5 hours north of Birmingham) in Durham for some lunch and to take a look at the Cathedral of St. Cuthbert. I was really glad we stopped in Durham because it was by far the most “English” place I’ve seen so far: cobblestone drives, tightly packed stores and houses, and of course incredible architecture. I haven’t had much chance yet to be a tourist so this was definitely a bright spot for me.
We arrived in Newcastle-upon-tyne at the Quaker Meeting house Friday evening for the gathering. The gathering consists of 18-30(ish) year old Quakers who are from all over Great Britain. The weekend consisted of various business meetings to deal with the various functions that keep the group going. We also had times of silent worship, various speakers, a number of interest groups, and activities and a lot of all around fun.
A couple highlights from the weekend:
- I loved getting to meet tons of new people. This was the highlight of the weekend. I had a blast meeting people from all over the UK, hearing their different stories and learning more about the differences (and similarities) between American and British Quakerism. Everyone I met warmly welcomed me and was very interested in the things I am doing at Woodbrooke, which made it fun to chat about a variety of things.
- Meeting Peterson Tuscano was certainly another highlight of the weekend for me (and I am pretty sure everyone). Peterson is an “ex-gay” survivor and a stand-up comedian. The Ex-Gay movement is a conservative Evangelical group that parents send their gay/lesbian kids to in order to “straighten” them out. Peterson, a Christian-Quaker from New England Yearly Meeting, travels around the world doing stand-up comedy and theater to inform people about the ex-gay movement, discuss misinformation the church often supports and challenge (sexual) exclusivity in the church. His performances this weekend were not only hilarious but very informative and challenging. I was also glad to talk with him in more detail about some of his experiences as a gay Quaker comedian (he said he’s often too into Jesus for the really liberal Quakers and too gay for the conservative ones). I look forward to more dialogue with him about his work.
- Simon and I, along with the help of another friend Mark Russ, led a special interest group on Jesus and Peace and it was fantastic. There were about 12 of us who spent an hour or so discussing various Gospel passages, Jesus’ nonviolence, and how we might live our lives in the way of Jesus. I really enjoyed doing a “bible-study” and hearing what everyone had to say. I also found that having space where issues about the Bible and Jesus could be talked about and questioned in a safe environment seemed like something that was really needed and much appreciated. I was really glad Simon put it together.
- The various “Epilogues” we did were also fantastic. In Britain unprogrammed Friends have shortened worship times in the evenings they call “Epilogue.” The lights are usually dimmed, candles lit, people sit in a circle, and have a more “relaxed” silent worship (relaxed because people are invited to bring things to worship to share). Along with the silent worship there is always a creative element to the gathering. Sometimes poetry or Scripture is read, sometimes there is music or singing, and sometimes like this weekend there are creative projects that involve drawing, cutting and reflecting on God’s work in our lives through art. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed epilogues since I’ve been in England, I have found them to be creatively rich worship experience. Epilogues look very similar to some of the forms employed by those within emerging churches and I’ve been trying to track down the history of how they got started here to do more of a focused comparison between the two. In Quaker terms I see epilogues as (un)programmed worship experiences.
This weekend’s given me lots to ponder in the near future, many new friends converge with, and some glimpses into the Quaker tradition in England.
But before I head out I have two very simple video clips that will blow your mind. Both of these video clips are commercials that get aired over in the England.
Vimto, some may consider it the “nectar of the gods,” while others say it’s vomit, but in either case you need to watch the latest commercial called “Dad’s Pants.” How could you not want to “Shlurple the Purple” after this video? (Note: “Shlurple is not a word that is recognized by my spellcheck).
Secondly the, “Lynx ‘Bom Chicka Wah Wah’ Dinner Party TV advert,” is a video advertisement for Lynx, a spray on deodorant for Men, but be careful guys, this spray seems to encourage supremacism (Note: supermacism is also not in my spellcheck).
Recently I had a great talk with a woman from Essex, and she goes to a Quaker meeting that’s doing some really cool stuff. I asked her about her meeting and she told me that there are about 35 people there and they have unprogrammed worship every week. But the majority of the people don’t actually attend the Sunday worship service, instead they go to each other’s homes for various creative gatherings.
Paul has created a great web app called flickrslidr that let’s you embed flickr images into you blog. Here got the idea after writing this tutorial about embedding slideshows. Anyways, I’ve been wanting to post the images from my UK travels thus far, and thought this would be a great opportunity to show off (and test out) Paul’s new app and show you some of the pics from the last 2.5 weeks.
I thought I’d do the DDF a little differently today. Click on the picture below to see a bigger version with links on it.
Accepting the whole of a tradition and not just the parts
I found Slavoj Zizeks opening to his book The Fragile Absolute, to be instructive for a present day study of Quaker theology. He begins by presenting the challenge of two choices: How is a Marxist to counter all the various thoughts” of the post-modern era? The obvious answer seems to be not only ferociously to attach these tendencies, but mercilessly to denounce the remainders of the religious legacy of Marxism itself (Zizek, 2000:1).” But the other choice, not so obvious, is to in fact fully endorse what one is accused of (Zizek, 2000:2).” In other words the second choice is a complete reversal of the first option. Christianity and Marxism are directly connected, they ought to fight on the same side. The atheist Zizek argues, …the authentic Christian legacy is much to precious to be left to the fundamentalists and freaks (2).”
Zizek concludes by discussing one similarity between Christians and Marxists, a number of both believers” fetishize the early authentic” followers and against those who institutionalized” it (Saint Paul, Lenin). This is the yes to Christ, not to Saint Paul” campaign, and it is the same as those who are the humanist Marxists” and deny Lenin as a role within the Marxist tradition. In both cases, one should insist that such a deference of the authentic” is the most perfidious mode of its betrayal: there is no Christ outside Saint Paul,” just as there is no authentic Marx without Lenin (Zizek 2000:2).
I upgraded my wordpress files this morning and it went pretty well, except that the theme I was using “Subtle” isn’t quite working under the new widget framework of version 2.2 — please excuse the
basic stripped down look untidyness of the site until I figure out a plan how to configure everything proper.
My good friend Shawna from Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative) sent this to a bunch of us the other day intimating at Convergent Friends being much older than we thought.
I’ve been meaning to comment on Jarrod McKenna’s thought worthy post which looks at the “Emerging Peace Church Movement” or what he likes to call “Open Anabaptism.”