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Blog Entries Convergent Friends Quaker

Blogging as Ministry in A Virtual World

Quaker blogger Robin Mohr has written a really thoughtful post, if you are interested in ministry in a web 2.0 culture this is a must read essay. Here are the three key points she brings up and then a few I add to the list:

For me, the first point is that my blog is an outlet for the essays that were composing themselves in my head. It has offered me a means to improve my writing and editing skills, and a chance to share my theological reflections with others. Unlike most forms of writing, blogs also come with the opportunity for frequent interaction, unlike writing a book, for example, when it may be years before anyone else reads it.

The second point is that Quaker blogs are a source of religious reading material. I still subscribe to a couple of Quaker magazines, but they only come once a month. Every day there are new blog posts on different aspects of spiritual life, and whenever I’m ready they’re there. As Martin Kelley has reminded people, blogs are available every day and at all hours, when you’re stuck at home with little kids or an illness or a physical disability, if you work irregular hours, or when you are too far away from a meeting to attend regularly…

A third point is that Quaker blogs are part of an ongoing conversation about what is happening in our spiritual lives, including events we go to, books we read, theological questions we wrestle with, and our everyday joys and concerns. They offer a chance to stay in touch with Friends in a substantive way, between conferences, meetings, without travel costs, and often with photos of mutual Friends.

via What Canst Thou Say?.

Along with this I’d like to add a few things of my own:

  1. Blogging (at its best) exemplifies a kind of Faith as a work-in-progress. That is to say we have the ability to write short reflections, ideas, “theologies” if you will in a playful and creative manner in order to help think through what these things mean. I don’t know about the rest of you but I do some of my best “believing,” when I write. That is to say that writing forces me to really name what it is that I believe (and what I really do with that belief). In this way I see blogging as way to track our journeys of transformation.
  2. Most blogging is done in real-time, we write about things that are happening now, things that are relevant questions and concerns to the people of God today not in the 1800s. This is to say that ministry is always local, present, and of the times. This isn’t to say that what we reflect on isn’t in one way or another rooted in some ongoing history, because it is, but rather to say that those in ministry are always dealing with a two-way dialogue: the timeless and the timely.
  3. Blogging invites participation by asking people to join a community in dialogue and inviting them to add to the collective intelligence of that conversation. Rather than believing in isolation, blogging has the opportunity to create open, and very public, channels of Christian expressions in our world today.
  4. Blogs are open for change and revisions and so is our ministry and faith. While I am not a part of the reformed tradition I do appreciate their motto, “Reformed and always reforming.” This is the church in a nutshell, there is tradition but that tradition is always open to reinterpretations and revisions for each new generation. In this way blogs can help remind us of the need to not live in a world of rigid dogmatism but playful and joyful obedience to God’s Spirit.

Finally, Robin’s notes above were taken from a presentation she recently did at an ecumenical gathering where she talked with a number of people some of which were bloggers and some of which were not. Of interest to some of you is a really cool activity that could be done in any small group setting that sounds really fun to do:

…we did an exercise I call low-tech blog commenting. We chose short blog posts, printed them out in large type on paper and hung them on the wall next to large sheets of easel paper. The instructions are to go around the room, read the post, write down your reaction, your questions, agreement or disagreement, and then move on to the next one, and then as you move around, to come back and read what others have written and perhaps comment again. This exercise was Chris M.’s idea a few years ago for a workshop he and I led at SFMM. I’ve also done it with the teens at PYM’s Junior Yearly Meeting. It works well as an introduction to blog commenting, except for people with visual disabilities, so a couple of times I or another participant have read the posts and scribed for people who had difficulty with that.

You can (and should) read the rest of the post here: Blogging as Ministry

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Blog Entries

Dress-Down Friday | The Llama Report

This is a special edition of Dress-Down Friday.

When I was youth pastor of Barberton Friends Youth Group (BFYG) we did lots of silly things. One thing we did was to make a Llama our mascot whose (fictional) name was Bach Bahama Llama. We had youth group baseball shirts printed up with a picture of a Llama and our motto “Llamas are people too!” We figured this was our way of saying everybody is welcome at BFYG. All the silliness was mostly an inside joke, “you had to be there” kind of thing, until we went to Friends Summer Camp in Columbus Ohio the summer of 2003. We took our video camera and microphone and decided to make a documentary discussing some of the finer points of Llama-activism. Below is the result. I dug this video up the other day while I was cleaning out a bunch of my old CD’s and DVD’s. When we made this film there was no YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook to share this stuff on, so now it’s live. I hope you find these 17 min. enjoyable and a little bit of a waste of time (since it’s Friday after all).

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=3823448&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=FEF52D&fullscreen=1

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Blog Entries Reviews

I saw this today on my favorite fan site rushmore academy and it made me really happy. It didn’t hurt that L really likes this book, and that Arcade Fire’s song “Wake Up,” from their album Funeral, is playing in the background really helps too.

This makes me all the more excited about another movie based on a children’s book coming out this year: The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

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Blog Entries Quaker Reviews

Counsel to the Christian Traveller – Put Your Hand to the Plow

A while back when we were at the Convergent Friends weekend I got a copy of “Counsel to the Christian-Traveller: Also Meditations and Experiences” by William Shewen. It is an early Quaker text that was originally published in London in 1683, Shewen was among the early prominent London Friends. He got started as a writer while engaged in a pamphlet war with the Baptist Jeremish Ives in 1674 (6). Shewen’s collection of writings has been reprinted by Charles Martin who runs InnerLight Books (You can preview the book there as well). Anyways, I’m enjoying (very slowly) working through this book, more as a devotional text than anything. One interesting thing about the book is that the first couple chapters are just lists of Scripture passages early Quakers understood as being key to how they understood the Light as well as “the Holy Scriptures.”

I just came across this quote a little later in the book and it really struck me as a beautiful and challenging saying:

Put your hand to the plow (look not back) keep it there until the fallow ground be plowed up, and the briars and thorns rooted up and destroyed, so that the seen may grow up in you to perfection.

Have you know the kingdom and the power, in which it stands, like a little leaven hid in the three measures of Meal? Hinder not its working; let it leaven the whole lump?

Do you know the field where the pearl of great price is hidden? Then dig deep, and find it; and when you have found it, sell all, and purchase it, and then you will be the wise Merchantman indeed (19).

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Blog Entries

Dress-Down Friday | Three Vimeos and an Alien-Baby Suit

Here are a couple little internet treats for you all on this Dress-Down Friday.

For those of you who are into the alien-baby accessorized look:

This video is really just amazing:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=3156959&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1

John Howard Yoder is alive, kind of.

Some Catholics are getting into the emerging church conversation.

Are you a Stay at Home Dad?

Because I am a big fan of the mac app DevonThink I thought you should check this out:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=3588889&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1

Cool moleskine icons for your computer.

Democracy and Disappointment: On the Politics of Resistance – a lecture by Alain Badiou (I haven’t actually been able to listen to it yet but it looks good).

And finally I thought this video was pretty cool as well:
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=393432&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1

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Featured Quaker

Re-Entering the Ministry As Camas Friends New Pastor

camas-friends-church-loc_-camas-wa-google-mapsI have felt called to ministry ever since I was in high school. I remember, at one point, my youth pastor telling me he’d like to go with me to the downtown where we lived, soap-box in hand and let me have at it. Things have in some ways changed a lot since then, you won’t find me on a real soap-box anytime soon but I guess starting this blog five years ago is not far from this idea. I have always loved sharing ideas and teaching, I love it when I see people light up and get excited about theological and philosophical topics.

I decided to study Bible and Theology in undergrad because I wanted to go into ministry, I had helped lead my youth group while I was still in high school and really enjoyed that process, plus I felt God had a clear call on my life to pastor, so Theology was for me. After some prodding I decided to try my hands at youth ministry, which I really enjoyed doing. This was not only my entry point into doing ministry as a career option but it was also the entry point for me into the Quaker world. I began the recording process (similar to ordination) with the Evangelical Friends in Ohio but never finished because of our move out the LA.  After moving to Southern California in 2003, I started working with Young Life and did that for two years before decided to focus more heavily on my studies.

I’ve gone through points where I haven’t wanted to pastor, where I wasn’t sure I was cut out for it (that remains to be seen) and whether it was the avenue I really wanted to pursue. Thus, I began a PhD because I know I like to teach, work with people and research. My most common feeling has been that I want to do both teaching and pastoral ministry, that I feel called to bridge the gap between the congregation and the “ivory tower.” And that for me both of these areas are integral to who I am. As Emily once said, she feels I’d be a pastoral teacher or a teaching pastor. Over the course of this past year or two I started thinking about pastoral ministry again, that I miss all the things (or at least most) that come with territory, but also that my own theological understanding is lacking the other side of who I am.

This past October Colin Saxton, the superintendent of Northwest Yearly Meeting, wrote an email to me suggesting I apply for a recent pastoral opening at Camas Friends Church in Camas Washington. I had recently told him  about how busy I was in school and how I was trying to remain focused at the task at hand, but alas he felt this was an opportunity I would want to know about. He was right. I read through the information sheet on Camas and found that it sounded a lot like my kind of Quaker meeting. Here is one statement that stood out to me:

We are a Quaker Meeting intending to reach out and serve our community. Our goals are to continue the spiritual and physical growth of our congregation as we journey together as a community. We wish to serve as a witness of Quaker testimonies to our greater community. We are here to love God and love people.

Here is an evangelical Friends meeting that’s not only comfortable with identifying as Quaker, but are outward focused (to their community) and see this witness as rooted in Quaker testimonies. This sounded, along with the rest of the information I read, very intriguing. So I sent in my CV and resume, filled out their questionnaire and wrote a short letter describing where I stood on important theological matters.

I had a phone interview with the search committee in November and then they took the holidays off to pray and discern their next steps. While I was in Philadelphia for the peace gathering, with a crew from the Northwest Yearly Meeting, I got a call from a member of the search committee asking if they could fly the three of us up to Washington for a weekend visit. That sounded good to us so in February we visited Camas, as well as Portland (about 20 min away), and had a great time. Everyone in the meting made us feel really welcomed. My initial inclination that this was a community I’d like were confirmed by our visit. Emily and I both, upon leaving, felt this was a Quaker meeting we’d attend if we lived in the area (I also preached my first sermon in about 7 years that Sunday during our visit, which was quite an event).

And as some of you who follow me on twitter already know, this past week Camas Friends called me to be their next pastor, and after a weekend of discussing it with family and friends we accepted the call on Monday. Yes, my doctorate is looming large, but the church is excited and supportive of this process. I’m at the point now in my studies were the rest of what I need to do is independent studies that I can do from a distance and if I can stay on task I hope to wrap things up in 2011-12.

We will be moving to the North in May http://static.zemanta.com/readside/loader.jsand leaving behind wonderful friends, a great church community, and 6 years of our lives being around Fuller and working in the area. It also means that we’re not moving closer to Ohio anytime soon, a hard fact for us to face especially since we now have a child. But we’re really excited about this opportunity as well, a feel the Lord has opened way for us. We are also excited to be living in the Northwest, and so close to Portland! I have long admired the reputation of the Northwest Yearly Meeting as evangelical Quakers who are unashamedly Christian yet work with other Quakers across spectrums and are committed to their tradition. I really look forward to getting back into the swing of things with ministry and dreaming with the people at Camas Friends about the ways in which we can help be a witness to God’s kingdom in that place.

More on all this in the coming months…

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Blog Entries

Death Penalty Dead in New Mexico

My Friend posted this today, and it seemed worthy to share here as well. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has signed a bill repealing the death penalty. His statement is worth reading, here are a few highlights:

I have decided to sign legislation that repeals the death penalty in the state of New Mexico.

Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime. If the State is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong.

But the reality is the system is not perfect – far from it. The system is inherently defective. DNA testing has proven that. Innocent people have been put on death row all across the country.

Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can’t be 100-percent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes. Evidence, including DNA evidence, can be manipulated. Prosecutors can still abuse their powers. We cannot ensure competent defense counsel for all defendants. The sad truth is the wrong person can still be convicted in this day and age, and in cases where that conviction carries with it the ultimate sanction, we must have ultimate confidence – I would say certitude – that the system is without flaw or prejudice. Unfortunately, this is demonstrably not the case.

And it bothers me greatly that minorities are overrepresented in the prison population and on death row.

And,

From an international human rights perspective, there is no reason the United States should be behind the rest of the world on this issue. Many of the countries that continue to support and use the death penalty are also the most repressive nations in the world. That’s not something to be proud of.

In a society which values individual life and liberty above all else, where justice and not vengeance is the singular guiding principle of our system of criminal law, the potential for wrongful conviction and, God forbid, execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings. That is why I’m signing this bill into law.

via ABQNews: BREAKING: Death Penalty Dead.

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Blog Entries Quaker The Theological

Barclay Press Post: Repetition and A Non-Liturgical Liturgy

Here’s my latest installment at Barclay Press. As you’ll notice I worked at weaving a number of ideas I’ve had together and tried to initiate a forward step in a Quaker understanding of “liturgy.” More on this to come.

What Quakers were against wasn’t forms but rather things that became objects and ultimately obstacles for our belief. Anything that takes the place of or “prevents us from experiencing the true reality” of our social situation or the reality of the kingdom of God was to be questioned by the church. Two assumptions play into this reading, first in every generation we have to ask this question again, “what is preventing us from experiencing the reality of our social situation, from the reality of the kingdom of God?” It’s not enough to simply duplicate a black and white copy of everything the first generation of Friends did – that requires no faith and betrays yet again a faith fixated on something else. But neither can we simply dismiss their keen insights either. As Pink Dandelion has argued silence itself has become a form, a fixation, that can lead to disbelief but neither can we get rid of this because we know that rituals, pastors, etc. can also become obstacles to faith.

(From Repetition and A Non-Liturgical Liturgy)

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Blog Entries

What I’m Passionate About

My friend Rhett Smith is doing a weekly segment on his blog called “What Are You Passionate About?” What he’s doing every Friday is asking different people he knows to talk about their passions and share them with his readers. Here’s what he writes:

One of the questions I’m constantly curious of is, “What are you passionate about?” It doesn’t matter if it’s in a therapeutic setting, church setting, or in a casual conversation with a friend, or someone I hardly know.

Locating your passion in life is of utmost value, especially when it correlates with what you do in life, whether that be your vocation, hobbies, service work, etc.

So I’m starting a new series where I plan on asking a different person online “What are you passionate about?” It’s my hope that it’s a great opportunity to get to know others better and see what drives them, and what things we can learn from them.

This week he asked me to answer these questions:

  • What are you really passionate about?
  • How does what you are doing vocationally or volunteer wise serve that passion?
  • How can those around you (friends, online community, etc.) best support you?
  • How can those around you (friends, online community, etc.) best support you?

You can read my answers over on his blog “Wess Daniels: What Are You Passionate About?

While you’re at it check out the other two people that have done the segment so far:

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Blog Entries The Cultural The Theological

Virtual Desire and a New York Police Officer

There’s a really interesting article in the New York Times today about a police office who was being charged with brutality in a criminal case. The suspect was caught carrying a gun and was purportedly punched by the officer while he was in cuffs. The Times reports that, “Officer E. said he has never been disciplined for brutality.” In other words, according to him this was his first offense.

The interesting thing about this case is how he was finally convicted with the brutality. The day prior to the confrontation the officer posted on his myspace page that he was feeling “devious.” And an earlier facebook status revealed that he had been “watching ‘Training Day’ to brush up on proper police procedure.”

The officer was quoted as saying:

“You have your Internet persona, and you have what you actually do on the street,” Officer E. said on Tuesday. “What you say on the Internet is all bravado talk, like what you say in a locker room.”

(From About New York – A New York Police Officer Who Put Too Much on MySpace – NYTimes.com)

The usual way to look at this would be to see the internet as a place where people escape to, where they go to let off steam: The virtual is the space that keeps us from doing these things in “Reality” or what they fantasize about. But I think a better understanding, or at least more interesting read of this situation (following Žižek), is this: what happens on the web, in the virtual or dreams or fantasy, is where comes closet to the real of our desire. In other words, reality – the day to day of our existence – is where we escape to in order to hide from desire. If this is (at least somewhat) accurate, far from devaluing the experiences we share online, in the virtual, we see just how important these expressions are. It’s not two selves represented: the one in reality is the true one and the one in the virtual is the false one, rather, it works the other way around and we can use reality to masks our desires.

This seems to be exactly what happened with this officer. All the bravado in the locker-room is who he really desired to be, it reflected in a sense who he really was, masked beneath a self-controlled (he’s never been convicted of brutality before) enforcer of law and order. He was unable to control the flux between the two and his desire flowed into his physical action. The problem is that instead of repent and be reconciled for the destructiveness of this “kernel” he masks it, covering it in yet another layer of fantasy. The Christian response is not to cover up the kernel of our desire but to redirect, hand it over, to God. If our desire becomes destructive it needs to be unmasked, not hidden under another mask which is how this officer is dealing with it:

Officer E. said he is now being careful to mask his identity on the Web and that he has curbed his tongue because of the acquittal. “I feel it’s partially my fault,” he said. “It paints a picture of a person who could be overly aggressive. You put that together, it’s reasonable doubt in anybody’s mind.”