Convergent Friends Featured Practices Quaker The Pastorate The Theological

One Take On the Importance of the Quaker Practice of “Open Worship”

Adrian Halverstadt, a Quaker pastor, asks this question on the QuakerQuaker forum boards:

I have been thinking a lot about open worship these days. Many of the larger evangelical Friends churches no longer practice open worship in their big venues for many reasons. I guess I am searching for a contemporary definition of open worship and ideas for how other large congregations incorporate their concept of open worship into their weekly big event(s).
What canst thou saith?

Here are my initial thoughts and response that I posted there but thought I’d also put here because I deeply believe that the Quaker way of worship could be beneficial for those of you in other church traditions as well (I’ll be particularly interesting in your thoughts on this subject).

Featured Sermons The Biblical

Advent Message “Come Be Born in Us” (Luke 1:39-55)

Wess and M

Today we are three weeks into the advent season preparing for Christ’s coming. Christmas, for Christians, is not simply a remembrance and celebration of history (though it is certainly that), it is more importantly a proclamation of reality. The father of Quakerism, George Fox, wrote in his journal of his present and personal experience of Christ when he said: “Jesus has come to teach the people himself,” meaning that for Christians there is no waiting for the return of Christ is some distance future, Christ is here with us and among us now. When we talk about the Light of Christ, who is the Inward Light, this is what we mean. Therefore, if Christ came two thousand and nine (or so) years ago, then Christ is also born every year at Christmas and he is born in us every time we make the space in our wombs for the divine gestation to take place.

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A Thought for Quakers on Change

I am preparing my discussion for our Sunday morning meeting for worship and am thinking a lot about what Kester Brewin calls “wombs of the divine,” and creating the necessary space for something new to be born over time (See his book Signs of Emergence) It’s kind of a preference for evolution rather than revolution, or rather it sees evolution as the slow revolutionary process of change. Then I came across this quote (which mirrors Mark 2:27): “Our structures must serve us, not us serve them.”

This is an appropriate quote for all of us in the church, but especially, I think, for Quakers to observe. With so much discussion recently on whether or not some of our more longstanding institutions, meetings, and publishing outlets up for grabs these days because of smaller numbers, smaller budgets, and less interest or energy. With so many looking at the bottom line, I can’t help but think that we need to step back, stop, and contemplate the point above. What does this really mean for us?

Brewin writes:

“Only if I am still. Only if I have stopped what I was doing to listen and hold my breath and enter some spiritual apnea and wait. The perception of the new step will come only to those brave enough to stop dancing the old. The realization that we must descend this low peak will come only to those prepared to stop and take stock of their position. We fear that if we stopped for a week, a month, a service, a moment, we might be forgotten, or lose our momentum, weaken our profile, appear ill-thought-out and failing. So we feed the ecclesiastic furnaces our burned-out wrecks: tired leaders, disillusioned ministers, fatigued congregations – marshaling them to dance longer, march faster, pray harder, cry loud in earnest for God to come, come, COME and batter our hearts into change.”

What Brewin is essentially calling for is that we return to our own practicing of silent waiting, but with a fresh perspective as to why we are doing it, what we are waiting and hoping for. Or conversely, maybe our stopping and waiting is the opposite of silent waiting, maybe we need to stop with the quiet and really say what is on our hearts and minds. In either case, something needs to give. Who has the courage to stop dancing the old?

Blog Entries Reviews The Cultural

Favorite Music of 2009

Here’s a list of my favorite, or at least most listened to, albums from this past year.

Elvis Perkins In Dearland

Elvis Perkins in Dearland’s self-titled, second album arrived this year and it has been in constant rotation on the record player since it’s arrived. It is seriously one of our daughter’s favorite albums, she loves all the upbeat songs especially. I loved the first album, Ash Wednesday, and listened to it none stop while I was in England for three months. Whenever I listen to that album now I can’t help but remember that time in our lives, Emily was pregnant with our first daughter, and I was studying away at Woodbrooke making great life-long friends. Their sophomore effort is even better than the first, the songs are very diverse, deeply emotional, spiritual and psychological. Do yourself a favor and listen to them. Here’s how:

If you follow this link, you can preview a number of songs on google’s search page.

Here’s a full concert on NPR.

And here are two videos from the new album that are marvelous.

Featured Practices The Cultural The Technological

Let’s have an Christmas this year ChristmasRecently on twitter I said something I’m sure lost me a few followers,  “Let’s make it an amazon free Christmas.” (Though I don’t doubt I say plenty of things on any given day that make people wonder why they associate with me!). But in either case, it’s true, let’s boycott Amazon and every other big corporate chain store this Christmas! This is really how I feel these days. I’m tired of the big company’s crushing all these little local shops. Store after store in our little downtown of Camas is going under and I’ve already mentioned the major bone I have with what Amazon is doing to our independent bookstores. I’ve been boycotting Amazon for all my book buying at least since the time I wrote that post in favor of shopping at places like Fuller Seminary Bookstore, Powell’s books or Abebooks online. But I want to extend this challenge beyond just books to everything that can be purchased on

One thing I find rather tragic is just how many people Christian bloggers are in bed with Amazon. It’s really surprising that even some of the most alternative thinking folks I know become very mainstream when it comes to getting the cheapest possible books (or other products) they can find, or making money on every book link they have in a post (most often with no disclaimers anywhere).

But I should be up front, I really don’t like any big box stores: Wal-Mart, Target, Whole Foods, you name it (though you will spot me at some of these from time to time, I honestly try and avoid them as much as possible).  And I am already boycotting Amazon, so I’m  not generally tempted to shop there; I guess this makes my challenge more of an open invitation than a personal one. I started turning against these, what we might call, homogeneous consumption troughs back when I was in high-school back in Alliance Ohio. We watched Wal-Mart move in, and destroy tons of the local businesses in our small town and in my estimation Alliance has never fully recovered (here’s an interesting profile of a woman who worked at that particular store). That one experience left me a little bitter and started me on another path: I start looking for different ways (and places) to spend my money to support businesses I believed in.

Let’s face it is the Wal-Mart of the Web. They are taking over, cutting costs, and helping to finish off whatever is left of small town America. In the film “What Would Jesus Buy?” Rev. Billy has a funeral for small town America next to the Wal-Mart headquarters; I’d be interested in having an online (blog) funeral for the same thing Amazon is doing to local bookstores, music stores, and everybody else they’ve set their sights on (I highly recommend the film).

Of course, one response to my Amazon-free Christmas twitter remark was fair enough: “The people who supply to or work for Amazon don’t need the money?” He’s right, yes, they most certainly do, or at least some of them do. But why not go directly to the company, or person selling the good and cutting the middle person out? Further, do you really need that thing you’re buying from Amazon in the first place? Surely you’re not purchasing most items to benefit the other person, so one of our first questions should always be: do I need to buy this thing in order to have what possessing it promises? I’ve found that so many of the things I really need, I can find used on craigslist, at a garage sale, or from a friend who is no longer using it (church email groups are great for this kind of thing!). And of course there’s the whole “You don’t need to buy a gift to give a gift,” line that Rev. Billy preaches that is about as Gospel as they come. Making gifts are really one of the best ways to go. Why spend a lot of money (or any!) on Christmas, is that what it’s all about?

But then I ran across this post on the lives of workers and things start to look even less favorable for the corporation ironically named after the very thing it is helping to decimate (paper anyone?). Here are some of the conditions reported from warehouses in the UK that the post highlights:

– Warned that the company refuses to allow sick leave, even if the worker has a legitimate doctor’s note. Taking a day off sick, even with a note, results in a penalty point. A worker with six points faces dismissal.

– Made to work a compulsory 10-hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week. The overnight shift, which runs from Saturday evening to 5am on Sunday, means they have to work every day of the week.

– Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as ‘ridiculous’. Those packing heavy Xbox games consoles had to pack 140 an hour to reach their target.

– Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.

– Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.

– Given only one break of 15 minutes and another of 20 minutes per eight-hour shift and told they had to notify staff when going to the toilet. Amazon said workers wanted the shorter breaks in exchange for shorter shifts.

Inside The Lives Of Warehouse Employees

Now certainly this is just one report and doesn’t cover every warehouse they have (though the are lawsuits in the US for some of the same issues), but let’s not lose the point: these are not statistics that should be popping up in the warehouses of such rich corporations like Amazon (the way they do with Wal-Mart, etc).  I want to raise a basic question about shopping online: with an even greater amount of anonymity that the Web provides businesses, in what ways are you being careful about the impact of shopping for really cheap things from some other states and countries and how it impacts your local communities (and Does it matter to you?) But also, what about that company’s business practices and how it treats its employees, will you support (i.e. give your money to) a company that treats its employees poorly, runs them into the ground and takes advantage of them? At least with Wal-Mart you can walk in and take a look at how people are being treated, and you can ask the employees how things are going for them. Of course, if we know the answer will we respond? This is generally not the case for our online shopping and Amazon is starting to get in trouble for some of its poor working conditions. Let’s respond this year.

So I reassert my challenge, Let’s have an Christmas this year.

[Image from]

Blog Entries Quotations The Cultural

Dowd on (Role) Modeling

I came across this today while I was doing some back reading from this weekend’s newspaper. It struck me as really insightful:

After the baseball steroid scandal and the disappointing news that Tiger’s a cheetah, as the New York Post headline put it, it’s time to accept that athletes are not role models. They’re just models — for everything from sports drinks to running shoes to razor blades to credit cards to peanut butter to Buicks to Wheaties.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Lady and the Tiger –

I’ve really not followed the news/gossip about Tiger Woods because honestly I don’t really care. Not that I don’t care about the negative impact this kind of this has on his family and those connected to the scandal, I do, but another celebrity’s shocking fall from stardom is just not that shocking or interesting. I guess I am more bothered by the fact that so much of our news is based on stuff like this.

Yet, when I came across Maureen Dowd’s op-ed article in the Times this evening I was interested in what she had to say. Here she completely strips away the faux moralism we have placed on capitalism. Often “role models” in our culture are simply celebrities, people who live a glamorized life mostly hidden from the public or fabricated in a way to sell a certain kind of lifestyle and look. The only reason we know about most of these people is because they are advertising billboards for this or that brand. If bad news begins to surround them, or they become washed up, they drop completely off the radar. (I recall something like this happening to one of my favorite football players Barry Sanders.) Anyways, the discussion around role models being just models is a good one to have. Even within the church there are some many “celebrities” selling this or that brand, this or that mega-church, this or that latest and greatest book.

Hardly Normal wrote on his twitter the other day:

“unsubscribed to nearly all Christian blogs/news I used to follow bc 1) try to sell me something 2) talk about Sunday or a building more than people.” [i expanded some of his abbreviated text]

This is a sad but very true statement. Will we do anything about it? Do we even care? So I am asking, are we looking up to these consumer (role) models? Are we (The church) producing these kinds of models, or people who value the glitz and glamour and orient themselves around a moral capitalism rather than an actual morality rooted in something beyond themselves and their own brands? If our faith cannot call all of this into question, then we have a good idea what the pecking order really is. Here I am contending that the Christian narrative is powerful enough to undercut all of this, and shed light on what is true (I think Dowd has helped us here), but the Gospel has to be read a part from this kind of faux moral capitalism that we are seeped in. How we do that is certainly up for debate, but that we work together to do it should be an important part of our task.

Blog Entries The Cultural

‘Dont Buy It’ – Slam Poetry from the Climate Camp for

Came across this today while reading Jarrod McKenna’s post on climate change over at the sojo blog. The poem is really intense and has that prophetic edge we aren’t real comfortable with but I think it’s worth watching and considering. His message also resonates wtih Rev. Billy’s “The Church of Life After Shopping” and so naturally it caught my eye.

YouTube – ‘Dont Buy It’ – Slam Poetry from the Climate Camp for

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Home From a Retreat at the Beach

This past Friday I gave a bit of a cry-for-help and have been feeling under a lot of pressure lately given my schooling, job, and the recent (beautiful) events in our lives.  So what better time to take a retreat and do nothing?! This past weekend our church has scheduled a retreat at the Oregon coast where the Northwest Yearly Meeting Quakers own a lovely piece of property next to the beach. While December isn’t necessarily the first month that would jump in my mind as the time to visit the beach, it was lovely nonetheless. I waffled on going but I had a few motivating factors, first, it would be a great time to get to know people in our church, second, the weekend was really meant to be a retreat no over-planning and scheduling, and third, I was going to take L with me so it would be our first weekend adventure together. I decided the space away from school might be good for my head and help me get some perspective on the whole thing, so I promised myself to think little about it, and do no coursework while away.

I’m really glad I got to take a break and get away with L and friends from the Church. It was really lovely. We had a great group show up, lots of kids, some new faces, and plenty of people in our church I’ve been wanting to get to know more and just haven’t had the chance. Plus the weather was amazing! L and I had a great time hanging out, playing and sharing a big room all to ourselves. She even slept in a “big girl bed” all by herself!

So, tomorrow I will start back at my final paper for this quarter and hope that the distance helped to clear some things up, I feel I have less panic than I did a few days ago and I trust it will all come together and that God is with me in this much more than I felt on Friday.

The worship we did was really fun as well. On Saturday morning we read and discussed together some writings/a poem/ and queries I pulled together for the weekend (If you’re interested in downloading the packet go to the church’s website here). And Sunday we sand Christmas carols, prayed for one another, read the Scripture texts for the second week of advent and had open worship. It was all very nice. And I look forward to it again next December!

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Finding God in the Chaos?

With the new baby having arrived, working on a final paper for my methods course this quarter, having been sick for a week, signing for the title of our new house, plus all the regular things we do this past couple weeks have been, to say the least, chaotic.

While working on my paper this afternoon I came across this quote in Kester Brewin’s book “Signs of Emergence” (an enjoyable book to read but not on target enough for my current project). It is something Meister Eckhart wrote:

Spirituality is not to be learned in flight from the world, by feeling from things to a place of solitude; rather we must learn to maintain an inner solitude regardless of where we are or who we are with. We must learn to penetrate things, and find God there.

I’m looking for God in my schooling right now, because frankly it’d much rather give up. Not only do I have little energy or time for it, but I feel like I’m at a dead end and headed nowhere. This week my prayer is to penetrate and find where God is, among other things, even in my coursework!


Our Own Mini Advent: Baby Daniels #2 Arrives!

Catching Some Z's

As most of you know by now, thanks (or no thanks) to my facebook and twitter, we’ve had our baby. In keeping with the trend of announcing big life transitions here I wanted to let you all know that my wife Emily gave birth to our daughter this past Friday. Her name isskitched-20091202-072019 and we will be calling her by her middle name (just ‘M’ here on the web) like her dad. It was an amazingly beautiful and quick birth. We had been sick all the past week. First, L got croup the weekend before Thanksgiving and we ended up taking her to the ER for fear that she was showing signs of having received my asthma genes. Thankfully enough that is most likely not the case, so far as they can tell now. Though she definitely did have that patented croup cough. Well we’re not sure if being at the ER is how Emily and I got sick but either way last week was awash. No turkey for us on Thanksgiving or the day after! Happily a friend from our meeting brought us some turkey soup after the birth.

Anyways, Friday rolls around and Emily said she was having contractions off and on every 15-25 min. in the morning. (I was happy to hear this mainly because three months ago when Emily and I picked days we thought the baby would be born on November 27th was my day!) By 1pm the contractions were steadily 10 min. apart. so I called and canceled our 2:00 appointment we had that day to go and sign for the title of our new house. Then, at 4pm I ran L over to the sitter (her first night away from home without us), went back to pick Emily up and got her to the Southwest Medical Hospital in Vancouver at 4:45pm, when her contractions were just about 7min. apart. Once we got to triage and her vitals were checked, we gave them our birth plan: a quiet, simple, all natural baby birth please. They happily supported our wishes and even went out of their way to provide really good care that was personalized. The midwife, who was still on the clock for a short time, said she was 6 centimeters dilated and progressing perfectly. The nurse started filling the tub in our room for Emily to labor in and we were off.

Laboring in the tub was something Emily was particularly looking forward to, but we didn’t have any idea it would be the scene for all the excitement. After being in the tub for a short while labor really picked up and she said she felt like she needed to push. When I say awhile I am talking, it’s about 6pm at this point. Our main nurse, Coby, came in and said to go ahead and try a “soft push” (whatever that is), she did and he said that Emily was complete. Our doula, Melissa Brewster (who was fantastic btw), noticing labor was progressing fast asked if need be, could Emily in fact give birth in the tub? The answer was an immediate no. But then Melissa asked how would it change things if the water was drained first, the answer was a yes, if necessary they could do it in the tub. So she started draining the water, just in case. By the time the water had drained, the nurse realized Emily was too far along in labor to get her out of the tub and told one of the other nurses, “I know I just told you to get the bed ready, but there’s no time, bring those things here we’re going to have a baby here in the tub!”

Coby was completely ready to deliver the baby, which nice and kind of surprised me given the experience at our first birth. Two years ago, where we were in LA, the nurses wanted nothing to do with catching a baby, let alone in a tub! They told Emily to lay on her side and not push while they called to wake the doctor at 4am (he got there 20 min later).  That was one thing that made our first birth a lot different from this second one. Another interesting feature to last week’s Friday evening was that our mid-wife was off at 6 and the next mid-wife wouldn’t be in until 8. We knew there was no way Emily would last that long and we hadn’t met the OB on call, and at that point I wasn’t even sure there was one available.

They quickly prepped the very tiny bathroom for the birth! I think there were about 5 or 6 of us crammed into that room. At one point there were three of us crouched over the tub helping Emily! Then the baby’s head crowned, the next contraction brought her head half-way out and it paused. Emily made some comment about the “ring of fire” and I started humming the Johnny Cash tune (to myself of course). Right then, out of nowhere the OB swooped into the room, slide past the growing multitude of people crammed together awaiting or assisting in the birth, shook my hand and briefly introduced herself, “Hi I’m dr. so and so, let’s deliver this baby.” She knelt over the tub, Emily had another contraction, and out came M at 6:34pm! She was measured at 6lbs 7oz, and 19 inches long.

It all seemed really effortless on my end, my wife is awesome! I couldn’t believe we were only at the hospital for 1:45 mins. before M was born. I  told Emily she really makes it look easy, maybe I should give it a shot one time around (Sike!).  It was a great birth, we’ve got another healthy, lovely little lady, and we’re all at home settling into to life as a growing family.

There is much to be thankful for this year.

Here are some more pictures if you’re interested: