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Doing Film Events in the Church

One idea we’ve been doing at our church (Camas Friends) we started last fall, it’s called “Last Sunday’s for the Earth.” The idea was to create a forum where topics could be discussed using films as a starting point for those conversations. We have shown a number of films, two of our most well received were Jeremy Seifert’s film Dive! and Food, Inc. Each event has been advertised in the local paper, on facebook and on the church blog. We’ve been able to meet a lot of people from our community this way, and have some really good discussions.  We’ve also invited a variety of people to come and lead these discussions, which helps us learn from people outside our own meeting. All of this is with an eye towards trying to help each of us learn a little more, and interact with different stories than our own. The feedback has been positive and this seems like good work to carry on.

One of the issues we’re running into is being able to afford the licenses to show these films in public (usually around $100). While I haven’t found it difficult to work with the companies who mediate these licenses spending that kind of money monthly is not an option for a small Quaker meeting like us. I understand the importance of people getting paid for their work, but it seems like if it was between not showing it, or showing it to a small group of people (25 or so) who show it for free themselves, wouldn’t you rather get your work out there? With the most recent movie we showed (Food, Inc.) we asked for donations and that was helpful in covering most of the cost. So we’re looking into ways to have free events that won’t also get us in trouble with licenses.

This past Sunday we invited Michelle Week to come and talk to us about the project she is heading up in our community: Camas Food Co-Op (and facebook). To kick things off, in true “Last Sunday” fashion we showed some film clips from YouTube! So we had a nice turn out, a good conversation, and it didn’t cost us a penny.

Showing films and creating a space for more of a forum atmosphere is a good option for meetings looking to generate some involvement with their community around issues that they feel are important.

Convergent Friends Featured Six Months Quaker Preacher The Biblical

Movements and Common Language of the Spirit – Acts 2

a fire

Last week I wrote a little about our experience of visiting another Quaker meeting in Portland last Sunday. During that time of open worship I thought some about Acts 2 and Pentecost.

It was obvious that there is much that these two communities have in common and can learn from one another. And given the current state of things we may end up needing one another more than we originally thought.

But there is also a lot of difference, and this may be just as important as our similarities. Last Sunday was the Sunday the church celebrates as Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early Christians for the first time (Acts 2). There are many things we can say about this passage in Acts but two stand out to me in connection with last Sunday.

First is the movement of the Holy Spirit. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” The movement of the Spirit is forceful and it is powerful. While we were in silence the children were in the room, just like they are present with us while we worship. There were children running back and forth, just like at our own meeting. At one point, as I was sitting there with my eyes shut when the doors behind me opened. I didn’t turn back to look and see who it was, instead I just listened, and the footsteps weren’t really steps at all but were more like skips as though the child, I knew it had to be a child, were playing hop-scotch. It came to me in that moment that the Spirit, when he or she, enters the room, doesn’t somberly walk into that room, quietly, awkwardly, the way we do, especially if we know everyone in the room is trying to be quiet in worship. No, the Spirit steps into the room dancing and skipping. This is the same Spirit who animates us. The Spirit dances, rejoices and delights! Apart from the apathy we can often be consumed by, the Holy Spirit, who arrives on Pentecost, and skips through the room, animating those who are filled with God’s presence with new life, new vision, and new openness to wherever God may be present among us, or among them!

And it is this Spirit who becomes our language. What I really like about this passage is that it starts within the context of a bunch of different people all together in one place. The text says that there were Jews from at least 14 different countries in Jerusalem when this happened. There were people speaking all kinds of languages, and while Jewish, were culturally from different parts of the world. There were some serious differences here, many of these people could not understand one another because of the language barrier and then, like a mighty wind, the Spirit envelopes the room and it says “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” In other words, among all that difference, in the middle of people from all over the world, the Spirit becomes the common language that unites them all. Isn’t this beautiful? Whatever we do, and whomever we do it with, if we work at speaking the language of the Spirit we will be understood and we will understand. We will find unity, no matter how different we are, and we will be animated to skip and dance.

Blog Entries The Biblical The Theological

Reenforcing Totalitarian Power Through Masculine Language

I came across this quote today while working on my sermon for Sunday:

“We have tended to use particular power models for God that image divine power as like that of a monarchical ruler, or a military general who crushes all who oppose him. The model of power assumed here is one of competitive power: all-powerful over those who are powerless; all-good over those who are worthless; domination over subjugation. Such a concept of divine power sacralizes the same kind of totalitarian power in male human hands as ‘god-like.'” ~Rosemary Radford Ruether

The text for this Sunday I am focusing on is Proverbs 8:22-31. Which deals quite beautifully with the divine feminine. Sophia, Wisdom says, “”She is…the image of God’s goodness. She is one, but can do all things. Herself unchanging, she makes all things new. Age after age she enters into holy souls and makes them God’s friends and prophets” (Wisdom 7:26-27).  Emphasizing the feminine side of God is something few of us in the church (men especially) do enough and the result is not only that we continue to reenforce a particular power structure foreign to the Gospels themselves but that we are ignore and right out neglecting half (or more than half as is often the case) of those in our congregations.

Joan Chittister said in an interview with Sojourners back in 1987:

The basic principle is that what is not in the language is not in the mind. So if you are ignoring women in church language, or lumping women under a so-called generic term which is only generic half of the time, then what you have done is erase half the population of the earth. They can exist only when somebody else calls them into existence. So half of us are left to figure out when they mean us and when they don’t.

That’s why in the Hebrew tradition the idea of naming, of giving identity to, is a very important part of the theology. And we recognize it at that level. But we have failed to recognize it when we say, “Dearly beloved brethren, let us pray for the grace to recognize that we are all sons of God.”

I never got that grace—that’s how I’m sure that kind of intercession doesn’t work. I remember from the time I was 5 years old, looking around the church, knowing that they had forgotten somebody; they’d forgotten me, and I was in the church. I was not a son of God. I was a daughter of God and very comfortable with that.

The whole notion that the language comes out of a woman’s envy of men is ridiculous! It comes out of a woman’s recognition of the greatness of the creation of womanhood. If God could afford to make us separately, then it seems somebody could talk to us separately.

As I read the tale, God addressed Adam and Eve separately. God didn’t call up Abraham and say, “I just presume Sarah will get her part of the message.” Throughout creation history there has been direct confirmation of the fact that God and a woman can have direct conversation and contact. We’ve lost that in our languages; and then we act as if it’s not important.

We need to continue to work hard to change this situation from the top-down and from the bottom up. New systems can be put in place, we can change how we talk, and the words we use in our daily speech. I know I don’t want my daughters growing up (nor should they!) in a church culture where they are always being left out of the picture. I am happy that Friends’ history has many  good examples of how power can be mutually engaging rather than totalitarian, and we do indeed have many mothers of the faith who are good examples for all of us, but we find ourselves in a day and age where our yearly meetings pay more lip-service to mutuality and being “egalitarian” far more than we actually do anything to show we’re committed to it. Even in Quaker scholarship a majority of the people studied and written about are still men even though we have a wealth of reasons for this to not be so.

Here’s Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31

“Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.

The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.

Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.

Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.

When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

Blog Entries Quaker Quotations The Biblical The Theological

The Spirit Skips, God Dances

During worship at Multnomah Meeting on Sunday I kept thinking about the fact that it was Pentecost Sunday and reflecting on the Holy Spirit. One thought, given the context of worship, was that although there were many language represented in Acts 2, the Spirit was the one language all could understand. God’s gift to us is a common language that context those of us who speak different languages and who come from very different backgrounds. Rather than trying to make everyone the same, or building a sectarian, and therefore false, unity, the Holy Spirit creates unity-in-difference. This is the formation and pattern the church was meant to follow, and it is the one we so often neglect.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

At another point a child came into the room where we were worshiping in silence and skipped from one side to the other to see his mother. What instantly came to my mind was the movement of the Spirit, and how God’s Spirit surely is more like this child skipping across our worshiping spaces, than like one of us adults who so gingerly and awkwardly maneuver into the room hoping to not make a sound. I love how this young boy burst into the room, with reckless determination, make his presence felt, and joyfully bounced toward the one he loved.

This is not a new metaphor for the Spirit’s movement:

“In the early church, one of the most powerful images used for the Trinity was the image of a dance of mutual indwelling. The Father, Son, and Spirit live in an eternal, joyful, vibrant dance of love and honor, rhythm and harmony, grace and beauty, giving and receiving. The universe was created to be an expression and extension of the dance of God – so all creatures share in the dynamic joy of movement, love, vitality, harmony, and celebration. But we humans broke with the dance. We stamped on the toes of other dancers, ignored the rhythm, rejected the grace, and generally made a mess of things. But God sent Jesus into the world to model for us a way of living in the rhythm of God’s music of love, and ever since, people have been attracted to the beauty of his steps and have begun rejoining the dance.”

-Brian McLaren, Found in Translation

I would like to see our communities remember that the movement of God’s spirit in, through and around us is one that active, joyful, involves our whole being, our whole body, and gets us moving again. It was fitting that after worship, Betsey Kenworthy, the presiding clerk of the meeting invited us to sing the old hymn “Spirit of the Living God,” set to dance.

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Where do we see ourselves in each other? Camas Friends Visit Multnomah Quakers

This Sunday morning Camas Friends locked the doors to our meetinghouse and took a field trip into Portland to worship with Multnomah Monthly Meeting, an unprogrammed (as in silent worship) that is a part of North Pacific Yearly Meeting. There was a pretty good group of us who drove down, and from what I could tell everyone of us not only enjoyed ourselves and felt welcome, but had meaningful experiences in  worship (and over lunch) with other Quakers. The meeting for worship was rich with many people standing and giving vocal ministry (in fact some commented after wards that it ended too soon and they wanted it to go longer), the potluck and sharing a meal together was great, and the conversation afterwards was constructive and honest. It was guided by two queries that we sent out beforehand over our respective email lists:

  1. Where do we, programmed and unprogrammed, see ourselves in each other.
  2. “How do we integrate what happens in our silent communal worship into our daily lives?  Do we seek opportunities for worship outside of communal silence?”

I loved the whole thing, but the conversation was probably my favorite part. Hearing people share about their experiences of worship this morning, and the connections they felt between our two meetings was powerful. People also shared about the experience of having Multnomah come and visit us in April. Some (from both groups) talked about feeling nervous on their way to the meeting house, and how upon arrival feeling very settled and at peace. Some shared about the work that Camas has been going through over the course of the last 10-15 years to get to a place where they once again identify with being “Quaker” and where there was not just an openness but deep desire to experience this kind of interaction with other Friends. MMM was interested in knowing how we have made this transition, and the process of how we are learning what it means for us to be a Quaker community.

One friend said that when he visited our meeting, had there not been a sign on our building saying we were Friends, he would have known we were anyways. He went on to name the ways in which he saw the family resemblance as being at the center of what we do, (I won’t lie, it made me feel really good to hear him say this). We talked about things we can learn from one another, and ways we might support each meeting. Comments were made about the future of our meetings given the trauma our (American/Global) culture is going through. And I think I can safely say that the sense of the meeting was that this work needs to continue, we need each other, and even though we’re not fully sure what that looks like, we want to explore it in our own communities and together. A number of people almost simultaneously blurted out that we should do a day retreat together and invite other meetings to join us.

It was amazing for me to be a part of this. It has been 11 years in the making on my end. I have dreamed of a day when we could worship together in this way. I have in my own life traveled and worshiped among many Quakers but have never experienced something like this where two meetings come together in this way to worship and build friendships. It was a truly powerful experience for me.

I also loved the fact that they had so many children there and invited us to bring our children and have them join them in their morning classes. Many of the kids were bouncing and skipping around during the silence, just like they do at Camas! I loved that there was a freedom to speak in that room that is not always available in unprogrammed and programmed meetings alike. The culture in that meeting house was one of participation in worship rather than restriction. I felt really inspired, and felt that this work really is worth doing.  It was apparent to me that the Spirit is behind this work.

I look forward to more interactions with this community. And I am also really thankful to be a part of a church that is actually willing to think outside the norm and act on it. How many churches do you know of that would close it’s doors on Sunday morning and go somewhere else to worship, let alone somewhere that’s very different from your own experience. This really is a special community.

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Friends Association for Higher Education Coming Up

I am going to make this plug for my friends at Friends Association for Higher Education coming this summer. I would be there if I wasn’t already all traveled out. This note is geared towards young Friends who are in higher education (students, scholars, teachers, etc.) I can’t encourage you enough to go. Actually, if you want more convincing you can read my essay about my experience in the summer edition of the FAHE newsletter. Here’s the blurb:

Are you a young Friend (or an older one) interested in college teaching or student services?  If so, consider attending the Friends Association for Higher Education conference this summer, June 17-20, at William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa.  FAHE is always open to all, but this year we would like to offer a special invitation to graduate students and other young adults, given that our theme is Teaching and Mentoring as Service.

FAHE’s purpose is to provide a supportive relationship and opportunities for fellowship among all who share Quaker ideals of higher education, whether on Quaker or non-Quaker campuses. It does this by enhancing member’s appreciation of Friends’ religious heritage and nurturing the individual and corporate search for Truth.

There you go, that was painless wasn’t it? Let me know if you plan to go.

Convergent Friends Featured Practices Quaker Six Months Quaker Preacher

Building Networks of Support and Eldering

There’s a lot to say about this past weekend retreat on Convergent Friends and New Monasticism and it’s going to take me some time to unpack all the various experiences, ideas and thoughts that came out of it. However, one thing is for sure it was a learning experience. One of the really important things that came out of this past weekend was around my experience of leading a group like this.

A couple months ago, while Martin and I were in the middle of planning the weekend, Ashley Wilcox, member of Freedom Friends Church, emailed the two of us and asked us if we’d would be interested in having her companionship over the weekend as an elder. We both met Ashley last year at Ben Lomond Quaker Center while we were leading a convergent Friends retreat with our good friend Robin Mohr.  She is also the co-clerk of the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Conference and visited Camas Friends this past fall with co-clerk Sarah Peterson.

Featured Six Months Quaker Preacher The Biblical

Mary’s Flowering Tree (John 12)

I preached a while back on John 12:1-8 which reads:

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them* with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii* and the money given to the poor?’ 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it* so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

I’ve been thinking about this passage since that time. I love it. There’s so much going on here, so much to reflect on. For one, think about the wider biblical narrative of which this takes place within. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from death to life and in the meantime all hell has broken loose. Literally, this is the last public event Jesus does before he is arrested. Because he raised Lazarus his following has grown and gained the attention of those who were looking to do away with him. Just before our dinner scene we get to listen in on the pharisees scheming how they might kill Jesus. Just as everything is picking up the pace, the story is beginning to build to it’s devastating conclusion with Jesus’ capital punishment, that Mary plants a beautiful flowering tree amid the rubble:

“Remember let’s plant a flowering tree, here in the rubble and debris. I’ll tend it with a tear…” (Elvis Perkins)

She takes what turns out to be her last opportunity to show that she has given up all that she has and is fully devoted to Christ as one of his followers. The perfume she pours out then is a symbol for the obstacle that needs to be poured out in worship, it is the obstacle that holds one back, and thus becomes the object paid out in devotion to Christ. The fragrant oil poured out at his feet smacks of being out of place, just like beautiful flowers planted in pot holes.

Next, Mary’s act, her complete surrender, becomes a kind of beautiful aroma that overflows into the room and the whole house, she takes that which means the most to her and spills it onto the floor in the name of Christ. You have this kind of overflow, excessive spirituality represented here, where it exceeds the event and actually has to be written into the text. It says: “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Blog Entries Six Months Quaker Preacher

Spirit Rising: Young Quakers Are Speaking

Two weeks ago I was in Indiana for the book release party for the book I helped get published: Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices. I’ve written about Spirit Rising and the Quaker Youth Book Project over the last couple years. I was one of ten young Quaker editors on the board who all worked hard together to solicit material from the book from many countries from around the world and give what we felt was the best representation of at least some of those voices. The book is now out and it’s beautiful, it’s something I’m proud of, and it’s something I’m glad to have my name attached to.  It was itself a labor of love, it was very difficult at times, and many of us on the editorial board wanted to throw in the towel at one point or another over that last two years. We labored through this process (yes, we also had fun), so this book feels in a way like it was really “birthed.”

A lot of people criticize this kind of ecumenical (or “interbranch”) work because they are afraid of it or because they so strongly dislike the other parties involved, a lot of people pay lip service to this kind of work but really are not involved in the “work” part of this, and many just flat avoid it. This book is unavoidable like hot embers in your lap. If you read it in the context of this cross-branch movement, it will strike you as contradictory, cacophonous, beautiful, amazing, troubling, worshipful, creative, peculiar, and one-of-a-kind. I believe this book is one of a kind because of the what went into it. I don’t think many of us are willing to deal with the difficulties this work entailed. I’m not trying to pat our backs, I don’t think any of us (?) really knew what we were getting ourselves into when we first started, I know I had no clue. But what does stand out to me about the ten of us is that people hung in there, learned to listen deeply, be honest about their feelings, respect one another and grow. Because of those qualities, this group was able to assemble a book that we all love and that we all have some discomfort around! What a great a testimony to really working things out.

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Too Many Dave’s

And now for something out of the ordinary. Since we have small children in the house, we get our fair share of reading great children literature daily. I think I love reading this stuff as much as they love being read too! One of my favorites is the obvious Dr. Seuss. Here is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories called “Too Many Dave’s.

Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons, and she named them all Dave?

Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one, and calls out “Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!” she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!

This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.
And often she wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn.
And one of them Hoos-Foos. And one of them Snimm.
And one of them Hot-Shot. And one Sunny Jim.
Another one Putt-Putt. Another one Moon Face.
Another one Marvin O’Gravel Balloon Face.
And one of them Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate…

But she didn’t do it. And now it’s too late.