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Featured Sermons

Sermon: The Birth of a New, Contrast Community

This is a message I gave at First Friends Meeting in Greensboro on December 22, 2019 following Revelation 12 and Matthew 1:18ff. Here is the recorded version of the message.

Rev. 12:1   And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman eclothed with fthe sun, with fthe moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and gwas crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great hred dragon, iwith seven heads and jten horns, and on his heads kseven diadems. 4 His tail swept down la third of the stars of heaven and mcast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child nhe might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, oone who is to rule1 all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was pcaught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for q1,260 days.

Rev. 12:7   Now war arose in heaven, rMichael and shis angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And tthe great dragon was thrown down, uthat ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, vthe deceiver of the whole world—whe was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Matt. 1:18   Now the birth of uJesus Christ5 took place in this way. vWhen his mother Mary had been betrothed6 to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child wfrom the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling xto put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, yan angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and zyou shall call his name Jesus, afor he will save his people from their sins.” 22 bAll this took place cto fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Matt. 1:23    d“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name eImmanuel” 

 (which means, God fwith us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And ghe called his name Jesus.


Birthday Stories

In our family, the advent season is extra special. M, our middle daughter, was born on Nov 27, 2009. Just a few days before the start of advent on the liturgical calendar.

L, our oldest daughter, was born on December 19, 2007. She was due on Christmas, but thankfully Emily’s prayers were heard and she was born 6 days before. Now she doesn’t have to comete for spotlight with the Son of Man.

As you can see advent is special in our house the baby Jesus notwithstanding.

Advent is a time of waiting that anticipates arrival. It is very much like the Quaker concept of “expectant waiting.”

There is so much build up to the moment of birth.

One of the practices that we do each year with the kids is we have a special birthday dinner where the kids pick what they want to eat. Sometimes we make a meal, sometimes we go out to eat, but in either case, over dinner Emily and I pitch in to tell our celebrant their birth story.

  • L’s is focused around the anticipation of our first child. Her birth made us parents and changed our lives as a family.
  • M’s birth involves being born in water.
  • C’s involves time and patience.

Each one is special. Each year the details remain more or less consistent – thanks in large part to Emily’s high functioning memory – but they also sway and adapt as we get to know our children more and more.

These stories would change dramatically if there was a traumatic loss, a separation, hopes or promises broken.

Can you think back to your own birth story, and how your family talked about these earlier parts of your life? How has that story shaped you over your life?

Beginnings matter because because they tell us where the rest of the story is going. For better or worse, they orient us to the future.

Both pain and promise are often found within origin stories.
Birth stories have the power of building up or tearing down.

Christmas is the origin story of the church and it matters whether to us it is a sweet and quaint little story, domesticated and pretty, with Mary and Jospeh smiling happily as she gives birth in a stable; or if there is a build up to Revolution and change. If Mary and Joseph are refugees who are on the run and homeless, if there is both hope and fear in Mary’s eyes not just for what is now, but for what she knows is to come, then the story is very different.

If you have a crèche in your home, which we do, which origin story does it symbolize? One in which Jesus is a cute baby or one in which those living on the margins of society, living under occupation of the Roman Empire find hope and revolution?

Origin stories shape who we are and who we are becoming.


This is why I like Revelation 12 as an advent text, as strange as it first appears.

Why on earth would anyone read Revelation for advent? Besides the fact that most of you know I love the book of Revelation as a text that teaches the early Christian community how to resist and not assimilate into Empire, besides that, It was Jaimie, she told me to do it.

Actually – when she asked me to preach she wondered whether there was a way to look at Revelation 12 in the context of advent. Admittedly, this was not something I’d ever considered doing.

But lay Revelation 12 alongside Matthew 1, read them together as dialogue partners, perhaps two parents telling different versions of their child’s birth story.

Revelation 12 is the like the revolutionary’s crèche.

It is known to scholars (Blount) as a “cosmic combat myth,” while others talk about it as an example of myth and a counter-myth.

Here in Revelation 12 we see two competing birth stories, one portent from heaven signified by a pregnant women giving birth and a second portent signified by a great red dragon waiting over her, ready to “devour her child as soon as it was born.”

“Portent” – comes from the greek Semion as in semiotics – meaning signs. Similarly a portent, which I know is a word you all use in normal, everyday conversation, but I had to look it up – means:

“A sign or warning that a momentous or calamitous event is likely to happen.”

Sounds very similar to how we use the word “advent.”

In other words, Revelation 12, is an apocalyptic commentary on the original birth story reminding us that this birth initiated a cosmic conflict between the powers and principalities, between what Biblical scholar WHB calls the “religion of creation” and “the religion of empire.”

Even though we know there has been a conflict between these two religions at least since the time of the tower of Babel, Revelation is telling us that there is something about this birth that brings it to a head.

This is because the birth of Jesus surfaces the possibility of something new. A New, Contrast Community of people who not only do not assimilate into empire and resist its tactics and practices, but one that will actually become a counter-community, revealing instead what God intends for the world. A community seeking to live out Gospel Order.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

– Rev 12:10

The rest of this chapter describes a battle and victory of those who follow the lamb in nonviolent resistance. The marginalized ones, the ones oppressed and crushed by empire, are the ones who are a part of what the text calls the “kingdom of God.”

And when we go back to Matt 1 and our traditional Christmas stories we see that it is Jesus who is representative of these people, he is one of them, he is born to them. Jesus’ birth story tells of a God who shows up to and sides with the poor and victims of empire. Those who the dragon accuses and wishes to devour.

This is the power of the Christmas story.

It is not for gentle babes, born to a happy and stable nuclear family, it is – as Mary the mother of Jesus sings in the Gospel of Luke – for the:

51 scattering of the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

So long as we read the Christmas story alongside Revelation’s critique of empire, we won’t loose site of the fact that this is an alternative origin story to what it means to be the people of God. What it means to be the church.


A New/Old Christmas Story

Revelation 12 reminds us there is far more to the story and urges us to keep its revolutionary character in front of us. If this is the birth story we are working from, than it cannot, will not become a story that builds up some of us up over and against some wicked others,

If this is the birth story we are working from we will refuse to scapegoat others, because we know that Jesus and his family are themselves on the run as scapegoats of empire.

If this is the birth story we are working from we will find ways to resist economics that oppress others because we know that Jesus was born to Palestinian Jews living under Roman occupation who extorted, enslaved, and were poor because of a system that was working to benefit some at the expense of everyone else.

If this is the birth story we are working from than we will join Jesus in the work of building towards an alternative reality, a contrast community, one that Revelation calls the Multitude, and Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Beloved Community.

This multitude is a re-igniting of what God intended for humanity, a new community rooted in the goodness of creation, the love of God; rooted in the call to love neighbor and enemy alike. This multitude is a community that welcomes and centers the wounded, the betrayed, and others who have been victimized by empire.

It lives in active resistance to empire and empire’s origin stories and myths.

We get to choose which version of the Christmas story we participate in and perpetuate.

We get to choose what the creche symbolizes to us.

Our origin stories matter. And sometimes they need to change.

Let us live into the wake of this revolutionary story by narrating and building alternative communities of resistance, revitalization, and love in the face of empire.

Thank you, Friends.

Queries:

  • What role does origin/creation stories play in the formation of community?
  • What is your origin story?
  • What role does those on the margins and “all of creation” play in the our conceptions of community?
Categories
Featured The Pastorate

Origin Stories: Celebrating Barberton Friends Church

Recently, Barberton Evangelical Friends Church in Barberton, Ohio – the first church I ever worked in – celebrated their 75th anniversary. As a token of my own love and appreciation for this community and their investment in me, I wanted to share some of my fond memories and role this community played in my early pastoral life.

In the fall of 2000, my systematic theology professor at Malone College pulled me aside after class and asked me what I planned to do after college. I told him that I had felt called to go into pastoral ministry. He said that sounded great and inquired about my current work situation. I told him that I was working at a place called the, “Flaming Pit,” which as you can imagine didn’t sound like the kind of place you’d find a nice Bible and Theology student hanging out. (The Flaming Pit was a BBQ restaurant and I was waiting tables). I didn’t make much money there because it was slow and small, but the owners were really sweet and let me eat dinner there when I worked, which I appreciated and often relied on because I was putting myself through college and needed all the support I could get.

Dr. Dymale, offered a suggestion, “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to try working at a church to see if you like pastoring?”

A thought that had never occurred to me!

This was pre-Quaker, pre-pastor Wess. I don’t honestly even know if I knew anything about Quakers at that point, and I was coming from a non-denominational church so I planned to just look for anything remotely interesting.

Shortly after this conversation with Dr. Dymale, I headed to the Bible & Theology department and opened the big Three-Ring binder that was full of job postings. Eventually, I found a listing for a youth pastor for Barberton Friends Church and called the church up. Next thing I know, I was eating pizza with Pastor Brian Cowan at the Pizza Oven (MY FAVORITE!) in Canton, Ohio. I don’t remember the specifics of that conversation, but I remember liking Brian and being offered the job either on the spot or shortly after.

I worked at Barberton from the winter of 2000 until the summer of 2003 when Emily and I moved to Pasadena, CA for grad school. In that 2.5 year timespan, I learned and grew a lot personally. I was challenged, found success and made some good relationships along the way. Best of all, I discovered I loved to pastor. Beyond these general things, a few specifics come to mind: I gave my first sermon at Barberton Friends. And by first sermon, I mean I preached for probably 50 minutes with basically all the ideas and thoughts I’d stored up for the first 22 years of my life! When I finished that inaugural sermon, Emily said to me that the sermon was more like two sermons and that she looked forward to my next one when I didn’t have 22 years of material stored up.

Besides being my first place to pastor, and my first place to preach, it was also the place where I became a convinced Friend, lingo for when I decided to become a Quaker. As a Bible and Theology student, coming out of a non-denominational church, I was not big on the idea of denominations. I sort of thought they were signs of a lack of faith, not as spiritual as the kind of church I was coming from. This is a perspective that some non-denominational churches have and it is one I picked up on, even though I doubt it was something explicitly stated. Being at Barberton Friends, was a curious place to find myself. I began reading about Friends history, I wanted to know who these people were that I was working for, what was their theology, what were they about? I had the experience of realizing in the midst of this study that I was already a Quaker, not that I wanted to be one, or hoped they’d accepted me, but that I was already a Quaker and had – in some way – always been one. I had the experience when reading the histories and theologies that “this puts language to things I’ve always felt and believed.” I doubt that my “convincement” registered much at Barberton Friends – I think it was something more personal and individual at this time for me, but something shifted that, as it turns out, would impact the rest of my life.

Out of this experience I began to look at the Evangelical Friends Church community – here I do not just mean Barberton but the many other churches and connections to Friends I gained through Malone – I was surrounded by. By becoming a Quaker I was instantaneously connected to a global family, a thought I loved and continue to love to this day.

I loved this community and could see how they had invested in me. I decided to begin the process of being recorded (Quaker Speak for something like an ordination process) by the yearly meeting there, but I also felt a growing tension between what I was reading in Quaker history texts and what I was seeing around me. Why did “Friends” today look so different from Friends in the first and second generations? What happened and why the disconnect? Are there ways to retrieve what is most important about that tradition for today? To a new Quaker with very little knowledge or understanding of the Quaker world these questions felt paramount, now I see them much better for what they were – my own seeking to find an expression of faith that closely aligned with my own understanding and experience. These issues eventually led me to grad school and to my dissertation and to what I do today.

In reflecting on all of this, and so much more – my friendship with Brian Cowan, his early support of me and guidance as I began my pastoral work, his commitment to helping people no matter the cost, and his deep faith continue to inspire me. The youth there – who are youth no more – many of them I remain in contact with and keep tabs on to this day. I cannot recognize the role of Barberton Friends enough. It is the place and the cause of my convincement. It was the beginning of my Quaker journey and a major catalyst for my questions around change and renewal and the Quaker tradition. I could not ask these questions, let alone understand them enough to begin to truly wrestle with them without first having been invited to be on the inside of this community, where I was able to learn not just what the books say, but experience how the people live these things out.

I celebrate the ongoing work of this community and pray for its vitality and faithfulness well into the future.

Categories
Featured Renewing Faith

Four Key Aspects to Understanding Renewal in Faith Communities

“Kindness eases change
Love quiets fear”
― Octavia E. Butler

In a lot of my classes and work at Guilford College, I talk about renewal. I think that much of my work is focused around renewal, not because of a failure in the institution but because change is constant, change is inevitable, and with each new shift in leadership, change can be dramatic. These shifts unfold within the larger community and political systems in coordinated and inevitable. Therefore, some intentional approach to renewal is needed and necessary.

Without renewal we get stuck in the past.
Without renewal we devalue all that has been done before us.
We need someways of approach change-work that helps us hold these various pieces of the puzzle together.

Plenty of books have been written on the subject, including my own, which most readers of this blog are familiar with. A few other books that have been instructive to me in the past are: Managing Transitions by William and Susan; A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman; and Originals by Adam Grant.*

Regardless of what you draw on when you are working within a community, large or small, you will draw on something. We all have our own desires, ethics, and biases. If we’re not paying attention and being intentional with what we do and how we approach this work, it is very possible that we can do more harm than good. Secondly, while it is important to be aware of the things we bring to this work, it is equally important to know what the communities we are in or are working with bring. What are their own contexts, histories, biases, successes and failures? How will all of this play into the final mix?

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Featured The Technological

Becoming Facebook Free

I’ve struggled with Facebook for some time. For about the last 2.5 years, I’ve basically wanted to deactivate my account and have even downloaded all my information from it more than once in preparation but then I chickened out or lost my motivation. So I’ve settled on not using it but still having an account. By “Not Using It” I mean, that I literally go weeks without checking anything on it, at most spending 5-10 mins a week clearing out notifications just to make sure I didn’t miss something that needs my attention, and removing the app from my iOS devices. But the reality is, I really don’t like Facebook and don’t want to be on there but feel that in some way I’m obligated to have an active profile there.

I don’t like it for three main reasons:

  • I think it is an attention black hole
  • I have found it to have largely negative impacts on community and face-to-face relationships
  • I think Facebook is increasingly unethical and corrupt and I don’t like what they’re doing with our data

To this third point, there is a lot of data and journalism that’s been written about Facebook’s impact on political ads and the presidential campaign, Cambridge Analytica, and more. 2018 was a particularly terrible year for Facebook in terms of their ethical screw-ups. If you are unfamiliar with these events, here are few articles that outline what I’m talking about:

And here are a couple podcasts from Note To Self on what Facebook does with our data, which I find equally troubling:

For me, I can’t help but feel like using this platform is a vote for the platform, no matter what small goods may come from trying to leverage it. This makes me uncomfortable, and yet, I still feel tied to it like so many.

Things shifted for me recently after listening to one of my favorite podcasts called “Rework” by the folks at Basecamp, a company whose values I am inspired by. Their recent episode, “100% Facebook-Free” was deeply motivating. See their post here that goes into a little more detail on the subject.

I was impressed that a business as big as theirs was willing to make a stand against these actions by pulling their company off all of Facebook’s apps: Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp.

Here is how they describe “being a Facebook-free business.”

Being a Facebook-Free Business means your customers can trust that you aren’t collaborators with the Facebook machine. That when you spend your money with a Facebook-Free Business, none of that money will find its way back to Facebook’s coffers.

The rules are pretty simple. Being Facebook Free means:

  1. We do not buy advertisement on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp.
  2. We do not use Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp to promote or represent our business or to communicate with our customers.
  3. We do not assist Facebook in its data collection regime through use of Facebook social Like buttons or by offering Facebook logins.

In short, that the business does not use Facebook or its subsidiaries in any way shape or form to operate, further, or conduct itself.

This all got me thinking about the small steps I could take to get off of Facebook. I tend to think in terms of all-or-nothing and that has made it hard for me to act, but when I think about this blog and my small coffee roasting hobby as two places I could start, I realized I could make some movement. And the values behind both these sites are not reflected in what FB stands for anyway. So last week, I went through Gathering In Light and I removed all FB like links from the site so that FB cannot track your data here. Next, I deleted both Gathering In Light and Fireweed Coffee Pages from Facebook. The next step is to build my email list for Fireweed and then remove it from Instagram (My hope is to do that sometime in the coming months). Because it is so small, something like IG does help with my communication and promotion. However, with a little more work, I can strengthen visibility in alternative ways, making it easier to cut loose from these platforms.

I wanted to share these thoughts with you not because I hope you’ll necessarily follow me in taking these steps, but more to share the process I’m going through to my online life and IRL in alignment with each other. And also to communicate, if you notice why I am not present on some of these other platforms as much or at all. I’m interested in hearing how others process this information and if you’ve taken any steps to protect yourself, your data, and others online as well.

Categories
Creativity Featured Practices

End of the Year Reflections

We had some friends over for New Year’s, which was a lot of fun and just the right way to close out the year. Having a variety of people from across various social groups gather and enjoy one another’s company was a very real way for us to see how far we’ve come in Greensboro over the past 3.5 years. We really are starting to root ourselves, build community, and make this place home.

Finding New Ways to “Not Always Be Working”

In keeping with some of the things I’ve been reflecting on since reading marlee grace’s book, How To Not Always Be Working, over break, I decided to take the opportunity of having a little get together at the house to do something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while: smoke meat on my charcoal grill. I think this is part of my learning more about Southern culture, and partly because I really love smoke meats that I thought it would be fun to try something new. So, I smoked a turkey. I found the process of learning about how to do it, reading a variety of recipes, and talking to people on the phone who I know are great at smoking meat (including my dad and a good friend who lives in town), really added a whole extra layer of interest to the adventure. It all turned out great, our friends loved it, and I found the whole experience to be a restful one, reminding me that rest can be something that comes in many forms. Here are some photos from the experience.

How about for you? If you have had a little time off over the holidays how did you spend your time? What did you do to rest and “not work?” Make a list of 3-5 things you did to rejeuvenate and stick that list in your notebook. Next time things get a little wild or stressful pull it out and do one of those things on the list. Or better yet, make it a habit to do some things each week that help you pull away from work so you can have increase your self-awareness and care.

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Featured

Conducting an Annual Review

I posted this article last year on a different blog. It’s still pretty useful and worth sharing here for those of you interested in doing an annual review or learning about the process I follow. Some things have adapted or changed for me in the past year but this is still generally what I am following.

Since taking Tiago Forte’s exceptional course on personal knowledge management, Building a Second Brain, this past summer, I have not only seen and put into practice the morning, weekly and monthly reviews, I have tried to use them to build new habits into my life.

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Reviews

Besides learning and putting into practice things such as, Progressive Summarization, P.A.R.A. and “Just in Time Project Management,” that are core to Tiago’s Personal Knowledge Management’s curriculum, the practice of “reviewing” my work, specifically the morning review , where I put into practices the principles noted in Forte’s Zero Inbox Post, has had a greater impact on my work life more than anything else I’ve done, maybe ever.

Here is an example of my Morning Review, based largely off of Tiago’s system with a few tweaks of my own.

I take Tiago’s advice and use the sticky app on my mac. I like it because I don’t use stickies for anything but my different reviews. When I wake up in the morning all I need to remember to do is open stickies, and then I just go step by step. This works well for me because when I wake up in the morning I need as low a threshold as possible to help me get started. “Open Stickies” and “Go step by step through the list” is a pretty low threshold.

Categories
Featured Practices

On Traveling in the Ministry

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.”

Categories
Featured Practices Quaker

A New Kind of Nursery of Truth – Part 3

Revisioning
Photo Credit – Eric Muhr

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.

How do we publish this truth, and more importantly live it, in ways that are effective and shape a new generation’s imagination and practice?

Categories
Featured Quaker The Theological

The Original Nursery of Truth – Part 1

Revisioning
Photo Credit – Eric Muhr

This is the first of a three-part post 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).*

The following two parts will be posted in the coming week. Therefore, the links are currently “dead.”

Some of you are already familiar with the idea behind the historical “Nursery of Truth” (and here is a link to a more contemporary version). The idea comes from early Quaker history. As Friends were traveling from Britain to the colonies they often stopped off in Barbados where there was a large amount of Quakers at the time. According to Elbert Russell, it was shortly after 1656 that Barbados became a “major distributing point for most Friends.” As early as 1657 Friends there received a letter from George Fox about his concern for the enslavement of people by those living there.

Barbados

It became a kind of gateway into the colonies for many traveling Quaker ministers. As missionaries, early friends knew the importances of training and preparation in the truth before heading to America to spread Good News and establish more Quaker meetings. By 1661 George Rofe calls it “the nursery of Truth” (Russell 1979: 39). The nursery of truth was a spiritual nursery where Quaker missionaries and ministers went to grow, be nurtured and pruned.

Categories
Featured The Pastorate

In the Deep End With Grief: Thoughts On Pastoral Care to Those Hurting Most 

As the previous year comes to a close, I’m reposting some articles from 2014 I wrote elsewhere on the web. This is a post I wrote about grief that originally posted on the blog Antioch Session.

I find it hard to carry the weight of my own pain, let alone the weight of another. I have found that the grief we carry is sometimes so heavy, so disorienting, even – sometimes – so embarrassing (how could I let this happen me?) that it is hard to share that weight or let it out. The weight of grief is compounded by the inability that we all experience of isolation and being unable to see beyond it. Grief is a lot like floating out in the middle of a deep lake, nothing close by to grab onto. Unable to see the bottom, I tread water and try not to panic.

Even as a pastor, facing these painful moments with others can often be scary. Realizing this, I recently shared some of my fears and questions with a friend who is a retired therapist. His response to me was not what I expected. “I was afraid too,” were the words that fell from his mouth.