Featured Quaker The Theological

The Original Nursery of Truth – Part 1

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.


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.

Featured The Theological

Catholic Women as Priests

Yesterday, the New York Times posted a slideshow from Judith Levitt of Catholic women who are priests.

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but there is a growing resistance movement among Catholics who have been able to find loopholes in their own bi-laws and begin ordaining women:

In the last 10 years the Vatican has had to contend with a particularly indomitable group of women who seem to be unaffected by excommunication or other punishment offered by the church. The movement started when seven women were ordained by three Roman Catholic bishops aboard a ship on the Danube River in 2002. The women claimed their ordinations were valid because they conformed to the doctrine of “apostolic succession.” The group that grew out of that occasion calls itself Roman Catholic Womenpriests. There are now more than 100 ordained women priests and 11 bishops.

Featured The Theological

On Parables: Give It To Me Slant

One of my favorite things about Jesus are his parables. Those of us who have grown up in, or at least around the church, know them well. The Good Shepherd, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, The Workers in the Vineyard, the Mustard Seed, the Wedding Banquet, the Sheep and the Goats and the Lost Coin are only a few of the forty some parables of Jesus.

This summer those of us at Camas Friends have decided to work through a number of the parables of Jesus. The goal isn’t to “figure them out” so much as it is to enter into them in a way that we become participants in the story and allow them to expand our imaginations about the Kingdom of God. It seems to me that the (big ‘C’) Church suffers from a lack of imagination all too frequently. Not only are we happy to hear the interpretations of the Bible that were birthed in another historical period, but we often read our sacred text in a way that guards ourselves from being read into the challenges the text often offers. We would much rather identify with the protagonists, than turn a difficult parable of Jesus back onto ourselves.

Quotations The Theological

‘even the thorn-bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God’ (Prayer)

Here is a prayer out of the Walter Rauschenbusch book of prayers “For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening.” I believe at least the middle paragraph can be attributed to St. Basil.

O God, we thank Thee for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the manifoldness of the life which teems upon it and of which we are part.

We praise Thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and the constellations on high.We praise Thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the trees, and for the grass under our feet.We thank Thee for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning, and hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime.

Grant us, we pray Thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thorn-bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.

Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all the living things, our little brothers, to whom thou hast given this earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve thee in their place better than we in ours.

When our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance, but may we had on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it, undiminished in fertility and joy, that so our bodies may return in peace to the great mother who nourished them and our spirits may round the circle of a perfect life in thee.

—Walter Rauschenbusch

Featured Practices The Theological

Which Direction Are We Headed?

wemily I love traveling, I always have. One thing I have learned is that the type of journey and its destination determine what you’ll pack in your bags. If I am going on a backpacking trip in the Alleghenies (PA) and I’ll be out for 10 days, I will have to pack much differently than I would (and did) pack for a 3-day backpacking trip in Death Valley (NV).

I remember my parents throwing me and four of my siblings into our Oldsmobile station-wagon and heading south. We were on the road headed from Ohio to Alabama to visit our cousins. My parents were, at the time, considering whether or not to move down to Montgomery. As a kid this was an incredible adventure, we packed little, and didn’t really know what we’d find when we got there. And while even as a third-grader there wasn’t a whole lot about Alabama I found attractive, the road trip was fun. Looking back on it now, I am convinced, more than ever, my parents were insane. But, I have to assume, the destination and the purpose of the journey was what helped them stay focused and kept them on track. We never did end up moving to Alabama, but the trip was well worth it, at least if the goal was discerning whether or not to move there. Within a short period of time we knew the answer.

Featured The Pastorate The Theological

Fall and Winter in the Life of the Spirit

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – Jesus (John 10:10 NRSV)
I love Fall. It is a beautiful transition time from summer to winter. From a time of abundance to a time of rest, where we have now gathered our fruitful summer harvests and prepare to let the ground lay fallow. And Isn’t this good imagery for our own spiritual lives? I hope that in your life you have experienced times of abundance. Now I don’t mean abundance in terms of material wealth, abundance does not mean surplus. Instead, consider the abundant life that Jesus describes when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). What do you think he meant by that? I also hope that you have experienced times of transition and times of letting the ground lay fallow. It is important to our spiritual lives to understand suffering and loss, as much as it is to understand gift and grace. George Fox used to talk about letting Christ till up the fallow ground of our souls. We need times of summer and winter, planting, growing, harvesting and waiting. We need times of letting things die. Sometimes we need to toss some scraps in the compost, sometimes we need a heap of compost to get things going. This season reminds me that that even in barrenness God is present to us.Richard Rohr’s new book “Falling Upward” juxtaposes this kind of seasonal process when he says: “To fall is often to fail; it’s only after the failing and falling that we rise up to a new degree of understanding and communion. “The way up is the way down” and vice versa.”I wonder how many of us are satisfied with living lives not-really-abundantly, maybe they are simply about performance and have lost the inner-fire, maybe they are now just mediocre. Attrition can set in unannounced. We say that we hunger for God but deep down we are not really quite hungry enough to enter into this full cycle of the seasons of spiritual life. As we enter fall and winter, what are you ready to lay down?

An early church father, we know as St. Iraneaus, wrote in the 2nd century that “The Glory of God is a human being who is fully alive.” And recently I heard someone (mis)quote this in a really useful way, saying that “God finds pleasure in human beings who are fully alive.” How many of us long for that kind of freedom, grace and humility? I love the thought of actually bringing God pleasure with our lives. Will you enter into this time of transition with a renewed sense of investment and deep hunger for the abundant life? Will you join with me as we work out what it means to be a community of people fully alive, as colorful as the leaves on the trees, falling upward to God’s pleasure and grace that surrounds us?

Featured The Theological

Seeing Beyond What We See

At Camas Friends we are thinking about advent season and how it is connected to our sense of sight this year. Here’s something short I’ve written about it:

This advent season we are invited to see the movements of grace all around us. The Christian tradition has for two millenia argued that God once took on human flesh and came to earth in the form a crying little infant (forget whatever it says in “Away in a Manger”). And that baby, rather than be born into the sterility of modern medicine’s “safe” environment, away from all possible threat and rather than be born into the relative security of an imperial power, protected by walls, patrols and money, this baby, Mary’s little Emmanuel, was born in the wild. And as you might expect from the wild, as Mary, his mother courageously gave birth on the floor of a stable, God’s silent creatures in attendance waited to voice their praise.

Featured Practices The Theological

If You Can’t Go Over It, then…

One of L’s favorite books, and if we’re being completely honest mine as well, is “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt.” It’s a great adventure story that begs to be interacted with, the pitter-patter of hands on your legs for running, the squishy sounds for mud, you all have been there before, right? Well, the line that keeps popping into my head is the part that repeats: “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we gotta go through it.”

Blog Entries The Theological

Joan Baez – Virgin Mary (Had One Son)

Re-Watching some of the “No Direction Home” documentary this evening on Bob Dylan and was reminded of this haunting video by Joan Baez. I absolutely love it.

YouTube – Joan Baez – Virgin Mary (Had One Son).

Featured Sermons The Biblical The Theological

All We Grow (Jeremiah 2:4-13)

This is the message I gave on Sunday.


What are we growing? There’s a new album that recently came out titled “All We Grow,” by S. Carey. While I actually really like the music on the album, I found the title to be compelling enough. The first time I heard the phrase “All We Grow” I kept saying it over and over in my head. “All We Grow.” “All We Grow.” I thought to myself, “What is it that I am growing?”  I started thinking about our children, and the things we I am personally involved in. If all these were seeds, what are the seeds that are being planted? What are the plants we expect to emerge?

Intentionality is needed today otherwise the default is often a kind of numbing rout motion. Without intention we get sucked into the routine of the world. Things will continue to grow, but they may not be what we want or expect.

Sometimes, while I am trying to build something beautiful, I am not really fully paying attention, or intentionally trying to do well at it. I just kind of show up and hope auto-pilot is good enough. It’s like trying to grow a beautiful flower when only later do you realize it’s a noxious weed.