C. Wess Daniels is an author, educator, and theologian living with his family in Greensboro, NC. This blog was established in 2004.
My understanding of apprentices is derived from the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and has been integrated into my understanding of the Quaker tradition.
Apprentices are people who are a part of a tradition who become self-aware of their being a part of that tradition, but also of their responsibility to help carry that tradition forward in ways that are both faithful to the tradition and new according to their understanding, skills, and challenges.
Apprentices are people who voluntarily submit themselves to the wisdom of their tradition. Participating in the structures of accountability and the Powerful Practices associated with the tradition.
Apprentices are shaped overtime by engaging in learning the original texts of the tradition, practicing the key practices, active and ongoing participation in the “socially embodied communities” that are a part of that tradition, and developing the necessary virtues internal to the tradition that make one a clear example of a person living within that story.
Apprentices develop a “second first language” – that is, they understand both their tradition, as well as the needs of the surrounding culture. They can speak to both. They understand the deeper nuances and the challenges internal to each. They are able to “concept borrow” from one to the other and are able to see where there are already resonances through “same saying.”
Apprentices are the ones who are able to help guide their tradition through crises because of their depth of knowledge of both tradition and context. They engage in reformulation of the tradition in a way that understands the the tradition is “living” and able to take in new information, questions, challenges and develop its overall schemata.
Apprentices help the tradition develop and renewal based on a “best account thus far,” understanding that new challenges, data, and shifts will continue. The tradition remains open-ended and alive in as much as it can continue to reformulate itself in the face of emergent contexts.
Apprentices are not older people, nor are they younger people. Time spent in a community does not make one an apprentice. Apprenticeship is about self-awareness, personal-responsibility, and the ongoing process of learning and practice put to use to carry the tradition forward in new ways.