A Remixed Church: Adaptation, Legos and Renewal (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:16–19 NRSV)

E. is going to do Lego demonstration for us. Prior to Sunday I have asked him if he would be willing to:

a) show the congregation at the beginning of the message a pre-assembled lego creation, b) disassemble that during the message, c) reassemble something recognizably different using only the pieces from the previous creation within and d) show the congregation what he has made.

This week I want to look for a moment about how transformation has taken place within this community. I believe that one of the things that makes Camas Friends strong and unique in the Quaker world is that it is a community that embraces change and the willingness to adapt and be flexible as central to who you are.

Convergent Friends

Convergent Friends: A Handbook – An Introduction to Convergence (Pt. 1)

In this online handbook you will find a variety of articles written by convergent Friends. This is by no means an exhaustive collection of writings but rather it is meant to function as an introduction to the concept of convergent Friends and part two of the handbook is meant to help people think about what it might mean to start a convergent Friends worship gathering. 

Begin with reading the definitions and short history below and then if you want to go deeper you’ll find a list of resources at the end of this post.

A good place to start is with Robin Mohr’s definition of convergent Friends  and then if you can find a copy, the definition from the Historical Dictionary of Friends.
Featured Sermons Six Months Quaker Preacher The Biblical

The Convergence of Quakerism – Ephesians 2:11ff

The text from my message given to Camas Friends Church June 6, 2010

Personal Histories

In the last couple weeks, I have been reflecting a lot on my own history, my own personal narratives that have shaped my life. With having recently gone home this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. I confess that I have a tendency to want to break with my past, to want to start over. I like clean slates (in fact, my dad was in a band by the same title, and so I’m a bit partial!). Who doesn’t like, and sometimes need a clean slate? One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is a new, unopened notebook. To open it for the first time. To see the clear white pages, to think about the possibilities, to decide what will get written in that notebook all inspire me.

Through these reflections I started to realize that my own tendency, or temptation, to neglect my history, and to turn away from it. I suppose there are many reasons, some potentially good, to do something like this but I came to the conclusion that for myself to pretend like it has no power over me is dishonest. To do that is for me to not be true to who I am. No matter the things I am ashamed of in my past, the things I do not understand, or cannot change, these are all woven into the fabric of my being. So I recognize within me the temptation to want a clean break.

Blog Entries Convergent Friends

Join Us at the Convergent Friends Retreat in February

Robin, Martin and I will be co-leading a weekend retreat on convergent Friends we’re calling “Reclaiming the Power of Primitive Quakerism for the 21st Century” at the Ben Lomond Quaker Center this February 20-22. We’re getting pretty excited about the weekend. Basically, it’s going to be a time for everyone interested and/or already invested in the convergent Friends conversation to come together get to know one another better, worship together and wrestle over issues of renewal, the Friends tradition what it means to be Quakers in the 21st century. The retreat center we’re staying at is located in the beautiful Redwoods and has some very peaceful grounds. There will be childcare available and I know L, as well as Robin and Chris’ kids, will be there; so it’s definitely kid friendly and we’d love to add to that mix. Also, if you’re thinking there’s no way you can afford the trip email Quaker Center [mail @ quakercenter dot org] because I hear there is some help available.

Here’s a little descrition we wrote up on some of the things we’ll be doing:

The weekend will include time to share some of our spiritual journeys in small groups and in writing. We will listen deeply and lovingly to one another, as we speak courageously and gently about our own experiences of the Truth. We will explore what we can learn from each other’s stories, what it means to worship in Spirit and in Truth in the postmodern age, and how to share a lived faith as we serve all creation. We will walk in the redwoods, sing and laugh, have extended waiting worship, and eat together. We will experiment with some traditional Quaker practices and develop some tools to take home, to help us be the change we wish to see in our meetings, churches and the world. Expect inclusive and Christian language.

Along with all of that we’ll also be talking about convergent Friends in the past, I’ll be discussing a little bit about Everett Cattell and what we can learn from him for what we’re doing today, and Martin and Robin will be discussing the New Foundations Fellowship and Lewis Benson’s work for renewal. After working through some practical excersizes about faith and Quaker testimonies and delving into some historical examples we’ll turn to “dreaming” a little about where we would like to see convergent Friends go, where we believe God is taking, and we’ll share stories about where we see God already at work among Friends and in the world.

I hope some of you will be able to join us!

Download the registration flyer here and find more information on the convergent Friends website.

Blog Entries Church in Mission Convergent Friends

MacIntyre And Church Renewal

Cover of

I came across this Alasdair MacIntyre quote not long ago and thought it was a fitting reflection for the much-discussed topic of church renewal. Part of MacIntyre’s point is to say that if a tradition is to overcome its own crisis of knowing, it will be through the revision of its narrative in light of its current cultural setting, together with its criteria for truth, by the hands of insiders to that tradition. This revision will never be final or complete, but always open-ended and ready for new changes. It seems to me that any account Convergent Friends can offer, or any other renewal movement within denominations (like Fresh Expressions, the Missional movement, the Emerging Church, etc) must always see itself as only “a best account so far.” MacIntyre writes:

When an epistemological crisis is resolved, it is by the construction of a new narrative, which enables the agent to understand both how he or she could intelligibly have held his or her original beliefs and how he or she could have been so drastically misled by them. The narrative is itself made into the subject of an enlarged narrative. The agent has come to understand how the criteria of truth and understanding must be reformulated. He had to become epistemologically self-conscious and at a certain point he may have come to acknowledge two conclusions: the first is that his new forms of understanding may themselves in turn come to be put in question at any time; the second is that, because in such crises the criteria of truth, intelligibility, and rationality may always themselves be put in question — as they are in Hamlet — we are never in a position to claim that now we possess the truth or now we are fully rational. The most we can claim is that this is the best account which anyone has been able to give so far, and that our beliefs about what the marks of “a best account so far” will themselves change in what are at present unpredictable ways. (MacIntyre 1980:56-57)

And elsewhere MacIntyre reflects on the importance that this “remix” of a tradition’s narrative within a new setting will have a fluid interplay with the past:

“For it is central to the conception of such a tradition that the past is never something merely to be discarded, but rather that the preset is intelligible only as a commentary upon and response to the past in which the past, if necessary and if possible, is corrected and transcended, yet corrected and transcended in a way that leaves the present open to being in turn corrected and transcended by some yet more adequate future point of view” (MacIntyre 1984:147).

Where have you personally witnessed these kinds of open-ended interactions taking place in today’s church?

Blog Entries Convergent Friends Quaker

Five Years Ago and Convergent October 2008

Martin Kelley has written a post giving a little back history to what happened five years ago. Five years ago he started reading Rober Weber’s book The Younger Evangelicals, a book that confirmed much of his thinking about liberal Quakerism and helped him verbalize what needs to happen in order to change a church he says is “floundering on issues of tokenism and feel-good-ism.” The post is well worth the read, it’s insightful, and helps give context to how ‘convergent Friends’ finally came about. He also has a helpful, “where do we go now?” section. His post reminded me of two things in particular: our own major move five years ago, and the upcoming activities for convergent Friends in October.

Convergent Friends Featured Quaker The Cultural

Remixing Faith in the 21st Century (Barclay Press)

I’ve posted my June essay on Barclay press if you care to have a read (it’s nice and long!). Here’s and excerpt:

This past April Radiohead did another thing that sparked imaginations and challenged the preexisting structures of the music industry, yet again. They setup a website and invited people to remix one of their singles, “Nude.” Along with the invitation, they released the audio tracks containing the guitars, strings, drums, bass, and vocals through the iTunes music store. They invited people to participate in a contest to see who would make the best remix of their song, all the votes would be made by Radiohead fans (the winning remix received 38568 votes). By looking at remix culture, I think the church can learn something about how creativity and imagination interacts with existing ideas and structures and builds off those resources while also moving beyond them in new ways.

Click here to continue reading this essay.

Blog Entries Convergent Friends

Presenting on Convergent Friends at FAHE in June

 So much for a really creative title! It was the best I could think of at this hour. Anyways, Last year at this time I was living in Birmingham England, away from my pregnant wife, finishing up my first year of doctoral studies and working on Quaker theology with a guy named Pink (see my three posts here). Needless to say a lot has happened since that time, and a lot has happened because of that time. As a result of my project I did with “Ben” (Pink) this past summer, and because of his encouragement, I applied to present on convergent Friends for the Friends Association for Higher Education conference happening at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center this June. I was really excited to see that my proposal was accepted and am now in the midst of preparing for that presentation. I don’t have any fancy titles for the workshop I’ll be doing just yet, but a couple ideas are:


From The ‘Kitchen’ to the ‘Parlor’

This past spring I had the great opportunity to participate in leading a workshop on convergent friends in Providence with a dear friend, and some new friends we met there: David and Shawna. Afterwards Robin was contacted about writing an article for The Friends Journal on the workshop and she asked me to join in the process with her. This was my first co-authored article and I think it’s all the better for it. I learned a lot through the process of writing through working with Robin and am glad they put it online for you check out.

Here’s the article that is in this month’s Friends Journal: From the ‘Kitchen’ to the ‘Parlor’.

Featured Quaker

Kevin Roberts, creator and editor of, has posted an article I wrote for the site titled “Convergent Friendship and Playing With the ‘Other’ Kids” it reflects upon my experience in Ohio as well as some thoughts on Quakers and ecumenicism. If you get a chance jump over and have a look.