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Can Quakerism Survive?

How can we speak truth to ourselves if we deny its existence? I worry that we are in denial about a truth that threatens Quakerism’s survival. Membership in many of our yearly meetings has been shrinking for decades. There are relatively few young members and attenders, and many (if not most) of our meetings are primarily made up of aging baby boomers. When they are gone, there will likely be a sudden decrease in overall membership—maybe even a collapse—because there won’t be younger people to replace them. If membership continues to decrease, Quakerism in the United States will eventually die out.

The urgency of this problem struck me this past summer, when I attended Pacific Yearly Meeting for the first time. Although it was fulfilling and I was glad that I went, I expected to see at least some time devoted to the problem of dwindling membership. None was. I also have seen little about it in Quaker magazines, books, and pamphlets. This is what leads me to suspect that we avoid speaking truth to ourselves about our future—that we don’t want to face it. Acknowledging and dealing with the real threat to our existence may be so anxiety provoking that we ignore it and instead focus inward on less threatening topics.

I’ve seen this dynamic before. Over the past 40 years, I have been part of and seen organizations that had high ideals and did good work but were focused on internal dynamics and paid little attention to threats to their existence. As a result, they went under. I worry that our yearly, quarterly, and monthly meetings will also.

As part of vocal ministry during a plenary session at Pacific Yearly Meeting, I expressed some concern about the problem of decline. Afterwards, many people thanked me and said that they had had similar thoughts. Former presiding clerk Steve Smith wanted to start an email conversation about the topic, and so I sent him an email detailing my concerns and some possible solutions. It seemed to me that we didn’t know what methods or programs could be used to turn things around.

He wrote back and mentioned that in his own library he had a copies of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Outreach Handbook: Suggestions for Attracting and Nurturing Newcomers and Enriching Quaker Meetings, published in 1986. FGC, which has seen an overall decline in attendance at its annual Gathering of Friends in the last decade, had also produced some material on outreach, found at “Outreach: Friends General Conference” with a link to “Growing Our Meetings Toolkit.”

I thought about what Steve had written, the resources he described (including FGC’s Quaker Quest outreach program and the Spiritual Deepening small group program), and realized that my initial diagnosis of the problem was wrong: it isn’t a lack of methods or programs; it’s a problem of motivation. Steve had written, “It appears to me that most Pacific Yearly Meeting Friends have come around to a fatalistic attitude, and take it for granted that our numbers will continue to shrink.”

This attitude needs to change. We need to be much more active if we’re going to survive and flourish.

Discontent, Urgency, and the Brutal Facts

Becoming active starts with acknowledging the problem. This may go against a tendency in Quakerism to avoid conflict and unpleasant truths, but you can’t solve a problem if you don’t recognize it. Acknowledgement often begins with a frank discussion—“confronting the brutal facts,” as American organizational theorist Jim Collins puts it. This is the start of speaking truth to ourselves. There are many forums in which to begin such a conversation, including monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings; Quaker publications; and FGC and other larger Quaker bodies.

The point of frank discussion is to break out of complacency and increase discontent with the status quo. This is likely to create conflict, but dissatisfaction is the fuel of organizational change. Without dissatisfaction and a sense of urgency, people won’t act. And many motivated individuals need to act to turn around Quakerism. The strongest possible case for change needs to be made. Author and emeritus professor of leadership John Kotter writes that the point of increasing a sense of urgency is “to make the status quo seem more dangerous than launching into the unknown.” (Many of the ideas in this article came from the work of Kotter, organizational design researchers Bert A. Spector and Todd Jick, and church consultant Lyle E. Schaller.)

Why Is There No Vision of the Future of Quakerism?

Increasing discontent and fostering a sense of urgency is a good start, but without creating a vision of the future and showing the path to get there, people will just feel helpless. A well-defined vision allows people to clearly see the discrepancy between their hopes and reality. Confronting this gap is motivating, and the more people who do it, the better—because people who act to create change are more committed to it. Burning discontent with the status quo moves people to get away from an intolerable situation. A stirring vision of the future attracts people towards it. This combination of two forms of motivation is uniquely powerful.

Often a small group of three to five activists start a change process like this. They usually operate outside of normal organizational channels and committees. Individuals in such a group may want to look toward another person who changed Quakerism—John Woolman. He modeled the changes he advocated and had enormous determination. A small group may be all that’s needed in the first year, but a larger group is needed to pull together a rousing vision of the future, and this takes time.

Without the clear goal a vision provides, a change effort can fall apart and become a mishmash of unrelated programs that work against each other or lead nowhere. In The Vision Thing, author Todd Jick argues that an effective vision is “clear, concise, easily understood. Memorable. Exciting and inspiring. Challenging. Excellence centered. Stable, but flexible. Implementable and tangible.”

Is there such an inspiring vision for the future of Quakerism? If there is, I am unaware of it. And that’s a problem, because a vision needs to be widely held throughout Quakerism, if it is going to motivate people to change. It needs to be continually “reinforced through words, symbols, and actions or else it will be viewed as temporary or insincere,” according to Jick.

A Starter Vision

It may help to see a specific example of such a vision, so here is my vision of Quakerism in five years. It is just a possible starting point. If it proves effective, many people will add to it, correct it, and change it to fit their needs.

You can walk into any monthly meeting and see strong First-day school and youth programs. There are people of all ages sitting down for worship. Some newcomers are there because members and attenders invited them. Others are there because of the meeting’s outreach programs. People explain to newcomers what to do in meeting for worship before it starts, and they have a meaningful first experience of worship. The meetinghouse has the look of a spiritual home that is vibrant and growing. People new to meeting are greeted warmly during fellowship. A lot of newcomers are staying because they’re finding a spiritual friendship and intimacy in the small groups. People in meetings are focusing their lives on the Spirit more and more—discerning leadings and acting on them. This has led to inspiring, influential peace and justice programs.

We Must Commit and Persist

The changes suggested here won’t be accomplished if they’re the result of weak or intermittent efforts. In an email, Steve Smith wrote:

Dwindling membership and attendance in Pacific Yearly Meeting has been on the front burner at times, both at Pacific Yearly Meeting and in various monthly meetings and worship groups in Pacific Yearly Meeting. A few years ago, there was a modest burst of energy invested in Quaker Quest.

A burst of effort that fades away won’t work. We need long-term, persistent, strong effort at all levels—local, regional, and national. Half-hearted measures, like adding a session to a yearly meeting’s annual gathering, won’t do it. Tenacious effort is essential.

I’m only touching on the first steps that are needed to change the direction of Quakerism. There are more. Kotter suggests that they include communicating the vision; empowering others to act on it; creating short-term wins; consolidating improvements, and producing still more change; and institutionalizing new approaches.

There Is Hope

I don’t want to give the impression that all Quaker meetings are slowly dying or that all of us really don’t want to face this crisis. Some meetings are growing, and that shows that it is possible to counter the slow decline that afflicts so many meetings.

In 2013, I was a member of Santa Monica Meeting in southern California. Attendance at meeting for worship had been shrinking for at least ten years. But that year we started an outreach committee. We examined the problem of declining attendance, looked at what other denominations were doing, came up with some ideas of our own, and put what we learned into action. The next year, attendance increased somewhere between 15 to 20 percent. Since then, my wife and I moved about 400 miles north and now attend the Grass Valley Meeting in Nevada City, California. I still get back to Santa Monica Meeting once in a while, and every time I visit, it just seems to keep growing and flourishing.

The change made by Santa Monica shows that decline is not inevitable. Even though it may be controversial or cause conflict, we need to speak truth to ourselves by breaking out of denial and publicly acknowledging the problem, increase discontent with the way things are, clarify the urgent need for change, forge an inspiring vision of the future, start to take action, and persist until we’ve reversed the trends that threaten our survival.

Donald W. McCormick was a professor for 30 years. He taught leadership and organizational change. Currently he is the director of education for Unified Mindfulness, a mindfulness teacher training organization. He is a member of Grass Valley Meeting in Nevada City, Calif. Contact: [email protected]​gmail.​com.


Posted in: Features, February 2018

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104 Responses to Can Quakerism Survive?

  1. Robert Oberg February 1, 2018 at 5:20 pm #

    City & State
    Charlotte, NC
    The statement of the problem resonated with me immediately. I have been wrestling with the problem of conflict and spiritually-led decision making in connection with a new foundation whose mission is to support spiritual art. We have written into our bylaws a “sense of the group” process inspired by Quaker process, although I am the only member of the Board with Quaker experience. There has been a lot of discussion of conflict and decision-making in recent issues of Friends Journal, and I have been grateful for that. One resource for me has been the Pendle-Hill pamphlet “Beyond Consensus: Salvaging Sense of the Meeting” by Barry Morley. One thing I learned was that the original name of our organization was Religious Society of Friends of the Truth. Thus I was struck by the opening sentence “How can we speak truth to ourselves …”

    Morley’s subtitle suggests that “sense of the meeting” needs to be salvaged. All is not well. Besides dropping “of the Truth”, in practice it appears that Friends sometimes think of our movement as simply “Society of Friends”.

    I believe the essence of our problem is not outreach programs, greeting newcomers warmly and the like – all fine actions but they would be applicable to any progressive secular organization dedicated to good fellowship and social causes. We have a precious spiritual core. Let us connect to it!

    • Sarah February 2, 2018 at 10:35 pm #

      City & State
      NJ
      Yes! This Friend speaks my mind.

      I married a man who is Several generations Quaker. We attend the same Meeting his Grandfather attended. My hubs has said before that the Meeting we attend is not the same that his Grandfather attended and it isn’t in a positive way.

      It has been a jarring adjustment for me. Our sign say “Religious Society of Friends” but there seems to be a sense that we are not religious or even people of faith. That is just historically not correct. The bones are good but I definitely feel that “modern” Quakerism seems to be more of a political social club than anything else.

      I think it is fine to explore ideas and question what we used to know vs. what we know now, but new families and persons do not look for a house of worship to AVOID faith. And sadly that seems to be what we are doing. It is disheartening.

      We attend Meeting as a family with the goal of growing our closeness in spirituality, fellowship and faith. We go to skip the other 6 days a week where we are constantly bombarded with the world in order to have a time of reflection and divine guidance. . I cannot think of one Meeting for Worship that I have attended in the past year that didn’t concern itself primarily with secular, political and social causes first and religion, faith and spirituality as an afterthought.

      I don’t know if it is coming from a sense of fear that we will scare people off ‚or just not really having a good sense of how to discuss faith , or even embarrassment that leadership refuses to admit they just don’t know how to start. But it needs to be corrected.

      When I speak with friends (small f) about meeting and they ask about faith life and spirituality I have relatively little to offer. I love Quakerism enough to want to share it with everyone I meet but there seems to be a limited amount to share that meets the spiritual needs of my social circle.

      Two weeks ago, someone who I would consider a “weighty Friend” shared a short section of a William Comfort writing with me and it moved me tremendously. Oh how I wish Friends could be brave enough to hear and respond to the needs of the Meeting Body instead of pretty much insisting an ideal of quiet compliance.

      I really do hope that this article reaches MANY Quaker Meetings. Sometimes the truth is difficult to hear but in reality it is a gift to learn and grow and develop. Unless those changes are made I am sure Quakerism will die out.

      I am not under the impression, from my self guided research and readings, that we are not in a good place as a collective body. We have 3 children and I am frustrated that I am continuously floundering for ways to talk about faith at home and there being relatively little to support that though meeting. And after talking with Friends of all ages there is a clear gap between needs and what is being offered. The REALLY old generation quietly laments the loss of faith as the main focus. Baby boomers who seem to think we must abandon any sense of religion and faith, and then the younger families who are desperately looking for a place of faith to bring their families and are being largely ignored.

      I am happy to read that this concern is on other Friend’s minds as well.

      • Don McCormick February 7, 2018 at 6:32 pm #

        City & State
        Grass Valley, CA
        Dear Sarah,

        I am struck by your post about the “sense that we are not religious or even people of faith.” Recently I have been impressed by a survey of 2,000 churches and half a million churchgoers-the Reveal survey. 54% of the churchgoers surveyed said that the primary thing that they wanted from church was spiritual guidance. Something over 30% said they wanted fellowship. Important parts of spiritual guidance include wanting to be challenged to grow spiritually, to be provided “a clear pathway that helps guide my spiritual growth,” and be given next steps.

        I don’t think that Quakers are all that different from the churchgoers from the survey. I think that most seekers, first-time attenders, attenders and members also come to meeting wanting spiritual guidance in the form of a clear path, next steps, and challenge. We don’t always provide this, but if we did provide what people truly want from a spiritual community, I think that there would no longer be a problem of shrinking membership.

        Warmly,

        Don

        • Anthony Hicks February 19, 2018 at 5:32 pm #

          City & State
          Memphis, TN
          I reluctantly admit to being among those who have drifted away from active involvement in Quakerism. I was a regular Attender for a couple of years. A point came when it seemed like I was gathering for a weekly seminar more than a life affirming religious experience. Not wanting to give up, I drove four hours to different Meeting. On the third visit, which happened to coincide with a facilitated workshop on Witnessing Whiteness, where white members had been spending several weeks prior taking a sobering look in the mirror, I discretely left the meeting and have not been back to a Quaker meeting since. This was about three years ago. At the meeting, one of the outside facilitators (white) quietly asked me, (African-African), not to participate in the discussion period because the idea was for the whites in the meeting to speak among themselves about issues surrounding their whiteness. Definitely a needed discussion, but to ask me not to participate was unsettling. All I could think was here I am the lone black person among a room full of liberal Quakers having a Jim Crow moment. I still admire Quakerism for what it stands for and 1) think it should put more emphasis on spirituality first and 2) be more vocal and strategic on social justice issues.

          • Mary February 19, 2018 at 8:44 pm #

            City & State
            xxxxx
            Anthony
            As the mother and grandmother in a multi-racial family, I have felt those micro-aggression that did not seem micro to me. Upon mentioning it, I was reminded that they were good people, which resulted in me feeling unheard. Fortunately progress has been made since then. However, being lighter, I have not experienced the Jim Crow experience you described and which I can readily see as happening and hurting more than I can imagine. I am so sorry and angry that this happened to you, and is symptomatic of the state of some/many/most (?) meetings.
            I have been fortunate to find core Friends and friends who get it, get me, and get us as a family and are there with us. I can only connect with you and hope that you May feel the strength and love of core (F) friends who ask your forgiveness and promise to mend their ways. I ask your forgiveness and promise to mend my ways too. Holding you in my heart and grateful for your writing here. You helped.

          • Mary February 20, 2018 at 4:51 am #

            City & State
            xxxxx
            Anthony
            I wrote a reply to you last night, but have not seen it come through yet. I went to bed and woke up with a painful heart at the Jim Crow incident you are experiencing and which resonates with my child in so many places. To have micro-aggressions (which do not feel minor) happen in Meetings feels even more hurtful. Just hurts to hear the truth that you have revealed here. I am so sorry that this happened to you. It just hurts that it is so, and I hurt for you.
            I will return to sleep and reside in the Light with you. Thank you for your truth telling here. Needed.
            You helped.
            Mary

          • Mackenzie Morgan February 20, 2018 at 7:37 pm #

            City & State
            Silver Spring, MD
            I’m sorry, Anthony. I’ve heard other stories of Friends in other meetings, too. I’ve witnessed what I believe was racist exclusion, too. Yes, I did something about it (sat with the person being left out) and told a member of the ministry and worship committee at that meeting what had caught my eye. But me trying to make up for it after I caught on doesn’t change that it happened in the first place.

          • Anthony Hicks February 21, 2018 at 10:53 am #

            City & State
            Memphis, TN
            Sorry to hear about your encounter. I am more and more puzzled by certain elements of human nature. Just to be clear, the members of the Meeting I attended were open and welcoming. It was a non-member who was facilitating the workshop being hosted by the Meeting that made it a bad experience for me. I try to keep sight of the fact that all things considered, Quakerism remains positive influence on the world. It just needs to accentuate spirituality more and use its megaphone better.

          • Anthony Hicks February 22, 2018 at 10:39 am #

            City & State
            Memphis, TN
            Thank you Mary for your compelling and compassionate response to my post. I recognize the experience I encountered, while disappointing, was a one-off that happened while the Meeting was trying to foster racial harmony. And thank you Don McCormick for spurring this important discussion about the future of the Quaker church. That’s the larger, perhaps more urgent debate which I think rests on whether Quakerism can ever be what each facet of its wide ideological base needs it to be. Maybe it’s asking too much of any religious organization.

          • Ace Allmond February 26, 2018 at 1:06 pm #

            City & State
            Richmond Va
            That old narrow-minded way of quiet need quickening We are suppose to be simple not necessarily silent. As a radical black Quaker in racist, rebel. reactionary, right-wing, red, neck, Republican Richmond Va, I see the rot. These lilly white “hush-puppies”
            think they are progressives. Ha. Sad news is they are a dying breed. And when a strong
            black man as BLM activist and BP organizer comes along, you may imagine the staunch underhandedness coming into play. Still there is hope for this motley crew of anachronistic do-gooders that “ain’t done nothing”

          • Mary February 26, 2018 at 9:17 pm #

            City & State
            xxxxxxxx
            Ace Allmond
            Thank you for your witness of the revolutionary church as revolutionary as the message/life of Jesus.
            Thank you to the example of Jomo Kenyatta Johnson and the church that will not accept tax exemptions and will speak out actively and lay their lives on the line.
            Thank you for the radical reliance on God and community and the strong voices rising from Light to Light out of oppression.
            Thank for your Jeremiah- like prophetic word convicting us, and which I am taking to heart.
            How many more of our sons and grandsons must be confined, curtailed, and crucified today, before we hear and heed your message to us of what we have done and what we have failed to do and that ” Still there is hope for this motley crew of anachronistic do-gooders that “ain’t done nothing”.
            I needed you today.
            You are both graced and gift .

          • Mary February 26, 2018 at 9:27 pm #

            City & State
            xxxxx
            Anthony
            Thank you, also, for your being graced and gift . This time of turbulence seems to require the Spirit moving in many ways and places, and I am grateful, that movement and strength shines through you in your message and concern. Grateful. Mary

      • MH February 13, 2018 at 4:09 pm #

        City & State
        VA
        Hi Sarah,
        “Quakerism seems to be more of a political social club than anything else.”

        As a political social club we have automatically excluded half the population. Read “The Trouble with Strangers” in this month’s issue and see if members of both political parties would feel welcome in Quaker Meeting. It almost seems as if being a member of one party is a requirement for attending a Meeting. And as you said, “religion, faith and spirituality” are secondary concerns.

        • NC February 14, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

          City & State
          Philadephia PA
          This^ This so much it hurts. I no longer attend meeting because it is no longer about spirituality, just politics. Every week it is an Anti-Trump rally, and although I am not a fan of Trump, it’s gotten tiresome, unwholesome, redundant, and ridiculous. These messages are from the Ego and not the Spirit. Once the Spirit returns, then maybe I will return.

        • Sarah February 14, 2018 at 11:32 pm #

          City & State
          NJ
          Agreed. I have not been to a single event in the past year that didn’t imply that there was a “right way” to vote and a “wrong way”

        • Christopher February 20, 2018 at 4:31 pm #

          City & State
          Bradenton, FL
          I agree, and the meeting and membership isn’t the only sphere of the religion where this happens. (But my comment wasn’t ‘printed’, so who knows if this one will be). Exclusion is the new irony in religion.

          • Martin Kelley February 21, 2018 at 10:26 am #

            City & State
            Friends Journal office
            Hi Christopher: we did post your earlier comment. There is sometimes a delay in their going up, as we manually approve comments in batches a few times a day. We have to do that because of spam and the occasional wholly-inappropriate comment that someone tries to post. -Martin at FJ.

      • Janet Nagel February 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm #

        City & State
        Greensboro, NC
        Sarah, You might find some insights about sharing faith with children in Polly Berrien Berends’ 1991 memoir, “Gently Lead: How to teach your children about God while finding our for yourself”. She is not a Quaker, but she connects the reader with the essence of human spirituality and that speaks directly to me as a Quaker. It’s out of print but second-hand copies are available. I like the hardcover edition because the pages of the paperback are yellowed.

      • Janet February 20, 2018 at 11:16 pm #

        City & State
        Noblesville in
        I am a Quaker by choice. I have read the article several times , I appreciate the dialogue it has caused. I believe that Quakers will not survive. I think they have lost focus. They are afraid of change. The businesses meetings are not not productive. Meetings for business are not worship. From my view they cause more harm than good. The Friends offer many good things however they take a back seat to the government of the meeting. I love my meeting but I am fearful of the future of Friends. Unless some changes occur Friends will be forgotten and thought of as not relevant

        • Don McCormick February 21, 2018 at 11:48 am #

          City & State
          Grass Valley, CA
          I appreciate your sense of urgency. That is needed if we are going to turn things around. You wrote, “Unless some changes occur Friends will be forgotten and thought of as not relevant.” I agree. A study at the Earlham School of Religion concluded that if current trends continue, Quakerism will become extinct by the end of this century. I am convinced, though, that we can turn this around.

    • Don McCormick February 7, 2018 at 7:41 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Dear Robert

      You wrote, “I believe the essence of our problem is not outreach programs, greeting newcomers warmly and the like — all fine actions but they would be applicable to any progressive secular organization dedicated to good fellowship and social causes. We have a precious spiritual core. Let us connect to it!”

      I agree with you but I still appreciate the value of things like “outreach programs, greeting newcomers warmly and the like.” Many of these comparatively superficial activities can make a big difference when it comes to the continued survival of meetings. If people are initially put off when these activities are done poorly or not at all, they won’t get the chance to experience the deeper, more meaningful aspects of Quakerism.

      But let me reassert that I agree with you completely about the essence of the problem. We aren’t just a “progressive secular organization.” We do need to connect to our “precious spiritual core.” I say a little bit more about this in my response to Sarah’s post.

      Warmly,

      Don

  2. Cynthia B. Stafford February 5, 2018 at 10:07 am #

    City & State
    Westfield
    Westfield, IN
    Like Sarah, I am not a birthright Quaker, but married one. Our town is famously (to locals anyway) where Asa Bales, Simon Moon, Ambrose Osborne, and the whole town put their lives and faith on the line to operate stations on the Underground Railroad. Isn’t that living God’s love and service?

    In 1861, these Quakers established Union Bible College and Academy which is still in operation a few miles from my home. Earlham College, a Quaker institution, is in our state.

    The meeting we attend is shrinking because the Friends there are aging. Most Sundays I hear talk about the M & C’s quest to attract new Quakers to our meeting.They have tried all kinds of “things”/programs to attract new families. I am a relatively new Quaker, but what I don’t understand is why Quakers seem afraid to share with others their rich heritage of love, service, and faith. Like Dr. McCormick, I believe the reason has something to do with facing reality and the motivation to do something about the future of Quakerism.

    Quakers do not need to try to compete with seeker churches. While they are energetic and fine for some, there are plenty of people like me who searched for years and went to almost every denomination looking for the peace I encountered as I continued to attend meetings. I read everything I could find about the whys and wherefores of Quakerism. Our history speaks for itself and we need to stand on that.

    Quakers are quiet, simple-living people. but we’re going to have to get a bit more vocal is we expect to share the faith with future generations. Didn’t George Fox do that?

    Thank you for publishing this article. I hope and pray it sparks conversation and motivates all Quakers to publicly define ourselves and commit to action. Otherwise, there will be no more Quakers.

    • Kathryn Ruud February 9, 2018 at 3:13 pm #

      City & State
      Middletown Maryland
      You speak my mind, Friend. I was attracted to Quakerism because of the history you describe and found a caring community, people who do act on behalf of the welfare of our society, but the underlying passion to speak truth to power as did the early voices seems lacking to me. Many early Quakers seemed (in my reading of Quaker history) fierce and willing to take risk. This now seems to be lost as I think many shy from being seen as at all offensive or confrontational against abuse of power.

      I also do not want to attend a Meeting in which worship seems like one political statement after another. But it seems to me, in my understanding of Quakerism, both the cultivation of spirit and bringing it forth into the challenges of our time (nourishing a shared confrontation against darkness) are called for.

      There seems to be much disagreement about what ministry actually is, today, in my experience. If early Quaker history is any guide, there is and should be a wide range of voices, with ministry not just done one way. In the past, for instance, John Woolman and Abby Kelley had very different approaches to bringing forth the anti-slavery abolitionist message, which was of course an outgrowth of Quaker conscience and the testimony of equality. He was soft-spoken, of gentle manner, worked one-on-one: she was outspoken, fiery, attracted large (and often hostile) crowds wherever she travelled. And there were many giving testimony in in-between ways.

      That said, I do notice Quakers are often on the scene, acting individually in our larger society, to be present where healing and light are needed. It may not be enough for others to take notice, though, in anything but small numbers.

    • Don McCormick February 10, 2018 at 5:11 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Dear Cynthia

      I appreciate your post and your prayers. They are starting to be answered in this forum in a small way. Conversation has been sparked and Gabrielle has called for publicly declaring who we are and what we stand for. I was discussing this article with an editor at Friends Journal and he said that the staff appreciated the spirited discussion that they are seeing in this forum. I hope that a sense of urgency develops in Quakerism because if the current trend continues and we don’t do something about this problem, we’re sunk.

      Yours in the Light,

      Don

      • Cynthia February 11, 2018 at 10:42 am #

        City & State
        Westfield
        Dear don,
        I am glad the conversation has started. Quakerism has much to offer NOW as in the past. I hope the Friends Journal will keep in front of Quakers everywhere the discussion and that there will be subsequent action steps.

        I would appreciate updates on any developments from you and the Journal. I plan to share your article with our meeting.

        Best,
        Cynthia

    • Joel Hildebrandt February 20, 2018 at 4:37 am #

      City & State
      Auckland Central
      This is an excellent comment, from my view. I agree that the discussion is important, and I like this:
      “what I don’t understand is why Quakers seem afraid to share with others their rich heritage of love, service, and faith.”
      and this: “Our history speaks for itself and we need to stand on that.”
      However, we cannot go on our history alone. We need to feel relevant to people today, whether that means addressing climate change, gun control or whatever.
      Having said this, I do not want us to become a secular social action group. Those are fine and much needed, but they are not Quakers. When we asked people here (in NZ) to summarize what Quakerism means to them, one answer that I liked was: “Out of Silence, Action.” The Silence and the Spirit-led Ministry are essential, and must not be replace with individual members’ sermons, political or otherwise.
      Quakerism is a complex practice and process, and it does in fact require the experience of it to make it live. I hope we can continue to share that with each other and the world.

      • Don McCormick February 21, 2018 at 11:53 am #

        City & State
        Grass Valley, CA
        Dear Joel

        One of the things that struck me about your post and so many of the posts in this discussion is the need for us to emphasize the spiritual in our meetings. I agree with what you are saying about us not becoming a secular social action group.

        In Friendship,

        - Don

      • Cynthia B. Stafford February 24, 2018 at 7:32 am #

        City & State
        Westfield
        Dear Joel,
        No, we do not need to become a secular group focused on social action. I appreciate your thoughts and response. It’s amazing how something can become complicated when we loose sight of Christ!
        Sincerely,
        Cynthia

  3. Dan O'Keefe February 7, 2018 at 5:21 am #

    City & State
    Milwaukee, WI
    Donald McCormick’s heartfelt words should be taken seriously. Two of us at Milwaukee Monthly Meeting have
    documented and presented information that of the members and attenders who provide the energy and spirit of
    our meeting, 2/3’s are over 65 years of age. We suspect that this is not unusual among other monthly meetings. This was difficult information to share. We did not receive enjoy sharing such dark information.

    We must now respond to Donald’s query, “What do we have to do to develop a sense of urgency?” Here is a list of tasks, in no particular order, that will be necessary:
    Share paper and electronic copies of Donald’s articles with Friends.
    Talk about this topic informally before and after worship.
    Bring before meeting for business and other committees, again and again.
    Bring before yearly and quarterly meeting for business, again and again.
    Begin the hard work of reallocating finances to this effort.
    Know this will not be easy. Denial takes persistence to overcome.
    Also, know that complex forces are challenging all mainline congregations, and this effort will require
    a vivid, bold and an exhilarating imagination, as well as commitment and hard work.

    And we can do this with love and guidance of the spirit.

    Dan O’Keefe

    • Don McCormick February 7, 2018 at 7:23 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Dear Dan

      I think you are completely right about the need for persistence. I also really appreciate the point you make about bringing up this crisis in quarterly and yearly meeting, and meeting for business.

      Also, when you look at all the various committees in monthly and other meetings, you see that they all have things that they can contribute to turning things around. Just to take two examples, adult education committee can make sure that first time attenders are educated about what to do in this strange new type of Sunday morning worship, and make sure that the people who are starting to attend have the opportunity to learn what Quakerism is about sooner rather than later. The building maintenance committee can see what can be done to the physical setting to make it more welcoming-like making sure there are signs that show where to take your children if you bring your kids, putting up signs that show where the bathrooms are, making sure that there isn’t peeling paint or other things that suggest that the meeting is on a downhill slide, or replacing the hand carved, all lower case, wooden sign in front of the meeting house that screams “We are stuck in the 1970’s!” with a sign that is a bit more up to date.

      Hmm. It appears that I got on a bit of a rant there.

      Anyway, I really appreciated your post.

      Warmly,

      Don McCormick

  4. Gabrielle February 8, 2018 at 7:56 pm #

    City & State
    Parsippany, NJ
    I spent 5 years in ministry for Young Adult Friends and families on staff at my yearly meeting. I see the problem less about vision, I don’t think many would disagree with the vision you lay out. I think, honestly, it is about the struggle to say who we are NOW. I find North American unprogrammed Friends, on the whole, terrified of defining who we are for fear of excluding someone. So much so, that when people visit we don’t say who we are and what makes us alive NOW. We lament declining membership and when newcomers arrive we pounce on them and expect them to save us.

    Friends in other parts of the world see growing membership. As I talk to them to see why it is not because they have a vision of the future, but that they are so on fire in the present that people want to be a part of it. Even if no one joined ever again, they are on fire, now. Their future doesn’t depend on a vision of the future, but in a willingness to say who they are and what they do TODAY.

    If a newcomer comes into our meeting, in search of life and we tell them, “we will be awesome in 5 years, you just have to stick around long enough to see if you can make it so.” They will leave.

    If they walk in and are greeted with a menu of ways that friends are living into their leadings and that they can see what speaks to them, they are more likely to stay. If our meetings are simply made up of committees that exist solely because they have always existed and are not filled with leadings from those members and attenders presently, we are not living NOW. And God is NOW.

    • Don McCormick February 10, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Dear Gabrielle,

      Your observation that “North American unprogrammed Friends, on the whole, [are] terrified of defining who we are for fear of excluding someone” is a really interesting one. I know that when I first started attending Quaker meeting I was quite frustrated with all the ambiguity about what Quakerism was about. Eventually I grew to see the ambiguity as a strength, as it allowed people of a wide variety of different spiritual persuasions to find a home in Quaker meeting. Lately though, I’m not so sure. I think that we would be stronger if we had less ambiguity and more clarity about the spiritual path of Quakerism and the destination it leads to. I discuss this in a bit more detail in my response to Sarah’s post.

      You write, “If a newcomer comes into our meeting, in search of life and we tell them, ‘we will be awesome in 5 years, you just have to stick around long enough to see if you can make it so.’ They will leave.” I agree. A vision isn’t for the first time attender, it is for the people already involved.
      You write, “If they walk in and are greeted with a menu of ways that friends are living into their leadings and that they can see what speaks to them, they are more likely to stay.” I like what you are saying about what could happen in Quaker meetings in the future. It’s a vision of the future of Quakerism that we can both get behind. In fact, in many ways it’s better than the one in my article. To borrow from the old fable, I thought of my vision as the stone that could possibly start a stone soup.

      Warmly,

      Don

      • Robert Oberg February 11, 2018 at 11:49 am #

        City & State
        Charlotte
        Dear Don,

        I really appreciated Gabrielle’s post and your reply. I too like the vision of “If they walk in and are greeted with a menu of ways that friends are living into their leadings and that they can see what speaks to them, they are more likely to stay.” If one of the items on that menu is Spirit, not as a vague metaphor but a living reality that indeed sets people on fire, I would be more deeply drawn into our Meeting. In his classic book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”, William James gives Quakerism as his very first example of true religious experience. James writes:

        I speak not now of your ordinary religious believer, who follows the conventional observances of his country, whether it be Buddhist, Christian, or Mohammedan. His religion has been made for him by others, communicated to him by tradition, determined to fixed forms by imitation and retained by habit. It would profit us little to study this second-hand religious life. We must make search rather for the original experiences which were the pattern setters to all this mass of suggested feeling and imitated conduct. These experiences we can only find in individuals for whom religion exists not as a dull habit, but as an acute fever…

        If you ask for a concrete example, there can be no better one than is furnished by the person of George Fox, The Quaker religion which he founded is something which is impossible to overpraise. In a day of shams, it was a religion of veracity rooted in spiritual inwardness, and a return to something more like the original gospel truth than men had ever known in England.”

        A religion of veracity rooted in spiritual inwardness is something I seek today. I do believe that religious veracity can take many forms.

        When I first attended a Quaker meeting I was greeted warmly and shown a literature rack that included a pamphlet “Your First Time in a Quaker Meeting?” What was said there resonated with me deeply, including this sentence: “United in love, and strengthened by truth, the worshippers enter upon a new level of living, despite the different ways in which they may account for this life-expanding experience.” Later on during the silent worship I felt a burning in my mind that I had to stand and speak of this welcome I felt, not knowing them how rare it is for one to actually speak out of the silence. I attended virtually every Sunday for over a year. But someone how I lost a sense of connection to the Meeting and dropped out. Ironically, the Friend who so warmly welcomed me that first day also dropped out around the same time. (I stayed in touch with him, and recently felt a call to talk to him again, but sadly he has passed away.)

        I had not attended Meeting for over a year when my wife died suddenly from injuries suffered by being hit by a turning vehicle while we were out on our regular walk. I called the Clerk of the Meeting, and she said “you are one of us”. The Meeting hosted a very nice memorial service, and afterwards I visualized myself returning to the Meeting. But it has not happened except for coming occasionally to stay in touch. I had never felt again that burning to speak out of the silence until a few months ago, when it happened again. I don’t know exactly what prompted it, but I felt a call to quote a short poem I wrote many years ago while attending a Zen meditation weekend with my wife the week after my mother died.

        He was a stranger among them
        Their ways were strange to him
        He was lonely
        So he clung to his own ways.

        A thousand paths
        A thousand divisions
        A thousand tears.

        The world is so divided now, there are so many divisions. I believe a revitalized Quakerism can offer a path to healing. Many thanks, Don, for beginning this discussion.

    • Don McCormick February 12, 2018 at 1:49 am #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      What do you think can be done so that Quaker meetings become places we “say who we are NOW… and what makes us alive NOW” and where people “walk in and are greeted with a menu of ways that friends are living into their leadings and that they can see what speaks to them”? How can meetings across the country become “so on fire in the present that people want to be a part of it”? I like your idea. For me, the question is–how do we get there from here?

  5. Mackenzie February 9, 2018 at 11:57 am #

    City & State
    SILVER SPRING, MD
    If Quakerism should keep going just for the sake of keeping institutions going, it doesn’t deserve to survive. That’s all I see in this article, though.

    This article makes no mention of God, Jesus, or Christ. There’s only one reference to Spirit. You could substitute “Kiwanis” in and have about the same article. There’s no vision here.

    If we have a vital faith in the living Christ who speaks to us, loves us, and welcomes us into his friendship, to whom we listen and obey, and we believe others would be well-served if we invited them to meet this Christ and grow in friendship with him and in his discipline, then yes, Quakerism deserves to survive. And it’ll do so when we start inviting people in to that relationship—going and making disciples, as Jesus commanded. Faithfulness requires obedience. If we are to be as faithful as we claim, we must obey.

    If, on the other hand, we only want Quakerism to survive so we can keep seeing our buddies week after week: set up a recurring dinner party in your calendar app!

    • Don McCormick February 10, 2018 at 8:15 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Dear Mackenzie

      Thank you for responding to my article.

      You wrote, “If we have a vital faith in the living Christ who speaks to us, loves us, and welcomes us into his friendship, to whom we listen and obey, and we believe others would be well-served if we invited them to meet this Christ and grow in friendship with him and in his discipline, then yes, Quakerism deserves to survive. And it’ll do so when we start inviting people in to that relationship-going and making disciples, as Jesus commanded. Faithfulness requires obedience. If we are to be as faithful as we claim, we must obey.” I am sure that you know that not all Quakers are Christians-that there are Jewish Quakers, Buddhist Quakers, nontheistic Quakers-all sorts of Quakers. It looks like you are implying that Quaker groups that aren’t explicitly Christian don’t deserve to survive, but I strongly suspect that this isn’t your actual position, which I assume is more nuanced. Am I right about that?

      I’d be very interested in hearing what you think should be done in order for Quakerism to survive. Do you have a vision of the future of Quakerism that you’d be willing to share? I ask in part because I was talking about the responses to my article with a senior editor of Friends Journal, and he said that when he read the part of the article that said, “Often a small group of three to five activists start a change process like this,” he imagined you as one of the members of that small group.

      Sincerely,

      Don

      • Mackenzie February 12, 2018 at 10:00 pm #

        City & State
        Silver Spring, MD
        I just told a friend that the reason I am constantly struggling about whether to stay in this denomination is that I like Quaker theology, but I dislike how Quakers seem to see no value in its continued existence.

        He agreed and told me about his yearly meeting’s visioning process, where they basically said “more meetings,” but they never answered “why?” That’s the same problem I have with your article. Why should Quakerism survive? Why should it increase? What unique thing do we bring to the world? I think “should we?” must always come before “can we?” And we might have to define who we are and what our purpose is before we can answer that.

        Are we a group who meets weekly, can each believe whatever we want, and are interested in progressive politics and social justice? If so, what sets us apart? Silence?

        If it is our affection for silence (perhaps 5 minutes in the programmed traditions and an hour in the unprogrammed), then it seems we’ve made silence into one of those empty forms the early Friends so often decried.

        If it’s not silence, then we need to do a much better job articulating that first. Step zero in coming up with a communications plan or an outreach plan is to figure out who you want to reach with what message. What is our message? Do we have one?

        As Sarah said in another comment here, “people don’t go looking for a house of worship to AVOID faith,” but that’s often how Liberal Quaker communities behave.

        Ultimately, I think a vision needs to be compelling for both those inside and those we are seeking to reach. While what you’ve said might sound motivational for those already inside (especially those who would be sad to see something they built die out or long for “the good old days”), it’s not going to be a good answer when someone we’re trying to invite in asks “what’s your vision?” or “what’s your mission?” Breaking yours down:

        1. We want more people of more ages. “Join us because we’re short on people your age!” doesn’t seem likely to work 😛
        2. I think “people are showing up because we invited them” is kind of “cart before the horse.” People are coming to a house of worship or a faith community because they have a spiritual yearning, need healing after abuse (that was my reason), etc. Which one they end up in is partly dependent on who invites them, but I think the vision should say what we have to offer people who are hurting. People are coming because we offer them a place of healing, and we offer them a new way to think about God. And offer is a verb! It still implies those invitations and programs, but I think starting with what we offer and then later saying “and we invite others to share in the transformation we’ve found” would mean more to people who aren’t yet insiders.
        3. Greeters are competent. Should be a given in any organization.
        4. The property is well-maintained. Should be a given in any organization.
        5. Regulars…aren’t…jerks? Should be a given in any organization.
        6. “spiritual friendship and intimacy” — I think you mean something beyond the regular friendships I find in live action role-playing, but I would love to see this part expanded upon.
        7. People in meetings are focusing their lives on the Spirit more and more—discerning leadings and acting on them. — *thumbs up* but I might rephrase to make more sense to people who don’t speak Quakerese (ie, everyone else says “calling”)
        8. Are “peace and justice programs” the goal of our faith community? I think those are peripheral to transformation and growth.

        If I was going to give it a try:

        We envision a community, driven by love for God, one another, and the world, growing together in faithful obedience to our callings, inviting others to experience the healing, transformation, and growth we’ve found, and working together to make visible the Kingdom of God that is within us.”

        I also don’t think the fact that non-theists have decided to join a Christian denomination means the Christian denomination needs to stop saying “God” 😉 But I suppose you could leave God out of the first bit and say “make visible the Light that is within us” if God-talk really bothers you.

        • Paul Ricketts February 13, 2018 at 11:58 am #

          City & State
          Fort Wayne IN
          Mackenzie you shared ”I just told a friend that the reason I am constantly struggling about whether to stay in this denomination is that I like Quaker theology, but I dislike how Quakers seem to see no value in its continued existence.”

          I too struggle with Quakers. Like Queen Elizabeth I, I have no desire to make windows into men[women] souls. Mackenzie, I was raised in a High(Lutheran) church. What was deeply etched in our minds and hearts at early age was the belief that the church was not a voluntary association of individuals. The church was a mystical communion In which we all share in the divine life of God. Regardless of who we are.

          So when Quakers have worked my last nerve, in regards to spirituality and race in particular. I’m reminded by my Lutheran antecedents that the Church and Quakerism in particular is not about individuals aka ” hyphenated Quakers” or a particular political ideology. The sovereignty of God.

          Paul’s address to the leaders of Areopagus – the city council of Athens “One who is not really far from any of us- the One in whom we live and move and have our being. As one of your poets has put it, ‘We too are God’s children.’’ (Acts 17:28 The Inclusive New Testament).

          God is sovereign! Whether we are faithful or not, whether we acknowledge there is anything beyond human experience or not, and whether we are on the margins. We are people of faith, I believe, when we live and love in the power of that sovereignty. God need not be believed in to be joined. Perhaps God believes in us far more than many of us believe in her..

          So query for me this morning is how do we create welcoming,safe,life-giving and affirming faith environments. That all my participate in the divine life of God?

          One of my favorite songs by Carrie Newcomer “Room at the Table”
          https://​youtu​.be/​9​2​O​M​5​b​d​Q​4N4
          “Let our hearts not be hardened
          To those living on the margins,
          There is room at the table for everyone.”

          • Sarah February 13, 2018 at 9:34 pm #

            City & State
            NJ
            Paul,

            How beautiful and comforting. I have re read your words several times. They have eased my mind and soul tremendously.

            God is sovereign! Whether we are faithful or not, whether we acknowledge there is anything beyond human experience or not, and whether we are on the margins. We are people of faith, I believe, when we live and love in the power of that sovereignty. God need not be believed in to be joined.”

            Thank you.

          • Liz February 19, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

            City & State
            Horsham
            Thank you

        • Don McCormick February 13, 2018 at 7:19 pm #

          City & State
          Grass Valley, CA
          Dear Mackenzie

          I like your vision. It is concise and deep.

          One of the things about it that struck me is your description of a community driven by love for God. It made me realize that I have heard a lot about listening to God in Quakerism, but hardly anything about love for God. I’m not sure why that is the case, but I do find it striking.

          I laughed when I read #5 in your critique of my “starter vision”—“5. Regulars…aren’t…jerks? Should be a given in any organization.”

          I think that you may be putting more time into critiquing the vision I wrote in the article than it deserves. When I called it a starter vision, my idea was that it would just be a sort of place-holder that would start people talking about a better, deeper, more inspiring one. I thought of it as being like the stone in the old fable of stone soup. Once everyone in the village contributed their bits of food and the a kettle of water with a little rock in it had turned into a tasty, nourishing soup, the original stone could be taken out and thrown away.

          - Don

          • Mackenzie February 14, 2018 at 5:19 pm #

            City & State
            Silver Spring, MD
            It often seems there’s a temptation to choose between the two greatest commandments. Love God or love your neighbor.

            Part of “why?” might also include “why do we need yearly meetings?” and a reimagining of what they’re for. Why do we need membership? What’s it for?

            I’ve been finding it much more beneficial in this modern, interconnected world to reach across yearly meeting (and branch!) lines to work together. It seems like each yearly meeting has one or two people who are really driven to see how we can reach out to others in cyberspace, so we’ve been coördinating, with occasional check-ins to our yearly meetings. And there’s the Quaker RE Collaborative. Yearly meetings aren’t in competition with each other, so we build inter-YM projects and share the results. And then I wonder why we have so many yearly meetings and what all those sets of hierarchy are doing.

  6. Paul Ricketts February 11, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

    City & State
    Fort Wayne IN
    [Removed by request of comment author]

  7. Gregory Allen-Anderson February 11, 2018 at 7:56 pm #

    City & State
    Orlando FL
    I appreciate the discussion that is unfolding in response to this article.

    As a relative newcomer to Quakerism and my meeting, I confess I was a little taken aback that there was no real outline on how to ‘do this Quaker thing’. So I agree that I think newcomers would appreciate that kind of orientation. Something that is available, not required, but that can help a newcomer learn the lingo, and basic practices that have historically been used.

    On the other hand, we don’t want to make it seem that there is “The Quaker Way”. We are a non-creedal church with no official dogma, and I think that is one of our strengths.

    I think that sort of welcome and orientation is one thing we can do to help newcomers feel more comfortable in taking part of the life of the meeting.

    The other is deciding what a particular meeting is about. Most of our meetings are pretty small, so we don’t have the capacity to be engaged with every aspect of Quakerism.

    Is our meeting more focused on the individual spiritual growth of the members?
    Is our meeting more focused on creating social change in our community?
    Is our meeting more focused on demonstrating a different way of being in community?
    Is our meeting more focused on being a prophetic witness calling our leaders to cherish peace and justice?

    While it would be ideal if a meeting were good at all of these things, that probably isn’t realistic. But I think we can, as meetings, discern where the Spirit is calling us as a meeting and still do our best to welcome and support those whose spiritual focus is different.

    Not every meeting will be the same, and that is as it should be, but I do think every meeting has the opportunity to labor together and come to know what the meeting is FOR. It may be though that the meeting discerns a different path than I would have chosen and hopefully I have the Grace to accept that.

    Hopefully we also are open to being led to being the change we seek. Perhaps God is calling us to start a spiritual enrichment program, or a social justice committee, or a young adult ministry.

    George Fox seemed pretty big on the Spirit being a source of unity, so the impulse not to draw a circle that leaves people out is I think a worthy one, but I have faith that if we stand in the Light together, we will find our way forward.

    What are we being called to do together?

    • Mackenzie February 12, 2018 at 10:08 pm #

      City & State
      Silver Spring, MD
      Are you familiar with Blue Ocean Faith? They have a nice little explanation and diagram (click on “2. CENTERED SET IS OUR PRIMARY METAPHOR.”) of something I remember Wess Daniels talking about in regard to Quakers.

      Wess says, as you do, that drawing a circle that leaves people out isn’t the way to go. We shouldn’t be policing the edges. Rather, if we’re all clear on what our “center” is, we don’t need to worry about the edges. People who share that center will gravitate toward us. People who don’t, won’t.

      • Robert Oberg February 13, 2018 at 2:32 pm #

        City & State
        Charlotte, NC
        Dear Mackenzie

        I have appreciated your comments very much. ” … drawing a circle…” makes me think of the verse:

        He drew a circle that shut me out
        Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
        But Love and I had the wit to win
        We drew a circle that took him in.

        I was not familiar with Blue Ocean Faith. Thank you for the link. I appreciated their website, including the item on ecumenical. Quakers are far more diverse in our beliefs, but I think it might be possible to formulate a vision very succinctly. Jesus had a very short statement, much simpler than the Nicene creed:

        Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
        Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

        I would suggest the core of Quakerism is:

        There is that of God in everyone.

        Yes, that uses the word “God”. I think for several of us in this discussion, God or Spirit or Christ is very important, and should be at the core of Quakerism. But there are many ways of understanding God. I like the poem “Each In His Own Tongue” (http://​holyjoe​.org/​p​o​e​t​r​y​/​c​a​r​r​u​t​h​2​.​htm).

        Seeing that of God in EVERYONE is to me what is precious in Quakerism. There is so much polarization in our world today. The whole world needs this vision. That is why it is important that Quakerism survive. I would like to offer this vision of the Quaker “house”:

        Welcome

        Our house is open to all
        We have many rooms
        We yearn to share our vision
        Of many paths leading to God
        Of all rivers coming at last
        To the Great Sea.

        But our house is open to you
        Even if you do not share that vision
        Perhaps there is a truth that guides you
        That you feel is the only truth
        But you love us as people
        And hope we will find our way
        You are welcome in our house.

        Or perhaps you do not believe in God
        Or you have questions and doubts
        You are working for the good of human beings
        You are welcome in our house.

        Or maybe the “good of all”
        Is to you an empty phrase
        The pathetic utterance of the weak
        For you life belongs to the strong
        I do not think you want a room in our house
        But if a time comes
        When you feel lonely or afraid
        You are welcome in our house.

        Our blessings go to you all
        Be welcome in our house.

        • Mackenzie February 13, 2018 at 6:07 pm #

          City & State
          Silver Spring, MD
          I don’t think “there is that of God in everyone” is really the core of Quakerism. It’s not the message Fox came to preach. It’s a string of words taken completely out of context from something he said so that it has a different meaning. Well, maybe over the last century it’s become the practically only thing agreed-upon in Liberal Quakerism (which, of course, is only a small subset), but I’m with Lewis Benson: “Christ has come to teach his people himself” seems to be the core for Quakerism over 350+ years. Alternatively, someone noted in Pink Dandelion’s “Radical Spirituality” online class, the Quaker gospel seemed to match Jesus’s gospel (but not Paul’s): the kingdom of God is within you.

          • Kirsten Ebsen February 21, 2018 at 12:51 am #

            City & State
            Vancouver, BC
            This, Friend, speaks my mind. Nor was George Fox our sole founder. We don’t know our own history.

  8. Joan Kindler February 12, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

    City & State
    Flushing, New York
    Is there a way to reprint all replies and original article. And be a handout for all members and attenders…to remind those of

    a certain age (I am 88) that these feelings of being a seeker for over 40 years.…and of sharing these different “visions” with

    others in our over 300 year old Meetinghouse. I feel change is coming if we obey God’s “Love one another’.

    • Don McCormick February 19, 2018 at 6:46 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Hi Joan

      I believe that you can just hit the print button and all the comments will be printed. I am honored that you would like to distribute the article and the responses. I’m sure that the respondents are pleased as well.

      Warmly,

      Don McCormick

  9. Paul Ricketts February 12, 2018 at 10:02 pm #

    City & State
    Fort Wayne IN
    I am posting an update to my original post. What do you believe?Are you Christian?Because of the pluralist nature of Quakerism it’s very hard to answer these questions. These questions are too broad and vague.

    So Quakers squirm and struggle with terms like mission/visions statements and the e word.(evangelism). Which simply means’’good news.” Often we talk about what we don’t believe.This makes outreach rather difficult. Some Quakers simply choose not to engage in the dialogue, saying that our beliefs are private thing we need not discuss. Yes, Quakers do not have a creed. No single statement of religious doctrine is accepted by all.

    Like some in the early christian church, the early Quakers were not systematic theologians.(except for Robert Barclay) In other words, their theology was experiential. What I have learned from these early seekers is what we claim and experience about God is beyond the power of words to explain, for each definition or description, even the most beautiful and eloquent, is in one way or another a limitation and falls short of the real thing.

    The good news I think we Quakers can offer new seekers is,God is working in us in ways that we do not yet understand. As we continue to listen, worship, pray, love and serve, it will gradually become clearer to us. Words are just that. What is more important is the reality and fruits behind the words.

  10. Maxwell Pearl February 19, 2018 at 2:44 pm #

    City & State
    Healdsburg, CA
    As a relative newcomer to Quakerism, I want to let you all know why I chose it, and why I’m sticking with it. I’ve been regularly attending my meeting for about 18 months, and have been involved a bit in governance — as a committee member as well as attending meeting for business. I don’t know if this will be helpful to the conversation, but some might appreciate it.

    Some background: I’m a “spiritual mutt.” I was raised Presbyterian, left Christianity for a while, started a Buddhist meditation practice in the early 90s, and returned to Christianity via the Unitarians, and then the United Church of Christ. I even went to seminary (in 2005.) I call myself a Christian usually, although by most standard definitions, I’m not one, because I don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, or that we needed a sacrifice to be saved from the “justice” of God. But I do take his teachings quite seriously, and do my best to be a follower of Jesus. I’m also an explorer and practitioner of Christian contemplative practices, in which I find a deep connection to God.

    Contemplative practice is what originally drew me to Quakerism. But that’s not what has kept me here. What has kept me here is the deep integration of spirituality and governance. I’m a “the means and the ends are the same” kinda guy. The governance of most Christian churches and denominations are hierarchical, when, in practice, Jesus wasn’t. I never liked that when I went to meetings, the spirituality we were supposed to take seriously was given a back seat to “getting things done.” (I was the moderator of a UCC church for a time — a basically sort of equivalent to clerk, except it’s not.)

    I see in Quakers a way to live life in community that puts Spirit (writ broadly, of course) in front of everything else. I guess what I’m saying is that what I see in Quakerism is a model for a new way of living in the world — a way I want more than anything.

    • Don McCormick February 19, 2018 at 6:58 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      I really relate to what you said about governance. I greatly appreciate it too–both personally and professionally. There is a lot of overlap between Quaker decision-making and my academic interests, which have included workplace democracy, spirituality in the workplace, business ethics, and mindfulness in the workplace.

      Warmly,

      Don

    • Mary February 19, 2018 at 7:59 pm #

      City & State
      xxxxx
      Maxwell
      Your words resonate.
      Thank you.
      Me too
      Mary

    • Kirsten Ebsen February 21, 2018 at 1:16 am #

      City & State
      Vancouver, BC
      Some other Christian denominations are coming to a similar conclusion, Maxwell Pearl. It is the building of bridges across our spiritual divides that will connect humanity in a collective spirituality, despite cultural differences. God exists far beyond the many boundaries and languages and cultures that make up our world. In this sense I believe Quakers have been ahead of the curve by 300+ years, even though initially we were purely Christ centered. But we are falling behind now and other churches are growing in leaps and bounds in the articulation of this new vision, which will bring us together rather than divide us. And which will teach a non-judgmental form of worship. As Margaret Fell said, and I paraphrase here, the true church is made up of the people who meet together in worship, not the building itself which is only made of bricks and stones. The living church is the people breathing and worshiping together. It’s one reason I love live theatre so much, a living, breathing collective experience for a brief moment in time. So with Quaker worship…

      Nelson Mandela used to begin each day in parliament with a half hour of silence so all his parliamentarians would worship silently together and find their unity, despite the fact that they came from such divergent backgrounds: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Zulus, Buddhists, etc. They found their unity in their diversity each and every day while Mandela was in office. That is how their country was ruled while he was President. Unity in diversity. Quakers’ gift to the world.

  11. Mary February 19, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    City & State
    Address withheld
    I do not know if Quaker meeting will survive, but some Meetings certainly seem survivable and helpful to communally gathering to sit in Presence . In meeting we are challenged to live in truth that is beyond ego searching. We Hear/experience the Spirit of Love challenging and consoling us in meeting.

    We follow the challenge to share hospitality to each other and to have active responses to situations that communally and individually reach our hearts.

    We are willing to face personally difficult financial situations and live in simplicity so we share what is basically not ours anyway . We have the example of those among us who are actively living such simplicity of living and some of us recognize the call to do the same. We see our Meetings giving away money, and also living simply in order to share the gifts each of us have.

    While living simply we find ways of celebrating and having fun too.

    We see Friends avoiding more carbon producing trips for pleasure and find joy in other ways. There is no judgement as to what one is doing, just appreciation of the example of those who live most simply and yet are most joyful in their challenges.

    Individually during the week we connect with others alone in silence and/or on-line meetings for worship or brief silences and sharing with Friends and friends.

    We find spiritual discernment in our Clearness Committees and support in our responses that Love requires. We sit with each other in the deep anguish in emotional and spiritual reciprocity rather than doing charity for another.

    We suffer one another and are annoyed with each other, and grow from one another. We rejoice in the births during joys and tear up with each other during concerns, and we bury those we loved , and remember them well with a minute that lasts a long time.

    And more.
    I see this communal interaction among some very gathered meetings. I also experience the same dynamics in other areas of my life and with other people.

    Whether formalized Quakers continues or not, I do not have a clue, but Love always finds a way to enter our world and calls us to change more and more. Love calls us to act upon that change which often calls us to a life of justice, and laying down our very physical lives as Quakers did in past times (and some do today). We find example and strength from many sources such as Jesus, early Quakers, Buddha, Old testament Justice Seekers, Desert Fathers and Mothers, Agnostics and Non Deity explorers, and so much much more and together we reside in the Presence of Love from many traditions and expressions.

    I still have hope.

    Young people are coming to Friends from the example and participation in American Friends Service Committee and that Quakers, Jews are on Israel’s BDS blacklist . Quakers are with others are going to jail (as is our tradition) in civil disobedience for the justice/love of DACA kids and families. Young people come to those assisting with sanctuary to those willing to be guardians for children of deported people. Young people come to Quaker Meeting for worship, or create their own meetings that look and feel like active Quaker meetings when none there may have attended one. Young people come to Quakers where Friends are also in places where violence and hunger hunts their lives. They meet Friends at the Pennsylvania Detention Home for Women and Children where food is brought, and gatherings across the barb wire are held and tears are shed for a mother who is deported to her death and a child watches as the guard rapes his mother and is fired brought not brought to court.

    Wherever Quakers are there with them, they come. Wherever Friends meet them in the Name for all Goodness/Love they use they come to us, an so do the people who walk and work aside of them.

    • Don McCormick February 19, 2018 at 9:28 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      That is a lovely evocation of what Quakerism is about.

      - Don

  12. David February 19, 2018 at 6:01 pm #

    City & State
    Ontario
    Don’t you think the religion of our forefathers is finished, because it hangs on concepts that are no longer tenable? To the degree that Quakerism shares those concepts it will inevitably suffer the same fate. To the degree that it abandons those concepts without replacing them with theory and practice more acceptable to modern people, it becomes more and more a community of social activists, without much spiritual base. The most central and also the most untenable concept in Christianity is the concept of God. Many people today describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, because they believe there is something to life beyond the sum of individual beings, but it is not God in the sense of a supernatural being who intermittently intervenes in the lives of individuals and displays humanlike characteristics on a grand scale. Many find Buddhist and Vedantic practices more acceptable, because they focus not on God as a ‘being,’ but on Being as one indivisible Self.

    • Mary February 20, 2018 at 11:44 am #

      City & State
      xxxxxxx
      David,
      My spiritual roots come strongly from my foremothers as well as my forefathers.
      Rather than being required for another person to remember the mothers with a particular word usage, I think it helpful for me to write “foremothers” here too.

      I want to remember today, their influence. I need to rely on the mothers and grandmother’s practical wisdom, grace and love passed down, as well as the forefathers too.

      Mary

  13. Christopher February 19, 2018 at 9:27 pm #

    City & State
    Bradenton, FL
    I applied for membership in a meeting in Southwest Florida, but met resistance from a couple of influential members, who said they spoke for the entire meeting (I don’t know if that was true). The only correlation I can give is, it was like applying for membership in an old-establishment country club, or an exclusive co-op in NYC. Another attender told me she had chosen to resolve the meeting’s ‘offstage’ but pervasive ‘closed-door’ code, in her own heart, by just not even approaching the membership gate at all. She added that the meeting seems to hypothesize that change is a net-negative. Membership of the meeting is based on the ideological, political, and personal comfort of its settled aristocracy.

    No, I don’t know if my experience is widespread, but the various parent bodies of Friends organizations couldn’t help me.

    However, one contact I spoke to acknowledged that there is a broad need for meetings to conduct outreach into their communities, to 1. nurture the provinces meetings find themselves in, AND 2. cultivating meeting rosters. Meetings need MEMBERS for Quakerism to thrive.

    One Friend, who I spoke to on the telephone, told me, “Membership is akin to the marriage contract.” But this is a flexible premise. We all probably know that meetings across the country expedited memberships for men, so that they could avoid military service in the Vietnam War. This kind of approach makes membership a political tool.

    Convincement is personal.

    If Quakerism is to thrive in the 21st Century, it must examine all obstacles, and the ‘gatekeeping’ approach to membership is one.

    Instead of simply being satisfied to attend the meeting, I decided to form a Friends meeting in my city (which currently has none). I reached-out to the yearly meeting, in writing, but have gotten no response. No, I won’t give up.

    • Kirsten Ebsen February 21, 2018 at 1:28 am #

      City & State
      Vancouver, BC
      I suspect this attitude exists in many meetings nowadays, if not quite so obvious as the case you described above. In my experiences in western Canada too many meetings, certainly not all but many, have their own clique culture and want no outside interference in their acquired levels of comfort. Such attitude is anathema to the Quaker Way.

    • Don McCormick February 21, 2018 at 12:26 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Christopher,

      Congratulations on your efforts to plant a new Meeting in your city! There is not nearly enough of this happening in Quakerism. It is is the kind of thing we need to see more of as we reverse the trend of shrinking membership.

      - Don

  14. Elizabeth February 19, 2018 at 10:00 pm #

    City & State
    Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
    I agree very with Mackenzie.
    I left my Meeting here after years as attender and then member, because it had slid into exactly what Pink Dandelion so eloquently diagnosed in his Swarthmore Lecture: it no longer teaches God and His word, not even to the children, and in fact teaches nothing in particular, but welcomes everyone, including open atheists. It had become a nice club for nice people with nice motivations and causes and offered a nice peaceful hour once a week in which one could relax a contemplate one’s issues.

    But that is not Quakerism. George Fox, William Penn, Robert Barclay et al defined it for us: ‘Quaker’ is a place where God is acknowledged as the creator and maker of the laws we should live by, and the One we are ultimately accountable to. It is also a place where Christ’s teaching is lived out in daily life. And it is a place where the Spirit is alive and is understood to be our helper and friend and that with his help we can do great things. And finally it is a place where God’s word is studied and taught, and the insights and experiences of Fox, Penn, Barclay etc are familiar to everyone.

    I do not believe that any Meeting should be allowed to call itself ‘Quaker’ or ‘Religious Society’ if it does not do the things above. All the other Quakerly structures are fine and worthy, but without these things they are just any nice organisation and not a place of spiritual nourishment.

    Dandelion put it well: “Welcome anyone, but also tell them: THIS is what we stand for; join us if that’s what you want, and if you don’t like it, please go elsewhere.” If Quakers want to remain, and retain any real meaning, then they must find the courage to do exactly that.

    I still count myself a Quaker and attend a lovely little Meeting in which everyone acknowledges God. I thank Him for bringing me to this group, which is a vital and valued part of my life.

  15. Mark Read February 20, 2018 at 3:25 am #

    City & State
    Lancaster, UK
    I am trying to turn my recent (2017) Phd into a book (or two). I examine how Quakers engage with the church as a religious organisation and in comparative terms how they engage with the contemporary workplace. I suggest that Quakers at work participate in the workplace ‘as if’ they were Quakers. The individual worldview is primary in the work setting and what counts as religious and Quaker is backgrounded by church affiliates in the everyday. This is contrary to their historical and contemporary claims. And it is highly typical of how almost all individuals engage with the workaday world. We conform because non-conformity has its consequences. Quakers are not prepared to pay a high price for their faith but are conversely able to pursue it by working in organisations which espouse ambitions conversant with those of the movement.

    But there is a Quaker outlier in this thesis. A Christo-centric Quaker who believes in the literal truth of the Bible, that Jesus will come again and his teachings should be followed in the everyday. He works, not in services, but as a manual worker in a manufacturing company. He has serious mental health problems, a failing marriage, drug dependency and suffers abuse in the workplace for his faith. He is bombed out of his job by management who believe him to have been ‘brainwashed by the Quakers’ because he stood up for his bullied friend.

    If anyone would like to know more, discuss my ideas (there are many more than can be included here) or to offer advice and practical help to publish this work, I would be interested to hear from you at [email protected]​hush.​com .

    My thesis can be downloaded from http://​ethos​.bl​.uk/​O​r​d​e​r​D​e​t​a​i​l​s​.​d​o​?​d​i​d​=​1​&​u​i​n​=​u​k​.​b​l​.​e​t​h​o​s​.​7​1​5​680 for those who might have time and interest.

    • Kirsten Ebsen February 20, 2018 at 10:20 pm #

      City & State
      Vancouver, BC
      With the loss of the older generation, who were so active and well informed about Quaker ways, we are losing far more than bodies in our Meetings. Yes, we need to find a way to rejuvenate in a way that speaks to young people and draw them in. Perhaps by stressing the universality of our spiritual faith, including acceptance of various faith traditions. No theological conflict when one is worshipping in silence. And reviving the lost tradition of Eldering, which now appears to be understood as chastising miscreants. Ultimately our gift to the modern world is unity in diversity.

    • Don McCormick February 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley, CA
      Dear Mark,

      What a delightful surprise to see your post. I have taught and published in the area of spirituality in the workplace since the mid-1990’s. I’ve been particularly interested in the ways that Quakers have and do integrate their spirituality with their work. I admire your research. Despite the importance of the topic, there is so little written about contemporary Quakers and how they express their spirituality in the workplace, so I was really excited when I found your work. I think that I have read all of your conference papers that you have put on the web. (By the way, is that Jojo you are referring to as the outlier?) Thank you for publishing the link to your dissertation.

      Are you still at Birmingham?

      Warmly,

      Don

      • Mark Read February 23, 2018 at 1:59 pm #

        City & State
        Lancaster UK
        Hi Don
        Thanks for the reply.
        No longer at Birmingham.
        Looking for a home for my ideas.
        Making progress with writing.
        The Quaker ‘problem’ is not one of faith or practice.
        It is one of coherence.
        Between beliefs and the world. How can this be achieved is the dilemma.
        This isn’t a uniquely Quaker issue.
        I see this as a problem for all religions. And individuals.
        On whose terms should coherence be pursued?
        God’s? The church’s? The world’s? The workplace’s? The individual’s?
        The search for coherence is religion in effect.
        One can see this in Jesus’s life even if one rejects his divinity.
        Thanks again for the reply, Don.
        Mark

  16. Toria Forsyth-Moser February 20, 2018 at 11:19 am #

    City & State
    England
    Quakerism is already gone. It has become an inclusive meditation group with a social justice agenda (at least here in Britain). Of course there is nothing wrong with either of these, but the movement has lost spiritual focus and direction. To complete the rebranding and to honour the great Quakers of the past, Quakers should find a new name for themselves.

  17. Bradley Laird February 20, 2018 at 12:36 pm #

    City & State
    South Bend, IN
    It would be nice if Quakerism, particularly unprogrammed Quakerism, survives in the USA, but, if it does not, I will find or create another place where balance for nurturing my inward guide, attention to the group’s dynamics in finding unity, and a fiery and focused engagement with the outer world is present. Focusing on saving Quakerism seems misplaced. The focus should be on the spirit (place your current useful metaphor here) moving in us, us struggling mightily together with love, and getting it on. I will suggest that when we are suburban and middle class and up, we are lost (this is not the only difficult constellation, but it is surely one). There is no future spiritual path there I can see, but I will be happy to be surprised. Our salvation is wrapped up in being one with the precariat, painfully facing our racism, xenophobia, economic privilege, hetero-normative patriarchy; and seeing how we are the problem, purifying ourselves as a prelude to action. Let’s quit being so polite and get really uncomfortable together so that the amazing (dangerous, even perilous) life we see in our history becomes present. This is what we need. That might save Quakerism or not, but it is that to which I was called as I joined Friends, and now I have a committee being formed to support this leading in ministry. There are the seeds of this in many meetings. Many complain that the Meeting does not support them. Listen with love to those trouble makers. Despite their real interpersonal weaknesses (and we are full of weaknesses), they are probably who you need to incorporate fully into your notion of “on earth as it is in heaven.” If the children aren’t motivated in the manner of early Friends where they would hold worship even if the parents were in jail, then they will not be interested in first day school, and then we are just another boring religion that does not possess what we profess, and that needs to die, is already death. Maybe we need this death and a resurrection.

    • Mary February 21, 2018 at 11:14 am #

      City & State
      xxxxxx
      I will find or create another place where balance for nurturing my inward guide, attention to the group’s dynamics in finding unity, and a fiery and focused engagement with the outer world is present. Focusing on saving Quakerism seems misplaced. The focus should be on the spirit (place your current useful metaphor here) moving in us, us struggling mightily together with love, and getting it on.”

      I am realizing how fortunate I am in finding this in our meeting, and in the F(f)riends I rely on who live what I described in my original response here.

      It is real. This life that is led, is real, and some find the called pathway and strength in Friends. Others find that their life journey echoes well with the Quaker tradition lived out today. It is more than political viewpoint, it is willingness to follow Loves leading as did Quakers in Nazi Germany.

      I am fortunate to have the Quaker witness of one of them, and the witness of those who are laying down everything today too. Non-dualism responses are noted.

  18. Kathryn Ruud February 20, 2018 at 2:03 pm #

    City & State
    Middletown Maryland
    Here is a question that is both timely and oriented toward the pragmatic: What, specifically do you believe your own meeting would do if the HS senior Emma Gonzalez, now speaking so forcefully to other young people, to her community, the nation and especially legislators, on the gun violence epidemic, should show up at your meeting’s doorstep, there from her own initiative, her own budding interest in Quakerism?

    What kind of proof would the meeting need to see and accept her as a Quaker? Is her current vision a Quakerly one? What would your meeting do to cultivate and bring forth further into the world (and to many more young people) the energy she has, the vision she brings?

    Consider the quote cited by Don: “In [the book[] The Vision Thing, author Todd Jick argues that an effective vision is “clear, concise, easily understood. Memorable. Exciting and inspiring. Challenging. Excellence centered. Stable, but flexible. Implementable and tangible.” Is there such an inspiring vision for the future of Quakerism? ”

  19. Janet Nagel February 20, 2018 at 10:02 pm #

    City & State
    Greensboro, NC
    I think it’s not a question of Quakerism surviving because Quakerism IS. Quakerism wasn’t founded or created by Fox, it was discovered by him. And he was able to communicate that discovery to the many other seekers of his time in the intellectual and religious idiom of that time.

    I’m not very good with words but it seems to me that Quakerism is a way of being–trusting, courageous, loving, honest. A way of seeking to live by the highest light we are given. We’re inspired by and stand on the discoveries and witnesses of Quakers in the past, and we expect always to be given new light and new leadings.

    There’s something about the idea of “visioning” or planning for the future of Quakerism that I find uncomfortable. I’m reminded of a conversation recounted by theologian Ivan Illich with his mentor, Jacques Maritain. Illich was trying to explain to the old man the new administrative practice of “planning”. It was not accounting, nor legislation, nor scheduling… Finally Maritain exclaimed, “Ah, my friend, now I understand. It’s a new species of the sin of presumption!” I believe this is also a conservative Quaker perspective.

    Somehow I think it’s too logical or mechanistic to be considering how to maintain or grow Quaker membership. Shouldn’t we be talking about all the love in our hearts that we want to share? And the ways we want to serve the people in our communities?

    • Leeanna Lawrence February 27, 2018 at 4:51 pm #

      City & State
      Winston-Salem, NC
      Your last paragraph inspires me!

  20. Janet February 20, 2018 at 11:02 pm #

    City & State
    Noblesville in
    You

  21. Don McCormick February 21, 2018 at 1:17 pm #

    City & State
    Grass Valley, CA
    Maida sent me an email and I asked if I could post it and my response. (She was having some difficulty with her computer.) She consented. She wrote:

    ” Your article and others of the Feb 2018 Friends Journal have stimulated quite a bit of discussion among Atlantic Friends. Of course we don’t have Trump on our side of the border but Canada is always affected by U.S. policies. As is the World!”

    Re: faith — I so agree that “We need to be much more active if we are going to survive and flourish.” Jesus said you don’t light a candle to put it under a bushel and hide it — you set it up for all to see. And that is what we are not doing. We are too laid back, too polite, too afraid of being like the “pushy” evangelists who knock on our doors to tell us about the coming end of the world and the hell-fire awaiting us! Being Universalist should not mean being afraid to talk about Jesus’s teaching, or afraid to use the word Christian!”

    I responded by saying that I shared her concerns.

    It seems like most Quakers seem unwilling to even tell their friends that they are Quaker, much less invite them to meeting. As one British friend put it, “It feels harder saying I am Quaker to people than it does saying I’m gay.” I think that many Quakers have only negative images of evangelism in their minds—like the door-knockers you mentioned or the ones that tried to pass out tracts to strangers on street corners. Outreach doesn’t need to be like that. I came to Quakerism because the woman who shared my wife’s office told her that she thought that my wife would find Quaker meeting meaningful and invited her to attend. She did this more than once. My wife attended and then asked me to attend. That was twenty five years ago, and I’ve been attending Meeting ever since.

    • Mary February 21, 2018 at 4:24 pm #

      City & State
      xxxxx
      On Spirituality as basic Quaker focus

      I remember with joy the first time I said aloud, and in a matter of fact way, that I was a mystic and from that core reality actions flowed. I was happy that our Quaker meeting provided communal spiritual discernment through an individual’s Clearness Committee. The Clearness Committee could be immediate or ongoing. I feel comfortable attending a Meeting for Worship that is strictly Christian and one that is filled with those who deeply love Jesus but do not use that term. Also I am comfortable with those who live by the beatitudes , and who come from many traditions. I feel comfortable with worshipping with those from diverse traditions and expressions. Together we move from dualistic to non-dualistic thinking, and recognize Divinity among us, with all the ramifications for all of us. Responding to the call to justice seems rather biblical to me, and resonates with other traditions too.
      That call to justice living comes from other than ego boosting. Quakers join others who are recognizing old forms and new wine, do better in new wine skins. Forms may fail. Love will remain.

  22. Don McCormick February 21, 2018 at 8:45 pm #

    City & State
    Grass Valley, CA
    I just discovered that FGC has a vision statement.

    Vision Statement” https://​www​.fgcquaker​.org/​a​b​o​u​t​/​v​i​s​i​o​n​-​s​t​a​t​e​m​ent

    We envision a vital and growing Religious Society of Friends—a faith that deepens spiritually, welcomes newcomers, builds supportive and inclusive community, and provides loving service and witness in the world.”

    Through Friends General Conference, we see Quakers led by the Spirit joining together in ministry to offer services that help Friends, meetings, and seekers explore, deepen, connect, serve and witness within the context of our living faith.”

  23. Sylvia Campbell February 22, 2018 at 4:04 am #

    City & State
    Austria
    Hello, I would like to contribute to this conversation even though I never formally joined as a Friend, but I was a regular attender at the wonderful Quaker meeting in Brant Broughton, Lincolnshire, England. I would still be going regularly but have now moved to rural Austria so am afraid that is not feasible anymore!

    Quaker meetings offer people so much peace, reflection, unity and goodness and to be able to tap into that regularly was a privilege. My ´Christianity´ is probably on the non-orthodox side, I am what would be called a ´skeptical´ Christian believing that I (like all people) have a direct link with the divine through my own ´light that is within´ and that there is so much social manipulation in many other forms of worship. I loved the fact that I was allowed to connect with God through meeting without ´being preached at´ — there is so much honesty and faith there. Quakers have faith that you will find your own light and path, through a supportive meeting, to connect with the divine. Thank you for providing me with a safe space for that.

    I believe that what makes Quakers so special is their Christian ethos and their deep and profound belief. I am also worried that outreach to a wider, possibly non-christian public would result in meetings ´getting watered down´ in their Christian ethos and becoming like a friendly meditation group — sigh. That would seem to be the danger — however I have never experienced a ´watered down´ Quaker meeting, so even though there could be a clear danger in outreach to people not in the broad Christian church I feel that there are possibly more benefits and concerns.

    In our increasingly stratified and polarized society reaching out to others seems to be more important than ever. Quakers have never shirked from advocating doing the right thing, and opening Meeting doors to all is a hugely important step in helping to heal the hate and anger rife in society today. May the divine protect the profound Christian ethos of Quakerism while letting others drink from their cup of peace.

    Thank you Friends.

  24. Mary February 22, 2018 at 9:13 am #

    City & State
    xxxxx
    This realization is for me, rather than suggesting it is , or should be for all. I hope however that there is place in Quakerism for this way of approaching Meeting for Worship. I have experienced it, in a particular meeting as ok.

    Rather than watering down a person’s Christianity or other tradition, sharing Silence from differing faith expressions can strengthen and enhance one’s own faith. This is a quote from Richard Rohrer a strong Christian, in which he presents a complementary picture of God among all of us. The Spirit of Holiness is farther reaching than I realize.
    “I was a hidden treasure and longed to be known,” says God, according to an ancient Islamic teaching, “and so I created the world.” [2]
    Foremost among these qualities … is love. In the Christian West we are accustomed to rattling off the statement “God is love” [1 John 4: 8, 16].… Love is a relational word, and that relationship presumes duality, or twoness, “because,” in the words of Valentin Tomberg (1900–1973), “love is inconceivable without the Lover and the Loved, without ME and YOU, without One and the Other.” [3] In order for love to manifest, there must first be duality.… In the words of another Sufi maxim whose truth is apparent to anyone who has ever experienced the sublime dance of recognition and mutual becoming at the heart of all love: “You are the mirror in which God sees himself.”
    To many people Jesus is their path in prayer and beatitude living. Other traditions and expressions can enhance our shared waiting on/with Presence . We can all be enhanced by Truth and Light expressed in other ways than our own. In Silence we meet beyond doctrine, institution, and are together in God/Divinity/Goodness .
    It was a man of the Muslim faith , speaking from his understanding from his tradition who opened the Gospel of Luke to me in a beauty I had not seen so deeply before. He is a gift to Friends.

  25. Minga Claggett-Borne February 23, 2018 at 8:40 am #

    City & State
    Cambridge, MA
    Dear Friend Janet Nagle and others,
    Yes we are a people of service. Yes Quakers are a people, and are becoming a people. The institutions can be heavy and stiff, like old branches. We need to heed the sap running through the tree’s core. That’s The Holy One stirring us to be more than of service to our community.

    We need to move beyond our bickering of silent vs programmed Meetings; pastoral vs liberal; mystic vs Biblical; orthopraxis vs orthodoxy. Spirit asks me to move past binary into fluidity. Quakerism is a religion and a movement. We have unique messages to offer— that of God in everyone is more than equality. We can find right action in our individual choices. And when making decisions the Divine can guide us as a whole Body.

    My Meeting in Cambridge MA is gargantuan for most Friends. It’s not a chatty Meeting (not popcorn, but corn kernels). We have mostly gathered Meetings with 160 people attending, 60 for Business Meeting. How can Young Adults join in sharing the “life” ? As a middle-age Quaker 62 years young, I need to share my Love/Power/Joy with Seekers of all ages.

    Can we give Quaker Pride marches in the malls, schools and beaches? Our witness needs to ignite outside of the Meetinghouse for us to survive.

  26. Signe Wilkinson February 23, 2018 at 1:36 pm #

    City & State
    Phila., pa
    There are nearly 80 responses to this article versus 4 to the one about FCNL. That alone should tell us what Friends are yearning for. Sharing our spiritual beliefs with each other and with newcomers with as much enthusiasm as we share political action alerts, will go a long way to answering the searching expressed in the many responses above. This article was a great start.

  27. David February 24, 2018 at 1:04 am #

    City & State
    Bedford, U.K.
    May I offer an English comment?

    In skimming through comments on your article, I did not notice any reference to exodus. Quaker survival here in England was partly due to mass exodus to what became the USA. Then Woolman, by his example in challenging the slave trade near home, helped revive Quakerism in the U.K. by inspiring us also to reject the slave trade. Toynbee, in his monumental study of history, calls this pattern “withdrawal and return”. Staying in a situation without being able to change it can be interpreted as “complicity”.

    In our vision of the future, the temptation is to fantasize about taking Quakerism to another planet. Our testimony to truth needs to scotch that fantasy. Enough is now known about what has happened to our astronauts when they spend more than a few months away from Earth. The bodies which they had inherited had evolved over millions of years conditioned to prosper on Earth. Outside gravity, bombarded by cosmic rays, they start to disintegrate. Unmanned spaceships can travel to other planets and beyond, but just the five days to the moon and five days back had severe effects. Just orbiting around Earth in satellites several months has proved problematic, so in the future staff will be changed in a shorter time. Since it would take several months to go to Mars, and climate changes there are more extreme than here, life, once supplies brought with them had finished, would be problematic. Quakers should reject that vision.

    Withdrawal, to maintain a Quaker vision in the spirit of Fox and Woolman and the peace and environmental and racial testimony of today, might be “in the world, but not of it” like Thomas Merton, the monk (wasn’t his mother a Quaker?), or to emigrate to a country whose values enable one to be a Quaker without being merely a Quaker on Sundays, if that is where complicity in daily life is leading us.

    George Fox, once he had his vision, was persecuted mercilessly, because his vision was ahead of his times. His vision went beyond the spiritual into the political, as did Jesus of Nazareth’s vision. George Fox was asked by some to form the next government after Cromwell died, but in declining gave an impressive list of political suggestions for his time. Quakers were barred from university in Fox’s time. That did not deter them.

    Is our vision ahead of the time? Does it matter so much that we would be prepared to accept that it could bar us from usual ways of becoming qualified? Are we resilient enough and convinced enough to take that plunge? I am in my last years, but on the lookout for young Quakers with those trends. With, or without our support, they are the future of Quakerism.

    • Kirsten February 24, 2018 at 2:47 pm #

      City & State
      Vancouver, BC
      Fox was antagonistic to the extreme to justices of the peace in his day, he was so convinced that truth and god were on his side. Humility wasn’t his strong point. There is a record of Margaret Fell becoming quite angry with him over it at one stage after his return from America. Since it had become illegal to disrupt preachers in their pulpits, that was one habit he dropped fairly early. Permission had to be granted before speaking to a congregation. Thomas and Margaret Fell taught him some social skills that served him well. His kind of ego would not go far in our Quaker communities today. Not to downplay Fox, but there were also other very articulate leaders in those early days.

    • Kirsten February 25, 2018 at 11:27 pm #

      City & State
      Vancouver
      Certainly William Penn’s ships to Philadelphia were an exodus for the Welsh. I’m not that familiar with others because the journeys Fox and Friends took were always return journeys. Not exodus per se. But as Quakers did settle in New England, there must have been.

  28. Patricia Dallmann February 25, 2018 at 1:34 pm #

    City & State
    Philadelphia
    There is great humility in the faith that Fox and other early Friends knew. For example, when Fox was being questioned for blasphemy before the magistrates at Derby, he was asked if he was sanctified, and replied:

    Sanctified? yes,” for I was in the Paradise of God.

    They said, had I no sin?

    Sin?” said I, “Christ my Saviour hath taken away my sin, and in him there is no sin.”

    They temptingly asked if any of us were Christ.

    I answered, “Nay, we are nothing, Christ is all” (Nickalls, 51–52).

    To realize that “we are nothing; Christ is all” entails a humility that is intrinsic to original Quaker faith, and unknown among today’s Liberal Quakers. The mission of early Friends was to turn people to the light in the conscience, which would first of all show them where they’d missed the mark. If Friends today would turn our Society around, we must first turn ourselves around inwardly.

    Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit (Mt. 12:33).

    • Mary February 25, 2018 at 4:24 pm #

      City & State
      xxxxxxx
      Quote: ” To realize that “we are nothing; Christ is all” entails a humility that is intrinsic to original Quaker faith, and unknown among today’s Liberal Quakers.”

      For me, this quote is a sad commentary and far from my experience.

      I have witnessed this humility and laying down one’s ego, property, freedom and going to jail, and risking one’s life in rescuing others by those eldest Quakers in Nazi Germany and also today. I have witnessed humility in following the Light among some Quakers who are conservative, liberal, progressive, mystic, activist, stated Christian or other, and those for whom no category or designation fits. I have seen this humility and beatitude living in action. Most times it goes unseen because these are Friends who are often the quiet and Silence seekers among us.

      The Gospel of Matthew has a different presentation on this quote found in the Gospels of Luke and Mark , but I think this quote still carries meaning for some of us: “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50; Mark 9:40).

      Thank you for writing of your concern, and prompting me to look at our wider Quaker religious society, with wider eyes. I found sad your quote above. It may be an indication that we Friends are a microcosm of the larger nation/world and that with seeking silence together in Meetings for Worship , we might take steps together and be more the Light released from the bushel basket. We need each other, and the world needs our witness.

      Thank you for the concern you gave me. You helped.

    • Kirsten February 25, 2018 at 7:25 pm #

      City & State
      Vancouver, BC
      I did not mean to imply that Fox was not humble before god, but before the Justices of the Peace. He antagonized them with his arrogance which was hilarious because when reading those transcripts one knows he will lose and end up in the klink. I assure you he had no humility during his court proceedings.

  29. Don McCormick March 2, 2018 at 12:42 am #

    City & State
    Grass Valley, CA
    I noticed a rather lively discussion of this article on Reddit (https://​www​.reddit​.com/​r​/​Q​u​a​k​e​r​s​/​c​o​m​m​e​n​t​s​/​7​z​9​i​d​s​/​q​u​a​k​e​r​_​v​i​s​i​on/ and https://​www​.reddit​.com/​r​/​Q​u​a​k​e​r​s​/​c​o​m​m​e​n​t​s​/​7​w​d​j​g​l​/​c​a​n​_​q​u​a​k​e​r​i​s​m​_​s​u​r​v​i​ve/).

    I also noticed that the Friends Journal Twitter account contained this tweet:

    We checked the stats and it’s official: Don McCormick’s article on the vision of Quakerism is now the most talked-about Friends Journal article of recent times as measured by comments.”

    This is quite a contrast to the response my previous Friends Journal article gave rise to. “Mystical Experience: What the Psychological Research Has to Say.” https://​www​.friendsjournal​.org/​m​y​s​t​i​c​a​l​-​e​x​p​e​r​i​e​n​ce/

    - Don

    • Mary March 3, 2018 at 3:02 am #

      City & State
      xxxxxx
      Don
      I appreciated your last article and audio on mystical experience and psychological research.
      Thank you. I am wondering if this quote can help with the discussion here. Although not particularly addressing Quakerism, it seems to address the heart and may resonate with some Friends’ experiences. Thank you Don and all for this conversation and resulting Silent sitting in Worship together with others.

      Practice: Evolving the Contemplative Tradition
      Living School alumna Teresa Pasquale Mateus rightly observes that the contemplative tradition needs to evolve. When Western Christianity revived contemplation in the 1970s, it did so primarily through the lens of white, upper-middle class, celibate men. Contemplation became synonymous with solitude and silence. Yet there are many, many ways to enter into non-dual consciousness and presence with God, self, and others. The contemplative tradition should reflect the diversity of the divine image. Teresa shares why this change is so important:

      There are so many … people deeply yearning for what the contemplative path has to offer—but often there is a great divide between the prayer circles and the activists, the people of faith in communities of color and the contemplative retreats. The spaces seem remote and inaccessible to many who need them the most: those suffering from poverty and homelessness; those on the frontline of protests and marches for justice; those who sit in non-contemplative church contexts.… Further, members of each group carry practices from their own traditions and cultures that could serve the current contemplative containers—rituals of healing from street protests, mantras of lament and hope from those in the margins, and prayers and songs from African and indigenous cultures.…

      For people existing in the margins—who desperately need contemplative wisdom—a path of contemplation without action … doesn’t have meaning. Because their struggles are for survival, for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities, these struggles cannot be set aside in pursuit of an individual spiritual journey. The journey is inherently communal.… It necessitates action, but desperately seeks contemplation. The current contemplative container was not built for them and cannot contain their hurts, their actions, their needs, their identities.

      When the container is too small for the contents, it must expand. It must evolve.… God’s great love story with us calls us into discomfort—the gateway to evolution. For the majority culture, this call is to be in the margins, alongside marginalized persons, and learn what is needed to authentically walk beside them in their suffering. It calls for the discomfort of being in spaces where the mystical path may not look like your own.… It calls for the discomfort of hearing God’s voice through the woman of color, the queer teen, the under-heard and under-seen … and to reorient perspectives and actions according to the lessons taught through deep listening.… For people of color, like myself, and others in the margins (women, LGBTQI, and beyond), it is also a time to let our voices rise and join this conversation as vital partners in the unfolding of this new evolution in the collective soul of contemplative faith. In the process, together, we co-create the contemplative evolution and the mystical revolution.… In a world in pain, we are in the crescendo of birthing ourselves for this place and time. Only together can we push through to the next phase of our spiritual evolution.

      Teresa Pasquale Mateus, “Mystic Love, Unbound: A Reclaimed, Reframed, and Evolving Love Story between God and the World,” “Evolutionary Thinking,” Oneing, vol. 4, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2016), 48–51.

      • Kathryn Ruud March 3, 2018 at 12:37 pm #

        City & State
        Maryland
        Thank you for sharing this quote, Mary. The idea of, and the history of, silent contemplative practice informing conscience and then conscience guiding action was what pulled me toward Quakerism initially. (I converted over 10 years ago after decades of attendance). But I see these links, this flow of spirit into action as somewhat broken. Members and attenders who do make these connections go into the world in a myriad of directions. But as a body, we seem to lack unity of purpose.

        Unless I am mistaken in my understanding of early Friends’ history, there WAS unity of purpose in the past, or at least enough of it that groups of Friends had huge unified impact in the world: as abolitionists, as suffragettes, etc. I am wondering now if that was illusion, that it was not Quakerism per se, but that these just happened to be insightful individuals who were moved by spirit to take action. It may be that as meetings have become more egalitarian (no concern is necessarily more pressing than any other concern) the guiding, unifying force was somehow dissipated?

        Scattered action in the world is better than no action, and I am nevertheless grateful for that, and glad to see even that. To me, it is love showing up in many places where it is needed. But unifying? I don’t see it.

        Again, from the original post from Don: “Without the clear goal a vision provides, a change effort can fall apart and become a mishmash of unrelated programs that work against each other or lead nowhere. In The Vision Thing, author Todd Jick argues that an effective vision is “clear, concise, easily understood. Memorable. Exciting and inspiring. Challenging. Excellence centered. Stable, but flexible. Implementable and tangible.”” ~ This, to me, speaks to unity of purpose… This clear concise vision and inspiration arose out of silent worship at one time, I believe.…

        • Mary March 3, 2018 at 8:45 pm #

          City & State
          xxxxxx
          Perhaps the evolutionary Divine Unifier is creating that communal vision and unity of purpose among/within us . Perhaps we are being provided and called forth into that “clear, concise, easily understood. Memorable. Exciting and inspiring. Challenging. Excellence centered. Stable, but flexible. Implementable and tangible.”. Perhaps the Spirit is moving among us.

          As Teresa Pasquale Mateus notes “Only together can we push through to the next phase of our spiritual evolution”

          Perhaps The communally shared song is correct “The Presence of God is in the Atmosphere”

        • Don McCormick March 3, 2018 at 11:49 pm #

          City & State
          Grass Valley, CA
          Dear Kathryn,

          That is a very interesting point that you made about the unity of purpose that characterized Quaker commitment to the abolition of slavery and suffrage for women. I think that there may have been unity of social purpose in Quakerism more recently. There was the work serving the starving in Germany after WWI and WWII. Also, I don’t know, as I wasn’t a Quaker back then, but it seemed like American Quakerism* seemed to be a major catalyst in the opposition to the Vietnam War.

          You said that a vision that is “clear, concise, easily understood. Memorable. Exciting and inspiring. Challenging. Excellence centered. Stable, but flexible. Implementable and tangible.” “speaks to unity of purpose” and once “arose out of silent worship at one time.” Yes! Such a vision speaks to unity of purpose and its creation could help forge unity of purpose.

          Warmly,

          Don

          • Mary March 4, 2018 at 9:27 pm #

            City & State
            xxxxx
            “That is a very interesting point that you made about the unity of purpose that characterized Quaker commitment to the abolition of slavery ”

            Here is a different perspective concerning ” the unity of purpose that characterized Quaker commitment to the abolition of slavery” Rather than a unity of purpose, the Quaker commitment was a struggle to say the least and abolitionism was a divisive topic among Quakers.

            I really appreciate the Quaker authors of this book, and found their analysis well researched and felt.
            From Amazon Reviews.
            Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice Paperback – February 5, 2009
            Fit for Freedom Study Guide can be purchased From Quakerbooks at FGC for $ 5.00
            This guide is designed to help readers explore more deeply the issues discussed in the book Fit for Freedom, Not…
            by Donna McDaniel (Author),‎ Vanessa D. Julye (Author)

            Review on Amazon :This book documents the spiritual and practical impacts of discrimination in the Religious Society of Friends in the belief that understanding the truth of our past is vital to achieving a diverse, inclusive community in the future. There is a common misconception that most Quakers assisted fugitive slaves and involved themselves in civil rights activism because of their belief in equality. While there were Friends committed to ending enslavement and post-enslavement injustices, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship reveals that racism has been as insidious, complex, and pervasive among Friends as it has been generally among people of European descent.

            Another Review:
            Reviewed by
            Allan W. Austin
            Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye. Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice. Philadelphia: Quaker Press, 2009. xxvii + 548 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, and index. Paper, $28.

            The popular image of Quakers and their work for racial justice has taken on something of a bipolar quality, both among the public at large and within the Society of Friends itself. On the one hand, the initial and enduring story presents Quakers as crusaders who heroically risked their property and even their very lives to oppose slavery in the ultimately successful abolitionist movement before moving on to champion equal treatment in the aftermath of the Civil War. On the other hand, and perhaps as a reaction against this dominant memory, others now remember Friends as racial hypocrites who failed to live up to their religious ideals, especially in response to African Americans. Writing as much for Friends as historians and scholars, Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye take up the “difficult and sensitive” history of Friends and African Americans, exposing an “insidious, complex, and pervasive racism” among Quakers since their arrival in what would become the United States (p. xi). Yet, even as Julye suggests that the “overall popular notion of Quaker progressivism is a myth,” the authors present a nuanced story that balances the “persistent tension between individual and corporate witness” as Friends struggled to find a way forward on race (pp. xx, xvi).

      • Don McCormick March 3, 2018 at 11:21 pm #

        City & State
        Grass Valley, CA
        Dear Mary

        Thank you for your kind words about my article. The extended quote from Teresa Pasquale Mateus is lovely and evocative of the Quaker vision connecting social justice and group mysticism.

        Warmly,

        - Don

  30. Mary March 3, 2018 at 3:15 am #

    City & State
    xxxxxx
    I disagree of the when and where the contemplative movement revival began in the West. I think that particular white men think it began with them, but it was well among some Friends, the grandmothers and uncles and many others. I meant to delete that introduction, but forgot to do so. There is a long tradition among many of waiting upon the Lord in communal silence, singing, dancing and shivering (Quaking) that precedes white celibate men.
    The communal shared song “The Presence of God is in the Atmosphere” is an expression of the long communal worship waiting tradition albeit far from silent ..

  31. A mom March 18, 2018 at 1:58 am #

    City & State
    US
    This essay presents a clear, pragmatic vision for Quakerism. It begins with the recognition that a vibrant meeting requires people of all ages, in sufficient numbers.

    Yet when I go to meeting, I find myself surrounded by people ages 55 and up. To the readers here who are Baby Boomers (or older), let me ask you a question: Do YOU regularly attend any group/club that consists almost entirely of people in their 20s-30s? Would you find such a group to be a fruitful place to make deep peer friendships? Do you think that such a group would be likely to fully and deeply understand your generation’s perspectives and struggles?

    If not, then you can understand why we young people don’t come to meeting. I was raised Quaker and would like to raise my children that way as well, but after months of cajoling them to go to meeting with me (and sporadically succeeding), I will admit that it’s just not working well for our family.

    Perhaps some or all of my family’s experience may be true for others as well. So I would like to share with you. Here are some of our experiences:

    (1) We are highly stressed, very busy, and usually overscheduled. In theory, I would like to attend meeting regularly, but I’m juggling birthday parties, soccer, swimming, errands, and the fact that both my job and my spouse’s job each require more than 40 hours/week (thus work regularly spills over into our evenings/weekends). We do not have relatives nearby to help us. I’m exhausted. My spouse is exhausted. We don’t always want to mobilize the kids to do yet one more thing…

    (2) …and our motivation is further reduced because there are SO few other young families at meeting. Like ours, many of these families attend sporadically, so it’s a small (and different) group of parents/kids each time. For that reason, it’s challenging to build meaningful relationships. My kids feel the same… the other First Day School children are their acquaintances but not close friends (and most are not their age anyway), so there’s no social motivation for them to go to meeting.

    (3) The culture of the meeting is tailored to the middle-aged and elderly. The weekly “announcements” mainly consist of updates about (a) Friends who are sick, (b) Friends who extremely sick, © Friends who are about to die, (d) Friends who have recently died, and (e) Friends’ grandchildren. (That tells you all you need to know about the age distribution!!) The meeting’s communication is conducted via printed handouts and/or daily listserv email messages that I don’t have time to read. Use of social media is non-existent. There are no events (maybe 1 per year) specifically for the younger crowd. Younger people are not represented in the leadership (e.g., meeting is never closed by a person <50).

    With that in mind, here are my suggestions for meetings who want to support and/or increase the attendance and involvement of young people and families:

    (1) Please do not guilt trip us about not attending meeting more often.

    (2) Please understand that, while we value intergenerational relationships, the opportunity to build PEER relationships is critical. I’m talking about Facebook groups, movie nights for the college crowd, casual group get-togethers for the young families, etc.

    (3) Consider whether the meeting is interested in playing a deeper and more active role with the young families. If there are older/retired folk in your meeting who have the time and willingness, perhaps consider hosting a monthly “Parents’ Night Out” so that young parents can have a date night and have that time to reconnect — without scrambling to schedule a babysitter. Or start a baby-sitting co-op! In a nutshell, young families are struggling! They say it takes a village to raise a child. Many of us don’t have a sufficient network for tangible social support (our friends are just as overwhelmed as we are). If you can be our “village,” it will go far in keeping us engaged.

    (4) If children join for the first (or last) 15 minutes of meeting, consider whether some of this time could be used for group singing. I understand the value in sitting quietly, especially for the older children. But for my kindergartener, it’s an absolute eternity. She is not using those 15 minutes to silently communicate with God, nor is she feeling a deep sense of connection with others. She’s bored out of her mind and is brainstorming about how avoid having to attend next Sunday. If your meeting wishes to include the little ones (and I hope they do!), then INCLUDE them in a way that is age-appropriate and meaningful.

    (5) Last but not least, treat children with respect. Sometimes they are asked to create art or ideas in First Day School and share these with the meeting. My children may say, write, or draw things that are unintentionally cute or funny. They might misuse a word in an adorable way. PLEASE do not laugh at them. Do not even giggle. I know you mean well and that you’re charmed by their sweet innocence. But when children are being serious — when they were encouraged to think about big ideas (e.g., peace, kindness) — they don’t wish to be met with laughter! I have had multiple instances of a child’s facial expression falling or their eyes welling up with tears in these situations and the adults seem oblivious. It is a battle to get my kids to want to go back to meeting after this happens. (And I don’t blame them one bit.)

    Overall, I do believe that Quakerism has much to offer in today’s world, and that it CAN survive. But I am deeply troubled by how out of touch it is with the younger generations — and how little effort and creativity seems to be exerted in this direction. The older folks appear to be either unable to understand the problems or unwilling to make changes. They already have their idea of what the meeting should be.

    But on Sundays, I look around the meetinghouse and think to myself — how many of these people will even be alive in 20 or 30 years? That’s not so far away — and what then?

    • Don McCormick March 18, 2018 at 7:59 pm #

      City & State
      Grass Valley CA
      These are some great ideas!

      One of the things that struck me in some meetings that I’ve attended is that there may be pretty good participation in the children’s program, but very few kids keep coming to meeting after they start attending middle school. The reason for this is not clear to me. It could be that:
      — parents can no longer compel their children to attend meeting when they get to that age
      — the children’s program didn’t teach much about Quakerism and what they did teach wasn’t enough to get the children to want to continue as Quakers
      — the main reason kids enjoyed First Day School was that their friends also attended, and when other kids stopped attending, their reason for attending also stopped.

      A good way to find out what the cause of this problem is and how to fix it is to ask the children and remaining teens themselves. They are in the best position to know why kids stop attending and to have ideas about what to do to correct it.

      Another good approach is to look at the literature. I used to teach Psychology of Religion and the textbook I used showed that there is a lot of research on children’s religious education.

      It is also a good idea to see what other denominations are doing. When I taught children at my local meeting, I subscribed to a magazine devoted to children’s religious education. It was filled with good ideas.

      Quaker organizations are often too inward focused. Too often we act as if we have nothing to learn from other denominations or from research. This is too bad because there are a lot of good ideas out there.

      Thank you for your post,

      Don

  32. Mary March 18, 2018 at 4:46 pm #

    City & State
    xxxxxx
    A Mom

    Thank you for your understanding and explanation of your concerns. I appreciate your request that children not be laughed at when they do something that can be cute and endearing to adults, but is done in all seriousness by a child who is then hurt by the laughter no matter how unintentionally it is meant to hurt.

    I also appreciate your call to creativity. Would a once a month two or three hour family event (with food) be a helpful idea for busy families today? Perhaps the event could be based on the Godly Play program or something similar. In addition to members becoming more aware of how to respond to children, what specific events could you recommend that would be helpful for your family and other young families. Is there something you might be called to work with some of us “Getting-it Grandmas” who could help you with your ideas and endeavors. Thank You for wanting and writing about the need for family and children presence and programs in our Meetings.

  33. Scott Wagoner April 3, 2018 at 10:23 am #

    City & State
    Archdale, North Carolina
    I appreciate greatly Don’s understanding of organizational development and applying that to the reality of faith communities. I think part of what I have come to understand and appreciate it that local meetings can be “gathered fellowships” in that mystical kind of way but they are also sociological realities that contain issues of culture, ethos, and organizational dynamics. I think Friends (and this may sound a bit harsh) tend to overlook the sociological realities and keep trying harder on the mystical/spiritual part…forgetting that all is spiritual…even the sociological / organizational reality of a meeting. Consequently, there is a tendency to “keep on praying and discerning” when there may be more structural or organizational dynamics in play. Often Friends can get stuck in discernment when it’s possible we are more stuck in our unwillingness to move forward in considering new methodologies or new understandings of organizational life

    • Margaret Benefiel April 15, 2018 at 10:38 am #

      City & State
      Washington
      Don and Scott, you both speak my mind. Faithful discernment is about facing reality and listening to where God is in the midst. Facing reality includes facing the structural and organizational dynamics in play. We need to integrate the best of discernment practices with the best of organizational development and strategic planning practices.

  34. Flora April 11, 2018 at 3:36 pm #

    City & State
    Glen Ridge, NJ
    I left the local Friends Meeting six years ago and recently returned out of sheer curiosity to discover it literally unchanged. Still a closed party. The same core group of people in leadership, rotating in and out of clerkship.
    Still struggling with the selection of a First Day curriculum- one of the reasons that we left earlier was that my preteen children could not verbalize one concrete lesson from First Day School, every topic was so vague and presented so gingerly as to be insignificant. In the five years that we attended, I can honestly say that we heard the name of Jesus spoken perhaps three times. Nothing distinguished Christmas or Easter from any Sunday service. A continuous litany of social justice causes are paraded through replete with banners — Black Lives Matter, Gay Pride, No Human Being is Illegal, etc. but to find the religious basis of allegiance to the current cause du jour being discussed ? Never.
    I’ll be the first to admit that I have wrong and romanticized notions of Quakerism, but I also had no saw no opportunity through the Meeting to develop an understanding of the faith- the group entitled “Seekers” proved to be a poetry discussion group. Often what I read in Faith & Practice did not jibe with the conduct of the meeting.
    This past September, I attended a QUED ( Quaker Ted Talk ) in which a presenter enthusiastically praised two Catholic Workers who physically destroyed engineering equipment during the Dakota Access Pipeline protest demonstration. Having assumed that Quakerism had some relationship to pacifism, I was puzzled to find this supported so agreeably to the core old timers of this Meeting,75% of whom are over 65, and a turnout of 40 people in total is the average attendance. No observation of any motivation to change- my young adult children and I have moved on, this time for good.

  35. Nattleby April 12, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    City & State
    Ardmore PA
    “A continuous litany of social justice causes are paraded through replete with banners — Black Lives Matter, Gay Pride, No Human Being is Illegal, etc. but to find the religious basis of allegiance to the current cause du jour being discussed ? Never.”

    This^^

    It’s become a Leftist Virtue Signaling contest every single week. And if you get moved by the spirit to share a message that is even mildly different, you get scowls and glares from “The men with beards and glasses”

  36. Mary April 13, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    City & State
    xxxxxxxx
    Perhaps there is a way to do bridge building in our meetings

    Here is a sample of a broadening of understanding that was presented to a more religiously evangelical congregation. The purpose was to explain the example/message of Jesus which underpin the justice/equality endeavors. Although I do not find the theology in my understanding/vocabulary, I think this article is an example of the most theologically bent people trying to find common ground. Certainly Friends can do something similar for ourselves within our own context .

    https://​www​.huffingtonpost​.com/​g​r​e​g​-​c​a​r​e​y​/​o​c​c​u​p​y​-​j​e​r​u​s​a​l​e​m​-​h​o​w​-​j​e​s​u​s​-​g​o​t​-​h​i​m​s​e​l​f​-​k​i​l​l​e​d​_​b​_​1​1​0​0​6​3​2​.​h​tml

    Certainly Friends can share both underpinnings and actions without requiring such strict institutional theological allegiance. We do have the allegiance of our historical professions of practice, including abiding in the Light together and recognizing that Light of God in each of us.

    And perhaps it would help for those of us whose loved ones are being excluded, beaten up, and taunted because of race, orientation, and /or are being deported away from our arms: That our concerns are not named as “The current cause du jour ” . I am grateful for the Friends who speak and act for the concerns of my heart for understanding of the devastating situations of our families and those we love.

    At the same time, when someone gives a message uniting the concerns and actions with the message and example of Jesus and others, I am grateful. I am called to more than do-gooderism, ego building, and charity that is us giving to the them. We are called to deeper times of silence, beatitude living, selling our goods and sharing all, and being willing to die in standing up as Jesus did.

    Thank You for your message here of your deep want for the substance beneath the current cause.
    I needed to hear your message, for it is also the longing of my heart too.

    I ask you to hear the pain and fear beneath the continuous litany of social justice causesl Hear the message of care for our brothers and sisters in those call to social justice messages. . Hear it as a part of the whole message, as we usually are only given a part of the message and need each other for the fuller message ..

    I am grateful when I walk into the meeting and see that our concerns/pain is recognized here in social justice action. I am grateful when those with a love of Jesus and the Gospel (as well as other traditions) message that contemplation/mysticism/ historical foundations and justice actions for the oppressed , are united here. We are one fallible people here, trying to be faithful to listening and abiding in the Holy Spirit of Love.

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