A reader recently wrote in concerned we had too many articles about WWWQ and not enough about WTDAI. He helpfully explained the acronyms: “What’s Wrong With Quakers” and “What To Do About It.”
Skirmishes generally break out whenever Friends Journal publishes anything about membership numbers. Various Friends take to the comments to argue over the merits of the numbers, the rates of decline, the meaning of decline, the lessons of decline. Before long someone’s telling us of a meeting they know somewhere that is growing, or at least not declining as quickly as it once was. Someone else will pipe in about the large number of Friends in Africa. Another will declare that it doesn’t matter if the Religious Society of Friends dissolved because its true message is eternal. These things are all very true I’m sure, but the reality is that even the most vibrant U.S. meeting is going to be among the smallest denominations in its town and even in Kenya, Friends only make up a fraction of one percent of the population.
In February we published Can Quakerism Survive? by Donald W. McCormick. It quickly became the most-commented-upon article on our website in recent years (99 comments and counting). Fortunately we had already planned an August issue on Going Viral with Quakerism. A few things have driven the conversation on McCormick’s piece, and I think are ripe for further exploration in this upcoming issue:
- Do we have a vision of what kind of Quakerism we’re inviting people into?
- Does growing necessitate casting off or re-embracing various Quaker practices?
- Can we point to specific and reproducible tasks that meetings have done that have led to growth?
- Are there models from other churches or social change movements that we could learn from?
- What are the dangers of over-focusing on growth?
- Is there really a possibility that Quakerism could become a mass movement?
- What would our Quaker experiences look like if our numbers rose even ten-fold?
Here’s the description for our August issue, “Going Viral with Quakerism”:
What’s the Quaker message for today? How do we communicate it and how do we share it? What are some of the overlooked low-tech methods of inviting people into our Quaker communities? Due May 7, 2018.