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An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 3

January 24, 2013 2 comments

Here is the third installment of these open letters from youth to the Northwest Yearly Meeting. Please also read Letter 1 and Letter 2. I welcome any insight or feedback you may have.

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Dear Northwest Yearly Meeting,

We hope you all find yourselves doing well and blessed in life.  We are coming to you with this letter regarding our thoughts on bettering our perspective of diversity in our yearly meeting, which will help us become a more welcoming community.

We believe that if our community were to be more welcoming of different opinions, we would also become more openminded and accepting to others.  Having a the same views on life should not be the main focus of our meeting.  Our focus should be on God and on loving each other while worshiping together.  A relationship with God is between that person and God, and others are in no place to judge someone else’s relationship.

Throughout our studies of Quakers in this course we have learned that throughout history Quakers have been a leading voice of radical and welcoming movements.  For example, Quakers were one of the first to put women in leadership and provided assistance in the underground railroad.  From the beginning of the early Quaker movement it has been deeply in our roots that everyone is equal.  Equality has played a strong role on how we relate to others in and out of the church.  Quakers believe that the Light of God is in everyone and therefore everyone has the ability to have God speak through them. We believe that this should in fact include everyone.  People who have opinions that differ from our own still have the Light of God in them and therefore we should still hold them with the same respect.

We hope you will hold this close to your hearts and discern on this deeply.  As a yearly meeting that believes in equality and that everyone can have God speak through them, our main goal should be to love and worship together and we should not let diversity in opinion get in the way of that.  We should still be able to be in community together without having unity in all of our opinions and views on life.

Peace,

Quaker students from George Fox University

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An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 2

January 23, 2013 6 comments

This is the second letter in this series. Click here for a description of this project. Thank you for joining in the conversation!

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Dear Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends:

In our current Yearly Meeting, we need to consider the evolution that Quakerism has endured to see what has changed and ultimately judge whether we are going in the right direction or not.

The early Quakers centralized their faith on the leading of the Holy Spirit. They were so much endowed with the vision of the second coming of Christ, they believed themselves to be the true church of God; and that only through them could salvation be attained. Quakers were extensively focused on open worship; in fact it was their only form of worship. The first Quakers had no pastors or churches; instead they held spiritual meetings at the houses of members.

The early friends, as we know, wore simple clothing; spoke in an obviously different manner than was normal to the time. They were a counter culture of their era. Nowadays, Friends have been modernized. We sing, we dance, we meet in big brick buildings, we have pastors, we wear colors, and we give very little time to open worship. Many of these things are good changes because they make our faith more acceptable and relevant. It is unwise to hold on to archaic beliefs when there is no cultural basis. But, some of these concepts are still very relevant, but we don’t give them much thought, one being the idea of simple, plain dress. Not that modern Quakers should be made to only wear grays and browns, but the idea of putting importance in simplicity, and trying not to be materialistic. It would be a good sign of faith to follow the teachings of Jesus and be clothed in the spirit, and allow us to not worry about appearances. We seem to have no stake in this idea, or we don’t make it prevalent.

Before we move forward, we should look back to see the changes we have made. And then ponder these changes and decide if we are becoming something that is more or less Quaker and more or less Christ-like.

We should not allow modernization to jeopardize what makes us Quakers. Today, Evangelical Quakers are Christians that happen to have Quaker tendencies, not Quakers that happen to be part of the Christian community. In other words we have sacrificed that which makes us distinct to be more like other faiths. The original Quaker church barely resembles what Evangelic Quakers are today.

In order to maintain our identity we must harken back to the original Quaker missions, of social justice and peace. We should find modern equivalents of old Quaker practices. What can we do now, that represents ideas like early Quakers freeing slaves, standing up to oppressive authorities. The first Quakers were willing to go to prison or their faith, what are we willing to do for ours? The first Quakers broke social barriers. They weren’t worried about political repercussions. How can we be like them? How can we be progressive and Christ-like in our day? The first Quakers allowed women to preach and be equals. How can we replicate this type of doctrine? How can we live into the Quaker tradition? I believe we can be more than the original. That we can fight for the oppressed, stand up to the corrupt authorities and bring up social change.

A Holy Spirit Ambush

January 9, 2012 1 comment

Yesterday I experienced what I’m choosing to call a Holy Spirit ambush. It’s nothing that was overly dramatic – in fact, in was in small episode that came to life from the spoken words of a 2nd grader.

I get the privilege of serving every so often in a first and second grade classroom for Sunday school at Newberg Friends Church. I really like working with grade school aged children. They are joyful, fun-loving and have short-attention spans. (What was it I was just now doing?)

This is great, because if something is not working, you just stop doing it and move onto something else – and they just think its normal. Talk about grace!

We were having one of those moments in class this past Sunday. I was fumbling around with an activity where they were sitting and answering questions I was asking. No matter which question I asked, the only two answers I got were Jesus and Prince Caspian.

And so, since we had been talking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, I had them get up and begin a game of follow the leader. I spent time appointing each different student as the leader and giving them time to lead the actions of others.

I was just about to end the time and then ask them some questions about how the game paralleled a life of following Jesus, but it turns out what needed to be taught was going to be taught through one of the 7 year-old followers.

As one of the kids was leading, he got stuck behind one of the other adults so that a portion of the line could not see him, and therefore could not follow. A few of the kids just stopped moving at all, waiting for the leader to reappear.

But he didn’t. He stayed hidden behind the adult, and those who could not see began to get a little impatient.

The conversation which came from this is what has glued itself to my heart. It went like this:

Girl: Why are you guys not following the leader?

Boy: Because we can’t see what he is doing! 

Girl: That’s ok – just follow me – I can see him and I’ll show you what to do.

A simple spoken word, a profound truth for what it often means to be a follower of Jesus.

Because sometimes my view of Jesus is skewed or blocked. Sometimes I can’t see him because I’m stuck in self-pity, or I’m blinded by my own pride, or someone else’s actions or words are blocking me.

And when this happens, I have a choice:

Either I stop moving, assuming that at some point it will get better.

Or I listen to the voices around me, those encouraging me to just follow them because at this moment they can see Jesus.

My life as a follower of Jesus is not just about me. It is also about us, and how we point each other towards Christ. This is something that I (and many others!) think the early Quakers were right on about – and something we need today in the life of the American church, perhaps more than anything else.

Sometimes we will be those who are blocked, and sometimes we will be those who need to bring others along to a place where even if they can’t see Jesus, they are not left out in the darkness.

I’d encourage you to listen to this sermon by Gregg Koskela. It actually happened after this little God sighting in Sunday School – see what I mean by a Holy Spirit ambush?

 

 

Wisdom Calls – an advent poem

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Listen my children;

I speak to you about principalities,

dominions and powers.

My children,

You will learn much about companies,

corporate mergers, and consultancies

(a commercial, please, with toothy smile)

and how these powers buy and sell, buy and sell;

the whole world is their market,

but have the children eaten?

oh, have the children eaten?

My children,

you will learn much about governments,

and nations, and military powers

(trumpets, please, and flags unfurled);

the soldiers march, one two three four, on two

three four,

playing war games everywhere;

but why are parents crying?

oh, why are parents crying?

My children,

you will learn much about extravaganza,

festive pomp, floor shows, and awards

(flowers, please, and television stars);

the actors follow cue and script, cue and script;

not truth, but image and effect;

so, why are poets beaten?

oh, why are poets beaten?

 

— Arthur Roberts, 1985

Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 3

November 12, 2011 5 comments

This is third post in this series. Here is Part 1 and Part 2. Feel free to weigh in!

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One of the earliest indications of Gospel order –  a Quaker understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as something that rightly orders all of life – was seen in the important role women played from the very beginnings of the Quaker movement. From its meager beginning, women were enlisted as preachers, leaders and integral to the spread of Christ’s message as far as possible.

As is often the case in a world dominated by male voices, the success of the Quaker vision is often attributed solely to George Fox. Yet this understanding of the Quaker movement’s roots is myopic, as more recent scholarship has shown. One of the most important prophetic voices during the nascent stages of the movement was from a woman, Margaret Fell. Fell was a prophetic voice throughout the English world, writing epistles, theological treatises and leveraging political relationships in order to further the case of what she believed was a fresh work of the Holy Spirit. Her home became a center for Quaker activity, a place of “integration, where the domestic and the mundane integrated with the ministerial and ecstatic” (Bruynell, 37). From its earliest days, the Quaker movement was dependent upon the voice of women to further its cause, and it is no different today.

A century later, a woman by the name of Elizabeth Gurney, later Fry, breathed new life into her family – her brother Joseph John Gurney is considered the father of pastoral Quakers – and into a social system that failed to care for those on the fringes. Though her work within society was broad, she is most known for two specific areas of social justice – providing an excellent education for the children of some of the poorest families in Lancaster, England and in reforming the conditions of prison, especially prisons designed for women and their children. It is within these prison walls that her work is most remembered – for in them she found depravity at its greatest, women and children crammed by the hundreds into small rooms where basic human rights were neglected or ignored. She established a school for the children, found jobs for the prisoners and shared the message of Jesus Christ with them in ways that transformed not just their inner lives but bore fruit in how they began to treat each other within the prison walls. The model of reform she instituted at Newgate was soon adopted in other towns throughout England and beyond. Fry’s concern for those on the fringes of society started with small movement in her heart to respond to the Quaker message of the ever-present Christ and became, through the work of the Spirit, a model for care of all people throughout the world.

When Way Closes…

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m blogging occasionally for the Spiritual Life blog – the most recent (short) post can be found here.

 

It is on Acts 16, where Luke talks about the Holy Spirit keeping them from entering into Asia and spreading the gospel. Admittedly, I don’t often think about “way closing,” to use an old Quaker term. But that is what is happening here, and provides some good things to think about.