Monthly Archives: July 2017

Examining Traditions in the Light

This is the sixth of a series of ten blogs about ten cultural flips for multiage inclusion. It’s not enough to shift our culture. We really have to flip it.

 

Cultural Barrier #6: Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends

Why is this a barrier to multiage inclusion?

First off, props to my good F(f)riend Callie Janoff, who works with aging Friends. When I showed her my list of cultural barriers, it had nine points on it, not ten, and I asked her, “What’s missing from this list that’s important to the older end of the age spectrum?”

The conversation we had then led to the addition of this particular point.

The first thing Callie pointed out related to amplification. She reminded me how many meetings don’t use microphones, often “because this is an historic meetinghouse and we’ve never used them in the past two hundred years.” To which my personal response is, so what? I strongly suspect that, had George Fox had access to microphones (not to mention Twitter and Facebook and cable television), he would have used all means accessible to him to amplify the prophetic message he carried. If some members of the meeting can’t hear the ministry because the rest of us have something against using electricity (?), then what are we doing even claiming to be the beloved community?

Valuing tradition over the needs of living Friends is tough on the other end of the age spectrum, too. If a wheelchair can’t access your meetinghouse, neither can a stroller. If there’s no diaper-changing facility or space for mothers to nurse (or pump), then your meetinghouse is actively inhospitable to young families. And it’s not just about physical facilities. Is there some reason we can’t have a stretch break every thirty minutes in business meeting? That would make a big difference for both young and aging bodies.

 

Culture Flip #6: Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)

What does this look like in a monthly meeting?

I’ve talked a little bit before about how you might assess the difference between Spirit and culture in your meeting, but here’s an exercise to try that gives more detail…

First, take about two minutes to list everything you can think of that happens in the course of a typical Sunday at your meeting. An incomplete list (for an unprogrammed meeting) might look like this:

– A member of Ministry and Counsel greets people at the door and shakes their hands

– We wear nametags

– We stop talking when we go into the meeting room

– We sit still

– We sit on benches

– We open ourselves to the Light

– If somebody has vocal ministry, they stand

– Children go to First Day School

– The kids come in for the last fifteen minutes of meeting

– At the end of meeting, the clerk stands up and says “thank you, Friends”

– We all introduce ourselves after the meeting

– We have coffee hour in the fellowship room

Again, your list could probably be a lot longer, though it might not need to be long the first time you try this activity.

Once you have a list written, take another five minutes and see if you can rewrite the bullet points in two columns.

What Spirit Requires of Us What We Do Because It’s Part of our Culture

(we’ve always done it this way, it’s easy, etc.)

– We open ourselves to the Light

 

– A member of Ministry and Counsel greets people at the door and shakes their hands

– We wear nametags

– We stop talking when we go into the meeting room

– We sit still

– We sit on benches

– If somebody has vocal ministry, they stand

– Children go to First Day School

– The kids come in for the last fifteen minutes of meeting

– At the end of meeting, the clerk stands up and says “thank you, Friends”

– We all introduce ourselves after the meeting

– We have coffee hour in the fellowship room

You might discover, as in this example, that almost everything falls into the “culture” column. But maybe you’ll notice that you need to add a few things to the “Spirit” side – things that motivate the things you do on the “culture” side, like this:

What Spirit Requires Us to Do What We Do Because It’s Part of our Culture

(we’ve always done it this way, it’s easy, etc.)

– We open ourselves to the Light
– We show that we are happy to see one another – A member of Ministry and Counsel greets people at the door and shakes their hands

– We wear nametags

– We respect the worship space and those worshipping within it – We stop talking when we go into the meeting room
– We ensure that everyone can see and hear the vocal ministry – If somebody has vocal ministry, they stand
– We care for our children – Children go to First Day School

– The kids come in for the last fifteen minutes of meeting

– We spend time enjoying one another’s company – We all introduce ourselves after the meeting

– We have coffee hour in the fellowship room

 

 

 

 

– We sit still

– We sit on benches

– At the end of meeting, the clerk stands up and says “thank you, Friends”

There’s good reason to identify the difference between what Spirit requires of us and what we go along with due to cultural norms. In fact, there are two good reasons.

#1 – If we intend to fully welcome those who don’t share our meeting’s existing culture, we must be willing to allow the meeting’s culture to change.

#2 – If we intend to be fully faithful to God, we must cling unwaveringly to what Spirit requires of us.

When is the last time that Friends in your meeting reassessed your traditions in the light of the needs of living Friends? Are you faithfully expressing your testimonies in your behaviors, or are you reenacting the behaviors of some Friends from the past who were expressing their testimonies? If your community has discerned that Spirit calls you to ensure that everyone can see and hear the vocal ministry, why wouldn’t you be using microphones? If your community has discerned that Spirit calls you to care for your children, why wouldn’t you prioritize the needs of breastfeeding mothers?

Tradition is an important teacher, but only when we remember to ask why. Otherwise, we are not following our spiritual ancestors’ examples of faithfulness. Instead, we are simply following our spiritual ancestors, rather than following God.

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

Building a Permission-Giving Culture

This is the fifth of a series of ten blogs about ten cultural flips for multiage inclusion. It’s not enough to shift our culture. We really have to flip it.

 

Cultural Barrier #5: Idolatry of Quaker process

Why is this a barrier to multiage inclusion?

I talked a lot about this in A Conversation About Delay. Essentially, when someone’s led to new work on behalf of the body, it often takes weeks, or months, or years to get the pieces into place, not because it actually takes that much time to do the discernment but because the such-and-such committee only meets on second Thursdays, and the other-relevant-committee just met last Monday and won’t meet again for two months…this kind of delay wears on people. Eventually, we decide that the bar is too high. We might not even be conscious of it, but we begin to weigh leadings differently—is this spark that I’m carrying really worth the amount of institutional work it will take? When institutional delay snuffs out one spark, that’s sad. When it snuffs out sparks routinely—and it does—that’s a spiritual crisis.

Like many of our cultural tendencies, idolatry of Quaker process disproportionately affects the young (and, of course, anyone who is new.) If you’ve been around for many years, you’re likely to know exactly which committees do what and which committees meet when and which clerks are semi-non-functional and when you should cc other people in the meeting and when you shouldn’t and, especially, the right combination of words to phrase something in such a way that a committee will actually take it on. And if you don’t know all these things, an attempt to get anything through our process will generally be thwarted by our process, not by discernment in the Light of the Spirit of God.

That’s an important difference. Sometimes it’s right to say no, but more often, we sort of wind up saying no by default because our Quaker process, rather than being used to support Spirit-led discernment, winds up being used to replace it. We say no for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with Spirit. The request came in after the deadline; it hasn’t been seasoned by the right committee; we had to push it to next month’s agenda three times because we ran out of time.

Our younger Friends are absolutely right when they look at these patterns of behavior and declare them absurd, and many times, instead of sticking around and pushing through it, they (and the Light they are carrying) either leave our communities entirely or, at the very least, put the majority of what is often deeply-grounded, well-led energy into some other organization, somewhere else.

 

Culture Flip #5: Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)

What does this look like in a monthly meeting?

It’s important to cultivate a culture that is supportive and permission-giving, in which new ideas and initiatives are met as openly and helpfully as possible. In other words, the default answer is “Yes, and how can I help?,” unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate.

For example, suppose that at social hour, someone in your meeting says, “What if we sat around one day after meeting and talked about our spiritual journeys?”

Permission-giving and supportive… You say: “Great idea! How can I help?”
Permission-giving but not supportive… You say: “Okay. Go ahead.”
Permission-begrudging but supportive… You say: “That’s a good idea. I’ll help you run it past Ministry and Counsel, which is our committee that oversees things related to spiritual discussions.   They meet on second Tuesdays at 7:00pm. Does that work for you? Can I give you a ride to the meeting?”
Permission-begrudging and not supportive… You say: “You need to take that to Ministry and Counsel.”
Permission-denying but supportive… You say: “That’s not something that works very well here, but I’m glad that you’re thinking about spiritual deepening.”
Permission-denying and not supportive… You say: “We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.”

A permission-giving culture helps everyone feel that their ideas are valued, and a supportive culture helps everyone feel that they themselves are valued. Both are important.

Obviously, there are times when, “Great idea! How can I help?” is not an adequate or appropriate response . . . for example, if someone has just proposed doing business by majority vote. But even then, there are more and less supportive ways to respond. You could try, “I’m so glad that you came to business meeting and you’re interested in our process. Has anyone given you a chance to ask questions about why Quakers do business the way we do?”

And sometimes, of course, it’s more complicated than that. Sometimes a new spark arises that could mean serious change or a new commitment for the meeting, and it’s not immediately clear what the next steps should be. That’s the time to respectfully guide someone through Quaker process, which we’ve put in place over the years so that we have an institutional path by which to carefully discern significant matters as a community. If this in-depth process is a response to certain types of situations, rather than a default response to every suggestion, then using it becomes a symbol that something is being taken seriously, rather than something that we laugh about that often becomes a blockade. Suddenly we find ourselves saying to someone, “Friend, what I hear you saying is a message for the whole community and, if well led, may bring us all into something new and spiritually significant. May I help you know who to bring this to so that the entire community may hear it?”

Generally speaking, a supportive and permission-giving culture gives our young people a fighting chance. We all grow by way of opportunities to experience and follow leadings, and it’s unfaithful for the community to make even small proposals so difficult that they don’t seem worth making. By flipping our culture from default no to default yes, we commit to a new and adventurous relationship with each other and with the Holy Spirit.

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

A Meaningful Presence on Social Media

This is the fourth of a series of ten blogs about ten cultural flips for multiage inclusion. It’s not enough to shift our culture. We really have to flip it.

 

Cultural Barrier #4: Communicating solely through paper publications and websites

Why is this a barrier to multiage inclusion?

We have now reached an era in which most of the world (and definitely the United States) is organized around social media. Many people under the age of forty use social media as their exclusive source of information and communications. If we do not engage meaningfully with social media, the younger generations will never know we exist. Even our own younger generations—those who have grown up as Friends—often have no idea what’s happening in our monthly and yearly meetings; we simply aren’t communicating information in a way that will reach them. You can’t be meaningfully included in a thing if you don’t even know the thing is happening.

 

Culture Flip #4: Developing a meaningful presence on social media 

What does this look like in a monthly meeting?

I hear all kinds of arguments about why we should or should not, as Friends, engage with social media. Some of the points made are really good ones. I, too, carry very real concerns about social media, particularly the ways in which the algorithms are contributing to a country that is more sharply divided than ever. And more generally, the misuse of mathematical algorithms and computer programming are a significant threat to social justice throughout the world.

But we can’t allow ourselves to make this decision less than what it really is. For a group of Friends, collectively, to decline to use social media is akin to the same group of Friends declining to use cars. Just as we live in a world organized around cars, we now live in a world organized around social media. To decline to be engaged in this is to reject being full participants in what’s happening in the world.

If we decide not to use social media, we should understand the gravity of the decision we’re making.  If we decide to use social media, we should learn how to do so meaningfully.

But what does a meaningful social media presence look like?  I’m going to offer here some basic practical tips, because that’s what I hear most Friends asking for.

First of all, when developing a social media presence for your church or meeting, start with Facebook. This has the broadest reach (68% of people living in the U.S.), is the most user-friendly, and serves Friends’ multiple purposes well. Once you are doing solid work on Facebook (this will take several months at a minimum), then you can consider adding Instagram, then maybe Twitter or Pinterest or SnapChat. It’s not necessary to be on all of these platforms. Beyond Facebook, use additional platforms if you have the time and ability to use them well; otherwise, don’t make the attempt.

In the same way that printed materials and websites can be used for multiple purposes, social media can be used for multiple purposes–specifically, as a vehicle for information, communications, pastoral care, and outreach. I recommend that meetings set up a Facebook page with up to four separate co-admins, though it’s just as reasonable for a single person to serve all four functions.

Your Information Admin, possibly the same person who publishes your newsletter or webpage, posts upcoming events and announcements. For events, the information admin should invite individual Friends and consider paying to boost the event if the public is invited. For announcements, relevant individuals should be tagged. This person should also share relevant events and announcements from other Quaker groups and other groups in the local community.  (If you’re feeling iffy about the definitions of words like ‘boost’ and ‘tag,’ just go over to Google and ask.  You can type into the search box a question like, “What does it mean to boost an event on Facebook?”

Your Communications Admin, possibly the same person who answers email inquiries that come to your meeting, should check the page at least three times a week and should answer all private messages, respond to comments on posts and ads, and ‘like’ and ‘share’ posts that other co-admins have created.

Your Pastoral Care Admin, possibly a member of your ministry and counsel, is specifically responsible for posting in times of general distress. When an upsetting event occurs—natural, social, or political, whether it’s local, national, or global—the pastoral care admin posts relevant, grounding, and empowering messages. These messages are not news articles. They are blogs, videos, images, quotations, and pre-existing Quaker statements relevant to the event that has occurred—messages about grieving or peaceful resistance or earthcare or loving our neighbors, etc., as seems appropriate.

Your Outreach Admin, possibly a member of your outreach committee, is responsible for posting a consistent stream of content (at least three posts per week, year-round) that is grounded in Quaker Faith and Practice and also comprehensible to non-Quakers who may find your Facebook page. These posts might include QuakerSpeak videos, quotations and queries from Faith and Practice (if possible, superimposed over images), epistles from various Quaker gatherings, Scripture or quotations from historic Friends, and simple blog posts from Quakers around the world. If your meeting is using Facebook ads, this person is also responsible for maintaining those.

A few other quick tips: Not every post you make on the page is seen by everyone who follows the page.  Sadly, Facebook’s standard algorithm shows your posts to only 10-15% of your page’s followers.  But there are some ways to increase the viewership.  First, publish in the “sweet spot” for your community, meaning the time when lots of your viewers are likely to be on Facebook–for my meeting, this is the after dinner hour, but experiment a little to find yours.  Second, make the posts as visual as possible, always including pictures or videos–text alone doesn’t get shown very much.  Third, empower members of your community by asking them to volunteer to visit the page two or three times a week, liking and sharing the posts that they find there.

Lastly–social media demands agility and adaptation. For now, Facebook is the dominant social media platform and arguably the most useful social media platform in which to invest resources. That will not always be the case. We need to reassess at least yearly—is Facebook still the best platform for our meeting’s purposes?

A note about trust. Social media moves fast. It will be necessary for the meeting to choose Friends to this work and then say, “We trust you. We trust that you will not post in a way that is inconsistent with our Faith and Practice, and knowing that, we do not have the need to approve the placement of every comma.” If a post is questionable—by which I mean not that some Friends disagree with some part of it, but that one or more Friends believe it should not have been posted at all—then I recommend a conversation offline, according to gospel order.

 

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

Cutting the Code

This is the third of a series of ten blogs about ten cultural flips for multiage inclusion. It’s not enough to shift our culture. We really have to flip it.

 

Cultural Barrier #3: Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context

Why is this a barrier to multiage inclusion?

Two years ago, I sat in a room with a group of twelve Quakers between the ages of twenty and forty. We had gathered to talk about Quaker terminology, and someone started our period of worship by saying, “All right, Friends. Let’s settle.”

There was a moment of silence followed by increasingly loud giggling before we finally realized the irony. In spontaneously sharing our experiences with that particular phrase, four of us said we had no idea what it meant when somebody said “let’s settle.” One said he had never heard this before. The remaining seven each had a different definition. None of us had ever heard it explicitly defined.

This is crazy. At least in the case of “let’s settle,” there are some clear context clues that give an idea of what such a thing might mean. The person saying it usually closes their eyes and gets quiet immediately afterwards. That’s a good cue that we should do the same, and many of us would interpret that as being some kind of transition into worship, though it’s unclear why the person would choose that particular phrase. A child might easily associate it with the phrase “settle down” and assume it’s a disciplinary comment meaning, “You’re being too loud. Stop talking now.”

And we use Quaker terminology without context all the time. Below, you’ll see an actual announcement, word-for-word, from my own yearly meeting’s website…

(And by the way, when we say “yearly meeting” to people, do we stop to explain what that means?  Just to practice what I preach – a “yearly meeting” is a geographical division of a group of local meetings/churches, in my case sixty-some of them across three states.  We call is a yearly meeting because the whole group used to meet for business exactly once per year.)

Here’s the announcement:

This year’s Summer Sessions theme is “Bringing the Peaceable Kingdom to a Turbulent World” — in keeping with the fifth priority in the Statement of Leadings and Priorities approved by NYYM in 2014: “We Envision a Yearly Meeting That Supports and Amplifies Our Witness.”

Words and phrases in this sentence that newcomers, younger generations, and Friends not frequently participating in yearly meeting activities are unlikely to understand: summer sessions, peaceable kingdom, statement of leadings and priorities, NYYM, and witness. Mathematically, this announcement is 26% incomprehensible, except it’s really much more than that, since most of the words everyone will understand are words like “the” and “in.” From a practical point of view, no one who’s not already part of the club will ever read past it.

I use the phrase “part of the club” intentionally.  This kind of lingo is exactly the sort of code that a group of kids might set up for a treehouse club or a secret society.  We haven’t done it on purpose, but we’ve set things up so that there are insiders and outsiders.  Does that feel right?

The text that I quoted above does get better in the following sentences and is followed up by several pages’ worth of information on how to participate in summer sessions. Unfortunately, most people who were completely lost in the first sentence will just close the window.

 

Culture Flip #3: Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go

What does this look like in a monthly meeting?

Some of our Quaker terminology is flat-out unnecessary. Why do we still say “monthly meeting” and “yearly meeting” when monthly meetings meet weekly and most yearly meetings meet more often than yearly? I think it’s a matter of benign neglect. We understand ourselves just fine, and having special lingo makes us feel kind of cool. My question is, why is that more important than being understood by new Friends, younger Friends, and seekers? When we can, I think we should substitute terminology that’s easier to understand. Not “monthly meeting,” but “local meeting.” (Britain’s already done that.) Not “yearly meeting,” but maybe “area” or “region” or something.

Then there’s the terminology that’s genuinely, specifically meaningful, like “discernment” or “being grounded” or “eldering.” These are words and phrases that have either been invented by Quakers or that have taken on some unusual definition among Friends, and although the terms aren’t widely understood (at least, in the same ways) outside of the Religious Society of Friends, they’re terms that can’t easily be replaced by some other, pre-existing word. These are the terms that are precious, and while they shouldn’t be abandoned, they must be explained.

The same goes for many of our practices. It’s pretty obvious, when you attend a business meeting, that you wait for the person sitting in the front to call on you before you speak. And most people pick up on other little cues, such as the fact that it’s frowned upon to whisper to your neighbor, or to pull out your phone, or to come right out and say that another speaker is wrong. But often, each person is left to figure out why these behaviors exist, either entirely on their own (by reading and asking questions) or in a context outside the event itself (in a religious education setting, for example). Why aren’t we teaching these things in the moment?

Linguists have discovered that parents all over the world exhibit a particular type of silly behavior when spending time with their babies, most likely due to a universal instinct. These formerly articulate adults suddenly start narrating everything that’s happening, and this despite the fact that the baby they’re talking to isn’t even capable of understanding. In the absence of other adults, and sometimes in the presence of other adults, parents will coo, “You’re putting your foot in your mouth. Yes, you are. Oh, there’s your sock. Look at your sock. Wet sock. Icky yucky. There it goes again. You’re putting your foot in your mouth…”

I’m not suggesting we be patronizing. There’s no need to talk to people like babies. But there’s something important to be learned from this approach, because the baby does eventually figure out what a foot is, and what a sock is, and how spit makes socks wet. And if we waited to speak to the baby until the baby knew how to speak—or if we explained things to the baby only at certain times, like some kind of baby school, explaining what a foot is at a moment when the baby had no interest in its feet—then our babies would never, ever learn to speak.

We should be explaining our terminology and our practices as they come up, every single time. This will be challenging for us to remember, and it’s tricky to do it quickly. But it’s possible, and it’s a skill worth learning.

At the beginning of a meeting for worship with a concern for business, why should a clerk not say, “My name is Margaret Woolman. I’m serving as clerk for this meeting, which means it’s my job to stay spiritually grounded, to listen carefully to everything that is said, and to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. The person sitting next to me is John Fell. He’s the recording clerk, which means it’s his job to write down what happens today. You’ll have a chance to hear and approve of what he’s writing down as we go. We’re passing around a sign-in sheet. Please write your name there. It goes in our minutes so that other people in the future can look back and see who was here. On your chairs, you found a written agenda. At the top is a glossary of terms—what the different committees on the agenda do, what the acronyms stand for, that sort of thing. We’re going to settle into worship before we begin. This is just like the worship we do at eleven o’clock every week, when we find our spiritual center and it’s possible that someone might have ministry to share, except that it will only last about five minutes before I’ll start telling you about the first item on the agenda. When I do start speaking, we’ll try together to stay in a spirit of worship, connected to the Divine in the same way, even though we’re talking about the business of the meeting.”

And so forth. It doesn’t matter whether Margaret sees anyone new in the group or not; this only takes a minute, and in addition to educating newer or younger Friends, it serves as a refresher for others who have gathered and a chance for other Friends in the meeting to notice if their idea of the clerk’s job is different from Margaret’s, in which case they might follow up after the fact.

Written glossaries are important and can be included at the top of every document–not with every Quaker term in the universe, one would hope, but with the ones that are used on that specific piece of paper.

And the same thing can be done verbally when making announcements. “The Ministry and Counsel Committee (which is the group of people responsible for caring for the people of the meeting and our worship together) invites everyone to apply for scholarship assistance for summer sessions (which is the week-long meeting in July of Quakers from all over the state). If you want more information, you can talk with George. George, will you please wave?”

What else can we do to cut the code—to clarify what we’re talking about as we’re going along so that nobody is left behind just because they haven’t yet learned the lingo?

 

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

Sacred Joy

This is the second of a series of ten blogs about ten cultural flips for multiage inclusion. It’s not enough to shift our culture. We really have to flip it.

 

Cultural Barrier #2: Equating seriousness with sacredness

Why is this a barrier to multiage inclusion?

I’m not at all convinced by the idea that younger people are naturally more cheerful than older people, but whether it’s a natural part of life or something we’re socialized into or some combination of the two, older generations do seem to spend a lot less time laughing and playing than the younger ones do.

Among (northeastern, liberal) Friends, I see a lot of equating seriousness with sacredness. Take a look around the room at the next meeting for worship; you don’t see a whole lot of smiles. And if your meeting laughs during business meeting, you’re lucky—that’s an unusual group. I’ve even heard this perspective articulated. A couple of years ago, we used a joy-based query for an extended meeting for worship, something like, “Tell us what in your meeting brings you joy.” Afterward, when we reflected on the day, several Friends said things like, “The worship wasn’t as deep as usual. I think it was because we focused on the lighter side of things; we lost the opportunity to explore the really deep questions that we usually hold.”

Like many other things, over time, equating seriousness with sacredness becomes a deeply entrenched part of our culture. But it isn’t necessary. And to those who are coming in from the outside—either because they are younger, or because they are exploring Quakerism having recently arrived from other traditions—a commitment to seriousness feels less like a commitment to sacredness and more like a commitment to being boring. In this type of culture, children check out pretty much immediately. Many other younger people and newcomers aren’t far behind.

It isn’t that our younger generations can’t handle serious.  They handle serious all the time–especially our teens.  Serious is a huge part of life.  But generally speaking, younger generations are less likely to be willing to participate in communities where the balance between work and play, struggle and joy, lamentation and celebration, is drastically skewed.

Their sense of balance isn’t off.  Ours is.

 

Culture Flip #2: Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as sacred as struggle and lamentation

What does this look like in a monthly meeting?

I’m not implying, when I suggest this, that we should start treating struggle and lamentation as less sacred than we currently do. I’ve heard some Christocentric Friends refer to this as “holding both the cross and the resurrection.” I think of it as honoring the suffering but also the joy of the promise of God. We can’t just dance across moments of genuine darkness and pretend that all is fine and dandy. To do so is to dishonor our sisters and brothers who are in pain.

However, to fail to celebrate what’s worth celebrating is to dishonor our sisters and brothers who are rejoicing. It’s also not what God seeks for us. Pollyanna claimed there were eight hundred “rejoicing texts” in the Bible—times when God commanded us to rejoice. I ran a quick search online and only found four hundred and thirteen. Still, as any parent knows, if you tell somebody to do something four hundred and thirteen times, it’s generally because you’re hoping they will do that thing.

I’d love to see meetings sit down and make a record of all the time the whole meeting spends together in the course of a month. This might include meeting for worship, business meeting, and other whole-meeting or most-of-the-meeting gatherings. Then divide it up. How much of this time was spent playing, laughing, rejoicing, or celebrating, and how much of this time was spent working, crying, lamenting, or grieving? When in doubt, think about people’s faces. If most people were wearing their “serious face,” it goes in the second column.

Then think about what you might do to ensure that next month, the columns are evenly split, 50/50. A two-hour business meeting about property should be balanced by a two-hour potluck and board games session. If there isn’t enough time for both, the business meeting clearly needs to be shorter.

Each microcosm of the meeting can repeat the exercise. Is our committee time 50/50? Is our First Day School time 50/50? Is our Bible study 50/50?

It’s not really about the 50/50 balance, of course, and it certainly isn’t solely about multiage inclusion.  Communities that celebrate together live more fully into God’s plan for us.  Or, if you’re searching for a more scientific reason to do it, laughter releases chemicals in our brains that lead directly to trust and group bonding.

Can you aim for the 50/50 balance for a month, as an experiment?  For two months?  For three?  Can you discover how prioritizing joy and play might shift your whole meeting’s understanding of what it is to be faithful?

Each committee might do some discernment: “What can we do this month to help members of the meeting rejoice and express gratitude?” Ministry and Counsel might add an opportunity during announcements for expressions of joys. Buildings and Grounds might make a celebration bulletin board for pictures of new babies, marriages, and graduations. As for Finance Committees—I leave that to you, but there must be something!

New York Yearly Meeting’s fifteenth query begins, “Do we partake of the joy of the love of God and make our lives a celebration of the sharing of this love?”

How does your meeting, as a whole, partake of the joy of the love of God?

How do you make your life together as a Beloved Community a celebration of the sharing of this love?

 

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

Being Relevant Outside the Meetinghouse

As promised, this is the first of a series of ten blogs about ten cultural flips for multiage inclusion. It’s not enough to shift our culture. We really have to flip it.

Cultural Barrier #1: Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant

Why is this a barrier to multiage inclusion?

Today’s younger generations have largely grown up with no attachment to any particular place. I’m thirty-four years old, and not counting multiple apartments in the same town/city, I’ve moved a total of nine times, living in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, northern Utah, Georgia, Arkansas, Vermont, southern Utah, and New York City. For awhile, I didn’t even have a permanent address.

It used to be that Quakers grew up in a meeting and stayed in a meeting. We knew everyone in our Beloved Community; the affairs of the meeting were our affairs because the meeting itself was so much a part of our identity. But for the transient young person, this is no longer the case. Younger Friends have moved so many times that they often don’t know the minutiae of what’s happening in business meeting. And the more hours the meeting spends on internal affairs, the more the young Friend perceives nothing happening in the meeting that is relevant to them or the world more generally.

The word perceives is important here. While I would argue that it’s important for meetings to actually be relevant outside their own walls, when it comes to multiage inclusion, it’s also important that the meeting appears to be relevant. Sometimes you have to stick around to hour three of business meeting before you hear about the contributions to the local homeless shelter.  Newcomers and younger Friends are unlikely to ever make it that far.

Culture Flip #1: Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls

What does this look like in a monthly meeting?

In a post a few weeks back, Eight Changes Your Meeting Can Make Right Now, I phrased it this way: “Participate in town events. Organize work days to help at the local school or library. Prioritize local giving in your meeting budget. Listen to your neighbors. Study white privilege and systemic racism. Learn about gender inclusion . . . Allot the funds for donations and meaningful programming first, with a preference for things happening outside the walls of your meetinghouse. Then, set aside what’s essential for facility maintenance. If anything is left, assume you haven’t given enough away.”

Can you, as a meeting, commit to a certain number of service projects in the neighborhood community each year? Can you ask individual Friends in your meeting for ideas about what could be done and invite various people to take on the leadership of such projects—not as members of a formally nominated committee, but as volunteers for just that one event?

Not long ago, I got a grant through a program with Duke Divinity School. My charge was to find a way to spend $5000 on an innovative initiative within my denomination. I wanted to encourage exactly the kind of stepping-outside-the-meetinghouse projects that I’m describing here, so I designed a mini-grant program open to all Friends within New York Yearly Meeting. If you created a project that involved Quakers and non-Quakers doing something together—outside the meetinghouse—that was meaningful to the neighborhood community, you could get a reimbursement for up to $200 of the costs. Friends met the challenge with everything from murals to gardening to book clubs to a butterfly release; you can watch a video about the work here.

For Quaker Outside the Lines, we also required at least one post on social media about the project, using #quakeroutsidethelines—because for visitors and newcomers and anyone who’s not a regular participant in your business meetings, if you don’t find new ways to be visible about the work, no one will ever know.

How is your meeting doing meaningful work outside your meetinghouse walls?

How are you making this work visible, so that visitors and newcomers will know right away that you prioritize doing relevant service in your neighborhood community?

 

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

What Multiage Inclusion Might Look Like

One of the questions I get asked most often (being a thirty-four-year-old woman who is present at many Quaker gatherings) is this: “Why don’t more young adults come to things?”

(There are variations of this question.  Some people ask why young adults don’t come to meeting for worship; some ask why young adults don’t participate in large gatherings or attend conferences; some ask why young adults who grew up Quaker leave the Religious Society of Friends, or why more young adults don’t become convinced Friends in adulthood; some inform me, in a most Eeyore-like manner, that because of the general patterns of society, expecting young adults to participate in Quakerism is simply an impossible task.)

I actually believe that the answers to these young adult questions are tied up in the general relationships between all our age ranges – children, teens, young adults, middle-aged Friends, and aging Friends.  In short, our culture as (liberal, northeastern) Quakers works really well for many people between the ages of 45 and 80 or so.  (And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that it’s really set up for white people in this age range.)  But this same culture actually forms barriers to participation from other age groups.

My friend Gabi Savory Bailey, after years as serving as a young adult field secretary, wrote a fantastic pamphlet called “The Courageous Work of Weaving Vital, Multi-Age Faith Communities.” I love her use of the word courageous. The work of multiage inclusion requires a great deal of courage because it requires change—and it also requires a certain level of knowledge, so that we’re changing meaningfully and not randomly.

When I look around the Religious Society of Friends, I see that many of us wish that more seekers would find us, that our communities might become more diverse, and that more of our young people would stick around. Some of us also recognize that in order for those things to happen, we’ll have to be open to cultural change, but many of us have a hard time knowing exactly what sort of changes might be necessary.

It’s important to point out that cultural change is not the same thing as changing our spiritual foundation. Sometimes it’s hard for those of us who are inside (northeastern, liberal) Quaker culture to recognize which of our behaviors are cultural, which of our behaviors are a direct manifestation of spiritual leadings, and which of our behaviors fall somewhere in between. In fact, it’s hard for all human beings to recognize the aspects of a culture that is our own. It’s like the old joke about the fish—one fish says to the other, “How’s the water today?,” and the second fish says, “What’s water?”

On way to parse the difference between spirit and culture is to examine some of our specific behaviors. I’ve sometimes worked with meetings and asked them to write down all the behaviors they can think of that happen on a normal Sunday. For example, they might list:

– We wear nametags

– We stand to give ministry

– Our children come into worship in the last fifteen minutes

And then we talk about why.

Why do we wear nametags? So we know each other’s names. Why does that matter? So that people feel personally welcomed.

Why do we stand to give ministry? So that everyone can hear and see the person who is speaking.

Why do our children come into the last fifteen minutes of meeting? So they can experience worship. Why does that matter? We want to make sure our children have opportunities to encounter the Divine with the community.

From here, we can see that there are some specific things that this meeting is called to do by Spirit:

– Help people feel personally welcomed

– Ensure everyone can see and hear ministers and ministry

– Provide children with opportunities to encounter the Divine in the community

And once we’ve identified these spiritual calls, we’re likely to discover that the way we’re currently doing things is not the only way to be faithful. Wearing nametags is cultural; helping people feel personally welcomed is the point. So if we encounter a reason to stop wearing nametags, that’s not necessarily something we need to resist, as long as we’re finding other ways (and quite possibly better ways) to help people feel welcomed. Once we’re secure in what Spirit is asking, it’s easier to accept cultural change.

In the next six weeks or so, I intend to post a series of blogs on specific cultural barriers to multiage inclusion and how I believe those barriers can be flipped. In each case, I’ll explain why I see this particular point as a cultural barrier to multiage inclusion and what the flip would actually look like in a meeting.

Below, you’ll see a summary. Which, if any, do you have questions about? What might I have missed?

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

Always Enough. Never Enough.

In elementary school, we learn two things about success.

First, we learn that we are defined by success. If we write the right answers, we’re defined as “smart.” If we behave according to a given set of rules, we’re defined as “good.” If we kick or throw a ball in designated places, we’re defined as “athletic.” And if we trigger approval in our peers, we’re defined as “popular.”

And second, we learn that “success” is a definable goal. Nine out of ten correct answers is enough to be smart. Behaving in view of the teacher is enough to be good. Scoring more points than the other players is enough to be athletic. Being liked by certain key people is enough to be popular. It isn’t always easy to meet the goals, but we basically know what they are, and once we’ve met the minimum standard (or when we meet it consistently), there is no more to discover beyond that. We’ve already done enough.

As we grow older, we realized that all of this is considerably more complicated, but most of us never get over this early programming.

I suspect that God looks at the whole thing very differently.

 

Always Enough

There’s a Psalm talks about Divine love as love that lasts eternally: Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. God’s love is not conditional; we can earn neither more nor less Divine love, regardless of our knowledge or behavior or talents. This is really hard to wrap our heads around, but if we’re going to have a conversation about “enough”—and we need to—then this is the place to start.

There’s no scorecard. You’re not doing better some days than other days. God doesn’t love somebody else more than you, and God doesn’t love you more than somebody else. Nothing you can do but just sit there and be loved.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel squirmy. What do you mean, I can’t screw it up? I happen to know I can screw anything up. And what do you mean, I can’t earn it? Earning things is what I do. Half my identity is tied up in competency. I don’t like being powerless. I want a scorecard. Being loved unconditionally is just plain weird.

Every now and then, I close my eyes and try to see myself just existing in God’s love. For some reason, when I do this, I’m floating in outer space without a spacesuit, but perfectly comfortable and weightless and breathing and everything, if perhaps flailing around a bit because I’m not used to it.

Always enough.

Always enough.

Always enough.

Okay, so . . .

 

Never Enough

We, ourselves, are always enough, and we get into trouble when we imagine otherwise. Think about it: if we imagine we can earn God’s love, if we imagine it’s possible to earn God’s love, then by definition, there has to be such a thing as faithful enough to earn God’s love.

But there’s no such thing as faithful enough.

I’m going to swing over into systems theory again. Have you ever noticed that when things grow—grow in size, grow in numbers, grow in enthusiasm, grow in knowledge, whatever—there tends to be a point where they stop growing? This happens so consistently that we begin to think it’s some kind of law, that there’s a limit put in place by the universe, and systems theory tells us that usually, there is not! We ourselves put a limit in place without knowing it, and then because we don’t recognize the limit as a limit, we stand around baffled because the thing has stopped growing.

And the most common limit to growth is our internal definition of what is “enough.”

This will be easier to understand with an example. I know a Quaker meeting where there were very few young adults. A few Friends felt this was a serious concern, and they started holding young adult lunches and providing religious education and midweek worship and a conversation group for young adults online, and in a year, the meeting went from four young adults to more than thirty. How the community rejoiced!

Shortly after that, the meeting stopped growing. Friends were tired; it took a lot of effort to put all this support in place, and besides, the sense of crisis was gone. Now, the meeting had young adults. One might even say it had “enough” young adults. So the targeted effort disappeared, and so did some of the young attenders, and certainly new ones stopped showing up.

What might have happened if Friends in this meeting had sat down and articulated their assumptions about what was “enough”? Might they have realized that their underlying motivation wasn’t quite right? That it isn’t about having enough young adults in the meeting, it’s about building the Beloved Community. Of course, the number of young adults in the meeting isn’t the issue. The issue is remembering that there’s no such thing as faithful enough. The issue is remembering that there’s always a beyond, always more to do in being faithful.

Now, even as I type that, I feel a little tug in my heart. I very much want to argue with myself. What do you mean, there’s always a beyond? Always more to do? I can’t just work infinitely!

Don’t freak out, I remind myself. You are always enough.

The issue is not that I do a certain amount of work and stop. Stopping to rest, or even stopping altogether, is not a bad thing. The question is what has caused me to stop. If I’ve stopped because it’s God’s will that I care for myself, or if I stop because it’s God’s will that for now I go no further, then I’m really not stopping at all; I’m simply continuing my pattern of behaving faithfully.

But if I stop what I’m doing because I have an internal definition of what is enough, then I’m essentially putting limits on what God can do. The moment I say, “Wow! Look at all these new people!” or “Wow! Look how passionate everybody’s become about peace work!” or “Wow! Look how much the kids in First Day School have learned about discernment!” and I feel a sense of finality—of enough—and I slow down or stop—I am being unfaithful, because it’s never enough. Maybe God had more for us. There’s always a beyond.

So what does never enough look like in the Beloved Community? I suspect it looks like a gathering of Friends that stop asking queries that start with do we and are we and start asking queries that start with how can we and end with even more faithfully than we already do?

Instead of: Are meetings for worship and business held in expectant waiting for divine guidance?

Why not: How can we hold meetings for worship and business in expectant waiting for divine guidance even more faithfully than we already do?

Instead of: Do our children receive the loving care of the meeting?

Why not: How can we give our children loving care even more faithfully than we already do?

And instead of: Are we careful in our choice of ways to use our time and energy?

Why not: How can we choose to use our time and energy even more faithfully than we already do?

Can we put down the scorecard? Can we accept the unconditional love of God? Can we turn ourselves over completely to God’s goodness, just being faithful, celebrating every day, never stopping, walking forward, following, always?