Monthly Archives: August 2018

Faithfulness

Friend has been home now for nearly a week, having completed her first official voyage through the U.S. Postal Service. (You can read all about Friend here.) I wrote on Facebook before she left about how she was feeling a little nervous and had requested extra crackers just in case she got hungry. At first, it seemed like there was nothing to worry about. Her trip to New Paltz was uneventful, and her visit with Friends there—in which she joined an ordinary meeting for worship—went well.

Then came the journey home.

We don’t know exactly what happened, because Friend was inside her box and couldn’t see and because the only information I could get was the tracking info. But somehow, she wound up lost in the mail for 27 days. She bounced from New Paltz to Newark to NYC to Newark to NYC to a delivery truck in my neighborhood to NYC central processing to Albany to White Plains to NYC back to a delivery truck in my neighborhood to NYC central processing to Jersey City to New Paltz before finally being returned to sender with all her shipping labels ripped off.

(And it’s only supposed to take about a day and a half to make the trip by mail.)

Reflecting on this has reminded me of times when I’ve had similar experiences. It reminded me of my first experience of being called to travel in the ministry, when my visa was rejected after I’d already given up my apartment and my job. It reminded me of my first weekend facilitation experience, when an attender took me aside after the evening session and said, “You can change the content of the weekend to what I came to talk about, or I can just hijack it. Which would you prefer?” It reminded me of times when I’ve been judged wrongly, when I’ve been physically lost, when I’ve been alone in a room with a man who frightened me, when I’ve made mistakes that have resulted in painful consequences.

It’s a funny thing, the relationship between faithfulness and difficulty. On the one hand, Friends have this concept that we refer to as “way opening.” We tell one another that one indication of right discernment is that “way will open,” by which we mean that the necessary opportunities, support, and resources will appear so that we can move forward.

That’s a reasonable principle when we’re talking about it as one possible indication of right discernment, when we say, “If way opens, that’s one indication that it might be right.”

But it’s another thing altogether when we switch it around, when we say, “If it’s right, then way will open.” When we say this to one another, we are accusing those for whom way does not open of being unfaithful.

We don’t intend it that way, of course. But especially when we’re talking about money, that’s how it can feel. Any number of times, a Friend has said to me, “If it’s right, the money will appear.” I am curious what magical bank account they’re referring to. When I have done all that I can—reduced my spending, applied for grants, asked for help from multiple Quaker organizations—and the income is still insufficient, is that an indication that I have been unfaithful, or that I have wrongly discerned?

I’m actually less worried about this for me than I am for others, for those who don’t have a history of a well-paying full-time job, for those who didn’t have a family to help cover college expenses, for those who don’t have a savings account that can cover the leaner times, for those who don’t have the privileges that lead to the necessary time for things like applying for grants, for those who have children or aging parents or chronic illness and are prevented from reducing expenses.

So it’s a funny thing, the relationship between faithfulness and difficulty. If we listen to this idea of “if it’s right, way will open,” then that would seem to be an indication that faithfulness should be easy. I don’t believe this to be so.

On the other hand, there’s another perspective, one that glorifies suffering. Some have the idea that faithfulness should be hard, that there’s some sort of virtue in being lost in the mail for 27 days. I wonder where this idea comes from. For a few of us, it’s theological, rooted in a particular understanding of the cross (an understanding that many Christians don’t share). But for most of us, I don’t believe that’s it.

Sometimes I tell myself the story that suffering is virtuous. Usually, I tell myself this story when I’m suffering. I think it makes me feel better because I can imagine that I’m somehow earning God’s approval. It feels like I’m racking up faithfulness points, and that means I’m on the right track, doesn’t it? Or I tell myself that God must be teaching me something.

This is dangerous, too, though. For one thing, if suffering is virtuous, if there is such a thing as faithfulness points, then the natural next step is that I have more or less value based on my actions. And that isn’t true. We all have infinite worth, and we all have divine love, and there’s nothing we can do to earn or to lose that.

Worse still, if my suffering has virtue, so does yours, and where do we draw the line? What level of suffering is not an indication of faithfulness? This line of reasoning is unimaginable when applied to those who are born into hopeless conditions or who have had the kinds of experiences that—well. This line of reasoning is unimaginable when applied to those in circumstances that are unimaginable.

When I look back at the times when faithfulness has been hard, I can only see that whatever pain I experienced is neither an indication of rightness nor wrongness. I can’t say that faithfulness should be easy. And I can’t say that faithfulness should be hard. I’ve learned from many difficult experiences, and I’ve also learned from wonderful ones. Faithfulness is about relationship with God.

None of this means that relative ease or difficulty is irrelevant. Pain, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional, is a hugely important indicator of the kind of care we might need, of whether we should ask for help, of when we need to rest. But it is not an indicator of our level of faithfulness.

Friend will be traveling to Wisconsin tomorrow. That seems like the right thing to do. As for me—I’m grateful for the chance to stop and reflect.

Navigating Differences: An Application of Cultural Theory

In January 2018, there was an article published in the Harvard Business Review called “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture” (authors Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, and J. Yo-Jud Cheng). Following extensive research in corporations around the world, the authors have designated eight basic corporate cultures, defined by the primary focus of the culture, the work environment, and the uniting factors that bring the group together.

The original article gave names to each of the eight culture types, but I’m going to call them “Type A,” “Type B,” etc. because many of the words used in the original article have different meanings in the Quaker world, and I suspect that those different meanings might cause us to misidentify the cultures we’re living in.

Below, I’ve summarized the basic breakdown. As you read, think specifically of the Quaker faith community that you spend the most time with. That might mean the adult population of your local church or meeting; it might mean the First Day School or Sunday School or other children’s group; it might be a summer camp or a yearly meeting gathering or a retreat center or a young adult worship sharing group. Later, I’ll talk a little about comparing these, but for now, see which rings true for the Quaker community that you’re with more often than any other:

 

Type A

Community focuses on: relationships and mutual trust

When we’re together, the environment feels: warm, collaborative, and welcoming

What unites us is: loyalty to one another

 

Type B

Community focuses on: idealism and altruism

When we’re together, the environment feels: tolerant, compassionate

What unites us is: a focus on sustainability and doing good for the long-term future of the whole world

 

Type C

Community focuses on: exploration, expansiveness, and creativity

When we’re together, the environment feels: inventive and open-minded and full of new things

What unites us is: curiosity

 

Type D

Community focuses on: fun and excitement

When we’re together, the environment feels: light-hearted and full of people doing what makes them happy

What unites us is: playfulness and stimulation

 

Type E

Community focuses on: achievement and winning

When we’re together, the environment feels: outcome-oriented and merit-based, with an eye on top performance

What unites us is: a drive for capability and success

 

Type F

Community focuses on: strength, decisiveness, boldness

When we’re together, the environment feels: competitive

What unites us is: strong control from authority figures

 

Type G

Community focuses on: planning, caution, and preparedness

When we’re together, the environment feels: predictable, risk-conscious, with lots of careful thought

What unites us is: a desire to feel protected and anticipate change

 

Type H

Community focuses on: respect, structure, and shared norms

When we’re together, the environment feels: methodical, with people playing by the rules

What unites us is: cooperation

 

Did you identify the culture type of your Quaker faith community—more specifically, the portion of that community where you spend the most time? It’s possible that yours might be a pretty even tie between two culture types, but it’s less helpful if you say “we’re not really any of these.” Identify one or two that seem relevant and work with it for a few minutes here. Nobody’s looking over your shoulder.

It’s important to understand that the culture of the group can be one type even when an assortment of types are present in different individuals. You might find yourself saying, “Well, we have some Type D people and some Type C people and . . .” And that’ll be true, but there’s probably a certain type that describes how the group functions together as a whole.

When I started looking at my Quaker community—which is really my Quaker communities, because there’s more than one—I realized very quickly that I’m traveling in multiple cultural groups. My thought process went something like this:

I really wish all groups of Friends were: Type B

My own monthly meeting seems to be: Type A and Type G

But the First Day School (the children) of my monthly meeting are: Type D

And during business meeting, we become: Type G and Type H

When my yearly meeting gathers for sessions, we function as: Type H

Except for the children’s program at yearly meeting sessions, which is: Type A and Type D

And the child/teen retreat program that meets on weekends throughout the year is: Type A

But me personally? At heart, I’m probably: Type C

 

If we put that as a visual, it looks like this:

Navigating Differences

 

Why did I place the groups where they are?

Well, I really do wish that we were all Type B. To me, the very concept of building the kingdom of God on earth means focusing on the long-term well-being of the entire world. But I don’t see that as the way that any group of Friends is primarily functioning, really.

I placed my own monthly meeting in Type A and Type G because we are immensely loyal to one another, even to a fault sometimes, and because we emphasize relationships and trust. (We’re not always good at it, but we emphasize it.) But we’re also incredibly cautious about everything we do. Business meetings tend to last three hours or more, historically. New proposals are pondered for months if not years, even if their potential impact is really quite small. We are extremely slow to change.

In business meeting, my meeting continues to operate from caution (Type G) but also really operates from shared norms (Type H). In fact, we work so hard at shared norms that during meeting for business we tend to forget all about building relationships with each other and lose our Type A culture altogether.

All of this is totally different from how the First Day School community operates. That group of kids (and occasionally teens) is nearly entirely based in having fun together (Type D). There’s often a lesson, but the factor uniting the community generally is not what’s being learned; it’s a sense of playfulness.

There’s a similar adult/kid split at yearly meeting sessions, where the adults are mostly operating in a Type H culture, basing everything around our set of shared norms—the committee system, the rituals around business practice, the worship sharing rules, and so forth. Even the fun aspects of yearly meeting sessions are really rooted in shared norms. The talent show happens on Thursday night, and heaven help you if you suggest that we might try it on Wednesday . . . that sort of thing.

The kids’ program at sessions, on the other hand, mostly emphasizes fun (Type D) and relationships (Type A), with Type D probably being the dominant unifying factor—it’s hard to build relationships in a community that meets for three hours a day, six days out of the year.

The youth retreat program of our yearly meeting, which gathers kids for several weekends per year throughout their middle and high school years, has more chance to build authentic relationships and functions almost entirely as a Type A community.

And then there’s me. Yes, I’m altruistic, and I’m all about building the kingdom of God on earth, but I do it from a curiosity/learning/experimenting place. Anybody who’s likely to study the Harvard Business Review at length and then apply what they’ve learned to Quaker communities and write a blog post about it is probably most at home in a Type C culture.

It’s worth noting that some people would probably disagree with my analysis. That’s okay. Take it with a grain of salt. What’s most important is not that I’m exactly right about the groups I’m looking at; what matters is how we handle the differences from one group to another.

 

Why does all of this matter?

I think it matters in a lot of ways.

Today, I’m going to explore the difference between what I wish Friends were and what Friends are, and then I’m going to explore the difference between the community’s culture and mine.

Later, I’ll write some additional blog entries about how age group transitions are affected by culture change and how culture types can be altered.

And then, who knows? There might be more.

 

First—looking at the difference between what I wish Friends were and what Friends are.

This is important to recognize. For me, it’s about wishing that the community of Friends was Type B. You might wish that the community of Friends functioned as some other type. But we get ourselves in trouble when we start assuming that the community is what we wish it would be—or also, when we start assuming that everyone wishes the community were what we wish it would be.

A Type B community is united by doing good for the long-term future of the whole world. If I assume that my Quaker community is a Type B community (because that’s what I want it to be), then I’m going to walk in expecting to present Type B sorts of ideas and have the community respond immediately and uniformly enthusiastically. But this simply doesn’t happen. If I don’t understand that this stems at least in part from a cultural difference, I’m going to be confused and disappointed and angry.

In fact, I can get confused and disappointed and angry even when I assume that everyone wants to be Type B. (I have learned from experience that they don’t.) Almost everyone agrees that altruism is a good thing, but for many Friends, relationships or fun or caution or shared norms are genuinely more important. At least in the beginning, it’s good to hold off on any value judgment about this and just recognize what is.

Whether I choose to change my expectations, to try to change the community, to leave the community, or simply to live forever in dynamic tension, the first step is to see that a difference exists. What I wish Quaker culture were isn’t what Quaker culture is.

 

Second—looking at the difference between the community’s culture and mine.

As I said above, I function most authentically as a Type C. I might long to be part of a Type B community, but at my own heart, I’m really a Type C. (Which isn’t necessarily an inherent conflict; healthy communities often contain a mixture of individuals that align with the overall culture type and also individuals that don’t. If you’re all exactly the same, you become more and more collectively unhealthy—and less and less able to change.)

As a Type C person, I love—and live in—exploration, expansiveness, creativity, inventiveness, open-mindedness, newness, experimentation, and curiosity. At least as an individual (though possibly not in a group) I value these qualities above the other types. Inventiveness, experimentation, and curiosity mean more to me than relationships, collaboration, and loyalty (Type A), fun and playfulness (Type D), caution and risk management (Type G), and rules, structure, and cooperation (Type H).

My Type C nature doesn’t prevent me from valuing relationships, collaboration, loyalty, fun, and playfulness, and I do value those things. But my natural Type C instincts are often in direct conflict with the values of caution, risk management, rules, structure, and cooperation, and these values are a big part of the culture of my Quaker community, especially in the realms of business and committees.

How do I handle this?

The first thing I have to do is recognize that my yearly meeting—and often my monthly meeting, too—are functioning as Type G and Type H cultures, and I have committed to joining them nonetheless. We are different. Pretending we are not different will not help.

The second thing I have to do is recognize the value of my own Type C contributions. Just as I have committed to joining my Quaker community, my Quaker community has made a commitment to me. They may or may not have recognized my innovation/experimentation/curiosity tendencies when I came in the door, but they did accept me into membership—all of me. And now we have to engage with each other.

It’s important to name that, generally, when a Quaker body acts in a way that prioritizes caution and/or maintaining or shared norms over trying new things, everything inside me tells me that this is wrong. Not just different from what I would do, but fundamentally wrong. Then I have to move past the adversarial mindset that this tends to set up and find ways to work within the community culture to be faithful to genuine leadings from God. This can be very tricky. Sometimes I’m more successful than other times.

It can help when I flip things around so that I can imagine the opposite point of view. For a Type G/H person or group, the most important things are planning, structure, caution, shared norms, preparedness, and cooperation. From that point of view, my constant drive to experiment appears reckless and—it’s true—seems fundamentally wrong.

In reality, of course, neither of us is actually wrong. All of these values—innovation, planning, structure, experimentation, caution, shared norms, curiosity, preparedness, and cooperation—are worthy. The difference is which we prioritize and how often, and in my Quaker circles, the community as a whole mostly subscribes to Types G and H. No matter how I choose to respond to that, I’ll do better if I begin by understanding it.

To depersonalize this for a minute, remember that the individual/community culture conflict can materialize in a variety of ways.

If you’re a Type A (prioritizing relationships), you might struggle in a Type B community if the community’s drive to helping the whole world takes away time from forming relationships within the community itself.

If you’re a Type D (prioritizing fun), you might struggle in a Type H community if the community’s shared norms don’t include much time for play.

If you’re a Type B (prioritizing altruism), you might struggle in a Type D community where projects that make a difference in the world aren’t valued very much unless they’re also fun and exciting.

And so forth.

 

Summing it up . . .

– Most groups of people function within a certain type of culture. This culture can be identified by what the group values, how the environment feels, and what unifies the people within the group.

– Groups of people functioning within a certain type of culture aren’t necessarily uniform. The group culture is identified not by what individuals do or value but by what the group as a whole does or values.

– Within your own Quaker circles, it’s likely that different circles are functioning as different types of cultures.

– There’s often a difference between what type we wish a group would be and what type that group actually is. That’s when it becomes important to recognize the difference and then decide how to handle it. Pretending there isn’t a difference can quickly get us into trouble.

– There’s also often a difference between the culture type we, as individuals, most naturally fit in and the culture type of the group. Again, it’s important to recognize that difference and then decide how to handle it.

 

Next time—what are the implications of transitioning from one group of Friends to another, when the cultures of the two groups might be very different?

The 45-Yard Line

Let me start by saying that this would be a perfect American football analogy if I could use the number 50 instead of 45, but unfortunately, that’s just not how this works.

Though if we all wait another five years, it will be.

For now, imagine a football field with a 45-yard line right in the middle. (This football field is only 90 yards long in total. Go with me here.) Now, standing on the 45-yard line, you can go in one of two directions. If you go in one direction and get all the way to the end zone, you score points for one team. If you go in the other direction and get all the way to the end zone, you score points for the other team. In both cases, the objective is pretty much the same…dodge the obstacles, be agile, work as a team, get to the end zone. But to score points for one team, you’ve got to go one way, and to score points for the other team, you have to go in the opposite direction.

In the actual game of football, the two teams are competing. One group of people wants to score points for one side, and the other group of people wants to score points for the other side. Because it’s a competition, it’s a zero-sum game. One team scores points at the cost of the other.

In the past year, I’ve found myself in Quaker circles making lots of arguments about what I think of as the “over/under 45 strategy.” (Hence, the 45-yard line.) Essentially, my premise is that in modern society, we have a generation gap unlike any other in history. It’s not about these crazy kids and their music; it’s about a fundamental change in our way of thinking.

People who are 45 this year were born somewhere around the year 1972. This means that they were finishing high school in about the year 1990. While the Internet technically started in 1965 and first received its name in 1973, the early ‘90s were the time when the Internet went from a scientific laboratory thing to an actually-in-people’s-homes kind of thing—in other words, right when today’s 45-year-olds were either in college or starting their first full-time jobs. Both socially and neurologically, today’s 45-year-olds were moving into adulthood during the Internet’s first five to seven years. (The prefrontal cortex doesn’t finish developing until you’re nearly thirty.)

40-year-olds went to high school with the Internet; 35-year-olds, middle school; 30-year-olds do not remember a time without it. 25-year-olds don’t recall a world without smartphones. 20-year-olds were born after the invention of social media.

None of this is to say that people over 45 can’t be good at the Internet. Some people over 45 are extraordinarily proficient and spend a great deal of time online. But there is a difference between skills we learn as fully-formed adults and activities that influence the physical formation of our brains. There’s a reason why advertisers target teens and twenty-somethings; it’s because habits formed in those years tend to persist for a lifetime.

Scientists are still struggling to define the effects of Internet exposure during brain development. But there’s a fair amount of evidence that those under 45 process information in fundamentally different ways. For one thing, under-45s tend to sort information for relevance very quickly; this is the result of a lot of scanning, such as scrolling rapidly through a social media feed. Under-45s generally require more visual stimulation and struggle to learn from large bodies of text. They are less likely to develop a long and trusting relationship with a particular source of information, partly because Google searches and social media feeds link to websites and periodicals but don’t emphasize origin; it’s easy to read an article and never notice, much less recall, whether it came from the Washington Post or Huffington Post, from Buzzfeed or somebody’s blog. And there’s a tendency toward instant gratification. Under-45s expect to find the answers to questions within seconds.

I don’t find it terribly useful to focus on whether this is all good or bad. It simply is. And it is in abundance; some studies have discovered that exposure to the Internet causes neurological responses similar to heroin use. It isn’t going away.

So what does this boil down to?

Over 45 Under 45 Comparison

Let’s go back to our football game.

There you are on the 45-yard line. If you want to score a point for the under-45s, you’ve got to run one way—social media, photos, videos, impact storytelling, quick access to knowledge. If you want to score a point for the over-45s, you’ve got to run the other way—paper, phone calls, long pieces of text, institutional loyalty, building knowledge over time.

But are we happy with the idea of this being a zero-sum game? What happens if we want both sides to get points? I’d say that we have to decide this isn’t a competition, and we have to learn how to run both ways simultaneously. We might need two footballs. We might need more players. But for sure, we have to commit to cooperation.

When I talk about an over/under 45 strategy, I’m usually talking about either communications, fundraising, and outreach. The same principles might apply in religious education or pastoral care, but not to the same degree of intensity. An over/under 45 strategy is, at its heart, a bifurcated strategy. It’s doing quite different things, with the same ultimate intent, in order to reach both age ranges.

Let’s look first at communications. In Quaker circles, communications happen locally and at large-scale institutional levels. An over-45 communications strategy would mostly involve printed newsletters, with the same newsletters in the same format often emailed or posted on a website. Articles might be lengthy. Font, format, and illustrations would be less important, as long as the text was legible. Announcements would appear in list form. Content would emphasize the activities of the institution because the readership is likely to be interested in the institution, even if they themselves aren’t participating in the work.

An under-45 communications strategy, in contrast, would mostly involve social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, possibly Tumblr or Pinterest). Articles would be short and would contain mostly content directly relevant to the reader—or, if the content were not directly relevant, it would be single-story narratives with an emphasis on personal impact. Announcements would come out through messenger apps or text messages, with a strong element of user control about which announcements to receive and which not. Photos and videos would be used frequently.

An over/under 45 strategy is tricky because you can’t take the same content and post it on multiple platforms. Most of us know instinctively that you couldn’t take a bunch of Facebook posts, print them out, and call them a newsletter. But similarly, you can’t take a newsletter produced for print or email and simply paste a link on social media. An under-45 generally will not click on a link labeled “newsletter” because there’s nothing in that to indicate personal relevance. But the same under-45 might follow a link to a single article with a strong title and a vibrant illustration. The under-45 is also looking for additional links. If one article references another, there should be a built-in hyperlink to the second article. That serves the under-45’s expectation of instant information.

Fundraising, too, requires a bifurcated strategy. Over-45s have been trained, over their lifetimes, to establish and maintain long-term relationships with institutions. I trust this institution; therefore, I give money. Direct mail campaigns are effective, as are annual funds. Fundraising efforts might include long pieces of text written abstractly about the organization’s mission and intent. Over-45s are okay with writing checks, and they’re prepared to stamp their donation envelopes.

In contrast, under-45s have been trained, through Internet exposure and through a changing job market, not to establish or maintain long-term institutional relationships. Under-45s habitually hop from one institution to another according to which one best matches their current needs and interests. Capturing this audience requires impact storytelling, published on social media, with as many photos and videos as possible. “We are providing education to 200 children” is interesting, but it isn’t enough. A two-minute video of the school, in which a story is told about the direct impact the education has on the life of a child, is much more compelling. So, too, is immediacy. The under-45 thinks, I know where my donation is going and see it having immediate impact; therefore, I give money. A specific fundraising goal is important, and it helps to have an Internet-based indicator: can I see the exact percentage of the goal that’s been raised? Can I see a list of which of my friends have already donated? Under-45s often don’t write checks. Many of them don’t even have checks. They expect to donate instantly by credit card—on their smartphones.

By now, the difference in outreach strategies should be pretty evident. Over-45s might see a newspaper ad or hear a radio commercial and investigate. They might decide to visit your Quaker meeting even with very little information ahead of time—because they grew up learning things slowly, from books and encyclopedias. If your website has a collection of long articles about Quakerism, over-45s might actually read them. They also might take home and read lengthy pamphlets at the end of a first visit.

Under-45s will find you if you’re present on social media—or, at the very least, if you have a sufficiently strong website and pop up pretty high in local Google searches. They’ll want to see lots of photos of the people in the meeting, not a single thirty-year-old drawing of your historic building. They’re likely to click on a video titled “What is Quakerism?” or something along those lines, and if there isn’t a video, they want a FAQ page with clear answers to specific questions, so they can scan through and read what’s relevant to them instead of trying to process lengthy articles. Some under-45s will read in depth, eventually, but only if you provide easily scan-able information first.

It’s hard work to develop and enact over/under 45 strategies—in fact, it’s basically twice as much work. And people on both sides of the 45-yard line tend to find the other side mystifying, not to mention irritating—why don’t they just put out a little more effort? We wouldn’t need two strategies if that other age group would just learn to be flexible!

But it’s beyond flexibility. We are wired differently. Our brains work differently. If we want to reach both groups, we must learn to cooperate and to move in both directions simultaneously. Because we can’t abandon our over-45s, those who have been—and often still are—the lifeblood of our communities. But we also can’t ignore the under-45s, who will soon be the under-50s, and then the under-55s, and so on…at least, we can’t ignore them if we hope to have a future.

July-August 2018

A couple of Friends recently asked whether I could provide monthly updates on where I’m going and where I’ve been. The answer is yes, I can—and this is the first of those.

 

Where I’ve Been (July)

On the first day of July, I found myself in Toledo, Ohio, preparing for the Friends General Conference gathering. I spent my week facilitating a workshop called Building a Culture of Multiage Inclusion. I had seven vital and remarkable participants.

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We covered a number of topics, and often in a very lively way—but one of my favorite moments was when we got quiet and I asked the parents in the room, “What would you want other Friends to know about how to nurture you?” Below is their response. I’d love to bring this workshop to other places; feel free to reach out to me.

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July 1st was also my first day being an associate with Good News Associates, an organization to support non-institutional ministry. Through this group, I can receive donations for the first time, and I also have a cohort of other Friends engaged in non-institutional ministry. It’s really quite something to find that kind of home.

The second week of July brought two videoconferences with Friends involved in the Friends World Committee for Consultation traveling ministry corps. The first was a gathering of just the Friends from North America, and the second included Friends from all parts of the Americas. A very hard-working translator made sure that we all understood one another. The second call was an opportunity for the members of the traveling ministry corps from both language groups to engage in deep sharing of our experiences with travel in the ministry. It can be hard to maintain a sense of family and togetherness across continents and language barriers, but in the end, our connection goes beyond these things.

(And Skype helps, too.)

A handful of Friends gathered for a little swimming-and-picnicking day that week, as well, which was a rare opportunity to be together in a way that was strictly “off the clock.” You could also call it a Sabbath.  I ate some chives.

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The following week brought several meetings, including one for the advancement committee of the North American board of Friends United Meeting. This is a new field for me, and many of you know how I excited I get about new fields! I’ve raided the New York Public Library and am happily settling down with a collection of charts and spreadsheets. I’m passionate about this work because I’ve seen, first hand, the effects of FUM’s ministries. You can’t quite look at a budget the same way after you’ve had the experience of meeting a little girl in Kenya whose education relies on those numbers. Hidden in those rows and columns are a new car for a medical center and a periodical for aging Friends and peace work in troubled communities and extra pencils for child shepherds.

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Then came New York Yearly Meeting sessions, and what a week it was. My favorite moment was the announcement of a new preparative meeting in New York Yearly Meeting. “Christ is the Answer Friends Church” is a Swahili-speaking congregation of Congolese refugees outside Buffalo. Translation for Faith and Practice, anybody?

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Where I’m Going (August)

For today and the next two days, I’m spending quality time with my computer, catching up with—and getting ahead on—emails and so forth. This includes work on Holy Experiments and Quaker Open Book and ongoing research in several areas.

Next week I’ll head for New England Yearly Meeting annual sessions, where I’ll be a facilitator for a worship sharing group and where I’ll just generally have the opportunity to meet with Friends and to worship with them. There’s a healthy, ongoing relationship between New York and New England Yearly Meetings, with many Friends who travel back and forth. Both feel like home to me.

After that, the plan is to come home and do some writing, along with preparing for Digital Outreach (a project for Facebook training and social media outreach through Friends General Conference) and the upcoming trip to Ramallah Friends School.