A Friend After 50 Years

A record of one journey into a peculiar type of Quaker Christianity, and a bit of silliness to boot.

Location: Arkansas

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mi Quakersmo - and a Request for Suggestions

My posts have been running more to the ridiculous than the sublime lately. Not that there's anything wrong with that. God told me to write each and every one of those things. (Or at least didn't stop me -- and he could have, right?)

But to every thing there is a season, and the worm turns (in this case) toward seriouser subjects. Suffice to say that I turn now to "my Quakerism" which, in inadequate shorthand, means not a Quakerism that I invent, nor one that I adopt from the opinions of others, but one that involves my relationship in/with/around the divine. From a practice standpoint, this means:

1. I'm back to reading the Bible again. My interest has been reinvigorated by our Friendly Bible study group. I'd urge Friends of all persuasions to try this. The process is truly a Friendly one, in which we can engage with the text without any demands to conform to a preordained interpretation. Each session is a wonderful "sermon" on the text coming from many different perspectives, which truly gives life to the letter. If you have problems with the text, well, that's one of the things you get to talk about.

1.a. I'm also reading daily, following a one-year "plan" which divides the week up into different genres such as history, prophecy, poetry, letters, etc. This provides variety and is a good way to keep from getting bored or bogged down, which I felt when I started with a chronological approach. I can't say exactly how or why, but I find spiritual nurture there, even when reading godawful horrible passages such as the one about the righteous washing their feet in the blood of the wicked. I tend to read without preconceived notions about what I will find. I am also finding that I can read in a "Quakerly" way -- taking time to quietly pause before reading in order to enter the spirit. Previously I felt a rush to hurry up and "devour" the text -- I felt so "far behind" and wanted to read as much as quickly as possible. I finally burned out on that which led to a hiatus. Taking it slow and easy is better. This isn't a race. (I'm teachable!)

2. Going to MfWorship twice a week. Once just ain't enough to overcome the roaring material world.

3. Taking time to pause for a few silents moments throughout the day whenever there is any anxiety, worry, etc. Or even just because.

4. Pondering how I/our meeting might make use of leading-calling-discerning processes with other Friends. There is little of this in our meeting, though not, in my opinion, because we are headstrong individualistic leeburls with no interest in such things -- or at least not solely that. Rather, I think, it is more that it is not an aspect of Quakerism with which we are familiar. Most of us did not grow up in a tradition where that was modelled. At a recent one-day retreat we had a brief presentation on the subject, so perhaps a sprig will grow from that seed. If any Friends have experience with nurturing such processes in similar circumstances, feel free to chime in.

En Paz


Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Hi Dave,
Thanks for sharing this. I have found over time that there are more and more passages in the Bible that speak to me - ones that used to make me cringe. It took me being open to the idea that my understand of things may change, rather than reading to confirm what I thought and rejecting those passages that didn't agree.

One thing I have tried to do recently, although I don't always remember, is that I try to read the verses from the Revised Common Lectionary sometime during the week, so that I also have in my mind those passages that my friends in various Christian denomonations will be reading on Sunday. It seems like it may create new opportunities for conversation.

I really wish I had some good suggestions about the leading-calling-discerning processes. There was some good stuff about nurturing of ministers and various spiritual gifts in Lloyd Lee Wilson's Essarys on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order". I think the first step, though, is the realization that the meeting has a responsibility as a community to nurture the gifts given to it. It sounds as if that has happened, or is starting to happen. At the Atlanta Friends retreat last year, Wade Wright led us through an exercise where we tried to name gifts amonst the people there, although it doesn't seem like we as a meeting have really embraced that idea yet. Perhaps that is something you might start with - look for the gifts and then try to discern what you might to do nurture them. I hope you keep us updated on your meeting's progress, I'm sure others will draw inspiration and encouragement from it.
With love,

7:07 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...


Thanks for the suggestion about the Revised Common Lectionary. Its something to think about, at least.

Your suggestion about naming gifts is interesting to me, as I was on the committee that put our retreat together. That was an idea we wanted to pursue, but probably didn't communicate it adequately to our workshop leaders. The other proposal was to talk about what needs to be ministered to we each might have, so that we might know collectively what others needed. We didn't get there either, but its still something we can explore.

To be honest I have to confess some personal reluctance to test my leadings corporately. Although in principle it sounds great, its so very different from how I've operated all my life, that its not something I feel naturally drawn to when it comes right down to doing it. Futher discernment needed here....

Take care,


7:15 PM  
Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

I've also started to read my Bible more too. I still have my old New International Version (NIV) Bible with study notes, but I am hoping to get a better translation.

I heard about a newish book called The Quaker Bible Reader. I often bring my Bible to meeting for worship and read a little at the very start and end of meeting.

What do you like to read in the Bible?

10:29 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Hi, Dave--

It is now about a month after you posted this, but such is my life this month.

I am struck by your request for a way to learn about and practice corporate discernment, testing leadings, and seeking clearness.

In one sense, these Quaker practices and disciplines can be learned about through reading. In addition to Mark's suggestion about Lloyd Lee's book, for example, Paul Lacey has a pamphlet called "Leadings and Being Led," which introduced me to something I feel I should have known about within my first year of attending meeting!

But in another sense, these practices can be better understood and better integrated into the life of the meeting when Friends participate in them.

What arose for me as I was reading your post and the subsequent comments was for the meeting to consider asking an experienced and seasoned Friend who has clerking skills, and who is from outside the meeting, to convene a clearness committee for the meeting.

The visiting Friend can then interrupt to lift up "teachable moments" while also facilitating a process that addresses a real concern for the meeting: seeking how to learn about and engage in practices that strengthen the foundation of Friends' faith.

Without direct experience, it can be like learning to swim by reading about the mechanics, but without ever getting into the water.

If you want to brainstorm more about this, or if you want names of Friends who might be appropriate for such a workshop/retreat, you can get in touch with me at lizopp AT gmail DOT com.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

5:23 PM  
Blogger Paul L said...

Dave -- I've not only heard about, but have read The Quaker Bible Reader that Peterson Toscano mentions.

I think it's excellent in that it describes as broad a range as possible for how Quakers approach and intereact with the Bible. The writers range from evangelical Quakers in Africa and Centrral America to US academic liberal Quakers and all points in between. Each contributor was assigned one discrete part of the Bible -- Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles, Revelation, etc. -- and asked to describe they read those parts, both their method and their results.

It's very well done and I highly recommend it.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Well, with two recommendations and one-click turned on in Amazon, its on its way!

3:42 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Dave, do you know that Quaker Books of FGC is also just "one click away..." and can function as an independent bookstore, too...?

I couldn't resist. And they really do appreciate it when Quakers draw on Quaker bookstores. So do I. (But then again, I've served on FGC's Central Committee, so I'm biased. smile)

Liz, The Good Raised Up

7:50 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...


Yes, and I recalled Martin's post on that subject afterwards and have already (as a result) entered into a state of penitence. I hereby vow to support Quaker Books when I have a future need for books on Friendly topics!

And I further pray that the Friend who provided the link to Amazon be bathed in the Light that redeems us of all our errors, so that never again may he lay temptation in the path of another hapless Friend! :)


9:25 AM  
Blogger earthfreak said...


I'm not actually that interested in the Bible (*duck!*) but I am interested in independent bookstores. Quakerbooks can order pretty much on amazon.com for you, as can my sweetie's bookstore, and most other independent bookstores (see my sidebar, I have a number of links!)

Just had to jump on the bandwagon! Penitence not required, but positive action is always welcome!


6:08 PM  
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4:02 PM  

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