28 August 2014

Calling all World Quakers...

What was your first reaction to this header (above) ... Positive? Confused? Worried?

Positive? Great. We have a special day of our own!! I hope you and your church or meeting use the day (October 5, 2014) to build community around our shared identity and heritage. Maybe you're in the same position I'm in--Friends were my first faith community, my first encounter with organized (?) religion, my first clue that the religion industry could actually care about linking faith and practice. Maybe you understand, with Hugh Doncaster, that the world "is dying, literally dying, for lack of Quakerism in action," and a special day might focus our urgency for evangelism and peace advocacy at this very time that they're so sorely needed.

The date is no accident: as the World Quaker Day site notes, "Both 2014 and 2015 dates coincide with World Communion Sunday, celebrating an even wider array of worship around the world."

Confused? At least in English, it's hard to know whether the first word "world" refers to the next word or the third one. Are we celebrating "World Quakers" or suggesting an international holiday? I'd like to suggest simply "Quaker Day" for next time. What do you think?

As for the device on the left, it looks vaguely like a biological symbol. Maybe someone will guide us to a discussion of how this design was arrived at, and why better-known symbols such as the Quaker star weren't adopted. There's no historical background for this event on the Web site, except that the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice is being highlighted and that Friends World Committee would like financial support.

Worried? Has anyone else noticed that much of the evangelical Friends world has begun shying away from the use of the word "Quaker" (preferring "Friend") while Friends who are more theologically liberal still embrace the "Quaker" brand with enthusiasm? I like both words, as long as neither word tempts us to think that we've invented a whole new religion--and that's my concern with too much quakerishness. Friends are no more and no less than a specific understanding of Christian discipleship, and a community formed by that understanding. Too much focus on how special we are without reference to that discipleship just smells cultish to me.

I worked for Friends World Committee for ten years, during which I felt more and more ambivalent about our organization's constant calls to "celebrate diversity." Diversity is a complicated and complicating quality, not something to be mindlessly boosted at the expense of clarity and honest boundaries.

May these reflections not dampen any initial enthusiasm that you may have felt when you first saw the graphic at the top. If there's one thing that we Friends can use more of, it's enthusiasm!

(See also "Diffident no more.")

Orthodox archbishop of Gorlovka and Slavyansk, Ukraine, says that "the intensity [of the conflict] is already such that we can only pray that this intensity be lessened and the bloodshed stopped. I do not see any human forces that would be able to stop it."

David Marples: The rhetoric of hatred describing the situation in Ukraine misses the point – Ukraine has problems that are not derived from Russia or the Putin presidency."

"Real Ministry, Real Friendship": "The more I get in touch with the reality of my own condition, the less I stop judging other people’s worthiness."

A friend of Friends, Jeff Halper, writes, "The Palestinian message to Israel: Deal with us justly. Or disappear."

From the Chicago Reader, a fascinating story of "How a mysterious box of photos sent an Evanston couple halfway around the world."

I just saw a review of J.P. Soars' new album, so I thought I'd dig out this old recording of Terry Hanck and JP Soars that I made back in 2009:


Mackenzie said...

British Friends use a blue sans serif capital Q as their symbol. Maybe that's why the logo is a Q with a globe?

Johan Maurer said...

That's very possible. I have a small, rather elegant lapel-pin Q produced by British Friends a few years ago.

Sarah said...

Perhaps the word "Quaker" was chosen simply because "World Friends Day" would mean something completely different to most people.

Robin M. said...

I'd say both of your commenters are right. I think the point is to use the day, and the resources available at www.worldquakerday.org to learn about/remember that we are part of a wider family of Friends around the world.

It's not really about the graphics, or a petty focus on wording. Do you think evangelical Friends would like the "Quaker star" better? I don't imagine so.

One thing I have noticed is that there is a movement among evangelical Friends to be clear about the Quaker distinctives around sacraments and to reclaim the peace testimony as part of their specific understanding of Christian discipleship, and that those Friends are not shy about using the word Quaker. I would have thought you were among them.

Johan Maurer said...

Hi, Robin! Warmest greetings.

Nearly forty years ago, in 1976, I heard T. Canby Jones say that there is a movement among evangelical Friends to be clear about Quaker distinctives and reclaim the peace testimony. (He also noted the increased interest in Christian theology among so-called liberal Friends.) I think that the pace of the movement has quickened a bit, in part as a result of convergent Friends' contacts, but I see plenty of evidence of ignorance and complacency on all sides.

Concerning the holiday, I'm just trying, in a gentle way, to raise the question of why anyone should care that we're Quakers. In "Diffident no more," I put the question this way:

"However, even with the most generous interpretation of who Friends are, and with the widest possible acceptance of our diversities of temperaments and gifts, there is still a test that is crucial for me. Does the presence of Quakers in the world open the doors to God's family wider somehow, somewhere? Are prisoners and poor people hearing the good news--and can they find a place among us if they desire? In fact, are "they" becoming "we"?"

Maybe I'm asking this: What can FWCC and others do to go beyond a fascination with ourselves and our diversity, and provoke a broader conversation on what is required of us by God? What can you and I do? Does our identity have some direct utility, or is it a distraction?