Reposted from the 2009 Friends Center Newsletter
I am not adept at most of the modern social networking devices. No Blackberry or cell phone, even. At the insistence of Friends Center staff and students, there is a Facebook account with my name attached – for purposes of getting the word out on campus ministry programs. But I don’t know how to operate it.
Thus, I was unaware of a YouTube video that recently went “viral” – at least in proportion to Quaker numbers – until friends referred me to it. The video shows 2006 QLSP graduate Jon Watts rising in the silence of worship in the Barn at Pendle Hill. His vocal ministry turns into a “rap” about Quaker history and theology, focusing on the diversity of views among Friends and his own upbringing in Friends General Conference. All around him, the worshipers gradually begin to dance about, sing, and play musical instruments. It turns into quite the “Quaker Holy Ghost Revival” – if liberal, unprogrammed Friends emphasized the Holy Ghost!
Anyone familiar with Jon’s QLSP senior project, a compilation of original songs based on the spirituality of George Fox, James Nayler, and Solomon Eccles – or his subsequent recordings through his own Bull & Mouth label – would recognize some of the themes in the video. He gives a “shout out” not only to his Quaker heroes, but also to Guilford, QLSP, Baltimore Yearly Meeting camps, and other influences on his spiritual journey. While emphasizing his deep roots in the liberal tradition of Friends, he makes a clarion call for mutual listening, understanding, and sympathy across the Quaker spectrum.
I dare say that some Friends might be taken aback by theological statements made in the video, but those of us who have known and worked with Jon are taken aback even more by how much he has grown and developed in his Quaker faith. I encourage Friends to read the “Proceedings” of Friends Center’s November 2008 Quaker Renewal Program conference on Convergent Friends (available on the Friends Center site). At that conference, young adult Quakers shared their deep concern that they had been shortchanged by their Friends meetings: pastoral Friends by the lack of teaching on Quaker distinctives and the testimonies; liberal Friends by the lack of teaching about the Bible and Christian beliefs. Jon’s video displays that he has, indeed, become aware of the rich tapestry of a broader Quakerism – and that he is finding his home in it.
In Friends Center programs such as QLSP, campus ministry, the Quaker Renewal Program, and academic offerings, we have witnessed many students and older adults come into an awareness of a richer, deeper, more complex Quakerism. Few have had the capacity to express that growth in entertaining YouTube videos and music, but their journeys are no less fascinating. In this year’s Friends Center newsletter, you will be introduced to some of our ongoing work in continuing the mission to “strengthen Friends and their institutions” and to be companions along the way of spiritual pilgrimage. I hope you enjoy the articles.
And if you are inspired to create your own video on YouTube, be sure to let us know! But we’ll continue to maintain that the theological views and opinions will not necessarily be those of the management!
-Max L. Carter