How Do We Save Quakerism?

Are your Meeting’s numbers dwindling? Do you worry that there won’t be a “next” generation to pass Quakerism on to?

Are your Meeting’s numbers dwindling? Do you worry that there won’t be a “next” generation to pass Quakerism on to?
You aren’t alone. As I’ve traveled the country visiting different kinds of Quaker Meetings, I’ve noticed that many Quaker Meetings are holding a similar, underlying anxiety: what’s next?

Of course there are Meetings that don’t fit this categorization, but if you are one of those Friends who holds a concern for the future of the Religious Society of Friends, read on.

Step 1: Ask Ourselves, “What Are We Trying to Save?”

As someone who gets most excited about Quakerism when I think about the Early Friends, I believe that the litmus test for whether we have life is the fire and Spirit that motivated the emergence of the Quaker movement.
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Can Self-Promotion Be Spirit-Led?

When I first received the call to do this work, my core values were offended. Hadn’t I already rejected the part of myself that strives for public attention? I was so attached to my humbleness that I refused to “self-promote”. Ironically, it was my pride and self-will that got in the way of my calling to publicize this ministry.

Give over thine own willing; give over thine own running; give over thine own desiring to know, or to be any thing

-Isaac Pennington full quote

As Quakers, we make this fundamental, unshakeable distinction: God’s will. My will.

If we are to do the will of God, we must first let go of our own striving, our own willing. And if we are to give over our own willing, how could it ever be in good order for us to reach out for something as vain and creaturely as celebrity?

I wrote this post as a part of QVS’ synchroblog on Quakers and new media. See what other bloggers had to say here.

The Allure of Attention

I am familiar with the allure of acting out my void in public. I want the attention. I want to be seen. I want to be known. I am afraid of being passed over.
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Quaker Epistle, Set to Music!

A few weeks ago a Friend in England Facebooked me to see if I’d put music to an epistle that she had a part in writing. The epistle is the Kabarak Call for Peace and Eco-Justice. Here’s my rendition.

The Kabarak Call for Peace and Eco-Justice

The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice was approved on 24 April 2012 at the Sixth World Conference Friends, held at Kabarak University near Nakuru, Kenya. It is the culmination of the FWCC World Consultation on Global Change which was held in 2010 and 2011. It is being circulated with the Conference Epistle.

In past times God’s Creation restored itself. Now humanity dominates, our growing population consuming more resources than nature can replace. We must change, we must become careful stewards of all life. Earthcare unites traditional Quaker testimonies: peace, equality, simplicity, love, integrity, and justice. Jesus said, “As you have done unto the least… you have done unto me”. We are called to work for the peaceable Kingdom of God on the whole earth, in right sharing with all peoples. However few our numbers, we are called to be the salt that flavours and preserves, to be a light in the darkness of greed and destruction.
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How to Play “Walk in the Light” (The George Fox Song)

There’s a Light that is shining in the Heart of a man
It’s the Light that was shining when the world began
There’s a Light that is shining in the Turk and the Jew
There’s a Light that is shining, friend, in me and in you.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been singing this song about George Fox, a man who is widely regarded as the founder of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

When I became a singer-songwriter and started sharing some of my music with Quakers, I started getting a lot of requests for it. Though I was never a “singalong” musician (I have my own song that I wrote about Fox), I loosened up and learned the chords. If you’re looking to learn how to play the George Fox Song, I’ll post the chords and lyrics just below this video.

[peekaboo name=”lyrics” onshow=”-Click to hide chords & lyrics” onhide=”+Click to show chords & lyrics”][peekaboo_content name=”lyrics”]


C – Am – F – G
C – G – C
C – Am – F – G
C – G – C

C – Am – F – G
C – Am – F – G
C – G – Am – G
C – G – C


There’s a Light that is shining in the Heart of a man
It’s the Light that was shining when the world began
There’s a Light that is shining in the Turk and the Jew
There’s a Light that is shining, friend, in me and in you.

Walk in the Light, wherever you may be
Walk in the Light, wherever you may be
With my old leather britches and my shaggy, shaggy locks
I am walking in the glory of the Light, said Fox

With a book and a steeple and a bell and a key
Well they’ll bind you forever, but they can’t, said he
For the book, it will perish and the steeple will fall
And the Light will be shining at the end of it all.


If we give you a pistol, will you fight for the Lord?
But you can’t kill the devil with a gun or a sword.
Will you swear on the Bible? “I will not!” said he,
“For the Truth is more holy than the book to me.”


There’s an ocean of darkness and I drown in the night
Til I come through the darkness to the ocean of Light
and the Light is forever, and the Light it is free
And I walk in the glory of the Light, said he.


12 Pieces of Advice for Quakers on the Internet

I recently said in an interview with Friends Journal that I would like to challenge Friends to get clear about our relationship with the internet.

Getting clear would look like one of these two things:

A. We come together as Friends and find unity to FULLY REJECT casual use of the internet.
(If the idea makes you snort in disbelief, consider the precedence of our previous outward testimonies: rejection of war, alcohol, slavery)
B. We EMBRACE the internet as a powerful tool with which Friends can spread the word about our ministries, as the Early Quakers did with the printing press.

We are at a mighty crossroads in history. There is no excuse for us to be doing this half-in/half-out thing.
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Are YOU Ready for the Quaker Revival?

I have a confession to make: sometimes when I look at the state of our religious society today, what I see is bleak.

I see a lot of white, middle class Americans passing off white, middle class culture as essentially Quaker.

I see us catering heavily to Friends in their twilight years and losing the interest of young people who are excited and ready for transformation.
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We Don’t Need A Holiday To Give Thanks!

As Quakers, we traditionally do not honor traditions such as Christmas, Halloween, the naming of weeks and months, swearing on the Bible.

Wait… what? Does anybody actually do this anymore?

Nobody that I know. The Quakers I know call the days of the week by their names, eat a giant turkey dinner on Thanksgiving and unwrap presents on Christmas morning.

The only difference between us and the rest of the culture is that we might participate in “Buy Nothing Day” rather than Black Friday (but then we go shopping all the same).

My question is: have we lost something?

By celebrating holidays (“holy” days?) with the rest of the culture, are we consolidating our worship of God? Are we trivializing it?

The answer, for me, is: absolutely.
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What is a Quaker Ministry? (What Isn’t?)

In 2006 I chose to turn to the model of Quaker ministry to inform my making music. Getting low. Being humble. Only writing songs that felt like a message from the Spirit. Knowing that the message is not my own. Attempting to be a vessel. Releasing my agenda, knowing my limited perspective. Letting go and letting God.

For the past 5 years, I have been writing songs about Quakers, blogging about Quakerism, making videos about Quakers, vlogging about Quakerism, and traveling amongst Friends, sharing my music and my thoughts.

Now I have arrived at a turning point. The original call that I felt to commit to music was for five years. I knew that I would then stand back and re-evaluate, ask the hard questions, and change course if I felt called to.
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Support a Minister. Sell Your Meetinghouse.

Vital ministry is essential to vitality. Vital ministry breaks us open, stirs us up, inspires conversations, exposes us, makes us uncomfortable, puts us through the refiners fire. Ministers activate people. In short, without vital ministry, we are lost.

Over the past month or so I have been engaging in a public clearness process about how I should move forward with my music and ministry. I have publicly revealed what is working well and what isn’t. (in short: broad spiritual life and success, financial shortfalls)

I think that my sharing this may be somewhat confusing to Friends. I have heard from many folks who are concerned about me, who wanted to offer emotional support through my tough times. And then there’s the opposite reaction to the same interpretation:

Buck up. Get a job. Quit whining about not getting to live your dream and passion, we all have to give that stuff up at some point and grow up.

“Following Passion” VS Servitude

While I’m grateful for such broad engagement, I find many of these responses to be fundamentally unhelpful.

I consider myself to be a servant and not a self-serving follower of my passion. My musical journey ceased to be my own when I committed to it as a ministry.
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Is it Time to Strip Quakerism Naked?

Our spiritual forefathers and mothers spoke of a “Light” that was an intense spotlight, something distinctly uncomfortable, that would shine on the the dark places inside of ourselves and reveal the things that we are trying to hide. This “Light”, honestly, sounds horrifying. It is no wonder they also called it the “refiner’s fire”.

“The Light”

Growing up in Liberal FGC Quakerism, I would often hear reference to “the light” as something warm and comforting. I felt comforted when someone said that they were going to hold me in the Light, and I felt comforted when I heard Friends profess to honor the Light within everyone.

After reading Early Quaker writings though, I wonder if I didn’t grow up with a Disney-esque version of “the Light”.

Our spiritual forefathers and mothers spoke of a “Light” that was more like a spotlight, intense and uncomfortable, that would shine on the the dark places inside of ourselves and reveal the things that we are trying to hide. This “Light”, honestly, sounds horrifying. It is no wonder they also called it the “refiner’s fire”.

The Early Friends believed that we must all go through the refiner’s fire before we are healed, before we are whole and before we step back from our greed, our oppression, our brokenness. We must let go of the ways that we are hiding, the things that we are using to shield ourselves. We must become naked.
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Why Being Told I Wasn’t a Quaker Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

Yesterday my co-minister and partner in crime Maggie posted a blog entry entitled “YOU’RE NOT A QUAKER (so please stop calling yourself one)”

The post has provoked some great discussion and obviously real feelings from some of the (many) visitors to the post in the past 24 hours. As you might imagine, some of the reaction is indignance at the suggestion that one Quaker can judge another’s Quaker-y-ness. Didn’t we do away with all those elders and the practice of writing Friends out of Meetings?
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Quakerism 101 with Max Carter

When we were filming the scene in the hut for the music video, Tom Clement and I had some down time with Max Carter and, having asked him to prepare a brief lecture on the history of Quakerism for the video, decided to let him run once through the whole thing.

What’s amazing about what follows is that Max did this without flinching, as Tom and I were moving around the room trying to get everything ready for filming the music video.

As I looked back over the footage, I realized that there is simply no online resource as concise and comprehensive as the (less than) five minute talk Max had just given. I went to work with the visuals, and would say, humbly, that the result is as good as the music video (some might say better!)

Max Carter on Jon Watts’ Video

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.

Reposted from the 2009 Friends Center Newsletter

Max Carter, Director of Friends Center at Guilford College
Max Carter, Director of Friends Center at Guilford College

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.
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