Membership, Part 5—Seeking alternatives

December 6, 2020 § Leave a comment

I’ve been reading the documents produced by New York and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings as they have worked to understand and address the concerns some Friends have raised regarding our traditional understanding of and processes for membership (and watched a great PhYM recording of a panel on the topic). My original goal was to identify what these concerns were. But my research has raised a bunch of other questions:

  1. Who—who has these concerns?
  2. What—what are their concerns?
  3. Why—what do they want?
  4. But—what kind of resistance have they met?
  5. How—what alternatives to traditional membership have emerged?
  6. And—what “ur”-questions lie behind these other questions? What root questions must be answered as context for the discernment.

For reasons of space, I’m going to break up my discussion of these queries into blocks, starting with numbers one and two.

1.  Who finds that our traditional faith and practice of membership doesn’t work for them?

Dissatisfaction with our current practice of membership began with young adults, but deeper exploration has revealed other groups who carry the concern:

  • Young adults, including participants in Quaker youth programs who have no relationship with any Quaker meeting; 35% of YAFs in one survey said they don’t have a home in a monthly meeting, though many of them actually hold membership in one.
  • The incarcerated.
  • Parents with young children.
  • Friends at a distance from their home meetings or are too far away from any local meeting.
  • Caregivers and others whose schedules or circumstances limit how much they can participate in meeting life.

2 & 3. What doesn’t work for these Friends in our current practice and what do they want?

Certain structural and circumstantial barriers prevent some from feeling they belong to their meeting: incarceration, transience, schedules, personal circumstances, differences in culture and/or theology from a local meeting, and distance.

But the deeper concern, especially on the part of young adults and members of marginalized communities, seems to be a feeling of exclusion fostered by inflexible attitudes and the strictures and constraints of Quaker “bureaucracy”. They want accessibility and a voice, particularly in yearly meetings, without having to “check the box” of meeting membership. They want inclusion, not membership. To quote the PhYM* Young Adult Epistle, they want their community to say: “We know you, and the Spirit is within you, and we acknowledge you.” They want their gifts to be recognized, welcomed, and included in the community’s governance and work, irrespective of their membership status. They want “spiritual membership” as opposed to “bureaucratic membership”. And they want the barriers that hinder the full inclusion of marginalized persons to come down.

In support of these desires, they know from their own experience of YAF gatherings that you don’t need “membership” in any form to feel you belong in a nurturing spiritual community, or for that community to grow and act under the guidance of the Spirit.

*  Friends on the East Coast tend to use PYM as their anagram for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, but so does Pacific Yearly Meeting. I prefer PhYM for Philadelphia YM because it seems to me better than PaYM for Pacific YM, and in order to, in some small way, try to reorient the attitudes of East Cost Quakers. Unfortunately, PhYM already owns the domain name pym.org, so my gesture only goes so far.

Membership, Part 4—What meetings (should) offer members

December 3, 2020 § 1 Comment

Meetings tend to define membership only in terms of the member’s obligations to the meeting. Here, I want to look at what meetings offer their members.

This affects our consideration of alternative forms of membership in three ways. First and most obviously, it starts to answer whether monthly meetings and yearly meetings can meet the needs of the alternative seekers. But it also invites the alternative seekers to reconsider what they are looking for. Maybe they haven’t yet identified all their needs. And thirdly, it challenges meetings at both the monthly and yearly meeting levels to reconsider their mission

Ideally, I see meetings offering members five kinds of things, which together define the body of Christ:

  • Communion—that is, worship, the opportunity to share the joys, the healing, the renewal, the guidance, of the Holy Spirit—in community.
  • Community—the joys and challenges of fellowship in the Spirit, including mutual support of those areas of outward personal life in which the worshipping community can be of service, but also the joys and challenges of knowing one another and being known “in the things that are eternal”, in that deep way that is distinctive to religious community. Plus, religious community offers the following special ways in which the community can minister to its members:
  • Pastoral care—being there for each other in meaningful ways in times of joy and sorrow and transition.
  • Spiritual nurture—that is, eldership, support and nurture of the member’s spiritual journey, including mutual accountability for one’s walking on the path, and help with discernment and support for one’s callings, the work we feel led to do in the world.
  • Religious identity—content and context for understanding who we are in the world, a tradition and a community that can ground our sense of self and guide our development in the life of the Spirit.

Communion

The one thing meetings do for sure is host the meeting for worship. But offering a roof over the head of worship is not enough. The meeting owes its members gathered meetings for worship. It should offer real holy communion, direct experience of the spirit of Christ, that is, with the spirit that unites us, transforms us, heals us, forgives us, inspires us, guides us, awakens us to our inner truth and our truer selves. The meeting should deliver its members into the quaking joy and transcending gratitude that collective baptism in the Well of Life bestows.

I’ve discussed what fosters the gathered meeting in my Pendle Hill Pamphlet The Gathered Meeting, but here I want to raise up the importance of vocal ministry. The meeting owes its members truly Spirit-led vocal ministry. This means much more proactive nurture of vocal ministry than most meetings provide.

Community

Being members one of another involves so many things, and these have been well discussed in our written tradition, including in the Pendle Hill Pamphlet with that title, so I won’t go into detail here. Ideally, meeting for worship and the coffee hour afterwards, meeting for business and committee work actually go a long way toward building deep, Spirit-bound community. But meetings should not stop there, but do other things that build community, especially things that meet the needs of families. And they need to deal effectively and lovingly with conflict.

Pastoral Care

We’re not professionals. For deeply troubled people, we can only try to get them professional help. So we should be prepared with resources in this area.

But for most pastoral care needs, the charge is sometimes daunting but nevertheless fairly clear. First, to try to be aware enough of each other’s lives to know when need arises. Then, to respond as we are able. Some of us have pastoral gifts; the rest of us do our best. As with all forms of ministry, the way forward is to stand still in the Light and to work from the heart. And to be as proactive as possible. Like most meetings I know, my meeting has a Membership Care committee that meets monthly. Each of us is assigned a list of members under our care. We are more or less good at keeping in touch with them. But ideally, meetings offer members a kind of caring that they could not get anywhere else.

Spiritual Nurture

I think this role falls into three categories—spiritual formation, the care of gifts, leadings, and ministry, and eldership, properly defined.

Spiritual formation. Many members come to us not yet fully formed. They may not have a settled personal devotional life, or be very clear about what spiritual life means to them. The meeting has an important role in helping members clarify what spiritual disciplines work for them, what they “believe”, and what gifts they have.

Some of us come with more fully developed faith and practice, which usually have been formed outside the Quaker tradition. The meeting’s role then is to help the member integrate the spiritual life they bring with them into the religious life of the Quaker meeting.

All of this assumes, of course, that people join a meeting because the life of the spirit is important to them and Quakerism seems like the place to pursue it. The clearness committee for membership’s role is to become clear about both of these things.

Nurturing ministry. Within the Quaker tradition, the meeting owes its members discernment, support, and oversight of their spiritual gifts, their leadings, and their ministries, especially their vocal ministry.

Eldership. If the goal of spiritual life is personal transformation, and the goal of religious life is the transformation of the community—BIG if’s—then membership becomes a covenant in which we become accountable to each other under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Do we clarify with applicants how much they welcome our engagement with their spiritual lives and how much we’re willing to become engaged? These are deep questions that meetings tend not to ask, of their applicants or of themselves. We should.

Not everyone comes to a meeting seeking personal transformation. Most, perhaps, seek community, often as a refuge, a recharging station, as a place to get away from the demands of the world. They seek the silence, the peace, the people—not the crucible. Most of us are individualists and we like things our way.

On the other hand, most people seeking to join a religious community presumably do so because they think it will help them realize their higher selves, whatever that means. So how do these spiritual desires, however they are defined, match up with how the meeting understands its religious role or mission?

Which leads us to . . .

Religious Identity

People seek membership in part because they have come to realize that they are already Quakers in some degree, they already identify with this Way, and they want to take this identity to a new level, which membership in a meeting promises to confer. But what does “being a Quaker” mean?

The meeting has a role in nurturing and developing its members’ growth into this identity. Put in concrete terms, this means equipping members to answer with confidence and integrity the kinds of questions that people might ask when a member tells somebody that they’re a Quaker. This means spiritual formation, spiritual nurture, eldership as mentorship, as discussed above, and religious education—programs and efforts through which they can learn to answer these questions for themselves.

If we want to become good cellists, we expect to study music, to practice the instrument, and to have teachers. If we want to become good Quakers, we should expect to study Quakerism and to practice the Quaker way. And meetings should offer religious education.

The unique value of a religion, as opposed to a spiritual life pursued on one’s own, is that having a tradition allows you to go deep, usually much deeper than you could on your own. A tradition provides some great music, an instrument, and teachings, if not teachers. Our tradition has already sunk a shaft into the depths and it offers ideas, tools, people, stories, and promise as guides to those depths.

Meetings should transmit our traditions as a ministry to our members’ religious identity.

In the next post, I want to lay out how I understand the concerns of those who seek alternatives to traditional membership in a monthly meeting.

Membership, Part 3—Defining the problem

December 3, 2020 § Leave a comment

Membership should be a three-way covenant in which the reciprocal gift-giving between member and meeting is done under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit. Exploring alternatives to our traditional practice of membership in a monthly meeting raises several questions:

  1. What do people seeking alternatives to our current practice want from their Quakerism, and why does our current practice fail to satisfy?
  2. What do meetings want from their members?
  3. What do monthly meetings offer their members? And what can yearly meetings offer, since it is to yearly meetings that the alternative-seekers are looking for answers to their concerns?
  4. How do the answers to these queries connect?
  5. And finally, what are the foreseeable consequences of embracing the alternatives?

One would naturally start with the first query, but I’m not ready to do that yet. I have a sense of what the alternative seekers want from some conversations I’ve had, but I want to look more carefully at the already published resources about this in order to be as fully informed as possible.

We already know what meetings want from their members: participation and money. In my last post, I suggest focusing on the inward gifts we would like members to bring to us.

In the next post, I want to look at what meetings offer their members. In later posts, I’ll consider numbers four and five.

Membership, Part 2—Clearness about membership

November 30, 2020 § Leave a comment

Quaker membership operates on two planes, the spiritual plane and the social organizational plane—membership in the “body of Christ” and the reciprocal responsibilities and benefits of meeting life. Dive deeper into either of these dimensions of membership and you inevitably come to a set of ur-questions, which the Quaker clearness process for membership is designed to answer:

  • What is the life of the spirit for? How does the person seeking (or practicing) membership in a Quaker meeting understand their spiritual journey?
  • Where does a meeting community fit in? What do members come to the meeting for, and what do they come to the meeting with?
  • And finally, do their answers align with the answers offered by the meeting?

Of course, this last question assumes that the meeting has a relatively clear answer about what the life of the spirit is for, what they want from members, and what they offer.

Meetings tend to define membership in terms of what they want from members. Everybody pretty much agrees about these four: participation in worship, participation in the business of the meeting, including committee service, and financial support.

But these are all “outward” commitments. They speak to the inner life of the member not at all. We’re missing an absolute essential: We also want their spiritual gifts. We want their leadings and their ministries, especially their Spirit-led vocal ministry. We want their prayers. We want them to enrich our collective religious life with their individual spiritual stories and gifts and strengths—and their spiritual weaknesses, their seeking spirits, their inner cryings-out.

But what does the meeting offer in return? Meetings often fail to consider this side of the membership covenant. (More about “covenant” later.) My next post explores what I think meetings should be offering their members.

Membership, Part 1—Introduction

November 30, 2020 § Leave a comment

Introduction

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is threshing out a potentially new understanding of membership, as are a number of other yearly meetings. Young adults are driving this exploration, having become clear that the traditional membership framework is not working for them in many ways in many cases.

I think this may be the beginning of a profound movement toward renewal in the Religious Society of Friends, just as young adults drove earlier reformations, in the 1870s and ‘80s toward programmed worship and pastoral meetings, and in the 1890s toward what we now call liberal Quakerism. Therefore, I think this development deserves serious attention to how the Spirit may now be moving among us.

So this is the first post in a series about membership that tries to clarify the issues and identify the ways that the spirit of Christ may be opening before us; that is, how the spirit of direct communion with the Mystery Reality that lies behind or within our religious experience may be speaking to us through our experience.

I’m still developing ideas as I go, but these subjects are already clear to me:

  • Clearness about the roots of membership.
  • What meetings (should) offer members.
  • How do we meet the needs expressed by our young adults?
  • Membership as covenant.

Next pos: Clearness about membership.

The Liberal Quaker Mutation

November 19, 2020 § 7 Comments

The liberal Quaker mutation began in the late nineteenth century as a set of innovations that were largely a reaction to the evangelical spirit that had dominated much of the Quaker movement during most of that century, but which had by then lost much of its vitality. Many of these innovations found embodiment in the thought and work of Rufus Jones and his good friend, John Wilhelm Rowntree. Here, I want to discuss three of these innovations: a new historical sensibility, which was itself one aspect of a new more general scientific sensibility, and third, a new conception of Quakerism as a “mystical religion”.

As part of the new historical interest, Rowntree and Jones conceived a series of publications that would, for the first time, lay out a comprehensive history of the movement. Rowntree died before the project could be completed and Jones saw it through to completion, naming it the Rowntree Series. The series includes:

  • The Beginnings of Quakerism and The Second Period of Quakerism, both by William Charles Braithwaite, now acknowledged as classics.
  • Two volumes by Jones on the history of religion, with a focus on mysticism: Studies in Mystical Religion and Spiritual Reformers in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Jones seems to have emerged from these studies with his idea that Quakerism was a form of “practical mysticism” and with the idea that “that of God in every person” could be understood as the divine spark of neo-Platonism, which he believed accounted for the universal experience and character of mystical experience.
  • The Quakers in the American Colonies, by Jones.
  • And the two volumes of The Later Periods of Quakerism, also by Jones, which cover the 18th and 19th century.

I have begun reading volume one of The Later Periods, and I want to pass on in this post some key passages and insights from its introduction. The first paragraphs of the introduction read as follows:

The type of religion studied in the historical series of which these are the concluding volumes has been essentially mystical. No other large, organized, historically continuous body of Christians has yet existed which has been so fundamentally mystical, both in theory and practice, as the Society of Friends—the main movement studied in this series—from its origin in the middle of the seventeenth century until the end of the eighteenth century, and in certain sections even through the nineteenth century. [This volume was published in 1921.]

These present volumes [of The Later Periods of Quakerism] record the profound transformation which occurred in the nineteenth century, and which carried a large proportion of the membership of the Society of Friends, both in England and America, over from a mystical basis to what for want of a better term may be called an evangelical basis. . . . It is clear, however, in historical perspective, that where the changes in the Society of Friends have been in the direction of a “return” to the evangelical systems of the reformed faith, a type of Christianity has been produced which is in strong and radical contrast to the mystical movement inaugurated by George Fox. The latter broke with the theological systems of Protestantism as completely as Luther and Calvin had done with Catholicism. He felt that he was inaugurating a new reformation (emphasis his). His movement was an attempt to produce a type of Christianity resting upon no authorities external to the human spirit, a Christianity springing entirely out of the soul’s experience, verified and verifiable in terms of personal or social life. The simplification seemed possible to Fox and his friends because they had made the memorable discovery that the Christ who saves is a living Christ, operating in vital fashion within the lives of men (sic). They had thus to do no longer with a system constructed on a theory of a God who was remote or absentee. . . . To abandon that position and outlook and to “return” to the systems of the past would mean, of course, that Augustine and Luther and Calvin had won the victory and had triumphed over Fox, as in some sense and in some degree they have done.

Rufus Jones, The Later Periods of Quakerism, 1921, pgs xiii–xiv.

I think Rufus Jones misunderstood George Fox in at least one way. I think he both correctly apprehended and recovered for us the mystical core of Fox’s experience and that of early Friends. But I think that, unfortunately, he also retrojected his fascination with neo-Platonic thought onto Fox when he equated “that of God” with the divine spark of Plotinus and later neo-Platonists. I’ve written about this elsewhere.

But here I want to raise up how important this new historical consciousness was in itself, and how important recovering the mystical core of Quakerism was, independent of the philosophical peculiarities that Jones introduced. And to remind us that liberal Quakerism began as a reaction to evangelicalism. That reaction is in our religious DNA and I think it deserves more study than it’s gotten.

And now another century has passed and liberal Quakerism is as old now as evangelical Quakerism was when Jones and Rowntree began their project. The original impulses in the liberal Quaker tradition have themselves been mutating and losing their vitality since then. How many meetings regularly teach Quaker history? How many Friends study it? How many mystics do we have (more than we know, I suspect—and why don’t we know about it?), and how often do our meetings for worship feel gathered in the Spirit? 

The reaction against a rote and hollow evangelicalism has itself become rote and knee-jerk. The yearning for a lively but critical approach to the Bible has given way to attitudes of indifference or hostility. In some meetings, the allergy to certain ideas and words that have been central to Quaker Christianity throughout all these centuries has mutated into an auto-immune disease in the throes of which we sometimes attack each other with an oxymoronic liberal intolerance. 

Having walked away from both the baby and the bath water, we are left with an empty rhetorical toolbox, in which only two messages can be heard rattling around in its hard metal shell—“that of God in everyone” and The Testimonies, often treated as a kind of Allen wrench set with six tools that swing from the handle known as the SPICES.

We are in need of renewal. All the previous renewal movements in Quakerism have been led by young adults. All have been reactions against an ossified religion that no longer seemed relevant enough, either to the spiritual lives of individual seekers or to the challenges and problems of the world we live in.

What would Quaker renewal agents be reacting against today? Where are they? And what is their mutation?

Trump, Apocalypticism, and Our Calling

October 21, 2020 § 2 Comments

The Trump movement is a quasi-religious apocalyptic-style cult. 

The biblical apocalyptic movements and moments—and their historical successors—have arisen when a marginalized religious community sees the condition of the world as corrupt in all areas of collective life and believe that this corruption is beyond their ability to correct through normal human action. Only God can fix the problem and the evil is so pervasive and comprehensive that only divine violence in the destruction of the whole world and its subsequent remaking can bring righteousness and peace. This only God can effect, usually through the agency of some messiah anointed by the spirit for the role. And the righteous remnant has an enemy, which the messiah will vanquish. And the story is so cosmic and consequential that its drama seduces people who dream of playing a vital role on its stage when otherwise they would know themselves as insignificant players.

This is the situation of the apocalypses in the Bible. The story of Noah was written during the Babylonian captivity and describes how a remnant of the faithful would be saved by an ark—the vessel that holds the Law—when Yahweh cleanses the world. The second half of the book of Daniel was written during the struggle against the violent suppression of traditional Hebrew faith during the Seleucid occupation of Judea in the 2nd century BCE. The Book of Revelation was perhaps started during the First Jewish War and then finished during the persecutions of Diocletian. 

Trump’s followers, which includes a large contingent of evangelical Christians who already have apocalypticism in their religious DNA, see our government as a swamp and our society as having left them behind. They view themselves as a faithful remnant who will triumph in the end. Their worldview is quasi-religious in its temperament and ideology, in its stubborn denial of reality, of common sense, and of the legitimacy of their evil opponents. They have their messiah, who actually declares himself as the Chosen One. And they have their enemies—the coastal elites, immigrants, and, as ever, the Jews and the blacks. 

They believe that the corruption in American society, and especially its government, is so complete that only destroying that world, the mechanisms and institutions of the state, can put things right. It is so evil that even heinous and violent crimes, liking separating children from their parents and putting them in cages, are necessary means to an end. Human efforts toward reform, like voting and other democratic processes and institutions, are not up to the job, are even part of the problem, so they too can be destroyed or perverted in service to their vision of ultimate vindication. Most dangerously, many believe that the final judgment and remaking of the world must of necessity be violent in its processes; therefore violence as a tool is acceptable, even laudable.

Apocalyptic movements, both biblical and subsequent, are always right in their analysis of the problem and always wrong about the timing. God’s judgment never arrives on time. In fact, it never really arrives at all. Historically, this has never bothered its adherents much. Usually, they move the time back to some later date. Often, they redefine the nature of the judgment and renewal, so that they can say it actually has occurred, just not in the way they expected. Sometimes, in their denial and their despair and desperation, they go down in self-destructive flames when their failure is certain. A handful wake up in time and escape the cult; the rest never give up, though their movement may dwindle to insignificance.

If Trump loses the election, the cult will not give up. Some will believe in their violence as a necessary and effective last chance. Thus I believe that the weeks after the election will be hard; but their initial violence will burn itself out, as it always has done in the past. But the remnant will remain and they will rewrite the prophecy. They will move back the clock. They will deny the reality of their loss while decrying the suffering they claim to endure. They will continue to blame their enemies. They will redefine the endgame. They will bide their time. They will find a new messiah, dismissing Trump as obviously flawed as God’s agent, even though they had overlooked his flaws when they believed in him in the first place.

You cannot “defeat” these people or their movement. Counter-violence will only confirm their worldview. Legislation and other state action will only confirm their worldview, though it will be necessary, anyway. Only love can transform their fear, and sense of hopelessness. And that means changing their circumstances and addressing the corruption they rightly condemn. It means making changes in all areas of social life—political, economic, social—that will draw them into the fold and undo their marginalized remnant status.

As a sidebar here, it’s worth noting that civil unrest and the anger and despair of some in the African American community shares some of these elements, only they have no messiah and so they have less hope. And they’ve been marginalized forever, so the anger and despair run deep. Making the comprehensive social changes needed to address structural racism will further enrage the racist core of the Trump cult. Therefore, it will be very important to address the white alienation of the Trump base at the same time, to avoid some of the violence they will consider. At the heart, though, both efforts are about justice and renewal, so that offers some hope.

However, the cultural transformations these efforts require are very hard to achieve. Redesigning the global economy, the dynamics of democracy, the caste system and structural racism of our society, our education system, healthcare system, policing system, and our social services, all at once, in the face of, first, a global pandemic, and in the medium-to-long term, in the face of diminishing resources, global warming, mass migration, and the proliferation of weapons both terrible and conventional—we are in for a dark period, I fear. This apocalyptic moment is likely to become an apocalyptic age. Apocalyptic movements will be more and more common as demonic storms and wildfires ravage our communities; messiahs will proliferate.

Yet, times like this provide unusual opportunity. The ancient Israelites were in fact returned to their homeland, though the redemption was incomplete and came with a cost. The Maccabees won their revolt and threw the Seleucids out, though the system they set up was itself corrupt and they were conquered again a century later by the Romans. The Christians survived Diocletian only to betray Jesus’ gospel by establishing an imperial church. The apocalyptic dream is never fully defeated and never fully realized. We lurch forward, fall back, lurch forward again.

While we must not lose sight of the goal, we must also remain faithful to the process, to the calling. We are called to love, and to nonviolent social change; we are called to Spirit-led ministry. Our Quaker faith encourages us to practice a listening spirituality, to attend to the small signals, the still small voices, that will call us to action. As individuals, and even as communities, we can’t change everything, we can’t address every wrong. And we cannot be sure of success. We can only be faithful to our callings and leave the rest to God. 

Support for my book – crowdfunding matching grant – 9 days left

August 31, 2020 § Leave a comment

Dear readers
This is a final follow-up to my earlier post about my crowdfunding campaign to help publish my book of poems and images, The Road to Continental Heart.
There are nine days left in the campaign and a backer has come forward with an offer to match contributions going forward up to a total of $500. So I’m taking the chance that you won’t mind a second message about this project.
Here are some links to visit the campaign website and learn more about the book:
A reminder that I offer some perks for contributions, running from an epub copy to a free print copy, depending on the contribution amount.
Thank you for tolerating this second message and for your support, if you should give it. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the support I’ve received already, for the incredible generosity of the matching grantor, and for your consideration.
Steven

Shameless pitch for supporting my book

July 14, 2020 § Leave a comment

Well, not completely shameless. I hope you don’t mind.

Poet. Besides being a blogger, I’m a poet, and a publisher has picked up one of my books of poetry. The book’s working title is The Road to Continental Heart: Befriending, and Defending, the Spirit of North America. It’s not just a book of poetry, actually; it also includes photos, maps, and some other elements besides poetry. It will be published this fall by Boyle and Dalton as a coffee table-style book in a larger format than is usual for poetry and on fine paper, to do right by the images. See below for more about the book.

The publisher. Boyle and Dalton is a “hybrid” publisher, which means that they manage the development, design, production, and distribution of the book, and I contribute some of the production costs, I set the price, and I get a larger than usual percentage of the royalties.

The pitch. The production costs are a stretch for Christine and me, so I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to help support the book’s publication. I am posting to let my readers know about the campaign in case you might be interested in being a backer. The platform is Indiegogo, much like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, but better adapted to this kind of project.

About the book

More about the project. Here are some links to learn more:

The story in a nutshell. In 1990, my friend George Lawrence joined the Global Walk for a Livable World, a calling* of environmental activists walking across the country to raise consciousness about our ecological crises. I wanted to join him, but couldn’t. So I wrote him poems. Once a week for nine months—42 poems, most of them based upon research I did on the next leg of his walk.

*   “Calling” is my own term of venery for a group of environmental activists, as in pod of whales, murder of crows, exaltation of larks.

The vision. As only a book of poetry and pictures can do, Continental Heart seeks to appeal to the heart, the mind, and the soul. The poems are personal; they’re about friendship and the intimate knowledge of the land you can only get by walking through it. They are cosmic, about comet strikes and petrified forests and the long ages of geological change. They are lyrical, love poems to the land we live on. They are political—how do we defend the land we love? They are as concrete as heat and sore feet. They are as transcendental as the sense of presence that binds a people to its land base. The Road to Continental Heart invites the reader to walk that road and enter with the heart into a relationship with the continent we live on.

Some perks. Some perks come with the various levels of contribution, as you will see from the campaign site. Contributions of any size are very deeply appreciated.

So that’s my pitch. Thanks for reading this far in my post. And thanks in advance for your support, if you should choose to help publish Continental Heart.

The Gathered Meeting – Pendle Hill, August 14–16 (virtual)

July 9, 2020 § Leave a comment

Dear readers:

Pendle Hill program on The Gathered Meeting. I will be facilitating a virtual Pendle Hill program on The Gathered Meeting next month, working from my Pendle Hill pamphlet of the same title. I hope some of you are able to participate. Details below.

Date: August 14–16

Info and registration link: https://pendlehill.org/events/the-gathered-meeting/?bblinkid=233450785&bbemailid=23138102&bbejrid=1575042267

Cost: $35 Basic; $50 plus; discounted because it’s virtual.

Registration: You can register online using the link above or by phone (610-566-4507, ext. 137). We will be limiting participants to 30. Registration closes on August 14 at 8:00 am or when we reach capacity.

Schedule: 4 sessions, Friday evening, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning. Click here for the full schedule.

Invitation: I invite my readers to consider joining us for a deep exploration of the importance and character of the gathered meeting, and the prospects for fostering more gathered meetings in our own meetings.

The downside is that we won’t be able to worship together in each other’s presence or share the fellowship that comes from living and exploring together at Pendle Hill. The upside, though, is that people can attend who might not otherwise be able to, from all over the world, really, and because of the reduced price.

I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Steve Davison