Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Connected Friends

First, happy birthday, Dad! I hear 60 is the new . . . something. Anyway, I hope you had a great day!

I have always wanted to be in a book club, and now I kind of am. Quaker Buddy* and I have started reading A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister, by Samuel Bownas and having long-distance conversations about it each week. When I told my Mom the name of the book, she groaned and suggested that we pick something a little lighter. Despite the very long title, the book is only 104 pages and, at two chapters a week, it is really not a lot of reading.

We have "met" twice now, and I have been amazed by how much we both have to say. Many of the themes Bownas discusses have been important in our lives lately, including what it means to be a minister, the purposes of traveling in the ministry, and how to discern a true leading.

By "gospel minister," Bownas means vocal minister. The other day, QB and I discussed whether we would identify as vocal ministers. Neither of us speaks in meeting very often, but we both do at times, and I think we each could have easily said yes or no.

QB decided that if asked, she would say that she considers herself a vocal minister because she has had the experience of being led to speak, and would be able to articulate that experience. I said that I would say no for similar reasons: I have had profound experiences in meetings when I did not feel led to vocal ministry and I could talk about the ways in which silent members participate.

After our conversation, I started thinking about how sometimes when I post, I have an experience similar to how I feel when I give vocal ministryI feel strongly led. Even so, I have a hard time thinking of my blogging as a ministry.

The next topic for the Adult Religious Education class at University Friends Meeting is "Being a Connected Friend," and the discussion will be about how Friends use the internet to connect and interact, locally, regionally, and nationally. In keeping with my renewed commitment not to take on any more, I am not speaking. I am interested in the topic, though, and I think two of the queries for discussion are particularly good:
  • Can you find real Quaker community on the internet?
  • Can blogs actually help you center into the Light?
For me, the answer to both is yes. I doubt that I would have been able to stay as involved in the Freedom Friends community without the internet, and I probably would not have found them in the first place if they did not have a web site. I have also found that reading other Quaker blogs and taking the time to write about my experiences has helped me center as I try to not outrun my Guide.

*QB asked to remain anonymous and we agreed that "Quaker Buddy" is funnier than "Spiritual Friend," but with the same basic idea.


  1. I just have to shake my head and laugh at those queries!

    So you and your "Quaker Buddy" are reading independently and then talking by phone once a week? Is that how it works? That's an interesting model, esp. for those who might be isolated in some way. Bownas is a good book for that. Despite its title it's broken down into easily digestible chunks. I did a workshop once in which one session was just passing the book around, reading a few sentences, commenting if led, then reading a few more sentences. It worked really well.

  2. Hi Martin,

    Yes, that is the basic format. We read two chapters on our own during the week and then talk about what we have read, though we also find ourselves reading passages aloud in the discussion pretty often.

    To be clear, we chose this format because we live in different cities. I think we would both prefer to meet in person if we had that option.

    As for laughing at the queries, maybe it's a good reminder that not all Quakers are quite as comfortable with the internets as you!


  3. Ashley said: "sometimes when I post, I have an experience similar to how I feel when I give vocal ministry―I feel strongly led. Even so, I have a hard time thinking of blogging as a ministry."

    Can I look at this with you for just a bit?

    Im a newcomer to the Quaker Blogosphere, in fact, you have my first post - even before my own blog ;) ... (I find I often work best off of others thoughts, than to create them from "out of the blue") - but the Quaker blogs that Ive been reading and lurking around for the past several weeks (Ill bet you Martin has already spotted me showing up several times a day at QQ) have certainly inspired me to open up one of my own, in order to participate in the exchange here, even though Im new to the Society of Friends as well...

    that surely seems like ministry to me! the very root of the word "inspired" does not escape the meaning Im giving it here - "In the Spirit", if you like... yes - why shouldnt anything from any corner of the world, from any faith or vocation, if its inspired in this deeply felt way, why should it NOT be called ministry? ... Bring me closer to God, with what you feel and see as you walk about this planet... it need not be at a meeting - you will be a minister to me...

    the blogs here that Ive been circling around have most certainly done that... the energy and the Love that is poured into the many posts that Ive read, that is most certainly "of God", of the Spirit... there can be no question in my mind of this...

    You all here, from California and the UK and the Northwest and Indiana and Texas and Korea and Russia and my own New England... You all here, are drawing this seeker closer to God, and perhaps too, Quakerism than I would have thought possible... Friend, thats a Meeting! ... I think its ok, to call that a Ministry :)

    the Meeting Ive been attending has its own great Beauty, make no mistake - but too, make no mistake about this - so have the posts that Ive been privileged to engage with in this circle of Friends...

    Bless you all for your ministry...

    I promise, my first blog-post will be coming soon...

    in Love and Peace

  4. Hi Tom,

    Good luck in starting a blog! I'm sure you will find it rewarding and challenging. I think the best advice I got before starting mine came from Alivia: "post first, edit later." Words to live by for anyone with perfectionist tendencies!

    Which brings me to your main point. I realized even before you commented that what I really meant to say was that I have a hard time seeing MY blogging as a ministry. That has less to do with blogs in general and more to do with the fact that I have a hard time seeing anything I do as a ministry. I can think of several Quaker blogs that I consider to be ministries, and I did not mean to comment on others' work.

    I look forward to your contribution to the blogosphere!


  5. Hey Ashley - I love what you and your QB are doing. I should get a QB discussion partner!
    I've been reading Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson. I've been hearing about this book for probably 5 years and I just recently found a copy to borrow. I've really been appreciating it - but of course it's really helpful to discuss these things with others. I'd love to hear what you think (if you read it someday that is. =)

  6. Hi Aimee,

    I highly recommend a QB discussion partner -- it has been a wonderful experience for me so far. Thanks for the book recommendation (you librarian). If UFM has it in the library, I think I will ask QB if she wants to read it next. If I read it, I will definitely let you know what I think.



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