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Forms with Power: The Church Has Left the Building

By Jonathan Vogel-Borne

AVP Transforming Power Wheel

AVP Transforming Power Wheel

How many times have we heard someone say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”? I have often wondered what that means? Is it just more evidence of American society’s drift towards secularism? Or, is it an indicator of a common spiritual condition? Is there a ministry opportunity here?

This past November I attended the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) International Gathering in Kathmandu, Nepal. AVP was founded in 1975 by Quakers and inmates in Greenhaven prison, New York. The Quakers were attenders at Greenhaven’s prison-based Quaker meeting for worship. Looking for ways to mitigate the daily violence among the prison population, the inmates asked the Quakers to help them develop a training program to address conflict situations without resort to violence. Continue reading

On Bended Knee

By Jan Wood

Nativity SceneI love the depictions of the nativity scene throughout the centuries. I can sit with a painting and be drawn into the emotions of that first revelation that God was doing something special. I feel my body bending near and am aware that the posture of Christmas is to be on bended knee.

We Americans have cultivated and admire the postures of standing tall and erect, of striding through life humbled by nothing, stiff-necked and proud. Our broken human nature always tempts us to think we are our own god. That we are the masters of our fate. That we can be anything we want if we try hard enough. Americans have cultivated the myth of being #1 like a religious conviction. We can do no wrong. We have nothing to learn from other nations or peoples. What we do and think is automatically right and the best. We have honed our narcissistic arrogance like a finely tuned instrument. We bow to no one. We even expect God to bless our greatness. Continue reading

Way of the Spirit: Fuel for Faith in Action

By Christine Hall, Director of Way of the Spirit

Feet on RockSpiritual retreats are powerful opportunities to cultivate our best intentions for a life of faith, and help to grow the kind of courage needed to act as led by the Spirit.

Strengthen our best intentions
Retreats are all about intention—where you are aiming, or your sense of purpose. To be clear, intentions are not the same as New Years resolutions. Most of those well-meant goals fade after six weeks or so of challenges and weakening willpower. Intentions do something different inside us. They orient us through trial and error, both success and failure. They help convert an inner sense of Divine guidance into determined action. Continue reading

Dreams and the Prophetic Life

Jacob Wrestling with an AngelDreams have often been important to my spiritual life, giving me strong images that allow me to speak of the work of God in my life. I was glad to learn that there are many reports of dreams or visions in the journals of Friends who traveled in the ministry. Such prominent friends as Mary Penington and John Woolman reported on dreams/visions in their memoirs, rarely distinguishing between the two and not always commenting on the meanings they see. In the earliest years, visions and dreams were seen as prophetic, carrying weight similar to the biblical prophets. That understanding faded as the century progressed, but was never totally lost at least into the 19th century. Continue reading

Rhythms of Silence in Group Discernment

One of the gifts of Quakers to the wider Christian community is the understanding that God is present and active in the midst of human affairs. In simple terms God, who loves us, delights to partner with each of us in all facets of our lives.

This is not a static relationship with God being in control and our job being to find the right path so everything works out all right. Rather it is an amazing dynamic relationship with God who journeys with us while honoring our free will and unique individuality. This is God who is fully aware of our glory and our brokenness; who is not flummoxed when we blow it; who is honored by our courageous trust to be fully human. Continue reading

Musing on Music

Hymn BooksWhen I lived near Media, Pennsylvania, I joined a Gospel choir. We practiced for several weeks, did a concert in a local church, and then dissolved until the next year. It was joyful and packed full of praise. Gospel is a distinctive genre of music — sung unaccompanied, with a call and response style, and hand clapping the rhythm.

I was energized by the experience of getting to know people from other faith communities, and by learning a new way to make music. But I was also stressed. I had to unlearn so much that my body knew: a different rhythm and downbeat, and different harmonies. Continue reading

Knowing Our Own Demons

by Marge Abbott

Dark side of the moon“Friends, whatever you are addicted to, the Tempter will come in that thing. When he can trouble you, then he gets advantage over you, and then you are gone. Stand still in that which is pure, after you see yourselves; and then mercy comes in. After you see your thoughts, and the temptations, do not think, but submit. Then the Power comes. Stand still in that which shows and discovers; and there does strength immediately come. Stand still in the light, and submit to it, and the other will be hushed and gone. Then contentment comes. When temptations and troubles appear, sink down in that which is pure, and all will be hushed and will fly away. Your strength is to stand still, after you see yourselves. Continue reading

To Travel in Ministry

Our First Experience in Traveling in Ministry

Al and Sheri Hendrix

Some time ago my wife and I were led to begin traveling among other congregations (Quakers use the term Meeting rather than congregation) within our denomination. This is certainly not a new idea among Quakers. Visiting ministers with a variety of messages have been traveling from Meeting to Meeting since the very beginning, delivering their intended messages, sharing news, doing church business, hosting training opportunities, and in general carrying on the business necessary to grow and maintain the health and connections that sustain the various parts of our faith.

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Overcome Evil Jesus’ Way

by Jan Wood

God loves–and yearns for restoration–for our broken world.  But God is a realist.  God is not caught by surprise when people, relationships, cultures and nations turn their backs on their Divine Purpose and become misshapen.  They become a sad shadow of what they could be.  At best this estrangement from one’s purpose is a painful loss; at worst it becomes diabolically destructive.

Many of us are finding ourselves bewildered and disoriented in these present times. Things are becoming grotesquely misarranged.  Basic building blocks of commonality are being destroyed with intentionality.  Logic and facts are no longer the common currency of our working together.  Compassion and goodness are considered weak and unnecessary.  Truth is totally irrelevant.  Might makes right.  Creating fear is both a method and a joy.  Wealth is the new form of godliness. Continue reading

Thoughts on Humility from Africa

by Marge Abbott 

As I’ve been working on my latest book which considers the ways in which Friends experience and talk about prophetic ministry today, numerous Friends have shared their perspectives. Esther Mombo of Kenya and the late Moses Bigirimana of Burundi both attended the 2012 World Conference of Friends in Kenya where I had the opportunity to speak at length about the nature of prophetic ministry. Moses, unfortunately, died in a motorcycle crash a few months later. What follows is a taste of these two extended conversations.

To Be Humble Enough to Step Down

Esther Mombo, of Highlands Yearly Meeting, has spoken often with a strong clear prophetic voice and was the main plenary speaker at the World Conference representing African Friends. When asked about the nature of prophetic ministry, she emphasized the importance of being willing to test a call to ministry or leadership on an ongoing basis. We each must be aware of when it is appropriate say, “no, it is not from God for me to do this.” She went on to expand on this: Continue reading