Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Why I Write a Quaker Blog

A laptop keyboard with one hand typing
It's an interesting time to be a Quaker in Britain – and many other Yearly Meetings are having their own interesting times, albeit over different issues. Here in the UK people seem to worry about theological diversity, about falling numbers, about how we attract and nurture newcomers, about whether we are really giving all the spiritual nourishment we can. Among some pastoral Meetings across the Atlantic, there are also divisions on theology, and on how gender and sexual minorities are treated – welcomed, affirmed, or scorned. Of course, the latter point has a connection with the former, but which is at the forefront varies somewhat.
Here in Britain Yearly Meeting, we are faced with a call to revise our Book of Discipline, which some fear will bring painful differences to a head. We have a declining, ageing membership – where anecdotal reports suggest that many of our newly convinced Friends join us, as members or attenders, in middle age or later. We have quiet, but increasingly vocal concerns being expressed about the quality of our discipline in Quaker processes.
In this context, then, I will answer the question – why do I blog?
It started when I began to receive what I term written ministry. Things I felt compelled to write down – and to share. Eventually I was persuaded that putting them on a blog made sense, and I decided that it would also make sense to do some deliberate writing as well, such writing now making up the majority of posts on this blog.
I blog because I feel led to do so. While it may have started with the written ministry, I now feel a calling to this sort of communication, and it may branch out into other forms as well, in order to get Quakers talking more, thinking more, about things that we might shy away from. To help people know what other Friends are thinking about and talking about. To help me find out, through comments – be they here, or on social media where posts are shared – what sort of thing other Friends, hopefully outside my personal circles of contact, think about the issues of the day.
I blog because I believe that having these conversations between as wide a group of Friends as possible will help move them forward. Rather than concerns being expressed in mutter conversations over coffee, vented to family, or grumbled on Facebook, these conversations can happen openly. By happening between people across a wider geographic range, they can happen without the sort of stress on individual Meetings that might occur if they were had intensely, without support and structure, in such a local community.
I don't believe that any of these issues are things that can't be overcome, by approaching them in a spirit of love and discernment, and by finding the right ways to enable communication without confrontation. I don't claim to be able to come up with those ways, but talking about what has worked that people have tried will help to refine them. I can share what I've learned from people who are good at coming up with such things – I will always remember a particularly good exercise for sharing terms we use for the Divine from Rhiannon Grant, available on Being Friends Together.
By talking about things on this blog, I hope to encourage more Friends to engage with these issues to the extent they apply in their Meetings; some of what I write is highly Britain-specific, but similar issues arise in other Yearly Meetings, and Friends elsewhere can find both interest and benefit in learning from our experiences here in Britain.
Some of what I write here also has an outreach role, and an educational role, helping to explain Quaker practices – always as I understand them, and with the benefit of others' insights. Some advocates for spiritual enrichment in our Meetings, of embracing different practices or symbolism to widen our experience and seek new light. I want more people to try more things, because I believe that this will renew our movement and enrich our spirituality.
I am prolific, by comparison with many other Quaker bloggers, because I want to reach people and have these conversations. I invite support, as I have explained regarding my use of Patreon, because my financial situation means that I cannot put time and effort in, sufficient to feel I am satisfying the calling, without attempting to make some sort of living from it. With things as they are, this may lead to not being able to keep putting as much into it as I am, which would put me in a terribly difficult position – but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
I want more people, Quakers and others, to know more about Quaker traditions and teachings. If there's a focus on those that particularly chime with my experience, it's only because that's what I know most about it. I want us to understand all sorts of experiences, and how they relate to one another, to Quaker practices and history. I think that more of us should be doing this sort of sharing, so we can understand one another's experiences and the richness of our living tradition.
I blog because I can't not, because something drives me to do this, for the benefit of all I can reach. I hope that I am achieving at least a little of what I am driven to seek, but it's hard to know. Still, I go on in faith, that this drive would not be inflamed in me without a reason, yet knowing that that reason might not be as it seems to me.
I can only keep trying, keep writing, keep doing. Time will tell.
If you enjoy this blog, or otherwise find it worthwhile, please consider contributing to my Patreon. More information about this, and the chance to comment, can be found in the post announcing the launch of my Patreon.