Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inreach, Outreach and Quakerism

I have been both reading about and thinking about Quakerism and outreach. Some of the terminology has been about "revitalizing" Quakerism. Among the writings that I've seen has been talk about looking within our meetings for articulations of our beliefs. For me, however, when I hear about "revitalization", I think it would be helpful for us to also consider what inspires us and excites us about how the world could be that flows from our passions for our beliefs. This means that we not stop at the Meeting community level, but go deep within our own individual selves and reflect on our own passions, beliefs, and vision for the world. In the process, how can we also cleanse our minds and hearts of all the clutter of our biases and judgments about others so we can truly be loving presences for all people.

As an effort to nurture this within the workings of William Penn House, we have started to present to groups the following:

Consider the following reflection questions. Do any catch your attention? As we do our programs together, we invite participants to choose one or two as the ones to bring their attention to as we do our service work.

1. How do we recognize our unique talents and abilities? How can we use them to benefit the greater good and serve others?

2. What role do materialism and consumption play in our daily lives? Particularly when compared to themes of generosity, simplicity or sacrificial living is this division in lifestyle choice something that can be bridged?

3. To think and act on a deeper level, what steps can/should be taken to learn more about a local, national or global area of need?

4. How do you relate with your neighbors— if static, are there tangible ways to reach out to those living near you?

5. Is there a group or individual you find challenging to love or embrace in this world or in your community? What is the importance of reaching out to these people and loving them anyway?

6. What is your impression of “caring for the least of these” and how can we stretch ourselves to do so habitually?

7. How diverse is your network – culturally, religiously, politically, economically and racially? Are there things you can do to expand this?

8. How can we reach out to others— that is to say, are there specific activities we can pursue together or individually to achieve this goal?

9. In which context and how might we express our creativity and exercise our purpose to “make a mark” (either broadly or on a smaller scale) in this world?

10. With whom can you share your aspirations and thoughts in order to live out your goals with “missional momentum”?

(These were adapted from Helen Lee, author of “The Missional Mom”; see more at www.themissionalmom.com)


s.son said...

Hi Brad,

I love the questions, I love the direction. I think there is something precious to explore within our individual selves and share with the wider world, BUT I think perhaps the most important piece is that we start in our home communities, and allow it to speak for itself from that foundation.

I think the idea of outreach is typically, in many ways, unbalanced and incomplete. I say this because many Friends don't know how to reach out to the very people that they sit across from regularly on First Day. When we can tell our stories, our embodiment of testimonies to each other, to one another, only then can we actually do the outreach work that you're speaking of. And at that point, it happens naturally, by creating a unity and togetherness that possesses its own gravity and undeniable attraction.

It is always a balancing game, I will readily admit. I struggle myself to try and bear myself to the community immediately around me first, and also bear myself to the world at large second, but both the immediacy and the impersonal nature by which I'm able to share with that second world (second life!? Facebook... hmmmm....), almost enable me to become both insulated and synthetically vulnerable at the same time.

I want to believe that the sharing we do, the outreach and spreading of The Good News, comes first and foremost from a place of being on fire and incorrigible about our witness to what is already happening within our own hearts and our communities. We can't pretend that this is easy, but at the same time we can't pretend that we don't know each other at a level of spiritual depth and intimacy that enables God to work through us in miraculous ways.

My message, I guess, is that we must always first start from a place of attesting to the deep vulnerability and openness shared with those around us, otherwise our desires for growth and witness become similar to the worldly desires for quantifiable growth, instead of qualitative depth and Divine discovery.

But, it's midnight, so perhaps I don't really know what I'm saying anymore :)

Brad said...

I totally agree we should work to practice this in our home communities in our daily lives, and not start from a distance. Our Monthly Meetings are good places to bring consciousness to the effort, but it is also in our homes and places of work, where we shop for food. The fact is that many people do not live in the community where they worship. Here in DC, people drive from Bethesda to worship at Langley Hill, or Silver Spring to worship at FMW. In places like my home Meeting (Downers Grove, IL), people come from 30+ miles. It is the daily practice of this - no matter where we are - that I hope to encourage.

As an aside, Stephen, I'd love to talk with you more about these in young Friends gatherings.