Friday, September 5, 2008

Candle Lighting

One of our Sunday School classes has been using some material on Quaker leadership developed by Jennie Isbell at the Earlham School of Religion.

Lesson five has this statement from Fred Rogers (better know as the "Mister Rogers" of PBS): "All I know to do is to light the candle that has been given to me."

It struck me that this statement is what ministry is all about, expressed in about as simple and direct a way as possible.

We spend a lot of time making it complicated--

As I prepared for ministry, I was directed to develop a "philosophy of ministry." This was to be a kind of road map of how I saw ministry in my life and in the church. I gained a lot from doing this . . . and then by philosophy of ministry met the real world of ministry. Was I headed in the right direction? Am I doing this in the right way? What comes next? I needed to remind myself: "All I know to do is to light the candle that has been given to me."

Life pulls us in lots of different directions. We devote ourselves to the important tasks like family, work and doing good. And it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture when we are working through all the details. We need to remind ourselves: "All I know to do is to light the candle that has been give to me."

We make ourselves important. Sometimes we begin to think that it won't come out right unless we take care of it. And when things don't go right we get frustrated, burned out or angry. It's time to remember: "All I know to do is to light the candle that has been given to me."

Bringing light into the world is what God has called us to do:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Mt 5:14-16

Let's go light some candles.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Turning the Quaker Family Tree on its Side

Holiness: The Soul of Quakerism
by Carole Dean Spencer argues that the heart of Quakerism is a robust holiness theology. The author presents evidence that Quakerism needs to be understood as a movement that combined existing elements of Christian holiness theology in a radical and innovative way. Spencer identifies eight characteristic elements of Quaker holiness and looks at how these elements of holiness theology were expressed,adapted, and reinterpreted through three centuries of Quaker history. Those eight elements of holiness theology are:
-Suffering, and

The story is told through the lives and writings of individuals who have had impact on the development of Quakerism. For instance, the story of the Quietist Quakers of the eighteenth century is told through the writing of Anthony Benezet and Stephen Grellet. The divisions of the nineteenth century are described in the experiences of Elias Hicks, Job Scott, Joseph John Gurney and John Wilbur. The holiness revival is seen through Joel Bean, Walter Robson and Hannah Whitall Smith.

The chapter on "Holiness and Quakerism in the Twentieth Century" seems especially helpful in understanding the various streams of mystical, evangelical and liberal Quakerism in relation to holiness theology.

Sure to provoke controversy, the study suggests a "Re-mapping of Quakerism." The author presents the case that the fullest expression of that original Quaker holiness is found in contemporary evangelical Quakerism.

The study also reinforces an argument that I have occasionally made - that first generation Quakers were not establishing new forms of worship and structure, but were expressing a faith independent of forms. As Carole Dean Spencer says, "Forms are occasional and particular historical expressions of holiness" (p. 239).

The book is adapted from a doctoral dissertation, so it is a moderately challenging read, but this is also its strength. The documentation and annotations will help the discussion that is sure to follow this study. The three appendices on sources of Quaker mysticism, the connections between Quakers and other early holiness movements, and the connections between Quakers and Methodists in the eighteenth century are almost worth the price of the book by themselves.

Read it and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Labor Day picnic at the parsonage was a lot of fun.

We had a lot of fun swapping stories and hearing about Kerry's showdown with the surgeon's knife. Kerry won.

We had a lot of fun watching younger people with a lot more energy play badminton.

We had a lot of fun eating hot dogs and hamburgers. Cliff says he ate four hot dogs, but I was too busy cooking to count.

True, it was a little warm. We just kept moving as the shade moved. And others stayed comfortable inside.

Thank you for all those delicious side dishes and desserts. There was something for everybody.

Let's do it again next year.

pastor Bill