Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Join Us

RantWoman has been thinking lately of some questions, queries, quibbles, qualification, equivocations and querulous, queasy comments about themes related to membership in the Religious Society of Friends..

These questions have congealed as a result of two events. First a friend who is about to move away has requested membership in our meeting. Historically, this just ISN'T DONE, primarily one supposes because of the difficulties of maintaining community and connection from a distance. The more RantWoman considers this person's ministries, the clearer RantWoman becomes that this person is already unquestionably a Quaker and the only question is how best to recognize this, how best to nurture and help her develop real gifts and deep leadings.

RantWoman is clear that provision needs to be made to nurture the spiritual lives of people in this situation. RantWoman is less clear about her meeting's capacity to provide full community at a distance; however RantWoman is considering this Friend's unspoken ministry of sharing the workings of different meetings in ways that, well, cause her to be very grateful for her own Meeting. If RantWoman is unsure of her own Meeting's capacity in this area, RantWoman is also clear and not just self-congratulatory that her own meeting does a much better job of nurturing the ministry of attenders than others do.

The person who applied for membership and her wife are still in the moving around and getting credentials phase of life. It is likely to be a couple more years at least before they settle down and have a home in one place. To make matters worse, different meetings are either more parsimonious or more open-hearted about the extent to which they work to nurture the ministries of people who are not members. Also highly variable: the amount of hopping through baroque processes prospective members are subjected to.

To put it bluntly, RantWoman thinks both of these points may be silly! RantWoman is all for discernment, the good order of Friends and all that Quakerese that is supposed to ensure that decisions are well-considered, rooted in unity. However, it does not appear to RantWoman that the Religious Society of Friends is overrun with aspiring members. Nor does it seem to RantWoman that the society is in danger of getting carried off in the excesses of youth.

In fact, RantWoman notes concerns recently expressed both within her Yearly Meeting and in quick scans of materials from blogs based in other Yearly Meetings: Friends would like the incorporation of young adults who have grown up in Friends Meetings into adult roles to be much smoother and automatic than in currently is. RantWoman also notes vague concern about transfers of efforts to new generations, about renewal of energy, and numerous other cross-generational themes. In short, RantWoman thinks many meetings could do a much better job of incorporating new seekers into membership than is currently the norm. Conveniently, at least in North Pacific Yearly Meeting both youth and weighty Friends are raising questions related to this point.

RantWoman does find herself wanting to dispatch some of those exercised about these topics on a comparative religions research project.

What does membership mean and when does it occur for practitioners of other faiths?

What could Friends learn from studying this? What opportunities occur, quite regularly in RantWoman's meeting, for clumps of young visitors to provide dialogue about this topic, for instance in the process of doing their homework after attending Meeting for Worship?

Does membership involve reaffirming one's community only with others one feels connected to or should membership serve as a bond with a whole network one might or might not know at the time of one's commitment and might be willing or inclined to explore after joining?

Is it too plainspoken to speak of membership in a meeting the same way one speaks of driver's licenses? The assumption is that one gets membership geographically close to where one lives. One then joins the vast universe of drivers, not just 20-something drivers or teenage drivers or whatever but all drivers. There is no need for 20-somethings to invent a special multi-jurisdiction license for 20-somethings. They simply get their local license and move on.

Okay despite the risk of prejudging the conversation by weighing with the last point, RantWoman thinks there is indeed much to consider here and meanwhile she is glad the one Friend referred to here is now a member of her Meeting if only because RantWoman really enjoys having met in person the people whose blogs she reads regularly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sundays in the 'Hood with RantWoman

RantWoman has been entranced by a local oral history project dedicated to an area where she used to live. http://23rdandunion.org/index.htm

The project is making RantWoman think of lots of thread of her own life and the concrete details of living among that of God in really different people.

Here is an entry specifically about Sunday rituals.

Here is the link to the whole thread.

Disclaimer: these are the rantings and recollections of one person. Check them out. Test them. Query the author. Elaborate as led.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RantWoman unplugs at NPYM

RantWoman is trying to swim against the current of an overflowing inbox. RantWoman is trying to stay centered after all the ways her journey to the NPYM Annual Session in Missoula exhausted--and re-energized--her. RantWoman is also trying to hold onto that lovely sense of relaxation she feels in the slower pace of MT even though RantWoman mostly likes living in the middle of a big city and generally handles the sense of frenzy. RantWoman is also turning over several themes that she expects deserve their own entries.

First though RantWoman must pay proper respect to the work of the Annual Session planning committee. For sentimental personal and family reasons RantWoman always enjoys going to Missoula. RantWoman is also very grateful that this trip was not fraught with as many medical moments as previous trips. Missoula Friends also work so hard to make things work well and RantWoman wants to surround them with gratitude for that.

Perhaps the other reason RantWoman feels so relaxed is that she had to unplug. RantWoman did not mean to have to unplug. RantWoman toted her enormous laptop with vital accessibility software on the bus. RantWoman even noted in the registration materials that the campus charges a nominal fee for conference-goers to access the campus Wi-Fi. Somehow though it escaped RantWoman's attention that she should pay for this in advance or list it on her registration form at the very least.

There are a couple subtleties here: RantWoman was happy to pay for her own internet but was getting financial aid for everything else. More importantly, RantWoman upon even modest reflection has to admit that another time or two recently she has just concentrated on filling in information in blanks on forms and not necessarily made the screen reader read every word of background info on the form. That is pretty much what happened in this case and RantWoman is now resolved to address that oversight for the future.

Alas for Annual Session, RantWoman had just to cope. RantWoman's other conference-goers waxed enthusiastic about where the Wi-Fi was good. The Daily Bulletin, which RantWoman was supposedly editing even said things should work! True, RantWoman arrived late and the daily bulletin was prepared by other people for two days.

RantWoman cranked up her computer and got nowhere helpful. RantWoman solicited info from two different campus employees who seemed unaware of how the university handles Wi-Fi access for conferences.

RantWoman even went to the library. Last time RantWoman was on campus, the library had one computer with accessibility software so that, if one knew how to use the accessibility software (RantWoman did not at the time, sigh) one could at least approximate the same access provided people via the public terminals in the dorms. Some kind of change had recently been implemented so this time, even though RantWoman knew how to use the software, on a Friday afternoon when the techs are all either off or crash-testing software demos, access at the library was not really happening either. RantWoman actually thinks she will write a gentle letter of remonstrance to the university about that.

Somewhere in the middle of this, RantWoman decided to talk to NPYM's own conference registrar. Think of this as another adventure. RantWoman had to explain more than once that no, she really cannot see to use the computers in the dorm. The registrar explained that from her perspective it was perfectly reasonable that RantWoman should pay attention to info on the forms about deadlines just like she did for everything else.

At this point, RantWoman had a meltdown. She had exactly the sort of meltdown that, if someone else were having the meltdown, would cause her to roll her eyes so loudly that it sounds like one of those marble games. RantWoman had Things to Do! The Wi-fi access was vital. The Daily Bulletin even said it should work! Well, no, Daily Bulletins have been happening for years without Wi-Fi. Furthermore, RantWoman as editor of the Daily Bulletin could perfectly well reword the announcement to alert others in her situation to the other options at local internet cafes. Plus RantWoman just travelled 500+ miles to SEE PEOPLE and why on earth did she think she needed to be wired to do that?

On the way back to Seattle, several carloads of conference goers reassembled for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. There someone else commented about the number of laptops and one also imagines cellphones and text messages. The cellphones were really slick at a couple points for making easy connections but are never compatible with Meeting for Worship or even plenaries.

Now that RantWoman has discovered that she can, with great difficulty, survive a whole Annual Session without blogging every zig and zag of her spiritual journey, expect her to bring the convert's zeal to queries for everyone else about whether they really NEED that laptop in plenaries!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Eat Pray Cry

RantWoman is so extremely grateful both for the Quaker blogosphere and for the fact that she herself has gotten all the tools of hardware, software, and connectivity to enjoy it fully. RantWoman will has some point have to render the depths of this passion in terms of her #smallsuccess tag on Twitter and then maybe into some good cause fundraising. Right now, that front also has gut-wrenching leaps for which RantWoman feels inadequate on her own. PResently though, RantWoman is thoroughly enjoying the immersion.

Perhaps the word "enjoy" is not exactly the right word just now. News of Bonnie Tinker's death and Friends' experiences at FGC are still rolling through the internet and rightly so. Each new remembrance brings not only fresh recollections of what a remarkable person Bonnie was but also whole new frontiers of Quaker blogdom for RantWoman to leap joyfully into.

RantWoman spent quite a spell either not able to access Quaker blogs due to limited time in front of computers that work for her or too busy and distracted to try. Lately though, with tolls more or less up and running and work at bay, RantWoman is finding blog after blog presenting questions RantWoman cares about, images, challenges, opportunities to interact. Does RantWoman have any more spare time then ever. No! No! No!

What RantWoman has is passion and enthusiasm and now still a pointed need to pick and choose. Potential is a glorious problem to have!

And just when RantWoman is getting totally blissed with potential soemthing happens to remind her that the technology will suck up its time one way or another, do it yourself troubleshooting here we come.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Surviving Wife

RantWoman arrived at Meeting for Worship this week full of tragic news and unsure who except those she knows also prowl the interwebs or whom RantWoman herself had already told already knew. To make matters worse, RantWoman noted that several people who had been at the FGC gathering where the tragic news transpired made it to worship in spite of horrendous plane schedules. This did not exactly solve the problem of whether and how to impart the tragic news.

Does RantWoman rise and proclaim the news at the beginning of worship? RantWoman can without work feel slight tugs to offer messages that wander all over multiple universes. For numerous reasons, RantWoman seldom discerns a need to take her entire Meeting for Worship on the whole excursion.

Does RantWoman worship and worship and see what she or someone else might be led to do?

Does RantWoman worship with her own thoughts and leave the public telling to someone else?

The first thing RantWoman did was make enough shuffling noise to find her glasses case and take off her glasses.

Meeting for Worship brought several thoughtful but general messages about peace. RantWoman was struck in reading some of the Bonnie Tinker remembrances about how much her life was about peace activism as well as Love Makes a Family. So every peace message nibbled a little at RantWoman's "should I say something?" wobble, but something kept holding RantWoman in her seat.

A Friend rose to close worship. He started the go-around in his own section. The returning travelers all brought their greetings but said nothing about the tragedy. Introductions and greetings continued around the room and finally RantWoman was called to speak. RantWoman explained about being cheap and not having physically gone anywhere to come back from and attending to three different conferences including FGC online via Twitter. Then RantWoman just plunged in and shared the news about Bonnie Tinker. RantWoman did not remember to mention the part about all the peace work but she certainly remembered the part about Love Makes a Family and made a plug for many memorial links found through Bonnie's Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/bonnie.tinker?ref=ts. The meeting closer simply asked for a moment of silence.

Then one of the returning Friends rose with more touching details. The state of Virginia still has objectionable laws on the books about private conduct and RantWoman does not expect it will be endorsing gay marriage soon. RantWoman would love to be wrong about the latter, but RantWoman thanks the Friend for sharing that Bonnie Tinker's VA death certificate lists her partner as her "surviving wife."

RantWoman wonders whether that is usual practice in VA, whether usual practice includes asking the loved ones of the deceased what should be listed on death certificates, or whether this was something unusual for this situation.

Despite the weight of such news, RantWoman is on balance glad she shared it. One Friend specifically thanked her; others used the opening to debrief and talk about their own feelings. RantWoman will summon focus and clarity and recognize that next week at NPYM annual session, there is likely to be still more grieving and debriefing. Prayers, patience, Light all around. Maybe RantWoman will digest this in the light of her recent episodes getting poor people connected about disaster preparedness. More likely RantWoman will put all of it, deaths, debriefing, disaster preparedness and daily drags into the hands of God and decide from there what next.

RantWoman was thinking about names and bureaucratic state practices and community and partnership while watching a wonderful video posted at http://aquakerwitch.blogspot.com/2009/07/bonnie-tinker.html Unfortunately, Bonnie's comments on the video about her meeting not being able to sign state marriage certificates until they came to unity about taking same-sex marriages under their care too hit one of RantWoman's sorehead nerves: what if people who cared about gay marriage did what people did to get states to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday and just boycotted states with outright bans? RantWoman seems to remember a lot of states suddenly being persuaded when thinking about lost convention revenues. RantWoman does not NECESSARILY endorse this approach about this subject but the soreheaded thought did cross her mind.

Then RantWoman bounced along to her personal conceptual problems about what the heck to call one's partner. RantWoman knows that current usage of the word partner includes:

Pairs of people of multiple gender combinations who are long-time partners but NOT legally married

people from certain countries where church and legal marriages may or may not coincide.

people from one's work life where the word partner has commercial rather than romantic content

people like RantWoman whose relationship status falls into the Facebook category "It's complicated"

the sociological category for people who engage in certain activities together whether or not there is a longterm relationship.

And then there is all the historical and family law freight of the words husband and wife. RantWoman is very glad for people who want to use such to label their partners. RantWoman's emotional bramble bush is such that she has need for idiosyncratic usage in her situation; RantWoman does not feel that needs further explanation here. In fact, what sounds like the most fun would be a romantic afternoon in her college library reading reference books and poking and prodding and thinking about the word wife.

RantWoman thinks fondly of a time she and Blind Roommate did spend a whole afternoon poring over reference books, as friends after romantic winds had of necessity shifted, about a different word. Blind Roommate was a HUGE fan of Womyn's Braille press, but for some reason the women at Womyn's Braille Press were thinking of dropping their y and resuming the conventional, expected spelling. Thanks to Blind Roommate and RantWoman, they wound up keeping the y; the only problem is that a few years later, they went out of business entirely.

Blind Roomate was on RantWoman's mind for another reason, another tragic fatal traffic accident. RantWoman has a personal reason to have some memorial reverence on the Fourth of July. RantWoman this year feted the occasion with a few hours of blessed nerdy solitude poking around on the internet. One of the places RantWoman poked was the memorials on her college alumni site. RantWoman has at times spent a certain amount of time reading alumni memorials and speculating about who was gay or who died of AIDS; memorials from people in classes from the 1980's on are sometimes quite frank about both cause of death and any surviving partners, but many earlier classes and even some family of later alumni are quite coy or even outrageously dismissive of the whole topic.

Blind Roommate's family fall into this last category. Blind Roommate was killed a few years after college. She died for being 5 feet tall and crossing the street in front of a bus at dusk on a late fall evening. RantWoman lived a few states away and could not do much except go through her address book and phone and phone and get as many nearer people to the memorial as possible.

RantWoman also called Blind Roommate's parents who generally liked RantWoman in spite of not walking near certain topics. The call delivered the desired level of emotional content though RantWoman was discomfited by Blind Roommate's mother observing that other people had suffered at the same intersection.

RantWoman asked whether they planned any kind of investigation or lawsuit and they said no. RantWoman does not think nearly everything it is fashionable to sue about merits legal bluster but does believe legal levers are one way to bring added emphasis to public policy concerns such as badly designed infrastructure or inappropriate traffic behavior that might otherwise be overlooked. RantWoman does not necessarily blame shell-shocked loved ones for not wanting to keep reliving hurt during a legal process, but RantWoman reserves the right to wonder...

RantWoman was thinking about all this while poking around her college memorials and then RantWoman came across the one for Blind Roommate. RantWoman remembers shaking when she read it the first time in print, and it made RantWoman shake again on the computer. There was NO mention of huge parts of Blind Roommate's life: Blind Roomate was in graduate school on a gay studies fellowship. There was no mention of this or of many, many activities Blind Roommate was proud of while in school. Worst of all, there was no mention of Blind Roommate's surviving partner.

Today RantWoman took another excursion on this journey. RantWoman of course remembers the name of Surviving Wife, the person not mentioned in Blind Roommate's alumni magazine memorial. RantWoman remembers that she and Surviving Wife have professional interests in common and have even exchanged touching emails because the anniversary of Blind Roommate's death falls on a date important to RantWoman for other reasons. RantWoman punched Surviving Wife's name into her search engine of choice and there is no doubt that RantWoman has found the right person. There is no doubt that due to changes in RantWoman's life, it would be totally reasonable to contact Surviving Wife.

Now, um, for a better less freaky-stalker-sounding presentation than "hi, you might not remember me but a rotten tragedy make me think of you and your rotten tragedy!"

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bonnie Tinker

Before going any further, RantWoman wants to express her heartfelt condolences to Bonnie Tinker's family and many loved ones. RantWoman hardly expects that what she pens here will be the last anyone writes of Bonnie, but since the news is horrifically fresh, RantWoman will simply begin.

Dang Twitter! Dang Twitter! Dang Twitter!

Today is the second time in the short interval of RantWoman's experimentation with Twitter when RantWoman has fired up her computer, turned to Twitter expecting breaking news from multiple outlets seasoned with irony from The Onion and instead hit gut-wrenching bad news. Last time it was the train crash outside Washington DC streamed in with a cousin's pained tweets after she was in a multi-vehicle accident. This time, this time: RantWoman ran her #fgc09 search and gasped. Portland Friend Bonnie Tinker was killed in a bike accident while biking on the campus of Virginia Tech during the FGC gathering.

A couple news accounts:


A blogger from FGC

RantWoman did not know Bonnie well but always felt very centered in her company, in groups with her children and grandchildren. RantWoman remembers one evening at NPYM annual session when some kind of a minute needed to be wordsmithed NOW in time for the next day's Meeting for Business. The sense of the group was very close but something was stuck; RantWoman and Bonnie and maybe one other person pulled away in private, found the right words and the whole group breathed in gratitude.

RantWoman read the circumstances of Bonnie's accident and finds herself saying a special prayer of geography and local custom and the kinds of things likely to be on the road. RantWoman could look up some nerdy statistics to back this up, but she thinks bicyclists are a lot more common in west coast cities than in some other parts of the country. Dump trucks certainly hit bicyclists sometimes in West Coast cities, but RantWoman thanks all the outspoken bicyclists making themselves known about traffic safety matters; RantWoman suspects that more dump truck drivers in Portland know to look for bicyclists than in Blacksburg VA.

A tweet from the #fgc09 thread mentioned 8800+ miles riddeen by Meeting for Bicycling, only 1 accident and a couple other small injuries. "Only 1 accident." RantWoman will say prayers: a lifestyle with a smaller carbon footprint can put a lot more bicyclists in the path of dumptrucks. Most likely, we want to pedal that much harder, but prayers all around too.

More to the point, the most important part of Bonnie's life is her work with Love Makes a Family