Saturday, July 31, 2010

Conversion Stories

RantWoman is still experimenting about how to collect things from the interwebs and present them as clumps of findable items. Here RantWoman is collecting a number of items she has come across that contain conversion stories.

Iris G. Alivia B, Mark W all hypelinked in

Danny Coleman: Sex and drugs, really a lot of drugs, and Rock and roll, at highway speeds.

RantWoman is meditating about whether she should link some of the "How I came to be Quaker and Pagan" items she has been reading but maybe now that she has created the tag, that can be a project for another day.

RantWoman confesses: RantWoman's conversion stories run a whole lot more pedestrian: RantWoman falters, God picks her up. RantWoman gets stuck on the God as personal Butler model of Supreme Being and along comes a bracing item from A Silly Poor Gospel about still having to get one's own act together to grasp at the hem of Christ's garments.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

For being dead

RantWoman apologizes if the title above seems too irreverent. Please accept it as a token of deep affection for several of the 13 (14?) departed Friends and deep condolences for the loved ones of others whose lives were celebrated at Memorial worship at the most recent NPYM Annual Session.

RantWoman, to be honest, is still of an age not automatically to go to memorial worship. Besides comparative youth, NPYM Annual Session frequently falls near the anniversaries of some other deaths for RantWoman's loved ones and RantWoman someimes attends to her own head and heart first.

This year RantWoman already knew of

3 members of her own Meeting including our last surviving founding member.

a former member of RantWoman's Meeting

Bonnie Tinker

The memorial worship also noted the passing of a young woman by suicide, a founding member of Multonomah Meeting in Portland, as well as several others, including a Friend, Vern, who RantWoman knew when he was an inmate member of a worship group at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, WA, and very slightly after he was released.

This whole parade of great gifts and vivid lives was crammed into 1.5 hours of worship. Almost every memorial moved RantWoman deeply in some way but the cumulative effect, with barely time to breathe between was almost overwhelming. RantWoman must particularly linger over a couple moments:

--RantWoman thinks family members should never be required to read a loved one's memorial minute. However, RantWoman was awed when Lynn Waddington's partner Margaret read Lynn's memorial minute: walking with one's partner as closely as Margaret did is also a testmony about Margaret's life and especially her life during that time.

--RantWoman is sometimes the sort of solipsist who, in the presence of a memorial or some other intense moment involving someone else, first gets stuck on something about herself. RantWoman knew Vern only a little and when she was very new to Friends. RantWoman only saw Vern once a month when the worship group met at the prison. Time and use of space were very controlled There was very little opportunity for more than basic check-in and there were many things one just did not ask.

When RantWoman joined the Monroe Worship Group, she was still barely handling silent worship at home in her Meeting. It seemed like everyone RantWoman talked to was all into Alternatives to Violence, something there was no way RantWoman felt able to do at the time. However, RantWoman rented a room from Seriously Weighty Friend who was a big believer in the Monroe Worship Group. Somewhere along the way the question of RantWoman joining the worship group came up, and since RantWoman was guaranteed a ride and interesting travelling companions, she assented. RantWoman will write separately of some of her own very short protest-related incarceration encounters. These experiences apparently did not stand in the way of processing RantWoman's application paperwork, but RantWoman does take note of a certain irony.

RantWoman dutifully went through training offered at the prison: the thing which stuck most with RantWoman was the administration's admonishment that in the event of riots, volunteers were to lie on the floor, keep their heads down and only move when specifically told to. RantWoman still thinks of that sometimes when attending to certain news items, but the biggest challenge for the worship group was negotiating space, either in a room run by the chapel or in a different room in the visitors' area,

All RantWoman did really was show up and help hold the space. be present in worship. RantWoman still follows one member's prison journalist work, RantWoaman could also perfectly well check in more intentionally with this Friend's wife. In any case, enough of the guys got released or transferred and energy shifted. RantWoman does not remember the sequence of Vern getting released and the Worship Group getting laid down, but she supposes the whole story is the sort of thing that should be called to mind again just so people new to the story know it happened and can ask questions if led.

Only during memorial worship did RantWoman learn hints of the transformations Vern had gone through in connection with Alternatives to Violence. From the comments later over minutes, RantWoman also gleaned that Vern had laid down his membership, and RantWoman found herself meditating, including in an email exchange with a certain figure of RantWoman's long acquaintance, about the unknown stories behind that.

RantWoman finds herself regretting that, since Vern laid down his membership, there is likely not to be a memorial minute. RantWoman thinks the few words here are in no way sufficient and again.finds herself nagging a certain problematic mentor figure to find ways of expressing these stories, writing them down, both for what they say of his walk and for figures like Vern who might otherwise pass unnoted.

One of RantWoman's driving companions on the Missoula trip has a great deal of experience in different Yearly Meetings. On the long drive home from Missoula, he spoke of how in a non-creedal tradition, people's lives are a testimony of what they believe, what matters most to them. Like RantWoman this Friend thinks that memorials deserve enough time for respectful worship. Friend Driver also spoke of some Yearly Meetings where one or two memorial minutes are read at the end of each plenary. RantWoman thinks that is an interesting way to give a little space to each departed Friend. However, despite the temporal overload, RantWoman's spirit was deeply enriched by all the stories she heard and she would not want to risk missing some if responsibilities or other cares kept her attendance at plenaries as spotty as it was this year.

Holding in the Light...

Committing Civilization: No Human Being is Illegal. Immigration Reform

RantWoman commends to her readers the following call to action about immigration reform, SB1070 and related issues:

RantWoman has been feeling strong pangs about immigration issues for a good while. RantWoman has also been feeling the kind of paralysis that sometimes comes with an overload of matters screaming for one's attention. RantWoman is very humble about a quest for simplicity and centeredness and focus, even if the thought of some kinds of grand campaigns just gives RantWoman a headache, RantWoman is aiming for the grounding to do a little each day and to treat every difficult conversation as an opening for transformation.

Meanwhile, RantWoman hereby holds two other moments;

--The following minute from Intermountain Yearly Meeting, an item no one--including RantWoman--at NPYM Annual session was prepared to run with for this year. Needless to say, RantWoman hopes that those who read it will be moved to act!

Updated: 6/16/2010
IMYM Minute on Recent Immigration Legislation and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

As a faith community committed to welcoming the stranger, we are dismayed and saddened by the failure to find a way forward to craft an immigration system that respects the fundamental rights and dignity of all. We recognize that inaction at the national level has created a vacuum into which states have stepped to create their own immigration laws.

As Friends, we believe that there is that of God in everyone, regardless of citizenship or legal status. Our testimony of community challenges us to live with all of our neighbors in a way that encourages trust, love, and security. Our testimony of equality leads us to value each person as an individual and to respect the human rights and dignity of all persons. Our testimony of peace guides us to take nonviolent action to resolve conflicts in a way that brings us together and promotes justice.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 and similar proposed legislation in other states divides our communities and criminalizes immigrants. These kinds of unjust laws create a climate of fear for those whose area of residence, line of work, complexion, spoken language or accent is deemed suspicious, even if they are citizens or legal foreign residents or visitors. When state legislation is passed that compels people to hide their identity from authorities, they must live in fear that they will be separated from their families, that they will become victims of crime, that they and their children will not receive an education, and that they will lose their livelihoods and their homes.

We bear witness to our friends and neighbors in our community who suffer division of their families, exploitation in the workplace, and the daily fear of deportation. We bear witness to the thousands of deaths on the border and the destruction of border communities and the environment. The estimated twelve million persons living and working in the United States without papers are essential parts of our communities and economy, yet the system for regularizing their status is woefully insufficient. Criminalizing immigrants and those who care for them, as in Arizona Senate Bill 1070, does not address the real challenges our country faces with immigration reform and resolution of the humanitarian crisis that results from the broken system.

We, as people of faith, are called not only to resist unjust laws and to work to change them, but to take the initiative to act in accordance with higher laws. We call upon Friends everywhere to urge our elected representatives to immediate action on humane immigration reform. We call upon ourselves to act with integrity in response to these challenges and we rededicate ourselves to loving our neighbors, to doing justice, and to walking humbly in the spirit of love.

--RantWoman's other moment, a small item of levity: a delightful flub by an NPR commentator reporting about civil disobedience in Phoenix as some provisions of SB1070 take effect: "...those committing civilzation...." As Gandhi said of western civilization, "it would be a good idea."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

For not being dead

RantWoman was just this morning telling someone how much she enjoyed being in the dorm where people stayed up late singing at NPYM Annual Session.

RantWoman does not admit to singing. RantWoman's rule is that if you make RantWoman start singing, you must pay her to stop. However, RantWoman very much enjoys hearing other people sing. RantWoman further thinks it is sweet when people who theoretically are old enough to know better are still sometimes seduced into cutting loose and singing and singing and singing until several hours past their usual bedtime.

RantWoman was already thinking about all this during coffee hour when the opportunity to tell Jana how enjoyable it was to watch her participate in late-night singing. It was not just the singing of course. Jana was also just calm and matter-of-fact recounting all the things she has been told she did in the hospital while recovering from last year's accident.

Jana laughed and said she has been feeling awkward and wishing that people were noticing her for having done something remarkable, by which RantWoman assumes she means world peace or some great scientific discovery or something instead of just for not being dead. RantWoman is still awed by all the layers and circles of Jana's many social connections. Plus RantWoman would point out that Jana has had to work a lot harder than a lot of other people at not being dead for the last year and RantWoman is very grateful for the work!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tending Ministries of Blogging

RantWoman is seasoning two topics in advance of a certain committee meeting. One is effective oversight of ministries involving blogging or electronic communication. The second topic gets its own separate entry.

RantWoman is feeling very conscientious about attending to matters of confidentiality and group discernment. Still RantWoman's head tends to be muddled enough, and it sometimes takes RantWoman respectable intervals to collect important points about a topic. Therefore, RantWoman is attempting spiritual houskeeping on the fly in her blog.

The comments below are what RantWoman thinks today. They do not represent official views of any committee or of her Meeting as a whole. Everything here is subject to change, revision, continuing revelation, mental spasms, interventions from space aliens and of course the milling and digestion processes of community discernment.

RantWoman is specifically seasoning questions of what it means as part of a support committee for a ministry to support the work and writing and information collection done by two people's blogs, her own, and that of another Friend. RantWoman has decided that the conversation is intended to be about general process issues. Therefore, even though RantWoman reads Other Friend's blog regularly and likes it very much on several grounds, for purposes of this discussion, Other Blogger gets one of RantWoman's cutesy pseudonyms. .

This entry began as a conversation with Other Blogger. Other Blogger has a ministry supervised by Friends from RantWoman's Meeting. However, the clerk of the support committee has both practical and attitudinal barriers to interacting with the blogosphere as much as Other Blogger originally hoped. Apparently, RantWoman does not always do simplicity very well, and several other considerations have arisen as elaborated in the queries and comments below.

Similarly, several months ago, RantWoman wrote a topical committee asking in a somewhat undefined way for support and attention to her blog. RantWoman has had a couple conversations about writing style and clarity of expression. RantWoman has also had a conversation about confidentiality with respect to the discussions within a certain committee. Rantwoman has had other conversations with people not in line for any kind of oversight of ministry role indicating that numbers of topics and themes are being followed. RantWoman has not, however, had any conversations formalizing any more explicit oversight and RantWoman is seasoning what if anything to do about that.

In the meantime, what has RantWoman come to so far.

Is the support process for the ministry / blogging effort respectful of technical, time and temperamental capacity of the people involved in the process?

Part of the conversation that arose with Other Blogger is about a member of her support committee who has very big time limitations on his access to the internet. RantWoman finds this situation a challenge for a number of reasons. For one thing, this limitation relates partly to a tough decision RantWoman was previously a part of and still does not regret despite the ensuing difficulties.

For another thing, Rantwoman is very dependent on electronic media for independent access to information and resources and can easily interpret this Friend's attitudes as unwillingness to engage at all in two-way conversation. RantWoman CAN interpret this Friend's attitudes this way. However, RantWoman also recognizes that commitment to internet resources may also mean commitment to paying substantial amounts of money every month for connectivity, putting up with the endless horizons of vast expanses of hyperlinks that can be followed if desired, presentation and commentary patterns very different from print media and to other demands on one's time, liberty, and resources.

RantWoman fully supports a variety of Friends' measures for keeping the internet in perspective: not doing email on the Jewish sabbath, severely constrained interaction with social media during Lent. RantWoman can get crabby about the digital inclusion reasons she herself does not have as much access on the fly every second as she might want. When RantWoman feels humble and disciplined--as opposed to merely cranky, demanding, and greedy, RantWoman can file her own situation in the same opportunity for mindfulness or intentionality compartment. In short, RantWoman wants to work with people where they are and that seems to be several different places.

RantWoman is pretty aware for instance that she can crank out a lot of verbiage and that other people may have many demands on their time that RantWoman for different reasons is free of. Writing is easy for RantWoman. Writing cleanly? Probably room for improvement and writing when RantWoman probably should pick up the telephone is one concern. None of this is any guidance to RantWoman about how to refine her request for support.

Does the support process reflect the desired level of interaction with the process of producing content and with the content?
RantWoman was interested to hear at NPYM Annual Session that the NPYM website, has two overseers, one who handles technical matters and one whose orientation is technical only to the bare minimum necessary and much more solidly focussed on content and clearly defined functionality. RantWoman thinks this is entirely appropriate and reasonable for a Yearly Meeting but she thinks this model might be a bit much for individual ministries.

RantWoman is coming pretty clearly to the conclusion that if one cares about specific people interacting with one's content, one may have to take measures such as printing out content and using snail mail or else making use of conference calls, in-person presentations, and plain old conversation. RantWoman feels pretty generous about this with regard to Very Weighty Friends who still use manual typewriters, Friends who like their blogosphere served with potluck supper, and sundry other Friends who participate in community life but less so in the blogosphere. It is probably a good thing RantWoman strives to maintain such openness because it really helps with certain person-specific irritations.

Does the blog reflect wide readership for example in terms of people who comment on different entries?

RantWoman should probably check some info sources for her own blog. For purposes of this conversation, RantWoman considers it sufficient to know that such information sources exist and other bloggers might also use them.

RantWoman notes that Other Blogger frequently has entries which draw several comments. RantWoman's own blog entries attract few comments--except for a spambot that posts links in Chinese to pictures of what RantWoman assumes are underage or barely of age teenage girls. RantWoman has comments set on moderated and summarily rejects all such contributions; that is not the sort of comments RantWoman has in mind.

Does the blog have many identified followers?

RantWoman specifically notes that Other Blogger has what RantWoman considers a respectable number of people who have stepped through the mysteries that identify them as blog followers. The number of people who have done that for RantWoman's blog is considerably smaller. RantWoman thinks there may be several reasons for this. Other Blogger has been doing her blog longer than RantWoman and also has a ministry with a specific audience.

RantWoman's approach to blogging is a little more hit-or-miss about themes and organization. RantWoman is also interested in some topics such as Quaker peace witness where many of the practitioners may for different reasons be less oriented toward the blogosphere than the Friend's interested in themes related to Other Blogger's ministry.

Finally, RantWoman has spoken to several people she knows read her blog but who have not gotten themselves formally listed as followers. RantWoman imagines this is true for other Blogger as well

Do intersting comment streams arise?

See above.

Do comment streams reflect diverse voices?

See above about the technical prerequisites.

Does the blog use interesting, topical tags and use them consistently?
RantWoman is meditating about what to do with some muddled categories on her own blog; Other Blogger seems to have a nice clear set of tags that are better specified than the amorphous ones RantWoman uses.

Is the content true to Quaker testimonies?
This is one area where RantWoman quite likes Other blogger's blog: it presents many issues in clear interesting language where both the Quaker content and content from other parts of this Friend's interests are quite clear.

RantWoman on the other hand is struggling around the edges: there are good reasons RantWoman maintains two blogs, but the themes RantWoman blogs about frequently have several dimensions including both Quaker and non-Quaker ones. RantWoman does not want to turn off some of the people who read RantWoman in specific secular contexts, but this also means some points are, to RantWoman's mind, underplayed a little.

Frankly RantWoman also sometimes falls short of her own aspirations about respectful inclusiveness. For example, RantWoman has one entry referring to a Friend's hidden disability. No, RantWoman is assuredly NOT going to include a link; the best anyone is going to get--and that by in-person request--would be a search string

RantWoman considers the tone of this entry just awful in a couple respects, for example in terms of telling too much of the truth and also casting an issue in terms that might or might not be problematic to the person involved. RantWoman has decided she feels absolutely no call to edit history. RantWoman has also heard mixed opinions about whether speaking of this Friend's hidden disability is entirely rude and insensitive or whether it helps others feel compassion and interact on a more realistic basis. RantWoman has decided she really must speak to the Friend referred to, to affirm RantWoman's appreciation for this Friend's presence and gifts, and to determine whether this Friend necessarily even minds RantWoman's frankness. Friend herself is sometimes quite frank. RantWoman also knows this Friend in a context outside of Meeting and there is a certain "walk with me, Friend" aspect of that acquaintance that RantWoman also feels called to attend to.

Is the content true to a Friend's calling about some or another question?
For example, RantWoman is finding herself called in ways she sometimes find uncomfortable to speak up about many issues of abelism and people's relationships to people with disabilities and to the challenges of living with disabilities. RantWoman is feeling called to do this not only among Quakers but in other sectors of her life. For a few different reasons, RantWoman has decided to maintain separate blogs though her non-Quaker blog appears in blog roll.

How well does the blog uphold accessibility standards?
RantWoman finds Blogger blogs, including the ones run by Other Blogger, easy to read except for graphics. RantWoman has not paid enough attention to the level of html needed to tag the few graphical items she includes. Even worse, RantWoman's non-Quaker blog has a really fun Flash control that opens a new window with a map of the world and dots showing all the locations where people have visited RantWoman's blog. RantWoman has not tried very hard to figure out whether JAWS would read the city names. RantWoman has decided just to live with this level of imperfection in the realm of accessibility.

Now RantWoman gets to have conversations and to see whether some of her own fixations are even on others' radar screens; Then RantWOman will have to figure out how to blog further. Stay tuned?

America's new racial caste system

RantWoman did not write the headline on the following item. She had only the faintest connection with the writing of this item and she is filing it here in order not to lose track of it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

God Rest Attack Receptionist

Attack Receptionist passed away yesterday, may she rest in peace, held deeply in the hand of God and nurtured in whatever spiritual language made the most sense to her.

The public side of Attack Receptionist's last round of medical problems was frighteningly short though evidently she had been suffering at home for several weeks before her husband persuaded her to go to the hospital. Going to the hospital revealed all sorts of things wrong and shutting down and otherwise precarious and soon there were questions of a ventilator and then increasingly frank comments about the expected course of things. Mr. Attack Receptionist requested privacy. Then there was a late-night email marking the last transition. Then there have been an email or two, laconic, about next arrangements.

Attack Receptionist has a devoted husband, Mr. Many Volunteer Titles. He appears to be devastated, proud of all the fights she put up with and just numb. Attack Receptionist has a mother who wants her daughter buried close to her, but over the mountains from Attack Receptionist's husband. Attack Receptionist has supporters who want to send remembrances and maybe attend a memorial and so far there is silence about some questions.

In general, Attack Receptionist had so many medical problems her medical problems had medical problems. Attack Receptionist smoked and needed to be reminded to stay hydrated and to eat regularly from the list of things she could eat. Attack Receptionist needed a liver transplant. As sometimes happens, if one is sick enough to need a liver transplant, one is too sick to qualify to be on any kind of waiting list.

Attack Receptionist also has plainspoken, tell a little too much of the truth groupies such as RantWoman. But let us back up a few steps. Attack Receptionist was, until recently a very faithful volunteer at the den of computerized insanity RantWoman calls The Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing. At her best, Attack Receptionist was stable, faithful to her volunteer commitment, generous and adaptable about many different kinds of services, technical issues, and other questions.

Even in the piquant traditions of RantWoman's experiences with Quaker memorials, none of the above is how Attack Receptionist came be to be called Attack Receptionist. Attack Receptionist could be thoroughly competent one minute and then cling with a death grip the next minute on some or another item from her job description or the tasks she assumed. Attack Receptionist could be a fearsome presence though some of her bluster clearly helped other people stay in the paths they needed to manage their own tough circumstances.

When RantWoman first came to live in the vicinity of the Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing, RantWoman was grouchy and frustrated and stuck a lot on her own issues. The mere fact that Attack Receptionist got up and went to her volunteer work every day was a pretty direct kick in the rear to RantWoman to just get over herself and be grateful for many things and put one next foot in front of the other and keep going. Attack Receptionist was definitely not the only person in whose presence RantWoman did not want to linger, but over time RantWoman came to appreciate many things.

Attack Receptionist shared RantWoman's need for clothing of certain proportions. Attack Receptionist worked much harder than RantWoman does at looking feminine but it was really sweet sometimes just to be able to chat and compare notes about our respective tastes.

Mr. Attack Receptionist also volunteered and still volunteers at the Friendly Neighborhood Center.... This circumstance sometimes multiplied the dysfunctions of the death grip on certain areas of turf. It also led to delicate spousal moments, for example after Attack Receptionist cursed one too many times at the new coordinator and finally had to be relieved of some needed tasks she really had not been doing for several months. The hard realities of this had to be explained to Attack Receptionist and then again a couple times with different variations to Mr. Attack Receptionist.

Mr. Attack Receptionist has his own fearsom list of horrible medical realities. At one point, Mrs. Attack Receptionist was in one hospital and Mr. Attack Receptionist was in another hospital on the same bus route at least. Somehow Mr. Attack Receptionist had his wife's cellphone and RantWoman volunteered to hop the bus, pick up the cellphone and deliver it to her. That day was one of many bad days, lots of pain, cognitive issues, all kinds of difficulties. But when Rantwoman arrived with the cellphone, Attack Receptionist immediately put aside all her frustrations du jour and called her husband and they shared a long spell of very, very sweet but not very articulate spousal sentiments.

RantWoman has been thinking of that phone call and of all the indications of how much the couple meant to each other. RantWoman has been seasoning what to do with some stray thoughts that have washed up in her own churning heart and RantWoman is VERY grateful to have known Attack Receptionist, grateful for her service, and very humble also to be glad to have only her own problems.

God rest you Ms. P

Sunday, July 18, 2010

All God's Quakers got a place on a Committee

RantWoman was part of the authoring process for the following masterpiece performed at Community Night for the NPYM Annual Session. RantWoman means for this item to enjoy Creative Commons license but RantWoman is unclear how to handle the issue of what tune this is to be sung to. Therefore readers are to guess...

All God’s Quakers got a place on a committee
We don’t care if you’re plain or pretty
You have to be a member for Worship and Ministry
But everybody’s welcome on Hospitality

Religious Education is a good one too
‘cause all our children really need you.
Oversight’s got a lot of clearness to see to
And Building and Grounds has plenty to do.

Our homeless neighbors share our worship space
And provide our Meeting with a measure of grace
Social concerns proceed apace
And the dishwashing tends to itself—NOT!

Please take pity on the Finance Committee
They beg for money and they hardly get any.
We value all our other seventeen committees
But nobody talks to Nominating.

So we all got together for a Year of Discernment.
It lasted 18 months and it left us in ferment
We talked about our talents and commitments and souls
And how to share our gifts and time and anything we got now

All our Friends got a place in our Meeting
From setting out chairs to standing and greeting.
Christian and Jew and Buddhist and Pagan
And all of our potlucks have options that are vegan.

PS. Special thanks to Stasa over at Musings of A Quaker Witch for the info that the tune is by Bill Staines , The tune of course is probably NOT under creative commons license.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Are all our members clear of sleeping in Worship?

RantWoman has been watching some thoughts about queries play out on others' blogs:

Both of these blog entries mention queries as part of Meetings' annual giving account of themselves.RantWoman confesses: she has never thought to consult any specific queries the time or two shehas been involved in producing her Meeting's State of the Meeting report.

RantWoman was all set to rattle on in some general vein about queries--until she came upon one from the 17th century: Are all our members clear of sleeping and other untoward behaviors?

No! Who says? Does sudoku count? You mean I gotta stay awake?

RantWoman demurs! First, RantWoman once took counsel from a Seriously Weighty Friend about how sometimes during worship, Seriously Weighty Friend's mind just flutters around "like a hummingbird on a holiday." Seriously Weighty Friend (who identified more as Fat Friend than Seriously Weighty Friend) has been at this Quaker worship thing way longer than RantWoman and if her brain still flits around like a hummingbird on a holiday, RantWoman SUPPOSES there is hope for herself and in the meantime room for napping too.

Once upon a time RantWoman read a Pendle Hill pamphlet extracted from the writings of some 17th century Friend. This Friend was writing about his experience of Meeting for Worship. He wrote something along the lines of "it does not seem to matter whether I just spend the time sleeping. Even if that is all that happens, God has kept me out of bad company and sinful ways for an hour or so."

RantWoman is humbled by this sentiment. RantWoman supposes that in the cold underheated days of yore, simply stirring oneself to go be warm in a space with others probably has practical payoffs. Yeah, right, and RantWoman is really just trying to find the right theological language for her own worshipful naps.

RantWoman could perfectly well stay home and sleep in her own bed doing full recumbent DNA sprawl with the cat and save herself the trouble of getting dressed and taking a bus ride. RantWoman could do this and experience is clearly unambiguously that the effect is not the same at all. RantWoman thinks the peculiar spiritual cover of napping during Meeting for Worship is just part of that ineffable something, the peculiar communion of silent worship.

(Wait, RantWoman used, sometimes, to fall asleep among Baptists who made a great deal more noise during worship services than unprogrammed Friends do. The Baptists also do actual grape juice and weird crackers communion...Perhaps RantWoman should just not get carried away....)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Could it be . . . SEXISM?

It's possible RantWoman should just leave well enough alone and direct her readers to this post from Gathering in Light with quotes from Proverbs and Rosemary Radford Reuther about reinforcing totalitarian power through masculine language:

No such luck!

Or else RantWoman should think in more depth about this item composting the ramblings of one of the people RantWoman currently has great difficulty discerning that of God within and summoning Dietrich Bonhoffer's writings about suffering and standing alongside the suffering. . Despite this item's efforts to universalize traditionally feminine attributes such as humility and suffering, RantWoman is having a good bit of trouble about anything that fetishizes suffering, as if there is not already enough suffering in the world. RantWoman supposes it would at least be sporting to elaborate a little on the problems she is having and how this relates to problems with traditionally Christian ideals. Doing that would be way too tidy; RantWoman is a Quaker partly because she feels license to leave her muddled half-formed spiritual questions all over the blogosphere while she figures out where it is she is going.

Meanwhile, RantWoman is going to attempt something she is better at, cataloging further queries and observations.

RantWoman was packing her brain cells and centering her heart and aiming to get grounded in preparation for her upcmoning journey to the NPYM Annual Session in Missoula, MT. As with almost everything in the world of RantWoman tidy intellectual packing is easier said than done. Consider the recent Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference and thoughts of what openings one wants to encounter to talk about Sexism.

Okay, RantWoman really actually does NOT want to talk about sexism. RantWoman wishes sexism did not exist and that all were smooth and hunky-dory and that RantWoman could expend her energy on all the other prickly matters in the RantWoman bouquet of frequent aggravations. Alas, along come the following comments on posting of the PNWQWTC epistle .

Houston, we have a problem!

What problem could we possibly have if two guys RantWoman knows generally to be thoughtful and intelligent are posting things that sound sympathetic about the problem of sexism at least to start?

RantWoman is a generous soul. We actually have two problems. First, the PNWQWTC epistle mentions sexism but does not spell out any specific moments upon which to hang conversation. The second problem is that the comments RantWoman read do not really back up sympathy with very active engagement about what is meant and what we wish to go away. Not surprisingly then sexism is treated as an abstraction that will passively just go away with spiritual transformation rather than as something that rquires specific human engagement to eliminate.

RantWoman's basic questions, pre-annual session:, with the caveat that "we" has various referents

--Does there need to be conversation within NPYM specifically about sexism within NPYM?

--Are Quaker testimonies about equality and historical practice supporting the equality of women alive in the lives of our MonthlyMeetings and Worship Groups today?

--Do women recognize internalized sexism among ourselves or other women?

--Do we as women have a sense that at least some men will recognize sexist behavior and call other men on it? Does it matter whether problems are identified as sexism as long as problematic behavior is identified and those involved get called on it? Are there otherspecific things we might want to ask of men in our struggles against sexism?

--Do we expect different things of ourselves or others based on age, profession, role among Friends as well as gender?

--Do we have a sense that our Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and other bodies have the tools to deal with abusive behaviors rooted in sexism or otherwise?--Do we have experiences or impressions that would benefit from moreconversations, either private or public?

There are a few different reasons RantWoman asks

:--The conference epistle mentioned sexism in the Religious Society ofFriends but was not terribly specific. Mention of the topic certainly invites further conversation, but does not immediately suggest topics to have conversations about.

--RantWoman had one conversation with a Friend who has lots of experience working iwth AFSC. She spoke of how even years ago at public events she and her male counterpart would make a specific effort to call on equal numbers of men and women but that women do not necessarily raise their hands to comment in public. This experience matches RantWoman's impressions from many more contemporary events among Friends and otherwise, but RantWoman wonders whether other women thing this behavior is a problem? RantWoman has observed that sometimes the very women who will not raise their hands in large fora will nevertheless immediately track down speakers for deep but less public conversations.

--RantWoman has been thinking fondly of one Friend who comes sometimes to NPYM Annual Session who has a T-shirt that says "Real Men listen." As with all evangelizing, RantWoman has the sense that his message takes root unevenly but she admires him for repeatedly bringing the message.

--RantWoman has personally been involved in extended conversation with one Friend who listens badly,declares whole swaths of topics and experience off-limits or irrelevant and then demands to have a conversation in his terms. Some of the conversational patterns involved are patterns noticeable among other men. In fact, even though this Friend seems powerless over these tendencies in himself, this Friend in lecture mode even rattles off the patterns as part of dynamics in conflict. There is extensive academic research about men and women having different styles in conversation, sometimes different ways of presenting narrative and a whole host of things that RantWoman does not necessarily consider problematic, but there are some other demeaning elements RantWoman consider blatant sexism though simply using that term is not necessarily helpful in terms of figuring out what actually needs to be done for sensible conversation.

--Rantwoman has a long personal list of issues and behaviors that annoy her but also finds less unambiguous and less clear-cut than in her more strident youth about many issues.

So what actually transpired at Annual Session?

--RantWoman noticed a couple men she sometimes sees alone appeared this time with their female partners. RantWoman is always pleased when couples have spiritual life together and hopes that Annual Session is more fun in the company of one's beloved.

--RantWoman went to breakfast Bible study every morning except the day she overslept. RantWoman noticed that, except for Bible Study Friend who organizes this, lots of women participate but men never seem to show up. RantWoman decided she does not even care about this gender imbalance for a couple different reasons. First, RantWoman needs to take her Bible study where she finds it. Discussion is always lively and rich. Most interestingly, Bible Study Friend always shows up on time and Mrs. Bible Study Friend who seems often to have other responsibilities and obligations before she can sit down comes later. When Mrs. Bible Study Friend arrives, it is obvious that the couple have prepared together and RantWoman approves of mixed gender spousal teamwork.

--RantWoman had two conversations with Friend who has a particular ministry where the phrase "male privilege" came up in reference to two different contexts. Anyone want to guess the gender of Friend who has a particular ministry? The gender of the objects of the two conversations?

To be fair, one of the conversations seemed to involve several men much older than the speaking Friend. These men listened with great interest for a good while with only a dollop of male privilege expectation tacked onto a tangential thread at the end. The thought was tacked on in a way that caused RantWoman the catty thought that such attitudes might be one reason Tacking on Friend is currently lacking in female companionship. Ah, the wages of sexism....

--RantWoman is scratching her head about the second Male Privilege Friend. Among his many counterintuitive behaviors is giving messages in worship laced alternately with the language of Torah study and reference to the Goddess. RantWoman supposes that if she herself is going to muddle around several directions herself, she really ought to respect this Friend's spiritual language too; to say the least, RantWoman is still confused by practice no less than language.

From out of nowhere: Barclay online

Several Friends in RantWoman's meeting are getting together a group to read and talk about Barclay's Apology. RantWoman does not expect to be short of inclination to run off at the keyboard once things get going and will maintain more or less electronic silence in the meantime.

RantWoman is in preparation posting this link to an online copy of Barclay's apology for her own and others' edification and memory reinforcement.

Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity, scanned and prepared by Quaker Heritage Press

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Go Ahead Ask Me For Money

No, wait! The invitation above in no way is meant to imply that RantWoman necessarily has any money to give one or another project. Far from it: RantWoman herself does really well at penurious and impecunious. This does not mean RantWoman has no interest in the pitch of people asking for money; it does mean RantWoman has topical experiences of different kinds. Even when RantWoman herself is in no position to help out financially, RantWoman has a concern for helping others learn how to ask for money effectively.

For instance, if you want to ask RantWoman for money to help cover a speaker's expenses or to support his or her work, please warn RantWoman in advance. RantWoman is shameless and will show up whether she has money or not. However, RantWoman has eccentric habits as far as what cash she does or does not carry. Carrying cash tends to help RantWoman spend money faster than she intends so she tends not to carry cash. This is one reason RantWoman also almost worships her bus pass.

RantWoman may make a special point of carrying something to give away if she knows an opportunity to support a good cause might be on the agenda and thinks it's fine, preferable even, if announcements about events indicate that being asked for money is part of the deal. You would think that by the time RantWoman has reached the ripe old age of (....never mind...) RantWoman would already be able pretty accurately to predict what kinds of events might automatically come with fundraising pitches. RantWoman recommends event organizers not rely on this and speak also to others not so prescient.

In the general case, RantWoman has been:

--Reading on Ashley W's blog Ashley W's blog of young Friends who have travelled in the ministry and who think there should be more financial support among Friends. RantWoman has been reading this. (RantWoman is seasoning a stew of questions about hireling ministers and historical practices around supporting those travelling in the ministry. RantWoman has also heard stories of Friends being downright cheap in supporting called ministers living amongst them. If RantWoman is feeling especially egalitarian she will at some point speculate about whether points of money are necessarily any more or less tender than points of money among other communities.) When RantWoman has money she is sometimes quite happy to have her money rather than herself travelling. This is another reason RantWoman does not in the least mind being asked.

--Reflecting on different times and reasons she herself has either been in the position of asking for money or of helping decide how available money is spent.

In addition to the event-specific comment above, some other thoughts on RantWoman's mind in terms of what she wants to see of people whose requests for money she reviews.

--Has the request and the proposed activity been seasoned with the support committee for a ministry? RantWoman is always especially pleased by requests that can be channeled through something that qualifies for a tax deduction. It's not particularly that RantWoman ever gets to take advantage of tax deductions. RantWoman just interprets the option of tax deductions as one indication that the person making the request has done good discernment and secured thoughtful conscientious support, as well probably as having interacted with the imperatives of bookkeepers.

--Is the amount asked for reasonable in terms of the costs of what one proposes to do?

--Is the amount requested reasonable in terms of budget and the guidelines of the organization being asked for funds. Here, RantWoman admits to being of two minds: RantWoman would prefer to see requests that show evidence of interacting with the question of how much may be available from a given source. On the other hand, if people ask for what they need, RantWoman and those discerning will still not feel obliged to offer more than makes sense within their limits.

RantWoman is working on a tirade about timidity on a corporate scale about asking for money but she has a feeling there is going to be a good deal more laboring with to bring others to her point of view. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lilian Vega Ortiz: the rest of her trip

RantWoman suspects that the overlap of people who read her blog and people passionate about Alternatives to Violence International might be approximately zero. RantWoman thinks this is unfortunate. Alternatives to Violence is a conflict-resolution training program originally begun by Quakers in a New York prison. Since its inception Alternatives to Violence has spread to many countries with different adaptations based on culture and history. RantWoman wants her readers to attend the presentation to learn more about the ways AVP works.

RantWoman is reposting the announcement below about Guatemalan AVP volunteer Lilian Vega Ortiz' speaking tour in the Northwest in an attempt to remedy her readers' possible unfamiliarity with the work of AVP! If you live in one of the places on the itinerary and are even slightly interested in Alternatives to Violence International , RantWoman highly recommends this speaking tour. If you read all the way to the end, RantWoman MAY even provide some commentary on the event last night at her Meeting as further enticement

Alternatives to Violence in Guatemala - Lilian Vega Ortiz Join us in hearing about Friends Peace Teams work in Central America: RantWoman already has the event at her Meeting on her calendar. RantWoman is especially humbled by the wonderful quote below. After a career of volunteer social service with young people in detention facilities, Lilian Vega Ortiz now devotes her time to theological study and facilitation of workshops for the Central American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies, including Alternatives to Violence workshops. "I believe that all of my life experiences, as difficult as they have been, never took place to paralyze me, even though I have been a victim. Instead, they have given me strength to go forward and prepare myself to help others find their own values and find the support systems so that change can take place. I know that this society, full of adversity, needs the efforts of valiant and optimistic people, now more than ever.”

Tue., 6/29 Olympia Meeting Contact: Donna Schumann Wed.,

6/30 7 PM University Friends Center 4001 - 9th Ave. NE Seattle 98105 (just north of University Bridge, 1 block W of Roosevelt Avenue, exit 169 off I-5) Contact: Pablo Stanfield

Thur., 7/1, 7 PM Lopez Island Worship Group at the Lopez Library Contact: Ron Metcalf

Fri., 7/2 7 PM Bellingham Friends Meeting/Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, 100 E. Maple St. (at the corner of Cornwall and Maple) Contact: Doris Ferm

Mon., 7/5 7:30 PM Hosted by South Mountain Meeting and held at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, 87 4th St., Ashland Contact: Ken Deveney

Wed., 7/7 7PM Multnomah Meeting Contact: Andy Cross Thur., 7/8 5:30 Potluck 7 PM Program Corvallis Friends Meetinghouse, 3311 NW Polk Ave. Contact: Esther Schiedel,

Fri., 7/9 Eugene Friends Meeting – presentation and benefit concert Contact: Helen Park

What stood out to RantWoman, hopefully without spoiling the opportunity to hear Lilian's own eloquent presentation.

--Lilian outlined the colonial history of Latin America and spoke of different cultures and histories in several countries where AVP noew has a presence.

--Lilian spoke movingly of a connection between opportunities through AVP workshops for women's empowerment and noticeable changes in the domestic lives of women who participate.

Lilian also got everyone who attended to participate in part of a mini workshop. For example, we got assigned to do a crafts exercise. RantWoman would say the gringos cheated: The task of the crafts excercise was to create an animal using only a total of one sheet of paper per person and masking tape. Each person was limited to only two movements per turn. People had 30 seconds to talk at the beginning and then were to work in silence.

RantWoman thinks her group defined movements broadly enough to for instance fold paper, stick on tape, and add it to the animal even though some of these steps clearly involved more than one step. For instance, Applying masking tape meant finding the end of the tape on the roll, pulling off a length of tape and sticking it where wanted.

RantWoman thinks the challenges and risks of this venture would be even more obvious if tighter limits were enforced about what is meant by a movement. Perhaps life was uncertain enough as the exercise evolved. IN any case, RantWoman heartily recommends these appearances!

For more about the history of AVP: