Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oxford Friends Meeting

Stephen Angell, ESR's Geraldine Leatherock Professor of Quaker Studies, brings us this introduction to Oxford Friends Meeting:

(photo from OFM website)

Oxford Friends Meeting, located in Oxford, Ohio, is one of the newer meetings in Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting, formally inaugurated as a monthly meeting in 1990. We hold worship at the interdenominational Campus Ministry Center on First Day mornings at 10 AM; the CMC is located at 16 South Campus Street, across from Miami University in the Oxford "uptown". 

Oxford Meeting holds Friends’ worship in the unprogrammed tradition. It is probably one of the smaller meetings in the area, with an average attendance on First Day mornings between 8 and 15 persons, including 4 children (and we do have an active First Day School program for them). If you are looking for an intimate meeting experience, with lively worship and Second Hour discussions, Oxford Meeting may be the worship home for you! 

From the Richmond area, Sandra Ward-Angell, Steve Angell, and Paul Kriese often drive the 30 miles or so down to meeting, so feel free to contact one of us for a ride.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Playing with fire

The following is drawn from a message delivered in ESR Worship on September 20 by Matt Hisrich:
ESR alum Micah Bales wrote a post not too long ago on his blog in which he raised the question of what it might look like to take hold of a form of fiery positive destruction and burn our meetinghouses down to the ground.
He called us to venture, in his words, “out from the safety of the meetinghouse - all of the beliefs, processes and possessions that we cling to for our sense of identity as Friends.
“The community that arises from the ashes of the meetinghouse will have the clear-eyed aspect of a person who has given up everything to fully invest in the present moment, walking in faith with our ever-present Guide.
“Burning down the meetinghouse,” says Micah, “is a metaphor for the true freedom that we find when we renounce all the things that we put before God.”
As you might imagine, Micah’s words were not universally praised. In fact, while he received some affirmation, he also received much stern eldering for even the metaphorical call to cast aside tradition in favor of action.
Among the things that I found interesting about the whole incident are not only the facts of his leading to share such a powerful perspective or the powerful backlash against it, but also the fact that Micah’s message seemed to align so well with other voices I was coming across at roughly the same time. He seemed to be sharing a message that had been smoldering in at least some of hearts.
Let me give you just one example. A number of ESR students, faculty, and others have been meeting recently on campus for book studies over lunch. The book that started us gathering was Peter Rollins’s Insurrection.
Rollins, for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, started a church in a bar in Dublin, Ireland, and has written several books and spoken widely about his ideas.
In Insurrection, Rollins introduces us to one of these ideas, a concept he calls “pyro-theology.” The term was inspired by Spanish Anarchist Buenaventura Durruti who said that “The only church that illuminates is a burning one.” But while Durruti may have wanted to consume all of church in flames, what Rollins urges us toward is to burn away the chaff - what holds us back rather than drawing us forward. I think this is what Micah was trying to get us to think about with his post, too. But just as the vivid imagery of fire can tempt and attract, it can also cause us to retreat and recoil. Not unlike how Elton Trueblood describes Christ, fire can be accepted or rejected, but it cannot be reasonably ignored.
Just what does Rollins mean by the term pyro-theology? As he explains it, “Decrying the popular view of God as a type of product that will render us complete, remove our suffering and reveal the answers, pyrotheology offers the blueprint for an incendiary faith that courageously embraces brokenness, resolutely faces up to unknowing and joyfully accepts the difficulties of existence.”
In other words, we as Christians have failed to the extent that we offer up false smiles and stale certainties in the face real and genuine pain and ambiguity. We fail others and we fail ourselves, and he calls us to burn down what is not working.
But if we are to engage in positive destruction how do avoid veering into less than positive destruction, and if we’re going to move in the direction of any kind of destruction how do we avoid backlash or worse? This is the lesson of Prometheus, after all: fire can be a great gift, but there can be a cost to those who come bearing it.
I think this may be where Trueblood’s idea of an incendiary fellowship comes in. In his book The People Called Quakers he says, “No fires burn unless someone gathers the sticks and does the enkindling, as well as the replenishing. But the persons who perform this necessary function in this incendiary fellowship can be those who are personally humble… [We] can look upon [ourselves], not as those who have a monopoly on the ministry, but rather as [those] who, in one sense, share a ministry with all Christians. The pastor, in the New Testament sense of the word, is not the minister, but one of many ministers, whose joy it is to liberate and nurture the powers of…fellow ministers.”
How can we be about the business of forming pockets or cells, as Rollins calls them, of supportive and encouraging firestarters who can also help each other engage in discernment and whose joy it is to liberate and nurture the powers of…fellow ministers?
I believe the world needs such a gathering of firestarters and firekeepers. Let your life be incendiary. For “No fires burn unless someone gathers the sticks and does the enkindling, as well as the replenishing.”
Start something together that illuminates. Start something that as it burns draws others together out of the cold and the dark. 

Matt Hisrich is a graduate of ESR and serves as the School's Director of Recruitment and Admissions.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Report on Pacific Yearly Meeting

ESR Professor of Peace and Justice Studies Lonnie Valentine brings us this report from the 66th Annual Session of Pacific Yearly Meeting, held from the 13th through the 18th of Eighth Month, 2012 at Walker Creek Ranch near Petaluma, California:

(Walker Creek Ranch, photo from PYM website)

In returning to visit Pacific Yearly Meeting as the ESR representative after several years away, I was encouraged by the liveliness I felt during the Yearly Meeting. I became a member of Orange County Meeting which is part of Pacific YM, so have a fondness for the group that took me in!

There seemed to be several features to this annual session that had grown stronger since I last visited. Of course, there were the worries about what Quakers can do to stay connected to their young people so they do not leave Friends, questions about how to nurture spiritual growth in individual Meetings and also grow in numbers. However, I was happy to see the increasing focus on Bible Study and Quaker theology in this "unprogrammed" yearly meeting, the large number of young Friends attending the sessions, and the increase in worship groups to over one dozen (!).

In years past, I had worked with one of the active members in facilitating Bible Study during the annual sessions and we would have about 12-15 people attend. We were given the 7 am slot on the program, before coffee and breakfast. So, that number attending seemed pretty good to me. For this session, we were moved to the time right after breakfast, and now about 30 people showed up, most returning for the entire week. As the facilitator said, "Since we are given an after-breakfast time, we are now really a part of the program." I could feel the delight--and struggle--as we sought to take the text seriously in a Quaker fashion, in spite of all the more prevalent  interpretations of the Bible that these Quakers would reject. We were invited into meditating on the biblical passages and then speak from the heart about what we found encouraging or what we struggled with in the text. Participants wanted to engage even the tough passages! At least, that is what I saw happening, and I enjoyed not only participating but seeing so many there invest themselves in the Bible study.

Another new program event was a week long presentation and discussion of significant Quaker figures, such as Barclay, Elias Hicks, and Joseph John Gurney. As a theologian, of course I was pleased to see Barclay being brought before the attenders (though of course, I would question some of the way he was interpreted). However, that these figures were being explored in my old Yearly Meeting made me proud!

Finally, I was encouraged to see that the outreach efforts of the yearly meeting were active and seemed to be well-supported. Since this YM is on the West Coast, there has been some long-standing and deepening relations with Meetings and Quaker work in Latin America. These Friends have supported Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City, established a scholarship support program for Friends in Guatemala, worked with co-partitives in Nicaragua, and supported AVP work in Bolivia, including in prisons. The reports from these efforts seemed to engage those attending. Finally, several of the members of PYM who had film-making experience, showed their film on the FWCC sessions in Kenya. This received rousing applause from the crowd, and I would like to how this film at ESR after the final editing is completed and would encourage other Friends to view this film. It will be posted on the FWCC web site in the near future.

I mentioned some of my positive impressions to one of the active yearly meeting  participants that I have come to know over the years. He said he was encouraged to hear my perspective, since he often feels the Meetings and the Yearly Meeting is struggling with its identity and what it ought to do. I laughed since I felt that what I had seen during the sessions helped me feel invigorated about my work at ESR, since I often feel we at ESR need to do more as a school to work with Friends.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Student Introduction

We're excited to introduce to you some of our new students joining us for the 2012-13 school year. Today's featured student is Diane Butler, who is an MDiv student from Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Peace and blessings to everyone.

My name is Diane Butler. I’m a new student at the Earlham School of Religion, as well to the state of Indiana. I am enjoying Richmond and I love being a seminarian at ESR.
I’m looking forward to my years of study as being exciting and challenging academically and experientially. Indeed I see ESR as a gift from God. As an introvert, the small, informal class size, and small size of the school population overall is a blessing to me. The student bodies, faculties and staff of both ESR and Bethany fit me well.
 The diversity of chapel services and the common meals adds balance to the academics. Everyone seems warm, friendly and helpful; it’s all a part of a joyful fellowship experience. This is a community environment with easy access to comfortable study spaces and a great computer lab.
I’m in love with the Earlham College campus. It is beautiful and spacious with all types of available resources including libraries, a variety of dining options and all types of extracurricular activities available.
To my utter surprise, I’m in love with a school. I’m amazed. In order to do the work I’m called to do I require additional education and life experiences, which I’m receiving in and out of classrooms. I’m here because I love God. God called me into ministry years ago, and I’ve finally answered.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Introduction to Raysville Friends

Current ESR Student and Raysville Friends Pastor Michael Sherman helps continue our series on area meetings with this introduction to his meeting:

ESR students are invited to visit Raysville Friends. This Quaker Meeting is a little farther away from Richmond than First Friends Richmond, West Richmond or Clear Creek, as you might have guessed from the name.  Raysville is on the east side of Knightstown which is located about 45 minutes west of Richmond and meets for worship in a little country building just off US 40. 

Raysville features a mature community who endeavor to worship and serve God out of sense of personal and corporate integrity.  This semi-programmed meeting is pastored by me, ESR student Michael Sherman, currently in my 8th year of classes. Because of the differences in ages and perspectives of congregation and pastor they have learned together to identify the value of alternate perspectives.  They see individual differences more as a source of growth and potential rather than a source of conflict and frustration.  This process has also caused them to keep in question those things they ‘know’ while they have learned and grown together.

Raysville offers a local church community which struggles with the real issues of being a voice for Christ while dealing with the many issues of stewardship, time and commitment.  It is a good place to connect to life outside of the college atmosphere.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Williamsburg Friends Meeting

ESR Associate Professor of Pastoral Studies and Williamsburg Pastor Phil Baisley helps us continue our series of introductions to area meetings with this invitation to join them in worship:

About nine miles northwest of Richmond, on U.S.35, the road to Muncie, lies the town of Williamsburg. If you’re coming from Richmond, the first thing you see as you round the bend into Williamsburg is the Friends meetinghouse. It’s been there almost 120 years. The people haven’t been there quite as long.

The sign in front of the building reads: YOU WILL FIND A WELCOME HERE. The pastor put those words up a decade ago and said he’d leave them there until the meeting proved them wrong. They’re still there.

Williamsburg Friends are a group of warm, caring people who love God and their community.

We’re traditional, yet flexible, and open to new ways of worshiping and serving God.

We’re like a family, but we welcome new faces. It doesn’t take long to feel right at home.

We’re serious about studying the Bible, but we find fun ways to do it.

Our atmosphere is relaxed, our dress is casual, our invitation is cordial, and our friendliness is sincere.

In a world that is both “wired” and disconnected, we offer, in the words of Jonathan Larson, “connection in an isolating age.” In a world filled with too much noise, a little bit of quiet. In a world moving by too rapidly, a place to stop and breathe in the Spirit.

We worship on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and fully expect God to show up. More often than not, God does. See for yourself.

Contacts:         Phil Baisley (pastor, 765-977-5167,
                        Joyce Crull (clerk, 765-886-5700)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

West Richmond Friends Meeting

Welcome to Richmond! As you settle into life and work at ESR/Bethany, you'll hear a lot about Quakers or Friends. West Richmond Friends is one of the three Quaker congregations or meetings in town. The others are Clear Creek Meeting and First Friends. We welcome you to worship, study, and fellowship with us – as well as to support you on your path of exploration of spirit and faith.

 (All photos courtesy of Josh Brown at West Richmond Friends)

Many of the Quaker faculty, staff and students at Earlham and ESR worship with at West Richmond Friends. Our meetinghouse is located just two blocks north of ESR/Bethany (click here for map). Cross National Road, then turn onto SW 7th Street. Two blocks ahead you'll find our meetinghouse at the corner of SW 7th and West Main Streets. Come in any door – most of us actually treat the side door on SW 7th Street door as the “front” of our meetinghouse.

Please visit our meeting web site, You can read recent messages from our meeting for worship, find out more about our meeting, download resource materials, and link to Quakers around the world.

Our worship is at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays. West Richmond is a "semi-programmed" meeting. Our worship typically includes a Bible reading, hymns, a short prepared message, and 15-20 minutes of quiet open worship. (When there are five Sundays in a month, the fifth one is reserved for completely unprogrammed worship.) Child care is available in the nursery. Following worship we have coffee and light snacks until 11:00, when our second hour for education begins. Classes start on September 9th.

There’s a lot of diversity of voices in the messages at our worship, including messages from the pastoral minister, professors and students from Earlham and ESR, special guest speakers, and members of the Meeting who have messages to share. We have a great choir which sings at worship about twice each month – singers of all levels of experience are welcome!

Many ESRniks enjoy coming here on Friday evenings at 7:00 for Common Grounds Coffeehouse which offers a varied program of live music, game nights and monthly contra dances. We will be starting our 9th season on Friday, September 7th with a contra dance with caller Jim Sizelove and live music.

Joshua Brown (ESR '84) serves as pastoral minister at West Richmond Friends. He will leading a workshop at ESR October 1 on "Pastoral Leadership Among Friends" as part of the 2012 Pastor's Conference. He was an adjunct faculty member from 1997-1999, and has also served for many years as a supervisor for field education. 

Several years ago, West Richmond Friends openly declared ourselves as a welcoming and affirming congregation to all people, including gays and lesbians. Our meeting's positive stand on this issue has unfortunately caused a great deal of controversy and conflict in some parts of the Quaker world here in the Midwest.

Besides our worship, we have a large and active education program on Sundays at 11:00. In addition to classes for different age groups of children, this year we’re offering several adult classes:

                     Marcelle Martin will lead The Quaker Spiritual Journal: Early Friends and Today. A former teacher at Pendle Hill, Marcelle is the author of Invitation to a Deeper Communion and Holding One Another in the Light.

                     Welling Hall is leading a group about consumerism, based on Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine.

                     Josh Brown will lead The Bible for Dummies, a lively class with lots of free-ranging discussion.

Our meeting is also home to Richmond Friends School, a small but vibrant K-5 school located next door to our meetinghouse.

Don’t see what you want? Start a new group – we want our space and equipment to be used! Our meetinghouse has been used for exercise and dance classes, meditation and yoga groups, retreats and overnights, club and department meals, and much more.

Again, welcome to Richmond. Best wishes, and see you soon!

West Richmond Friends Meeting
609 West Main Street
Richmond, IN 47374
(765) 962-4485

Sunday worship 9:30 am
Sunday school 11:00 am
Office hours Tuesday – Friday mornings 9:30-12:30