Monday, February 07, 2011

The Revitalization of the Quaker Message for Today: The Final Report on the Recent Retreat

This is the final report from the revitalization retreat held at Quaker Hill Conference Center last month. In the final session, I introduced the group to some positive change tools that could be used in their local meetings.

Since we were running out of time we only did one of the tools as a group (more about that later). The three tools were:

  • Interview
  • Asset Mapping
  • Flourishing Café

Since "Interview" is the tool we used, I'll talk about it in this report last -- and show what results we had from doing it.

Asset Mapping is an exercise that has the purpose of transforming thinking from “deficit based” to “abundance.” We often talk about what we don't have (our lacks) instead of what we do have (our assets). When we approach things from an asset point of view, we can see "deficits" in a new way and turn them into positives. Assets we were going to map as part of the retreat were
physical assets, individual assets, associations, institutions, and economic assets.

If you're interested in seeing how you can use asset mapping in your Meeting, go to

World Café -- I had planned to use this tool last in the day. World Café is an innovative yet simple methodology for hosting conversations about questions that matter about important questions that a group needs to work on. These conversations link and build on each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas, and discover new insights into the questions or issues that are most important in Meeting. As a process, the World Café is meant to make visible the collective intelligence of any group. To see how it works, visit

We were going to use it, as a group, to address three questions:

  • what has the retreat said about Friends at our best?
  • what three practices, conditions, or circumstances contribute to revitalization?
  • what have you heard that has real meaning/resonates with you?

The tool we used was "Interview." I asked everyone to pair up with someone they did not know well (which was not difficult, given the diversity of the crowd). Once they had chosen a person to interview, I explained that I would give them three questions. It was to be an interview, not a dialogue. So each person got fifteen minutes to ask their partner the three questions. They should take notes, just like a "real" interview. Then their partner would ask them the same three questions.

The questions were:

  • what attracted you to/kept you among Friends?
  • what was a “best moment” for you among Friends?
  • what three wishes do you have for Friends?

The purpose of these questions was to discover the circumstances, condition, and/or practices that contribute to vitality. After 30 minutes, the group came back together and reported what they found in their interviews. I recorded the answers to questions one and three. I have not edited or commented on what was said. They are in the order they were presented to the group. I offer them for your thinking/observation.

What Brought You To/Kept You Among Friends?

Being a camp counselor
Hearing an inner voice
Strong youth group
Wife is a Quaker minister
Was a church/meeting for the whole community
The mystical worship where God was experiences
The values and beliefs made sense to me
I was born a Quaker, believed the tenets, and experience the truth of it for myself
Learning that I didn’t have to be born a Friend
The people were friendly
There were women in ministry
The lack of liturgy and doctrine
The contemplative nature of worship
The emphasis on peace

What Three Wishes Do You Have for Friends?

We’d be open to change
We’d share non-violence
We’d have the ability to communicate in English instead of Quaker-ese
We’d nurture everyone’s spiritual gifts
We’d Spread message of tolerance/forebearance
That more Friends could have the ESR experience
We’d stop divisiveness
We’d be able to listen deeply to each other
We’d live faithful, holy lives
We’d exemplify integrity
We’d leave a positive legacy
We’d let our current light shine
We’d humble ourselves
We’d grow numerically and spiritually
We’d have some positive surprises

I found the time together engaging and energizing and would love to do it again. The conversations were rich and deep. I just wish we'd have had more Friends present and more time together.

-- Brent

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