Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Retirement, Remixing, and the Religious Society of Friends

I don't post much here anymore since I mostly use Facebook, Twitter, and the like to offer thoughts. But what I have to say here requires a bit more space.

As my faithful reader (notice, singular, not plural) knows, I retired from full-time, paid employment a year ago. And while I'm as busy as I've ever been, I'm busy doing mostly things I really enjoy -- writing, leading retreats, hanging out with friends, and the like.

I've also come to really enjoy something else -- and that's watching friends of mine who are a generation or two younger than me move into really significant leadership and staff positions in the Religious Society of Friends. What I especially enjoy about this is seeing how they do things differently than I (and others of my advanced age) would do them.

Now, when I was younger and way more insecure (I'm still insecure -- just not as much as I used to be), I would have been critical of how they do things differently. After all, I did them the right way. And I did -- for my time and with my understanding of what was needed. But times have changed (my gosh, I sound like my Grandma Bill!) and ways doing things in the RSOF and its institutions and organizations need to change, too. I'm pleased that younger (than me) leaders are doing just that.

I'm just going to focus primarily on one example (because otherwise this post would become a book -- and I'm already working on a book with a deadline looming!!) and that's my friend Wess Daniels who serves as the William R Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College.

I've known Wess for a number of years and followed his thinking and writing -- especially about the RSOF and revitalization. He's a good thinker (but not as good a writer as I am -- kidding). And his thinking and writing have challenged me to rethink some of ways of how we do things. One of his most innovative ideas is that of remixing. I'm not going to go into it fully here (if you want to explore it further and I hope you do, check out his book A Convergent Model of Renewal: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture or his recent Michener Seminar at Southeastern Yearly Meeting), but as I understand it, it is remaining faithful to the bedrock of our faith tradition while reinterpreting it (remixing) so it is hearable, usuable, and useful for today. He posits that "remixing" is what the early Friends did to revive their understanding of the spiritual vitality of primitive Christianity.

And now Wess is remixing in his position at Guilford. The good work of Friends Center and, especially its Quaker Leadership Scholars Program, was founded and grew thanks to the efforts of my dear friend (and Friend) Max Carter. It's been a joy to watch this program grow and prosper under Max's direction (and with the help of other friends/Friends like Frank Massey and Deborah Shaw). I've even had the good fortune to lead workshop or two there. Friends Center and QLSP made a huge difference in RSOF and in young adults' lives. Max's contributions can not be overstated (I only wish my own to the RSOF were anywhere as significant as his!). And his vital ministry to Friends continues (which is one of the fun things about retirement -- all the ministry without all the administration, budgeting, etc!).

I see Wess taking the bedrock of Friends Center's "tradition" and remixing it in ways that embrace that tradition and make it accessible in new ways to a new generation of students. I think that's grand. In the same way that it's grand that Gabe Ehri and the Friends Publishing folks have remixed Friends Journal, Marta Rusek and Dan Kasztelan are remixing communications at FGC and FUM, and on and on.

Part of what I believe is that we, as created in the image of God, are called to create -- and re-create. I see that happening around me and am grateful.

My prayer is that I can continue to celebrate the "re-creation" (remixing) even when it rubs up against my ideas about how things should be done. While I continue my ministry in new ways, freed from the constraints of having to earn a living, may I support those who are re-doing our ministry in new ways. To borrow an idea from the Bible -- "the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"  Well, the "old" (at least my personal part of it!) has not quite gone yet (and I hope it doesn't for awhile!), but I rejoice that the "new is here."

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