Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Plays

I've been working on my Quaker plays again, and doing a much-needed update of general publicity. I write and do my own PR, and that's why things get a few years behind, with my Quaker books and other books. But now I'm home a lot more, and besides the four teenagers I have hanging around, bored out of their skulls, I have less excuse for not getting anything done. That, and the fact that, with life being as risky as it is, there's no reason not to do everything one always had in mind to do.

That is why I'm working on my second book, tentatively called Quaker Plays for Grown-ups. I will explain about it in a minute. But first I want to explain something very simple.

The profits for these plays goes straight to Quaker pursuits. But even that's simple - since I only make about ten or twenty bucks a year off of them, and Cloud Quakers costs $16/mo., that's our entire economy. In short, I don't have much financial complication. You buy these books, I support Cloud Quakers, it's all pretty simple. Of course, you don't have to buy them. Most of them are on the web in one place or another, linked from here, my personal Quaker site. You don't have to even use them, since I happen to know from experience that putting on a play is an enormous amount of work. But if you are interested in learning about Quakerism, there is no better way to do it that read how real people dealt with real conflicts, historical in most cases, that involved their values being put in practice.

Now about the new plays. The first ones were definitely for kids - they started out dealing with the old Quaker stories, White Feather and all, when we had really young kids in our meeting and wanted some kind of first-day program. Eventually we got more kids and they got older, and sure enough, some were really into acting. Some were not, of course, and had a lot of trouble getting up there in front of everyone saying a few lines. And some simply couldn't memorize lines, and we had to prompt them from the first row. But the plays were incredibly popular, and once we took one (Lucretia Mott) up to St. Louis and the folks up there loved it. It was like you could really see history come alive, and it was really good for the people who knew history and the people who knew that history specifically.

So the new plays will be like that, only the lines will be unapologetically longer, and harder to remember. This new book will assume that you want to learn about history, and about Quakers, and whether you like performing them or not, you like reading and knowing about history. If you want to perform them, fine, they have stage directions; they have action sometimes, and things happen, sometimes. But one or two are of the variety that a single person can simply perform, by herself/himself, in front of a crowd, like a monologue. You memorize, you get up there, you belt it out.

That's because, in the end, there are a lot of complex issues to deal with. I have a couple from WWII right off the bat - both Rufus Jones, who went to Germany on a mission to help the Jews - and one about the boat that sailed to the USA and was turned away at our borders. There is one about homophobia in Africa - where the majority of today's Quakers are. There's Tide of Employment, about Hoover, so timely today because of the depression and the antagonism caused by the rich being greedy while everyone else starves. If you wonder whether you can read Quaker history off of plays, try this - it's free. Plays are not for everyone, but you can find out if they are for you.

There are more. One I am working on now, Massacre Canyon, deals with Quaker involvement in the last days of the free Pawnee tribe, before they were massacred by the Sioux. I'm going to do Nixon, and I might do Mary Fisher, an interesting woman who helped start Canadian Friends. I may do Quakers on zoom, just to throw in something modern. But I need more. If you have any ideas, let me know.

If you're interested in the first round, scroll down or try here. I am slowly buying one for each of the actors from the good old days, which would have been roughly 1997-2010, a spell of really fine performances, some of which were filmed, but most of which live on in memory as religious education for the children of southern Illinois meeting.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Clearness Committee

An interesting thing happened at the Cloud Quaker meeting: an attender asked for a Clearness Committee, as part of the process of becoming a Quaker.

Now the interesting thing is that we are not really a meeting, so it would be impossible to join us as a new Friend. A Clearness Committee is something traditional Quaker meetings do for their attenders. You are often able to choose your own members, but members are tasked with asking you the appropriate questions about your beliefs and how you intend to live your life. It is intended so that you know yourself better when it's over, that you know that this is the path you want, and you know that you want Quakers in that path.

I think it's clear that we, as a group of Quakers, help this attender know herself better. This is something any Quakers can do for each other. If we make a time and a place, serve virtual tea, and begin asking questions, she will know by the time it's over whether she really wants to be a Quaker or not. And even if not, she'll come out better when it's over, just by knowing more. Clearness committees can be about marriage and whether two people want to go through it in a Quaker meeting; one committee that I know of was about whether a member should get a job which required carrying a gun. When you have issues of conscience, leading and direction, Clearness committees are great.

To join a meeting, though, you really have to have one. We are a group of international Quakers who know each other and share worship experience regularly. But that is all. We are not affiliated with any particular landed meeting, and we are not likely to become that way any time soon. I like to say we are both a yearly meeting and a worship group - yearly in the sense that we are above the smaller zoom meetings, we are the oldest of the zoom meetings, and we are lucky if we can see each other face to face once a year, if even that. We are a worship group in the sense that we are not quite ready to play a role in a single geographical village, and we also can't have potlucks, unless they're virtual. We can sing, but we can't play music in a group - it doesn't work well on zoom.

So I will tell this attender, who lives in northern Canada, that in order to truly be a member she will have to seek out Canadian Friends and inquire with them. I am sure they meet annually - somewhere - but that is all I know about them. We are proud to be her introduction to Quakerism and I think we are pretty representative when you get right down to it. I think that people need a community, and we are proud to be that, for Quakers everywhere, and we are happy to step in in times like this when it is so hard to meet somewhere physically. It's a new world, zoom, and we represent the possibility of being a Quaker in a community, free of geographical difficulty, but still participating in a community that cares about each other. That's all I ever wanted from this in the first place.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Peace be with you / Quaker music hour

I have stated my plan to make a Quaker music hour. I have not pulled it together, as of now, so I'm not doing it this week. I may yet do it, though. It's a good idea, and an idea whose time has come.

I am just me, trying to organize Cloud Quakers and keep it going. These are turbulent times, with people thrown off their schedules, kept out of their meetings, etc. I feel like we have a strong contribution to make by reaching out to Quakers worldwide, and showing that using zoom is easy.

My main reasons for not getting music hour together yet are: too much happening here (four kids at home, school out for the year), and cold feet about starting something I may not be able to keep going. If I had help, yes, I would be able to keep it going. But nobody is stepping forward, and I'm not holding my breath. Either I'll do it myself, or I'll wait.

Several other trends are evident. First, lots more people come to meeting. This is both good and bad. I'm ok with it so far. Sometimes we see them (they use camera), sometimes not. I'm ok with that too.

Second, nationwide, people have been hacking in to zoom meetings. I am afraid this might happen to ours, and I'm not sure I'm technologically adept enough to keep it from happening. Apparently you can just block the perpetrators. I will try, if it is necessary; I don't want our meeting to be hacked.

Third, the world is suddenly on to zoom and all its uses, and we are no longer alone in our understanding of it or our general ability use it. We are pioneers, and I'm proud of that, but we are not, as you can tell, necessarily expert on it.

There is a general conundrum faced by all Quakers about how much Jesus-talk, or even God-talk, to embrace. I myself could go for weeks without mentioning either, and I have, but that's not necessarily good, because it doesn't give people the opening they need to discuss either if they are so inclined. It is my feeling that we are a diverse community as to our beliefs on how God should be defined, if at all, and what role Jesus plays, if any, in our own spiritual lives. What we hold in common is a commitment to knowing ourselves, becoming better, and using our spiritual core to make decisions in our lives, especially in turbulent times. I need to stress this more strongly and play a stronger role in guiding the conversation.

Finally, I have a personal commitment to keep politics out of meeting. We actually have more in common politically than religiously (having diverse feelings about Jesus and God both), so Quakers often fall into talking politics, about which they often agree, just like people in elevators talk about the weather. We will be here on Easter no matter what; that's not political. Hope you join us!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Cloud Quakers and Coronavirus



This is a stress-inducing airport picture, but coronavirus is a stress-inducing event. The question is what Cloud Quakers can do. At a time when many Quaker meetings are going online, we've already been online for some time. At a time when people ask how online worship is different from in-person worship, we can answer the question, if we're here, and if people ask.

The coronavirus brings a whole new dimension to the stress of the average person just trying to get by in this world. School is out, but we have no daycare; restaurant business dries up, and we have to survive for a while with no money; needing social interaction, we are told to avoid it at all costs. What can we say? We rely on our Quaker spirit to survive the rough times. We survived the Depression, and we can survive this as well, I'm sure.

My heart goes out to those who are separated from aging parents; for those who are struggling with little or no income; for those for whom this has brought interminable suffering. May this be only a short chapter, and a new dawn bring light to a world that seems plunged in darkness.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Quaker Plays for First Days



This is a book of plays that were used for First-Day education in Southern Illinois Friends' Meeting. It was published about a year ago, but is now available on Kindle. All profits go to Quaker ventures, namely Cloud Quaker itself.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Quaker Pop Art Exhibit

In honor of our first anniversary (Cloud Quakers started in Dec. 2018/Jan. 2019), here is some of the best of the year's Quaker pop art.

















hello!




This lighthouse is the unofficial symbol of Cloud Quakers at the moment. In honor of our first anniversary, I will put it in the template of this blog, and provide a Quaker pop art exhibit in the next post.

Plays

I've been working on my Quaker plays again, and doing a much-needed update of general publicity. I write and do my own PR, and that'...