Sunday, September 06, 2015

Visiting M3

M3 or #M3 as a hashtag (one of many) is a less-used abbreviation for MMM.  Putting the 3 as a superscript, designating exponentiation, or atomic number, is more esoteric yet.  Multnomah Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends is a part of Willamette Quarterly Meeting which in turn is within the sphere of North Pacific Yearly Meeting.

That's as "high" as it gets for us.  NPYM has not yet joined any larger group, such as FGC (Friends General Conference).  I'd call Pendle Hill a Quaker "think tank".  QUNO and FWCC are more like satellites, though with the latter having a complicated structure of its own e.g. a Section of the Americas.

Yes, we jokingly refer to our Quaker Vatican in Philadelphia, but that's more for historical reasons than because of any currently operative administrative lines of control.

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is its own non-profit, intricately interwoven with the Yearly Meetings through interlocking executive roles and Corporation representatives (my role in many blog posts), but is not directly "bossing" Quakers anywhere unless they're on staff.  It's a social action arm, a corporate face for PR and wholesome programming.

At North Pacific Yearly Meeting we nominate our delegates to these various Quaker organizations, such as Yearly Meeting Appointees (YMAs) to AFSC.  That's what I mean by "Corporation representative" in that I'd represent AFSC to the world, as one of its Corporation members, but also I'd represent NPYM to AFSC.

An example of an issue for us, during my tenure:  NPYM is less concerned with "member" as a title than some Yearly Meetings, and more concerned with participation.  Some of our most active participants, especially in AFSC work, are not officially members of our Religious Society, yet affiliate closely therewith.

So the AFSC's directive to send "its most experienced members" as Corporation members, to Philadelphia for annual meetings, was somewhat problematic in light of Yearly Meeting goals, as sometimes the most enthusiastic participant, most in need of relevant experience (and likely aware of that fact), would be an obvious nominee from our point of view, in addition to perhaps an old timer.

That was me in earlier chapters, new to AFSC Corporation meetings, though not to Philadelphia.  The old chicken:egg conundrum applies:  how to get experience when they only want those with experience already.  By now, as an old timer, I've had enough experience that asking for more seems greedy.  We have many more up and coming.  However, there's still plenty of room to participate, without re-upping for past roles.

How many delegates and who sets the number was another bone of contention.  AFSC has its own corporate bylaws, but how do these reconcile with Yearly Meetings at the Faith & Practice level? That's an ongoing discussion.  During my tenure, NPYM's policy was to pick up the tab on air travel and hotel, or leave it to the delegate to make those costs an in-kind donation.  Either way, in not making our delegates an expense to AFSC, we were hoping to keep the question of "how many" more in our court.

Then there's FCNL:  Friends Committee on National Legislation.  That entity is based in Washington DC and is all about communicating with legislative bodies i.e. the House and Senate.  That's right, it's a lobby.  AFSC is more like a government in exile, still in Philadelphia, a city that used to be the nation's capital and remains an important hub in the Quaker State.

Where the State Department might not see a way clear to hold talks with so-and-so, AFSC might, nevertheless.  Quakers make up their own minds in some dimensions, more like Christian Scientists in that way.

The practice of Quakerism does not dictate uniformity when it comes to viewpoint and some are temperamentally more prone to work "within the system" (FCNL's role) whereas others are more interested in challenging the status quo with even more efficient systems, doing more with less (the term "dymaxion" might apply).

Lets name the canonical representatives of these extremes of temperament.  How about "the law-abiding good doobies" versus "the rebels"?  Or maybe "squares" versus "drapes" (is slang OK)?

Quakerism caters to the full spectrum, from boat rocker to quietist, as do most religious lineages of longstanding.  They started out as rebels, subversives in the 1600s, but within a century had come out on top as law-abiding lawmakers, or at least bankers and builders, pivotal in England's industrialization.

Quakerism has been nurtured both by revolutionaries and pillars of the status quo, begetting new synergies in self-organization.

AFSC was established by a Quaker mystic and college professor, Rufus Jones, among others, and is about doing the work George Fox called "removing the occasion for wars" i.e. once those selling the prospect of war have captured the imagination, it's almost too late.  One needs to stay ahead of the curve.

Quakerism is anticipatory in seeing any attempt to oppress or starve (conquer) a people will lead to blow back and perhaps unforeseen consequences.  The opposite of freedom is feeling conquered and under the boot of some cast of authority figures.  Aren't there better ways to spread knowledge of the tools for good living (tractors and so on)?

Working "with the grain" of the human animal, for its well being, is the way to go if at all possible, as the long haul religions will often attest, corporations too.  "Food not Bombs" is the basic message.

So when many Anglos were hell bent on starving the German people, AFSC did its best to end that blockade.  Getting medical supplies to the people of Vietnam suffering aerial bombardment and other atrocities, was a priority in a later chapter.

Friends have filled the ground floor social hall since I started writing this, many of whom I don't recognize, others of whom I do of course.  There's Leslie Hickcox, Multnomah Meeting's FCNL representative.  We're meeting at Horse Brass later today, across the street from the local AFSC office.

I've been coming to this meetinghouse, off and on since the 1960s, before our family moved to Rome.  I also sometimes attend Bridge City Friends Meeting (also NPYM), or roam around, not wanting to get too "stuck in a rut" as my dad would say.  West Hills Friends Church?  Why not? Reedwood?  Sure thing.  And that's still just within Oregon in under thirty minutes by car, plus I skipped mentioning some worship groups and at least one more Quaker church.

In terms of role playing, I'm on the NPYM IT Committee these days, as one of its clerks, the one into Technology.  They call me the Technology Clerk.

Until recently one could say with confidence that NPYM was made up of Meetings, Preparative Meetings and Worship Groups, not Churches, Temples, Synagogues or Mosques.  The latter two seem pretty well branded, as Jewish and Islamic respectively, but then who's to say Quakerism can't spring up within other religions besides Buddhism and Christianity?  We might co-design such sects, not just wait for them to happen.  Hybrids beget exciting new breeds sometimes (i.e. lineages).

You'll see me wearing that Technology Clerk hat in some of these blog posts as well.  My term as NPYM YMA to AFSC ended October of last year (2014). I've been doing Quaker IT for almost a year now. Yes, it's a rotating position.  Our brand of Quakers likes to keep mixing it up, a way to fight off the rigor mortis that may attack the more frozenly hierarchical religions.

Across from AFSC