Sunday, June 22, 2014

Notes from Business Meeting

:: this little light of mine ::

Joanne and family showed up as a worship group, This Little Light of Mine, with a prepared statement regarding Nominating's proposal to replace the Peace and Social Concerns Committee with a single individual, the PSC Coordinator.

Business Meeting was not in unity regarding this proposal.

Although the Peace and Social Concerns committee has in fact fizzled, its clerk, Debbie Averill is still up for making announcements and talked about our annual $75 contribution to the Hiroshima / Nagasaki Commemorative Ceremony (August 6th), which my mother helped start back in the 1960s.

Joanne proposed we have a threshing session, with PSC alums, e.g former clerks invited, to seek a way forward.

In her prepared statement, she mused on the theme of how far we might depart from Faith and Practice and still get away with the "Quaker" labeling on the box.  Truth in advertising is an issue, relating to our Integrity testimony.

Any mention of PSC on the Nominating slate might as well be stricken, said Debbie, as it's not realistic to show one, now that a threshing session is planned, and given the two on the slate (currently listed through 2016), besides herself, have not been coming to PSC meetings for some time, plus more recently we've stopped having any PSC meetings at all.

I moved that the AFSC Liaison position also be temporarily removed from the slate, given the job description mentions reporting to the defacto defunct Peace and Social Concerns.  My name was listed as "pending" anyway, and is slated to run through 2015.

The Clerk, turning Assistant Clerk after this meeting, denied my motion, saying she hadn't had time to fully study the AFSC Liaison job description.

Maybe AFSC and FCNL Liaisons and Peace and Social Concerns committee might be unlinked?

Perhaps that was the Clerk's thinking in wanting to keep my position alive while allowing the PSC committee to remain in abeyance.

Will the threshing session choose to go ahead with a Peace Coordinator, or "Peace Czar" as some call the position?

Other meetings, usually much smaller, have gutted themselves in this way and still go by the label "Quaker".

Even Multnomah itself, then smaller, flirted with having no PSC, back in the 1980s.  At least someone had been doing some homework.

I think the assumption most meetings and churches make is they're free to design a Liaison position however they like and AFSC is not really at liberty to have input. 

That may be accurate, although in our case the local AFSC office staff wanted their opinions known (they've been happy with me, as has been Debbie -- complaints to Nominating were from other corners and may have related to my eldering others in the meeting, in my capacity as former Overseer).

Even if a Friends Meeting is making the transition to Friends Church, as Multnomah has been doing, that needn't mean any interruption in liaising. 

Indeed, it's during times of radical surgery that these liaison relationships might be most needed and appreciated, as they bring a kind of legitimacy and continuity to the process.  The Quaker brand, valuable in and of itself, remains intact.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

End of An Era

Probably quite a few Friends Churches don't have a Peace and Social Concerns Committee.  That's a holdover from the Liberal tradition, especially typified in Cascadia, where meetings in the Beanite lineage have populated the Willamette Valley, Olympia, Seattle, surrounding areas.

College Park Association in California was the common parent, a group disowned by Iowa Yearly Meeting back when a wave of evangelical fervor was gripping the mid-west, driving out the more rational (think Pol Pot -- anti-intellectual).

Our local Multnomah Monthly Meeting, once a Liberal Friends flagship, has raised a new flag of late.  There's still a rainbow decal on the door, and a sticker in favor of wind power over coal, but beyond that the place is rather non-descript, though it prominently affiliates itself with the Religious Society of Friends.

 The Faith & Practice, gathering dust by the library door, will tell the newcomer about Peace and Social Concerns, but you'd have to be listening closely during Social Hour to realize that committee was "on ice" or "imploded" or whatever is the jargon du jour.  Don't expect the documentation to actually inform you about the real API.

How naive could you be? (yes, I'm being sarcastic -- as a geek I tout up-to-date documentation as a virtue and I'm not proud of our demented documentation, so way out of date).

Hah hah, bait and switch!  You thought you were getting a Peace and Social Concerns committee (it's there in the manual), but you weren't, and chances are "the clique" felt no obligation to tell you, so in-grown has it become.

What does this mean in terms of joining FGC and having ongoing relationships with the alphabet soup of Quaker entities?

Probably the AFSC has taken the most notice, given the local office is supposed to have a seat on the defunct PSC.  How does one take one's chair at the table, when the table and chair have gone missing?  Kind of puts it in one's face, the whole question of "where do I fit in"?  Answer:  nowhere at the moment, but likely AFSC will find a place to reconnect, once the restructuring is over.

What restructuring?  Come to Business Meeting or stay tuned.  Nominating has become the most powerful committee in the meeting, one could argue the last vital one of the three major "Monthly Meeting organs":  Nominating, Peace and Social Concerns, and Oversight.

Nominating gets people into their roles; Oversight gives reality checks / feedback, informing Business Meetings (a form of worship) by collecting and sharing information; and Peace and Social Concerns presents the cutting edge of Quakers acting out their testimonies:  egalitarian ethics, a commitment to plain speech (if sometimes technical),  simplicity / elegance in design and presentation, integrity, non-violence (no need of outward weapons) -- all that good stuff.

Like what's the point of a Monthly Meeting if you're not actually a platform for putting Quakerism into practice, isn't that the whole point?

We lost a lot of our Oversight powers awhile back at Multnomah, when a new committee (CAC), undocumented, took its place regarding external affairs (vigilance, intelligence, whatever).  Secret alliances were forged with no Oversight input, which committee mostly rolled over and played dead, or was dead for real.  Another story.

And PSC is now gone, as I've been mentioning, so that leaves Nominating to try to jump start the new structure.

Kind of like Dr. Frankenstein in his lab, applying the voltage to his "project".  Lets see if "the project" sits up and starts passing the Turing Test.  Then:  will it have Quaker values?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rat Story

Like most of my rainforest neighbors experience from time to time, we have live-in rodentia, some squirrels, some rats.  They frequent the attic and spaces between the lath and plaster and wooden exterior (I know, Cascadia quaint, with somewhat creaky floors but not nearly as squeaky as Pauling House).

In the attic, an infra-red motion sensor has been firing off pix by email via the Internet (it has access to my router).  A have-a-heart trap of feral cat / raccoon trapping size sits in my living room, a $10 purchase at a nearby estate sale (thanks for the tip neighbor!).  However, the real property damage, to shared stores (Food Not Bombs) and personal stuff (the dog's food bag) has come from a rat or rats not in the attic.  I have less of a heart in some areas.

Speaking of slaughtering innocent furry animals, I also buy mice at the pet store for $1.98 apiece and let them "go free" in a confined volume with a predatory hungry animal, which kills them quickly by suffocation / constriction.  If one believes in moving on, a next life, roll of the dice, should be better than that of a clueless mouse in the pet food business.  But how about being a snake, what's that like?  Philosophers wonder about such things, what it's like to be a bat for example (famous essay).

The rabid consumer in me is pissed off the local grocery has gone with an off brand knock off of the V trap that's always worked well, lets call it Z.  I kept the receipt somehow knowing this could be problem, and sure enough, one night cheese, the next night peanut butter, and both times this super smart rat got a meal without paying the ultimate price.  My respect for the rat has gone up a lot, while my respect for the Z has plummeted.  I'm going to try another store for a V, and if it works then return my two Zs with scientific evidence to back my claim that Vs are better.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Dry as Bones

Thinking about the Honduras Sisters, how I think of them, through Multnomah Friends for a visit not so long ago.  Interesting conversations about membership.  Hey, how 'bout the new Pope!  My Catholic friends have said some glowing things, some of them.  Boosts morale.

Speaking of Multnomah Friends, we're due for a new Nominating slate soon.  It's that time of year.  We do management by rotation, meaning we get to exercise our various talents in different roles.  I'm interested in PR (public relations) so it makes sense where I sit.  Front row seat and all that.

The Curse of the Gothic Symphony was video fare for the non-serious, by which I mean we needed something fun and engaging that would not punish us for dividing our attention.  In my case, I needed to work through Python work, submitted by earnest students of this computer language, named for Monty Python, friends of the Beatles and Peter Sellers.

Python's author is a Dutch guy though, not a Brit, however Python's adoption within the English-speaking world has been widespread.  The 33 keywords (as of this writing) are all English (in, for, is, if, else...) but that's it.  If you wanna have Russian characters, or Chinese, be my guest.

For my current courses, the ones I teach, at least business English is a requirement, somewhat a reflection of our school's tiny size and my not being anything close to polyglot.

I returned The Curse of the Gothic Symphony just now to Movie Madness, resisting the temptation to get Wagner and Me, in my queue for later then, when I have more bandwidth.  The Curse... could be viewed in a Systems / Project Management class, where you study workflows and methodologies like Agile (what I teach, Python being an "agile" dynamic typed language, vs. static).  One might find it on a college's "required viewing" syllabus.  Anthropology maybe.