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Trainspotting

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 20:37
We went to visit a friend today, the boy and me. Up at Willesden Junction. We took the footbridge to Hythe Road. My friend swears she once saw 23 trainspotters on that bridge all at once. Today, there were just two. Me and the boy. And he was asleep and I was halfway there. Still, […]
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Procrastinate! Procrastinate!

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 01/14/2014 - 20:10
The daleks may have been more successful if they had tried to make everyone procrastinate instead of trying to exterminate. I’ve read the books, I’ve done the courses, I ought to have the sodding T-shirt. Each time I find a new system to get my tasks done, I start well but after a while I […]
Categories: Blogs

The most precious of gifts

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 01/13/2014 - 20:21
Working in east London, I see a lot of helicopters. If it’s not the police on a mission, it’s likely to be the air ambulance delivering an urgent case to the Royal London hospital or returning to base there. London’s had an air ambulance service since 1989. One day, on my way to work near […]
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Making new memories

Jez Smiths blog - Sun, 01/12/2014 - 21:05
We had a lie in – our son woke us at 6:20 this morning. It felt good. Pulling up the blind we saw a beautiful morning glow, pink across the sky. There was a frost. Everything was crisp. It had an edge. Later we went out for a walk. Ostensibly we were trying to get […]
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Recorded Minister Report for 2013

Quest for Adequacy - Sun, 01/12/2014 - 19:40
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  Matthew 18:20.Shortly after Freedom Friends Church recorded my gifts of ministry in June 2013, I had a couple opportunities for public ministry.  On June 30 to July 6, I led a five-day workshop on Convergent Friends at the FGC Gathering, and I had the opportunity to preach at Camas Friends Church on July 28.  I also found I had many opportunities, both formal and informal, to use my gifts.  I clerked a conference call clearness committee for a Friend who was discerning how to leave her job, and I was approached by several (mostly young) Friends, online and in person, to talk about topics that have been important for me over the past several years, such as the gift of prophecy, being a woman in ministry, and how it feels to be led to give vocal ministry.  My primary focus during that time, however, was the transition from my life in Salem to beginning seminary in Atlanta.  It was a full, emotional, and surprisingly productive summer!

On August 19, the cats and I flew across the country to our new home in Atlanta.  Orientation at Candler School of Theology began two days later.  The transition was harder than I expected, and my experience at Candler so far has been decidedly mixed.  There are things that I love about studying at Candler: my classes are interesting, the professors are brilliant and entertaining, and my classmates are thoughtful and kind.  I am especially excited about getting to take practical classes such as Nonprofit Leadership and Management and Vocational Discernment for a Sustained Life of Ministry.  As part of my contextual education, I spend Mondays as a chaplain intern at a women’s prison located about an hour north of Atlanta; that is one of the highlights of my week.  I also enjoy singing in a choir for credit.

But in the first few weeks of my time at Candler, the administration decided to give an alumni award to Eddie Fox, a man who has been extremely vocal in the fight to prevent full equality for LGBT people in the United Methodist Church.  I ended up in tears in a meeting with the dean and other students and faculty, saying how hurt I felt by the decision to give this award and questioning whether, as an out bisexual, I was really welcome at Candler.  In response to this controversy, an alum wrote that she feels Candler is “welcoming but not affirming,” and I have to agree.  It was especially disappointing for me because that is not the way Candler presents itself in its promotional materials.  One positive outcome is that I quickly connected with the LGBT group at Candler (Sacred Worth), and I have felt very supported by the Emory Office of LGBT Life and other allies on campus.

Another source of support has been friends at Atlanta Friends Meeting.  It was easy to decide which Quaker meeting to attend in Atlanta because there is only one!  Atlanta Friends reminds me a lot of University Friends Meeting in Seattle, both in size and culture, and Friends there have been very welcoming.  I became a sojourning member in October and I anticipate joining a meeting committee soon.  I have also asked the meeting for a support committee.

In November, I had the opportunity to attend a School of the Spirit spiritual renewal weekend in Durham, NC.  I also got to spend the night before the retreat with Friends at Wings of Dawn Farm.  It was wonderful to see so many friends from my School of the Spirit class and others.  I found while I was there that the planned theme of the renewal weekend (on loss and failure) was not speaking to me, so I spent most of the weekend on a true retreat, taking time for quiet rest and reflection.  It was good for my soul and reminded me of my need to incorporate more times of retreat into my daily life.

I have continued to do some writing, though writing on my blog ebbs and flows as usual.  I published a piece on working with an elder in the Western Friend book An Inner Strength: Quakers and Leadership, which came out in July.  I have an upcoming article in Friends Journal on the importance of financial support for ministry.  I have also been doing a fair amount of writing for my seminary classes and expect to do more this semester.

I feel that my self-care during this time of transition has been good.  My course load last semester felt manageable and I did not do very much paid legal work.  I have been intentional about my spiritual practices: setting aside time in the morning for prayer, reading a chapter of the Bible each night, taking Saturday as a sabbath from schoolwork, and getting regular exercise.  I have begun meeting monthly with a spiritual director, and Aimee M and I have kept up a spiritual friendship, checking in with each other over the phone every few months.

Looking ahead, the biggest thing on the horizon is that I will be giving a plenary message at the FWCC Consultation in High Point, NC on April 11.  I am preparing the message in advance so it can be translated into Spanish for simultaneous interpretation.  I hope to spend next summer working in Salem, and I have offered to lead a workshop on prayer at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference.  My New Year’s resolution this year is discernment for a sustained life of ministry, and I have already found several opportunities to practice discernment!

I am grateful to all of you at Freedom Friends Church for your love, prayers, and support, as well as for the gift of my recording this year.  I am holding you in prayer as you meet for yearly meeting, and I look forward to seeing you next summer.

Love,
Ashley
Categories: Blogs

parkrun conversion

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 01/11/2014 - 20:53
One of the joys of parkrun is the opportunity to take somewhere old and familiar and see it new. Back home the park I run parkrun in I used to use for the occasional walk, most usually when I was going somewhere else, or because it has a ping pong table and we’re amenable to […]
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Up the gant, down the gant

Jez Smiths blog - Fri, 01/10/2014 - 20:39
For most of my life I’ve never really known what Braintree could be famous for. It’s my home town. About the only thing that ever happened to Braintree was many years ago, when a girl on holiday married a local Turkish lad that she met out there. Fleetingly, Braintree was in the national news. And […]
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Going the extra mile

Jez Smiths blog - Thu, 01/09/2014 - 13:46
When Jesus said that we were to go the extra mile he wasn’t encouraging us to be the best we can. He was teaching us that ordinary people can subvert and undermine imperial power. Best of all, he was teaching us the way of active nonviolence. In Roman times higher ranking soldiers would buy slaves […]
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Bargain Hunt

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 01/08/2014 - 14:18
In Bargain Hunt, the popular daytime TV programme on BBC, two teams of amateur collectors have a limited time to find the best bargain that they can. The rivalry is always fairly light but I imagine that bragging rights must go on for ever.  From time-to-time I turn my lunchbreak into my own little version of […]
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I will be good

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 01/07/2014 - 13:11
“I will be good.” So said an 11-year-old Victoria when told by her governess that one day she would be queen. With that sentiment in mind I knew that I had to get out and do my first lunchtime run of 2014. To help me deliver on my promise I signed up to Janathon (daily […]
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Wet Wet Wet

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 01/06/2014 - 20:21
I feel it right through my jeans I feel it right through my coat Rain is all around me And so the feeling grows It’s written on the wind It’s everywhere I go, oh yes it is… (with apologies to Wet Wet Wet) Today I got rottenly soaked right through on the way home from […]
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2,549 steps to success

Jez Smiths blog - Sun, 01/05/2014 - 20:38
Here’s my list of 2,549 steps to success 1. Take a step 2. Take another step 3. Take a third step 4. You get the picture Today, I’ve taken 2,549 steps and counting. I have no idea if this is true, but it’s what my Moves app tells me. I probably took most of these […]
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parkrun breakfast

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 01/04/2014 - 10:37
For me there’s nothing quite like a helping of cold porridge as a post-parkrun breakfast. And not just cold porridge – it has to be cold porridge eaten out of the pan with the wooden stirring spoon. I even love scrubbing the plasticky layering around the edge of the pan onto the spoon. This morning’s […]
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A cold stroll

Jez Smiths blog - Fri, 01/03/2014 - 19:18
We went for a cold stroll today, the boy and I. Up to the park and back again was all it was. The way up was slow. We were with 3 other parents and 3 other kids. One, aged 2 and 4 months, was allowed to walk so we had to go at her pace. […]
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A walk in the park

Jez Smiths blog - Thu, 01/02/2014 - 18:37
Is that a squirrel up your trousers or are you pleased to see me? Um, it’s a squirrel. Thankfully it was on the outside. Today was the first time that I experienced a squirrel running up my leg. It’s not something I’ve sought to experience and it’s not something I’m keen to do again. We […]
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The Deception of Surfaces: Long-form excerpt

Benjamin Lloyd's blog - Sat, 12/21/2013 - 14:36
In 2008 I performed in LEAP, a long-form improvisation  show at the Live Arts Fringe Festival in Philadelphia that year, directed by Bobbi Block. The experience had such a profound effect on me… Read More →
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PILGRIMAGE TO IRELAND April 22-May 5, 2014

Connecting Friends: Salt and Light - Thu, 12/19/2013 - 20:17
Spend time in worship and conversation with Irish Quakers. Appreciate the rich history of Friends in Ireland, enter into the spiritual life of this diverse group as a guest at their yearly meeting sessions and visit some of their meetings.
  • Explore the 350-year history of Friends in Ireland, which began in persecution.
  • Reflect on the witness of Friends whose quiet efforts during the Great Hunger of the 19thcentury helped relieve suffering and challenged its causes.
  • Hear from those who worked during the 20th century 'Troubles' to offer fresh visions of reconciliation.
  • Observe the continuing work towards community reconciliation in 21st century multi-racial, multi-cultural Ireland.

Moyallon - our 'home' in Northern IrelandAlways the chance of a cup of tea

THE PILGRIMAGEOur pilgrimage will begin and end in Dublin, where we will join in Ireland Yearly Meeting’s annual sessions. The yearly meeting is a microcosm of some of the theological and cultural diversity on the island. We will meet as a small group each evening to reflect on our learning.
We will then move to Northern Ireland. From our tranquil base at Moyallon, we will get to know local Friends, visit meetinghouses in villages and cities, hear about faithful work for reconciliation over the years, and visit some of the places where Friends’ testimonies are visible in community relations. Be prepared to drink many cups of tea as Ulster Friends welcome us, and expect to make lasting friendships.
We will travel to areas where so-called “peace walls” keep communities segregated, visit places of loss and violence, but also look for signs of hope, and see some the work to bring members of different communities together, including the role of the arts in creating new paradigms and symbols.We will visit the Giant's CausewayPilgrims on the Antrim coast, looking across to Scotland
We will also have opportunities to relax and explore Dublin, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, as well as visiting the Antrim coast and the Giant’s Causeway.

A pilgrimage involves preparation, the journey itself and reflection after the event.
SOME QUERIES TO BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY:
·      How do I prepare myself for what God has waiting for me in Ireland?
·      What gifts do I bring to reconciliation?
·      How do I overcome inward obstacles - especially assumptions and fears?
·      What would make me a more effective agent of reconciliation in my own community?
·      How am I called to engage in change within my own community - Quaker and beyond?Pilgrims on the walls of Derry/Londonderry
The Fountain enclave from the walls of Derry/Londonderry











SOME THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS ON THE JOURNEY
Ireland Yearly Meeting spans two countries: (the Republic of) Ireland and Northern Ireland. What are the factors that hold it together as one yearly meeting?  
Irish Friends reflect some of the diversity in broader Irish/Northern Ireland society, and much of the theological diversity to be found among Friends everywhere. How do they nurture unity? 
How can we learn from Irish Quakers, with their cultural and theological diversity, on navigating the differences among Friends - especially in North America?
In what ways have Irish Friends held up Quaker testimonies and influenced public policy in both countries?


YOUR FACILITATORS Margaret Fraser has co-led Quaker pilgrimages for both adults and Young Friends on two continents, and two previous international visits to Northern Ireland. She has a growing interest in the ways in which some communities can live together in the midst of significant cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, while for others the stress is too great. She feels happily at home among Irish Friends.
Anne Bennetttaught at Queen's University, Belfast, during the Troubles, and for several years afterwards she worked for the international department of Britain Yearly Meeting. She was involved with developing peacebuilding  programmes in societies which had experienced  violent conflicts including Africa. Asia and the Middle East, before returning to Northern Ireland in 2004 as Director of Quaker House, Belfast.
They are both hoping that their friends will quickly become your friends.
PILGRIMAGE COST: $2,500.                                    
WHAT'S INCLUDED:§  13 nights' accommodation.§  Three meals a day during the pilgrimage.§  Travel - on buses and trains, and in a van with local driver.§  Attendance at the sessions of Ireland Yearly Meeting§  Advance reading materials§  Daily reflection and conversation time.
(Airfare to and from Dublin and travel insurance are not included.)
REGISTRATIONTo register, contact margaret@goodnewsassoc.org A deposit of $800 will secure your place. Please pay two further payments of $850, due by February 1 and March 1, 2014. 
Please make checks payable to Good News Associates, and mail them to 13730 15th Ave NE #A302, Seattle, WA 98125.
Good News Associates
13730 15th Ave NE #A302, Seattle, WA 98125
Categories: Blogs

Prison Mondays

Quest for Adequacy - Wed, 11/27/2013 - 15:08
I used to have an office with a desk that overlooked some trees, where I would sit at my computer and do legal work.  This semester, I sometimes think my office is a corner in a prison hallway next to a trash can.  I stand there while an inmate sits on the lid of the trash can, telling me what is on her heart.

Prison is loud and chaotic.  The dorms where I work as an intern are L-shaped, with open shared rooms down one hall and a break room on the other hall.  The rooms each have four sets of bunk beds and the lights never completely turn off.  It is nearly impossible to find a place for private conversation.

Sometimes I sit in the break room, talking with women or waiting for them to come to me.  Other times, I sidle up to a woman as she is sitting on the trash can, one of the quieter places in the dorm.  I ask if she wants to talk or if she would rather be left alone.  The other chaplain interns and I have found that the women are more likely to talk with us if we stand next to them instead of in front of them.

The women tell me about their children and their grandchildren (the majority are mothers).  They worry about sick family members and pray for the day that they will be able to return home.  Once I stood next to a woman whose eyes filled with tears as she told me that she had been driving drunk and the passenger in her car was killed in an accident.  "Will his family ever forgive me?" she asked.  "Will the pain ever go away?"

It's not all hard and heavy.  The women and I laugh together and share stories.  They tell me about the day-to-day frustrations of being in prison, and I agree that it must be hard.  They ask me questions about esoteric Bible verses (Jude 1:9, anyone?) and show me pictures of their families.

The women want to know what I can do for them.  Can I get them a bar of soap, deliver a letter, help them get into a class?  I tell them that I am there to listen.  We can talk about God if they want, or we can pray together, but mostly I am just there to be with them.  Some days, that's enough.
Categories: Blogs

Reuben Mitchell: a tribute

Benjamin Lloyd's blog - Mon, 11/11/2013 - 12:45
This is a repost of an excerpt from a blog post I originally published last year on November 17th, days after Reuben Mitchell was killed. I was in rehearsal for the Arden Theater production… Read More →
Categories: Blogs

MYRLK

Benjamin Lloyd's blog - Mon, 10/28/2013 - 02:41
Photographs by Sarah Bloom, A White Pines Exchange Sponsored Artist. *** Last spring my company, White Pines Productions, received grant support to produce two original plays. Our application described the plays we were… Read More →
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