And the rest

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 08/21/2013 - 19:55
I spotted these benches in a small park by the regents canal the other day. I was on a short lunchtime walk that turned out to be 1.7 miles long. That and the walks to and from work are about all the exercise I’m getting just now. I was pleased to see this heron too, […]
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Sometimes it’s just what I want

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 08/17/2013 - 07:20
Yesterday I had a fry up for lunch. Since I became a father I’ve largely resisted them. I don’t want to end up with a big gut. I do want to set a good example of fitness to my child. Bit friday was just one of those days. I had been struggling through work with […]
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Still, like an owl

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 08/14/2013 - 21:34
We saw an owl by the southbank recently, still as you like. It sums up my running experience this week – I’ve been still, like the owl. Still, there’s always tomorrow.
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Too easy

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 08/13/2013 - 20:27
It’s too easy. To not run. I should have run on Monday, but I persuaded myself not to go. I can’t even remember why anymore. I was exhausted from not sleeping well, but I don’t think that was it. So, like bagpuss in the picture, I’m on the inside looking out. Today there were kids […]
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New Pb

Jez Smiths blog - Sun, 08/11/2013 - 10:34
On Saturday at parkrun I got a new Pb, taking 34 seconds off my best time to get home in 25:07. I had been expecting to run in 30-31mins with my neighbour but a hangover forced him out and I was left with no reason not to push myself hard. At the finish, unusually for […]
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The lengths we go to…

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 08/10/2013 - 07:25
Friday was a rest day from running. After work we met up at serpentine lido and went for a swim. It’s my favourite place in London to swim. I love it when I get to see birds close up and at their level, while keeping a respectful distance! Last week a great crested grebe came […]
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Run with a hippo

Jez Smiths blog - Thu, 08/08/2013 - 21:11
On Monday I picked up this hippo on my run and carried it home under my arm. I must have made an odd sight! Tonight I picked up a slide that I had seen last night and wondered about. It was still there so I decided to take it. My new running partner, my neighbour, […]
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Not flying

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 20:47
This little guy, Tomy Pushngo, was a gift to baby from a cousin. You push his head down and off he goes. He doesn’t go far and he doesn’t go fast. He sums up my run tonight, 4.16 miles in 39:18 minutes. Not flying, not fast. The first mile was fastest at 8:57 and the […]
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Silent lapwing

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 08/06/2013 - 06:49
At Easter we visited the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes. We had a lovely time wandering around the reserve and enjoyed sharing the experience with our baby. When a nappy needed changing we were able to do it in a hide, out of the changeable weather system we were experiencing. One of the lovely reasons […]
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Thoughts on Leadings II

Quest for Adequacy - Sun, 08/04/2013 - 19:01
A message I gave at Freedom Friends Church this morning during open worship:
Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a woman who is not a Quaker (she is a member of a UCC church).  She asked me what Friends do when people have leadings that seem to be at odds with each other.  I said that it is like when you are in unprogrammed worship at a large meeting, and two people stand to speak at the same time.  They both may have true leadings from the Spirit to speak in that moment, but they can't both speak at the same time.  One of them has to sit down.
[If you would like to hear a recording of a longer message, the message I gave in programmed worship at Camas Friends Church last Sunday is now available for streaming online and on iTunes.]
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The great new toy

Jez Smiths blog - Fri, 08/02/2013 - 12:22
Continuing on from an earlier post about the baby’s favourite toys, there’s a new favourite. Baby’s mother took a plastic box that had contained a Littlelife Poncho Towel that grandmother had bought, added some glitter stars and other things and sealed it all up. Now baby has a shaker with lots of bright colours to […]
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attachment theory

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 07/29/2013 - 20:31
This afternoon on my way home from work I saw Snack. I’ve always assumed Snack is a chap, but he could be either. No one is really sure what he is. Or, people are sure but they don’t agree. Snack is red and yellow with a black mane. Snack is a giraffe. Snack is a […]
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God’s Body

Benjamin Lloyd's blog - Sun, 07/28/2013 - 02:26
God's Body reflections from the summer sessions of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Quakers) 2013 And it is in the gritty soil of Allentown among the bones of buried miners commingling with the coal that… Read More →
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+ve thinking for a sleeping baby

Jez Smiths blog - Fri, 07/26/2013 - 20:04
For the past three nights baby has taken himself off to sleep when he’s been ready. I put him in his cot, give him a kiss and a hug, then he winds himself down. Could this be a pattern? Is this the holy land where baby gets himself off to sleep when he’s tired? Tonight […]
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Playlist III

Quest for Adequacy - Wed, 07/24/2013 - 12:52
I will be moving to Atlanta in just under a month, and I have been working on a new playlist for my ipod.  My playlists are not just a snapshot of the music I am listening to at the moment, they are one of the intuitive ways I work through challenging times.  I have posted before about playlists I made during some difficult ministry and before going to Kenya for the World Conference of Friends. 

This one is called "Something New."  Through these songs, I am trying to honor what I am leaving behind as well as where I am going.  I hope that they will help keep me grounded and give me strength and courage for what lies ahead.

Something New

The Dress Looks Nice On You, Sufjan Stevens
Wake Me Up, Avicii
Some Nights, Fun.
Pardon Me, The Blow
Skinny Love, Bon Iver
Nowhere, Massachusetts, Black Prairie
Wake Up, Arcade Fire
20 Dollar Nose Bleed, Fall Out Boy
Slips, Hymn For Her
Boom Boom, Storm Large
The Birth of Our Purpose, Jon Watts
You Are Everyone, Dar Williams
I Will Wait, Mumford & Sons
Carry On, Fun.
Fireweed Mountain, Seth Martin and the Menders
He Woke Me Up Again, Sufjan Stevens
The Only Moment We Were Alone, Explosions in the Sky
Walk Away Renee, Left Banke
Ancient Green, Kathleen Hannan
Loom, Ani DiFranco
Secret of the Easy Yoke, Pedro the Lion
Hum Hallelujah, Fall Out Boy
Your Hand in Mine, Explosions in the Sky
Banjo Lullaby, Seth Martin and the Menders
Cedar Tree, Indigo Girls
Shout Me Out, TV on the Radio
Awake My Soul, Mumford & Sons
Throw Me a Curve, The Go-Go's
One More Night (Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead), Stars
There's Never Enough Time, The Postal Service
The Transfiguration, Sufjan Stevens
Jessica, Regina Spektor
What Light, Wilco
The Lord Bless You and Keep You, John Rutter
Below My Feet, Mumford & Sons
Promise, Pedro the Lion

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Thank you, the people of Minami-Urawa

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 07/23/2013 - 12:11
Thank you, the people of Minami-Urawa, who rescued a member of your community who was stuck under a train. You reminded people all over the world about our common humanity.  I’m sure that the story has been covered all over the place but I read about it on the BBC website. A train pulled into Minami-Urawa […]
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And a new king is born

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 07/22/2013 - 20:51
For everyone of us who has borne a child, they are the centre of our world. In the UK alone, around 723,913 babies were born in 2011 (the latest year that the figures are available for). Today though, a new king has been born. Well, he’s third in line to the throne. Good luck to […]
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My People

Quest for Adequacy - Wed, 07/17/2013 - 13:53
Send down the fire of your justiceSend down the rains of your loveSend down your Spirit, breathe life in your peopleMake us the people of God
I have spent a lot of time over the past five years traveling among Friends, both in person and online.  I have been to evangelical, liberal, and conservative yearly meetings.  I have worshiped with Friends in meetinghouses and churches from Alaska to Nairobi.  I have read posts by Friends who are as close to me as family and by others who I have never met, but who I know to be kindred spirits.

All of this travel among Friends has been a privilege and a blessing.  It has also given me a vantage point on the Religious Society of Friends that I think is unusual.  I was reminded of that yesterday when I saw two posts online by Friends.

The first was by Becky A, who is currently serving as superintendent of Northwest Yearly Meeting.  In her post, On Our Way Rejoicing, Becky wondered what it is that Friends do together that is so worthwhile.  She proposed the following statement:
The NWYM of Friends churches are compelled to share the good news that Jesus Christ is alive and present today to teach us himself; that we identify ourselves as Friends of Jesus when we do what Jesus tells us to do individually and corporately; and that this Friendship is open to all.The second post was by Cat C-B, entitled An Open Letter to my Christian Quaker Friends: Part 1 of 2.  In her post, Cat said,
. . .the same spiritual integrity that made me show up and keep showing up for Quaker meetings--because I was called, and I knew it--has also kept me loyal to and part of the Pagan community that formed for me a soul capable of hearing a spiritual call in the first place.  For someone looking in from the outside, it might seem impossible that these people are part of the same religious society.  But I know better.  I have followed the ministry of both of these women for years, and I can attest that they are both faithful Friends.

It is hard for me, when I travel among Friends, to hear the ways that some Friends fear other Friends.  I wish all of you could see what I see.

We are all working so hard to be faithful.  We are trying to listen to the voice of the Spirit, however we name that divine presence.  Friends are also making a valiant effort to listen to each other across our differences, but we sometimes end up hurting each other, often through misunderstandings of the language we use.

Whenever I am with Friends, regardless of the kind of Friends, there is always a moment when I have the clear sense that these are my people.  It is not always the same—sometimes that feeling comes in open worship, other times in prayer, singing, or individual conversations.  Regardless of how it happens, I know then that these are Friends who are committed to each other and to listening to the voice of the Spirit together.

But now I am preparing to leave my Quaker bubble.  In just over a month, I will be moving to Atlanta to be a part of a different faith community: my class at Candler School of Theology, a Methodist seminary.

When I was coming back from the World Conference of Friends last year, I had a fairly long layover in the London airport.  There were several Friends around, and I ran into them a few times.  I was sitting on my own in one of the lounge areas, when I heard a clear message:
Go to the chapel to be with your people.I shrugged and said, okay—it wasn't like I was doing anything.  I had spent time in the chapel during my layover on the way to Kenya, so I knew where it was.  I had the vague idea that I might find some other Friends in there and we could have a final meeting for worship.

But that's not who was there.

When I went into the chapel and settled into prayer, the people who joined me were:  Hasidic Jews, wrapping tefillin.  Muslims praying toward Mecca.  A young Catholic woman making her way through the Rosary.

Quakers are my people. And those are my people.  We are the people of God.
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Traveling Minute and Endorsements

Quest for Adequacy - Mon, 07/15/2013 - 14:02
                                                                                                            June 10, 2013

To Friends in Friends General Conference and Everywhere,

This letter is a traveling minute from Freedom Friends Church for Ashley M. Wilcox.  Ashley is a recorded minister in our meeting and a beloved member of our community.  We support her public ministry, and you may trust the testimony that she brings to you.

Ashley will be traveling to the FGC Gathering in Greeley, Colorado from June 30 to July 6, 2013.  While there, she will engage in ministry in many ways, including leading a five-day morning workshop entitled "Convergent Friends: Worship and Conversation."  Aimee McAdams, a member of Northwest Yearly Meeting, currently living in Minnesota will be serving as an elder for Ashley for this workshop.

We are confident that Ashley will challenge you and encourage you in your faith, and that your time together will be rich and fruitful.  Please welcome Ashley and care for her as we would care for her.  We would appreciate a note documenting the ministry she shares with you.

In Christ’s Love,

Alivia B
Pastor, Freedom Friends Church


Marie S

This was a sweet-spirited offering.
Kathryn R, Ashland

Ashley was a joyful and spirit filled presence.
Daniel W

We've been blessed to have Ashley's presence and guidance this week.
Steve D 

7-5-13 Bless you for your loving presence and instruction.
Mollie G

I deeply appreciated the experiential and worshipful workshop.  I appreciate Ashley's courage and her leading to provide this forum.

Dear Friends of Freedom Friends Church, 
Almost 1150 Friends from 31 Yearly Meetings met in Greeley, CO for the 2013 FGC Gathering June 30 to July 6.  Our theme this year was "At the Growing Edges of our Faith."  We welcomed and were blessed by the presence of Ashley M. Wilcox and her elder, Aimee McAdams.  The gift of service in leading a morning workshop was deeply appreciated.  We are richer for this gift, and we thank you for caring for this ministry and for sharing it with us.  We extend warm greetings to your community.
In Friendship,
Sue R, Presiding Clerk of Friends General Conference

Dear Friends - it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Ashley's Elder for this workshop.  Thank you for your prayers and support of her ministry.  
Aimee M

Dear Friends,
I enjoyed a lovely spiritual Opportunity with Ashley - it was so wonderful to hear how the Spirit is moving in her life at this time and to share together each of our own questions and yearnings.  Thank you for sharing Ashley with us at FGC, and for nurturing the gifts and ministry she is carrying! 
Blessings, Eric E (Central Philadelphia, PYM; FGC Traveling Ministries)
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FGC Gathering: Report

Quest for Adequacy - Sun, 07/14/2013 - 21:16

Report on the FGC Gathering June 30 – July 6, 2013, Greeley, Colorado At the Growing Edges of our Faith 

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.”  Psalm 16:6.

I did a variety of ministry while at the FGC Gathering, but my primary focus was on the workshop I led, “Convergent Friends: Worship and Conversation.”  This workshop took place over five days, meeting each day from 9:00 to 11:45 a.m.  Considering the context, the participants were quite diverse.  Twelve Friends registered in advance; another joined partway through and two were drawn away after the first few days by outside circumstances.  The Friends ranged in age from 18 to 92.  Most were from liberal, unprogrammed meetings, but one was from an Evangelical meeting in Bolivia and another was from a Conservative yearly meeting.  The participants were pretty evenly split between men and women, and we had varied levels of physical ability.
One of the gifts of doing this ministry was working with Aimee McAdams.  Aimee had eldered for me a few times at the World Conference of Friends last year, but this was her first experience traveling in the ministry as an elder.  It was a joy to see her growing in her gifts.  Each morning before the workshop, Aimee and I spent time in worship together.  That helped us connect with each other and be grounded for our work.  It became clear early on that we perceive the world in very different ways, which required us to be clear in communicating what we saw and felt.  We naturally split the work in the workshop, often with me paying attention to the group as a whole and Aimee tending to individuals who needed a little extra attention.  There was a high level of trust between us, in part based on the fact that we have a similar understanding of how God is present and at work in the world.  Working with Aimee was a pleasure, and I hope to have the opportunity to work together again. 

Leading the workshop was a growing experience for me.  Overall, I feel very good about it, but there were unexpected challenges.  Going in, I was a little nervous about the length; I had never led a week-long workshop before.  However, I felt pretty confident about the content.  With very few exceptions, I had successfully led all of the exercises in workshops in the past.  One thing I remembered as the week progressed is that every group is different―just because one activity was popular or meaningful in the past does not mean it will have the same impact this time.  Likewise, some things that had not been as meaningful in previous workshops took on new life.  This helped me learn to stay flexible and temper my expectations.  I heard feedback throughout the week that Friends found the workshop “gently challenging.”  I encouraged participants to stay with things that were uncomfortable, but to stop if something felt wrong.  

There were two main challenges that arose for Aimee and me as leaders.  The first was that we had a newcomer on the third day.  I had specifically asked the conference organizers not to allow anyone to take my workshop part-time, but I think this person changed workshops at the last possible moment on Tuesday.  The person was a fine addition to the group, but it was challenging for me because having a new person at that point changed the group dynamics and the new person did not know what we had done the previous two days.

The second challenge also involved an individual in the workshop.  I tried to be clear about my plans and expectations for the workshop, both in my written description of the workshop and in a schedule that was posted on the board all week.  I was intentional about the flow of the workshop, with more content and full-group activities in the beginning and more spaciousness and small-group activities as we got closer to the end.  I also decided to have Friends meet in the same small groups for the entire week.  In my experience, I have found that meeting in the same small group builds a level of trust and sharing that does not occur when the groups change each time.

The participant that I found challenging first approached me after the second day of the workshop.  He said that he had a lot of experience leading workshops and suggested that, instead of meeting in the same small groups, we change them.  He also informed me that his meeting was involved in the recent Indiana Yearly Meeting split, and offered to share those experiences with the group.  In retrospect, I should have said that the workshop was not the place for that discussion, but instead I just said that I would wait and see if there would be time for it.

About halfway through the final day of the workshop, we reached an impasse.  The group had finished one activity and I was about to introduce the next one, when the Friend said that he wanted to speak.  I tried to engage him individually, but it was clear that he wanted everyone to hear.  He then said that he had thought we were going to talk about the Indiana Yearly Meeting split, and he felt like we should take the time to do that.  Another Friend said he wanted to talk about some of the other large issues Friends face today, and a third said she wanted to talk about the issues the plenary speaker had raised the previous evening.

This was a hard moment for me because I knew that, no matter what I did, some people would be disappointed.  I listened to the Friends’ concerns, but Aimee and I were both very clear that we needed to follow the plan we had discerned in advance.  I suggested that, if Friends felt the workshop had not met their expectations, they share that in the written evaluations.  I can’t say for sure, of course, but my sense was that there was something about me or my leadership style that seemed particularly challenging to the individual who approached me.

I am happy to say that, during my time at the FGC Gathering, my self-care was the best it has ever been.  As is often the case when I do traveling ministry, I had trouble eating and sleeping.  It was a gift for me, however, to have so many people present who know me extremely well, including my former housemate, people from my School of the Spirit K-group, and members of my School of the Spirit care committee.  They were able to gently reflect back when I was acting tired or giddy.  I did yoga every morning, took breaks when I needed them, and went to the healing center twice for energy work.

One thing I was very aware of and had a hard time with was my rising level of "Quaker celebrity."  It felt like a lot of people knew who I was, either because they had read something I had written or heard about me some other way.  I felt like a lot of them wanted something from me, and I struggled with that feeling of fame and others' expectations.  It got to the point where I was carrying around a disguise (a hat and sunglasses), so I could escape when I felt like I needed to.  I have the sense that this will be an ongoing challenge for me.

Since returning home, I have tried to be very intentional and transparent about my process.  I was grateful that the gathering ended on Saturday, so I could take Sunday for re-entry.  I spent the morning in worship, creating a Venn diagram of my experience of the Gathering: preparation, what I thought I would do, what I did, and what I see coming out of it.  I have also written blog posts reflecting on re-entry and some of the themes I saw emerging at the Gathering, including privilege and vocal ministry.

I am grateful to all of the individuals and groups who made this ministry possible financially:  The Pickett Endowment, for its grant (and Lloyd Lee Wilson for nominating me); Friends General Conference, for the workgrant and travel grant; and Freedom Friends Church, for its scholarship.  I am also grateful to Freedom Friends Church for its spiritual support and traveling minute.  Thanks to everyone who was praying for me and who helped me to process my experiences both during and after the FGC Gathering.  And thanks, most of all, to God, for being with me every step of the way.

Ashley Wilcox July 14, 2013
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