I started writing this as a comment on Micah Bales’ blog post about Occupy & Quakers, and it grew until it needs its own post. I have a vision of what living the gospel looks like in this age, which I am working towards the best I can, but I don't know if others will see it the same way. Maybe it's too obvious, or too crazy, but I have to try to write what I can see.

Being faithful as I understand it means being ready with material help, as well as a listening ear and prayers for our friends and neighbours. I understand our physical and spiritual needs as indivisible: Jesus feeds and heals as well as teaches. Plant gardens, cook the food, build a hen house, keep a goat, learn to sew and mend, or spin and knit or weave or do carpentry, learn to make shoes even. Meet people's real needs in a new way, reach right across the barriers of race and class. Create a community through sharing skills that meet desperate people's material needs, go out on to the street and ask "What does God want us to eat and to wear?" alongside your hungry and ragged neighbours, and follow the answers that you are shown, step by step. Let us be known as the early christians were known, for providing substantial material care to those in need, those who were abandoned and sick. We need a foundation from which to provide: God is showing us how to dig in, and learn to live within the earth's ecological limits, so we have food and clothes to share as well as care and prayers and discernment and thanksgiving for each other.

The way I am seeing it, being a listening christian starts to look different pretty fast. Our clothes might be few and have patches, because we are moving towards real value and a global fair share, but maybe we're getting to the point where we understand enough to throw wide the doors and invite everyone we meet inside a food system that can support human beings even now we're past the age of cheap oil. Each step leads us out of the belly of the industrial machine, so vast in this age that we need God's leadings to even find the edge. Our food might not be as tasty as some processed thing designed by committee to taste the best and satisfy the least, and with an advertizing budget of millions, but instead it builds healthy bodies and healthy soil and sound relationships and leads us that next step into the right relationship with God's body, getting off the backs of those pressed down by the industrial system: it's a new kind of economy.

The problem's too complex for us to solve with our own minds, but sinking down into the Holy Spirit's well of deep peace and compassion, I believe we are each being led into the action that is required uniquely of us. There are a thousand skills to learn, to take back the earth from the system of industrialism and global exploitation and oil, and God will tell us each which ones to study. I have a sense that the harvest is standing in the fields, and all that's wanted are the labourers to bring it in - so few of us who yet have joined in the labour. God's peace and justice can show us how to live differently in every material aspect, it's a real escape from the machine that is squeezing the life out of so many.

The more of us begin to live differently, to build up our strength and skills in this new way of living, the more we are all set free from the bad system: two or three can grow some food and share some skills, and twenty can do more, and three hundred can probably learn all the skills to run a village economy beyond oil. How can we oppose war over oil resources when we have not begun to find the ways to live without oil, in every way from our food to our buckets, our clothes, our transport? Being willing to be shown how to set an example means meeting our real basic needs in a new way, and that way has to be learned and worked at, against the grain of consumer society that tell us that work is bad and getting dirty is a sign that we have failed in the system of competitive exploitation.

Britain Yearly Meeting found a commitment last year that we as Quakers want to live as a low carbon community, to collectively find a new way to live by reducing our dependency on oil, even though we are not totally sure what it will look like. We might start on this road with protest or by convincement, but that to me is a gateway into a new kind of living. God is making a new thing, and I am learning as fast as I can, just starting on this road, and I want to encourage others to see the road as well, to learn alongside and share skills. Children who are properly fed, who have adequate clothing and shoes, good water to drink, and who are learning skills for a constructive adult part in a working human ecology - that's what I think the gospel looks like, and Quakers have some great resources in our history to draw on as we attempt to follow God’s guidance, to take part in seeing God’s order grow on earth.

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Comment by James C Schultz on 4th mo. 3, 2012 at 1:44pm

I would suggest you read some of Shane Claiborne's books.  He is trying to do what you are talking about and what I think God is putting on a lot of our hearts.

Comment by Alice Yaxley on 4th mo. 4, 2012 at 2:56am

Thanks for the suggestion, James C Shultz. Is Claiborne in your neighbourhood? I am interested in the specifics of how people are feeling led in our different localities, I would love to hear more about what it looks like or what you feel it might look like where you live. I will enquire whether our Meeting library has any of his books. I like Alastair McIntosh's writing as well - one of the project he's written about is the GalGael Trust in Glasgow, where they are using traditional boat-building as a focus.

I am involved in starting up a community-run market garden on the housing estate where I live. We just got the City Council to give us permission to use some of the derelict land. We're aiming to sell fresh vegetables around the neighbourhood and to business customers locally, to cover the overhead costs of running the garden (mainly seeds, tools, water, and public liability insurance!) At the moment I am able to work on that project around the edges of caring for my young daughter because my husband earns enough money to pay the bills for all three of us. The group that is emerging is great, a real mixture of folks. We're doing cooking classes and we aim to eat together as well as growing veg.

Comment by James C Schultz on 4th mo. 4, 2012 at 8:43am

No.  He's not in my area.  he's in Philadelphia.  Here's a link to check out.  They are definitely someone you want to check out.  They are doing what you want to do.


Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 4, 2012 at 12:21pm

Sarah Miles' two books (other discussion) are about how she's been pulled into her version of this.

I just reread a poem by Julia Vinograd about how all this looks from street level...


Blanche du Bois was the last person

to rely on the kindness of strangers

as the men in white coats took her away.

And if people were charitable all the time

they'd be saints with cults, gun stashes,

drugs, madness-- at the very least

we'd have a serious shortage of nails and crosses

because humans can't stand saints

any more than we ever could.


Here in San Diego, USA,  there are a few community gardens but the prospect of holding my nose long enough to approach the "redevelopment" boards & owners ("Everything is owned"!) for permissions is more than daunting; I can't feel a trace of a leading to even try (having 'negative charisma' for any sort of establishment polititicing.) What has been forming around Anne and myself is a sort of 'poorsouls' mutual support & survival network. Some of the poorest people I know bring me cabbages... Checks come late; people borrow and always repay. Those of us who come to Meeting aren't the sort of 'Weighty Friends' who serve as paperweights to keep the Meeting from blowing away; we're chronically impatient with all their prudent 'wisdom'-- and if we'd had our way, we would have been meeting in a decrepit storefront all these years, rather than waiting to complete a striking Architectural Statement at a cost that horrified me the last time anyone toted it up. No doubt a storefront would have cost, keeping it from falling apart... and I think God will make good use, somehow, of our Quaker cathedral. For one thing, there's a pretty good group of gardeners maintaining the fruit trees, having a neighborhood garden for that neighborhood... (abt an hour away via foot or bus, 1/2 hour by bike. I could get there. But I don't.)

I sent your post to be ignored by our Meeting's email discussion list. I wonder how many of us will recognize how very right-- and difficult for us-- it is.

Comment by Alice Yaxley on 4th mo. 6, 2012 at 5:59am

James C Shultz: apologies, I was indirect before. I have heard of Claiborne's work. I am more interested in personal contact with those who feel they are hearing some guidance for where they themselves live, hence my question about where you live.

Forrest Curo: yes, I love Sara Miles' books too. I love what you write about your "poor souls support and survival network". It is hard to negotiate all these issues of class and priority and culture in Quaker Meetings!

Comment by Olivia on 4th mo. 8, 2012 at 2:46pm

Hi Alice!   Thank you for this very specific vision.  I love it!  

Thank you Forrest for your efforts (and thank you to Anne).  Also I laughed out loud at your struggle with your own cynicism:  "I sent your post to be ignored by our Meeting's email discussion list. "  :-)

I think I"ll share this post with the Friends Meeting of DC too.  Regretfully there was a recent need to remove all thoughtful blog-like posts from going to the whole meeting community because some people were upset by them and preferred to only get announcements of events.  I'm told it was a minority of the meeting that didn't' want the discussions, but significant enough that we separated out the listservs so we now have a separate forum for those who actually want the discussion and those who don't.

I too am conflicted about this type of thing, as Forrest is.  I don't appreciate other people's fear of being upset by something they read or their unwillingness to just let it be and look to the next topic if they need to have their own healthy boundaries. 

However, I understand that people are frequently overwhelmed with real life, health issues, children, need for silent contemplation that they aren't taking, etc.  So it's hard to always provoke these needed conversations when we all are simultaneously so in need of rest.  I'm afraid this must relate to the values of our society (busy busy, go, go, go) and I wonder whether this gospel vision Alice reveals to us has the added perk of creating a life of more simplicity and rest as we become a community.  

I have to voice that if it doesn't, I don't think it will get us as far as I want it to...but if, within this, we are all called to a way of greater simplicity and rest (more energy for whatever we are to focus our lives on) then I think it's perfect.  We are all here to do something very specific and I have felt for a long time what a waste it is that so many people are giving their life energy up, doing whatever they are not "called" to do.  I have wondered what our lives would look like if we could be a community of individuals who are all following whatever "calling" we have been given.  It is my current understanding that a life based on this centered practice would be energizing, not draining for us.

[Clearly it's easy to get sidetracked at this point with cynical thoughts that people won't do the needed work or face the needed truths and change...but we have to give that cynicism up at some point to more clearly see whatever that gospel vision is, I'm sure... long enough to just see whatever vision we see and get comfortable with making that choice, personally.  ]

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 8, 2012 at 6:52pm

My theosophist friend downstairs here says she's visited a Hutterite community, and "was in love." But not inclined to join up.

It's a tricky balance, trying to do community with people who might not be so readily lovable. We who need that!

Comment by Joanna Hoyt on 4th mo. 22, 2012 at 9:53am

Alice, I just discovered your post very late.  Thank you for stating the vision and also saying what you're doing about it.  I find the first part helpful because at this time of year, when the garden and animal work is picking up and more people needing a wide variety of things are coming through,  it's easy for me to get my head down and plod along as fast as I can doing the work right in front of me without remembering why.  And I'm grateful for the second part because--well, because the Vision Splendid has been articulated many times, and it seems to me that the great lack is in people willing to live it.

I feel as though my family at the Catholic Worker in upstate NY has gotten a start into living out the call you articulate: growing food to share, teaching others who are interested about farming and forestry and woodworking and cooking from scratch, working and talking and eating with people from a wide range of classes, races and worldviews.  I also feel several lacks:

Mostly we live in the gift economy, giving what we have to share, receiving what we can't make for ourselves from the gifts of others.  Health care is another matter--I'm on Medicaid, which means I am taking that money from people who likely didn't want to give it. (I wish our country provided for these things as sanely as yours...)

We still use gas--in the car (tho we bike or cargo-trike when we can), the tractors, the sawmill.... We still buy some of our food commercially, and I know how poorly the workers and the land were probably treated. We still use plastics.

We get lonely.  I think we haven't yet stepped far enough outside the system, but people already find us strange, eccentric, purist or alarming.  We don't have a Meeting. I am aware of the call to live differently and also aware of the dangers of small groups living differently without a wider system to offer support and accountability. 

Given all that, it is very good and helpful to hear about other people living their way into the call. Thank you.

I realize you are already very busy and very connected.  If at any points you find yourself with extra time and a wish to connect I'd value hearing more about your journey now. joannahoyt@yahoo.com

Comment by Bill Smith on 1st mo. 18, 2014 at 2:48pm

Christine Repoley and Quaker Voluntary Service are carrying out Quaker Service in 3 cities. Check them out.  Articles in last 2 Friends Journals.

Comment by Alice Yaxley on 1st mo. 21, 2014 at 7:20am

Thanks Bill Smith, I will look those up in the Meeting library.


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