Quaker singer/songwriter Jon Watts is also a videographer. One of his provocative YouTube videos, “Dance Party Erupts During Quaker Meeting for Worship,” has been viewed more than 84,000 times over the Internet. In a May 2013 Friends Journal interview and video, he urges Quakers to use the Internet to communicate in a passionate way. He describes the ambivalence of most Friends today toward Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but suggests that one should approach these media not as a passive receiver but as an “engaged content creator.”
He urges Friends to use the Internet as a medium for prophetic expression, the way that early Quakers used the newly accessible printing presses to get their radical message to the public. Take this attitude, he advises:
“I have a message. I have something to say. I have a vision for the society, and I have some analysis of the ways the society is broken, and I’m going to get it out there. … I’m going to really get in people’s faces about this, because this society is broken. It’s fallen. It needs to transform. And who is going to do it, if it’s not us? I see the Internet as an opportunity….”
Jon is creating a YouTube channel called “QuakerSpeak” that will soon start releasing one video per week. In preparation, he interviewed me last May, after reading my blog and pamphlets, plus an online interview. He came up with some thoughtful questions related to spirituality and early Quakers. During a pause, Jon commented on my speaking style.
“You start out your responses with a burst of energy,” he said. “And then you sort of fade out.”
Public speaking has usually been a cause for anxiety for me, even terror, but I try to be faithful when called to speak. My intention is to let the Light shine through my words and my being, no matter how much the fearful part of me wants to hold back. So I made an effort to work with Jon’s feedback.
Recently, we met again. Two days in advance, he sent some sets of questions to think about, with a reminder that he was looking for a “YouTube-sized answer,” i.e. about four minutes. Number three was a BIG QUESTION, one I’ve slowly been working toward answering in the writing I’ve been doing.
“When discussing the boldness and courage of the Early Friends in our last conversation, you said that you feel God is trying to call forth something even more powerful in our time,” he wrote. “What do you feel God trying to call forth in our time? What is our world in need of? How can our Quakerism help inform this calling?”
On the morning of the second interview, I took a walk with my friend Terry, who often serves as an elder for me. Through listening, asking questions, hearing deeper than my words, listening some more, and sometimes making suggestions, Terry helps to draw out a message or ministry that’s forming. On the 2nd of January, we walked across an open field a few hours before an expected snow fall. I practiced saying what I thought God was calling forth in our time. For thirty years now I’ve had a strong sense of God leading me as part of a larger plan, but I have not often tried to look directly at the bigger picture, at what God is leading us toward. I’ve been dancing around that question. It has been easier to study the radical, passionate activity of early Friends than to fully face what God is collectively calling us to do now, in the times in which we live.
After lunch, Jon set up his cameras in Terry’s apartment. After he turned on the equipment, the three of us settled into a period of silent worship. Jon asked his questions, listened to my answers, then listened inwardly for the prompting of the Spirit before asking follow-up questions, some of them unexpected. A couple of times, during the silence, I felt moved to speak spontaneously. Terry sat to the side, holding it all in the Light. Toward the end he offered a question, too.
Some of my answers were lively, some not. After fifty-two minutes of filming, snow was falling outside. Jon turned off the cameras.
In the next two days, while traveling by train and waiting at snow-covered stations, I reflected on what I had said. I knew I had not given a satisfactory answer to the BIG QUESTION. At least, I wasn’t satisfied.
In our time, what is God asking of us?
For weeks I’ve been turning my attention to see more clearly. This morning I woke up early, picked up the journal beside my bed, and wrote four pages. The whole picture is not going to come through one person or one group, and the picture will remain fuzzy as long as it’s a prospect for the future. It will become clearer the more we live it out with our lives and not just our words. More is coming.
The Big Question: What do you know about what God is calling us to now, in our time? How is the Spirit calling you, your meeting, your community, the Religious Society of Friends, the human race? What are we asked to do, say, create, dismantle? How are we called to live? What must we sacrifice? To what are we called to give our energy, our attention, our resources, our love?
To see the trailer for Jon Watt’s QuakerSpeak YouTube channel, go to http://www.quakerspeak.com/
A four-day opportunity to explore the Quaker spiritual journey will take place at Pendle Hill Retreat Center, Wallingford, PA, May 11-15th, 2014. In the Life and Power of God: on the Spiritual Journey with Early Friends.
A Whole Heart has a page on Bibliography.
© 2014 Marcelle Martin