Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Thoughts on Lesson Planning for Quakerism 101

Blessing all,

Last fall I started teaching adult religious education at Perry City Monthly Meeting and opened it up to Ithaca Monthly Meeting as well.

A need that had been voiced by Perry City for a Introduction to Quakerism class that would be good for newcomers but would also hold the attention of longtime Friends. Faced with not an easy task I hit the internet and researched FGC's introduction to Quakerism lesson plans as well as others.

The issue I kept running across was the the lesson plans either looked a Quakerism historically or topically: a week or month spent of on each of the Testimonies and so on. Not that I think either way is bad. I am a historian by trade after all, but Friends have a tendency to portray Quakerism as something that happened "back then." We spend a lot of time glorying in the old days of the underground railroad. When it comes right down to it I'm not convinced this is the most important part of Quakerism we can be imparting to new folks. I'm not sold on the Testimonies as being the first things we want to teach new attenders either. After all Testimonies are outward signs of an inward transformation so that transformation should be where we start. So I determined early on that the over arching theme for the class was going to be "what do Quaker's believe and why?"

Considering the theme what I ended up doing was very simple. We read Silence and Witness by Michael Birkel, and Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson together. We met for an hour every Firstday morning and read one chapter every week. We started with Michael's book and then after a short break went on to Lloyd Lee's. I felt that Michael's book gave a nice solid foundation on the nuts and bolts of Quakerism while Lloyd Lee offered a more in-depth look at some of the concepts that have been most important to Quaker thought.

Most classes were simply group discussion about the reading which turned out to be very rich for all of us. Friends at Perry City were particularly inspired and challenged by Lloyd Lee's chapter on Meetings for worship with a concern for business. The only times I really had to facilitate and move the class along was during our reading of Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order where Friends often got upset, bogged down, and confused by the Christian language. However that language is the same I use so the conversation's we had gave us an opportunity to build understanding and community. On average that class had about eight Friends in attendance although who those eight Friends were varied from week to week.

Writing Quaker Lesson Plans

With Blessings,

I have been largely absent from this blog as I struggle to understand what God wants from me in regards to the Young Friends In Residence Program. Over the last year and a half of being part of the program I have encountered many struggles and blessings.

One of the blessings as been the several religious education classes I have taught. The most recent of these classes has been on Quakerism and Mysticism. Because lesson plans about Quaker issues or theology are hard to come by and because I have been mostly writing my own I thought I would share the schedule and reading assignments and whatnot for this most resent class.

Friends from Perry City Monthly Meeting and Ithaca Monthly Meeting in New York Yearly Meeting just finished taking this class. Everything went fine and we had many wonderful and Spirit led conversations. We met for an hour on Sunday mornings and discussed the week's reading. Sometimes we read the readings out loud together. I tried to keep the conversations from becoming too intellectual because the class has a tendency to intellectualize everything and miss the spiritual message being given.

The required reading for this class was Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly and Love Poems From God edited by Daniel Ladinsky

And the Greatest of These is Love:

Thomas Kelly and understanding a mystical experience of God

(Sundays At Perry City Meeting House)

As you read through the passages for each week consider these question:

What does this tell me about the nature of God?

What does this tell me about our relationship with God?

How does these images of God relate to Quakerism as I understand it?

How does it relate to my own understand of /relationship with God?

Week 1:

Getting to know each other.

What is Mysticism?

Quakerism: a pre-enlightenment faith

Modern mysticism: irrational love in a rational world

Week 2:

A Testament of Devotion (TD) pg 3-11

Love Poems From God (LP) pg 31-34, pg 60-63

Drawn Out of the Text:

“In this humanistic age we suppose man is the initiator and God is the responder. But the Living Christ within us is the initiator and we are the responders.” Thomas R. Kelly

“I like when the music happens like this: something in His eye grabs hold of tambourine in me,” Rumi

Week 3:

TD: pg 12-22

LP: pg 180-186

Drawn Out of the Text:

“Here the autonomy of the inner life becomes complete and we are joyfully prayed through by a Seeking Life that flows through us into the world of men” Thomas Kelly

“Divine light entered my heart from His love that did never truly wane.” St. Catherine of Siena

Week 4:

TD: pg 25-34

LP: pg 240-244

Drawn Out of the Text:

“There is a degree of holy and complete obedience and of joyful self-renunciation and of sensitive listening that is breathtaking.” Thomas Kelly

“You should act more responsibly, God, with all that gorgeousness you posses.” Mira

Week 5:

TD: pg 35-47

LP: pg 304-307, 109-113

Drawn Out of the Text:

“The heart is stretched through suffering and enlarged.” Thomas Kelly

“A thorn as entered your foot. That is why you weep at times at night.” St. Catherine of Siena

Week 6:

The Not Real Mid-Term:

Mysticism is an extremely emotional and sometimes abstract relationship between a person or community and God. Understanding or experiencing a mystical relationship with God is completely different from trying to express that relationship to others.

This week try expressing your experiences or understanding of mysticism. You can:

Write a journal entry of your day-to-day relationship with God

Write a mystical poem(s)

Express that experience through art


Or dance

What ever you are led to do!

Week 7:

TD: pg 51-55

LP: pg 68-72, 96-97

Drawn Out of the Text:

“In The Fellowship cultural and educational and national and racial differences are leveled” Thomas Kelly

“A good gauge of spiritual health is to write down three things you most want. If they in any way differ, you are in trouble.” Rumi

Week 8:

TD: pg 56-61

LP: pg 11-12, 40-43

Drawn Out of the Text:

“Can we make all our relations to our fellows relations which pass through Him?” Thomas Kelly

“and we gazed into every heart on this earth and I noticed lingered a bit longer before any face that was weeping.” St. Francis of Assisi

Week 9:

TD: pg 65-75

LP: pg, 302-307

Drawn Out of the Text:

“Between the relinquished past and the untrodden future stands this holy Now, whose bulk has swelled to cosmic size for within the Now is the dwelling place of God Himself.” Thomas Kelly

“I said to God, “what are you?” and He replied “I am what is loved”.” St. John of the Cross

Week 10:

TD: pg 76-85

LP: 114-120

Drawn Out of the Text:

“There is more to the experience of God than that of being plucked out of the world. The fuller experience, I am sure, is of a Love which send us out into the world.” Thomas Kelly

“It is a lie-any talk of God that does not comfort you.” Meister Eckhart

Week 11:

TD: pg 89-95

LP: pg 271 – 276

Drawn Out of the Text:

“But too many of us have heeded the Voice only at times. Only at times he we submitted to His holy guidance.” Thomas Kelly

“No one can near God unless He as prepared a bed for you.” St. Teresa of Avila

Week 12:

TD: pg 96-100

LP: pg 353, 249, 39, 77, 195-197

Drawn Out of the Text:

“It is not we alone who are at work in the world, frantically finishing a work to offered to God.” Thomas Kelly

“How does God keep from fainting looking at Himself all day?” Rumi