An 18th-century painting of a Quaker meeting hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In it a figure, perhaps George Fox himself, stands speaking with such passion that his hand is clutching his breast. Around him are gathered members of the Society of Friends. A woman sits with her chin in her hand. A man’s finger is laid alongside his cheek.
Tom walked into my office looking glum. He tossed his backpack on the floor, fell into a chair by my desk, sighed, and then rummaged through his bag for the registrar’s form. Tom is a first-year seminary student, and I’m his counselor. We walked through the courses he would be taking, most of them part of our core curriculum. Tom’s lack of enthusiasm was screaming at me. Finally I took the bait: “So, Tom, what’s the matter?” His hands went up in the air as he shot back, “What’s the deal with all of these required courses? When do we get to study things that are relevant?” Ah, I thought, the old “Let’s make thousands of years of inherited tradition relevant to me” argument. I’d just had a similar conversation with a woman in the congregation where I serve, who wondered why we repeat the “same old creed” each Sunday.
Rick Steves on the spirituality of traveling: People have a lot of fear, and the flip side of fear is understanding. When you travel to new places you understand more, so you fear less. Then you can love people as a Christian should. The less you travel, the more likely that media with a particular agenda can shape your viewpoint. Those of us who travel are a little more resilient in weathering the propaganda storms that blow across the U.S. media.
Who cares about history? I think about this question a lot because of my job as director of the Congregational Library in Boston. My association with this venerable Yankee institution, a large collection of things both important and inexplicable, means I’m often invited to churches that are celebrating anniversaries.
Over 50 Muslim employees walked off the job at an Ariens manufacturing plant in Wisconsin after being told they no longer could take prayer breaks during the work day. Ariens, which manufactures lawn mowers and snowblowers, said they want Muslims to pray only during the usual ten-minute breaks that all employees get. “Nobody complained to us about our prayers,” one of the Muslims said. “People take breaks to go to the bathroom and nobody says anything about that.” A company spokesperson said the Muslims’ prayer breaks were disruptive on the assembly line (Daily Mail, January 20).