Quaker Meeting meet Google Glass

It had to happen, and it did–someone finally showed up at my Quaker Meeting wearing Google Glass.Image

My first in-person encounter with Google Glass was at an In-n-Out Burger a few years ago. A guy standing in line getting ready to order but he had this extra gleam to himself while wearing them; as people around him (including the cashier) tried not to stare, someone finally asked him what it was and he was happy to explain it.

Since then, here in San Francisco, it’s been an item about town and held in some regard as well as in some caustic disrepute for being an epitomizer of the gentrification of large tech company workers displacing locals. It’s not news that wearable computing has been on the horizon for years and getting closer by the day. Lots of opinions about its actual marketabilitysocial consequences, and form factor. But it seems a few companies have made it work, including Nike’s Nike+ (now Fuel).

I’ll admit–I’m psyched about it. Not the cool-factor way but in a way that says, “take the phone from my hand and make it easier to use all the functionality” way. I really would appreciate not looking away from where I’m going or the person I’m with while I check something. The only way I could think that might be better is to have an eye-implant or make Google Glass invisible.

So, when I saw it at my Meeting for Worship on a new attender recently, it was kind of a downer. It made my Quaker-self meet up my real-world self, and realize that a) Glass was probably the most distracting object I’ve ever experienced during Meeting, b) it made me paranoid (who was watching through the video camera? was I being recorded? was the person going to stand?), and c) it was the dawn of a new world. Should Quakers ask attenders to turn off and remove these types of devices before Meeting begins?


Quakers have a keen desire for plainness, for reducing the clutter to our senses, in order to turn our attention toward God, or the Light that exists within humankind and the world. Quakerism has also had the flexibility to move and grow within the times; progress has not been an impediment but rather a slow revealing of the greater good that lies beyond our senses. So why does Google Glass worry me?

Introducing a tool with a lens connected to the Internet in front of our gaze, along with a camera pointed ahead to capture our surroundings, connected to one of the largest data companies in the world, during a time of silent worship feels wrong. This feels even more wrong than having a cell phone ring, someone snapping a picture of the Meeting in worship, or someone taking notes while someone is giving vocal ministry (I have experienced being in Meetings where each of these has happened).

Quakers have set up worship spaces in Second Life and I have been part of Meeting for Worship over Skype. What will help guide us through the time of Google Glass? Perhaps, as one person noted, “Then you will come to tweet cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every user.”

on Gathering in Light

Image Happily, I’ve re-connected with my writing life with the help of my good friend, C. Wess Daniels, at his blog Gathering in Light, by writing about teaching Quaker worship to children. It’s an article that is focused on those new to Quakerism and who bring children who may also wonder what’s going on in the silence and what they can do to participate or, at the least, go beyond thinking of it only as “boring.”

It’s been interesting to realize that after working at a Quaker school for ten years, I’ve become accustomed to teaching worship as a skill. After attending Quaker meetings for more than 15 years, I think there is a “way” that (unprogrammed, liberal) Quakers have with worship that looks, from the outside, like meditation or, to children, pretty strange. Those of us in urban areas with urban lives can bring children who are stimulated by a host of things in our community that are exciting and stimulating, so sitting for an hour with adults saying things out of silence can seem detached or out of context. Building context, understanding routines and patterns in Meeting for Worship, and seeing beyond the words takes and adult (or at least a skilled, spiritually literate teen) presence to guide them. It’s not about the silence, it’s about the waiting and listening, we might say, but that’s pretty abstract and kids need concrete (or at least minimal) symbolism until around ages 13 or 14 to make meaning out of experiences.

I hope this helps–let me know after you read it!


I’m pretty excited to find out about Bernalwood, the local blog for my neighborhood, since I’m loving the neighborhood and it’s also a great site for micronews sites about SF–and it’s on WordPress, nice!

Beyond print: Quakers and the media (revisited)

Well, it’s been a while since I last looked into the topic of Quakers and the media; mainly, I was looking at movies, television, radio and other basic forms (other than print) to find where a person new to Quakerism or a Quaker looking for images of him/herself in the media to help reinforce or discover how the mirror of the media reflects.   It seems like these days, new media forms are challenging the old for eyeballs, multimedia has become more searchable with help from the Internet, and people are moving more toward the online world for actual interaction with media, rather than simply letting it reflect.  Here are a few ways Quakers are making it into the modern media environment (beyond print):

  • QuakerQuaker: So here comes QuakerQuaker, revised into a new shape and form, to bring Quakers together online using the social media network of today (aka the Internet).  Lo, and behold, one of the coordinators, Martin Kelley, brought a video camera to the recent gathering of Convergent Friends and captured modern day Quakers for the world (yes, I’m in there too…).
  • New York Yearly Meeting Minute on Torture: A quick overview of what a “minute” is among Friends, along with a wide panapoly of Friends reading it back; a great collaborative project for a video
  • Penn (of Penn & Teller) speaks out on Quaker atheism: Even serious folks are taking Quakers seriously 😉
  • I Believe” visits Quakers: helpfully, this video shows up in some search results, but can be hard to dig up; nice job with the big picture, Denis Wholey!

This is just a beginning–I’m sure you all have your favorites.  I’m just amazed at the variety of tools (note: Google video, YouTube channels, and even intermingling media using blogs with video streaming feeds).  As Quakers often are underrepresented in traditional media and are, as Martin Kelley said, “little more than a rounding-off error in religious America,” I’m just thankful that I can create a more engaging mental model of modern Quakerism than what’s chosen by the big media to be presented to me.