The Listening Project is a series of creative conversations rooted in love. We meet for worship-sharing and conversation focused on spiritual nurture and the revitalization of Quakerism. It's like a combination of StoryCorps and QuakerSpeak. So far, we have held more than 25 Listening Sessions which have included Friends from seven different yearly meetings:
Iowa Yearly Meeting
New England Yearly Meeting
New York Yearly Meeting
North Pacific Yearly Meeting
Pacific Yearly Meeting
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Southeastern Yearly Meeting
The Friends pictured above are part of a larger group who have joined us for listening sessions. Not all transcripts are published. Some remain private by choice of the speaker. Other people's stories are awaiting funding to help us transcribe and publish their words. It takes roughly 15 hours of labor to transform Zoom's automatic transcription into a readable, helpful, thoughtful public document.
A listening session is a space for people to speak freely and be heard. Sometimes this time feels like worship-sharing; other times it feels more like a conversation. We ask people about their spiritual journeys and about what makes them come alive. Listening sessions are a good time for brainstorming. We focus on reaching out to newer & younger folks, but have also held listening sessions with older Friends as well.
One person at our meeting called this "energetic, out-of-the-box thinking." Our hope is that we can better meet the needs of young people and newcomers by sifting through these conversations further.
WHAT WE'RE LEARNING
In the beginning, our conversations were very broad. People shared about what it felt like to receive a nudge from God or to worship in an embodied and creative way. One Friend said: "We need to learn how to bear pain. As a country, and as white people." Some Friends told us about their concern for Quakerism and faithfulness. They pointed out that we have assimilated to white, capitalist, American values and in the process, we have lost some of the power of our faith.
In listening sessions, we have asked questions such as: "What would you like to tell city people about trees?" Or, "What does the tired part of you need?" Many Friends have surprised us with responses that rise from their hearts. One person said: "Sometimes God's time is right here, right now, happening."
DIGESTING NEW KNOWLEDGE
If we regard our work as research, we've also gained a lot of data on the spiritual state of our Quaker communities. There a is blockage present in the Religious Society of Friends, and it is the result of a number of difficult truths which we have yet to reckon with. We have some work to do to revitalize our faith. To read more about the work ahead, please see our Early Findings page.