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THE LISTENING PROJECT:
ORIGINS

 

Johanna Jackson

How did this project begin?


At the beginning of our shared ministry, JT and I knew very little about what we were going to do. We knew that we each had a passion for healing and for energy work. We knew that we each cared about faithfulness. We began to see how our gifts complemented each other as we started work in small circles.

Over time, we learned that we each had a personal list of people that, someday, we'd like to interview. We combined lists: in many places, we had been thinking of the same people. We were led to start listening to young people. We weren't sure what we were listening for or what we might find.

 

What were the first steps?

In September of 2020, we reached out to a few close Friends for interviews in September of 2020. Our first few listening sessions were somewhat awkward. We were not sure where we would land or why we were led to do certain things. Our friends were gracious with the reality of not knowing. They agreed to be recorded, and we talked together about being Quaker. We reflected on our mutual experiences of worship, on the FGC Gathering, and about what kind of Quaker culture we yearned for in the future.


Later, we reached out to more people, seeking out some who were "fully aflame."  We looked for people who were leaders within their yearly meeting, or at the FGC Gathering. These Friends recommended additional people to us, and our list began to grow.

What did you learn?

From those early listening sessions, we noticed a few patterns begin to emerge. We found many younger Quakers who, like us, were looking for peers. We met Friends who chafed at the loneliness they felt. We met people who wanted to move beyond Quakerism, and tell us about other things that inspired them more. These included mutual aid networks, consent, "emergence," and the power and simplicity of going to sweat lodge. More than one high school Friend shared vividly about how much they loved making music.

We talked about our "inner wild" – that part of us that yearns for freedom and space to grow. Is it alive? Is it well? What feeds it? We talked about "living flat" – which is how we described the culture of white supremacy. "We've lost the power of our faith," a Friend in their 50s told us. They went on to say: "White supremacy and capitalism dull us, and they tell us that we're small." Many people told us independently about white supremacy culture, the dominant culture, or capitalism.

In time, we began to get more familiar with the questions we were chasing. Many of them are still mysteries.

Click below to learn about the nuts and bolts of a listening session, or about our research.