• What Does the Eye See?

    Photo by Daniel Apodaca on Unsplash

    This is a message I shared with Jamestown Friends Meeting in Jamestown, NC on June 11, 2023.

    Matthew 9:9-13

    “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

    And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.””

    Matthew 9:9–13 NRSV

    An Exercise in Seeing

    Today, I want to talk to you about seeing. About what you see and how you see.

    So first, before we begin, Let’s take a deep breath together.

    Then, I want you to look around. Look around the room. Look at each other. It’s okay to make eye contact if you like. It might be a little weird or silly, but that’s okay. But what I want you to do is look and make an effort to take it all in first. What do you see? What do you notice?

    Hold that thought.

    Seeing What You See

    One of my favorite authors, Austin Kleon, has a book called: Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and In Bad. In it, he writes about one of his favorite artists: a nun named Sister Mary Corita Kent. The story he tells is of when she became inspired by a show she saw from Andy Warhol that led her into screen printing.

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  • Clara Ione Cox – A Little Quaker Pastor Inspiration During Pride Month

    This is a post I wrote as a part of series we’re working on at Friends Center to celebrate Pride by lifting up Quakers who were also part of the LGBTQIA+ family.


    I first met Clara when I visited the Quaker Archives at Guilford College shortly after my arrival to Greensboro, NC in 2015. Living out in the Pacific Northwest, I knew many Quakers who didn’t fit into a nice, neat, “Quakerly” box. Few were Quakers from long lines of Quaker families. Many came to Quakerism after some change, transition, or looking for an alternative faith community that was different than what was generally on offer. Most of my heroes have been people who don’t fit the mold in one way or another. I guess I like these people because I’ve experienced life as an outsider and know well the inner walls of “imposter syndrome”. I imagine that many of these feelings and experiences were true for Clara Ione Cox as well. When Gwen Gosney Erickson, Quaker Archivist at Guilford, first told me about Clara, I knew I found my person.

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  • Change and Trust

    Dr. Mandy Cohen, the former N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services, was the honorary degree recipient this year at Guilford College’s graduation. This is one piece of her remarks that has stuck with me.

    “Trust is the foundation of all relationships, both personal and professional. I truly believe change happens at the pace of trust. If you want to make change in this world through your professional endeavors – making the world safer, more just, more equitable, more beautiful, more resilient, or healthier – you will need to think intentionally about trust.”

    Read more here: Mandy Cohen’s Remarks to the Class of 2023

  • Quakers, Colonization, and Decolonization Conference in Philly June 12-15

    Hi all, I wanted to share this upcoming conference with all of you from Friends Association for Higher Education. I hope to attend myself and would love to see you there.

    Here is the press release:

    44th Annual Meeting of the Friends Association for Higher Education
    Quakers, Colonization, and Decolonization
    June 12-15, 2023Hosted by Haverford College, Haverford PAGet more information and register here.

    • Full in-person overnight option
    • Commuter option
    • Zoom option

    4 Hybrid Plenary Sessions:

    • International Decolonization Issues
    • Decolonizing and Land Back
    • Indian Boarding Schools
    • Insights for discernment moving forward.

    25 Concurrent Presentations

    • 4 session In-person series
    • 4 session Zoom series
    • From “Quaker Colonists” to “the Future of a decolonized quakerism.”
    • From “Seeking Peace Without Land Justice” to “Researching Native American Boarding Schools.”

    50 Presenters 

    • 12 of Indigenous heritage representing 11 Turtle Island Nations
    • 30 Quakers representing 13 Yearly Meetings and 5 continents
    • 10 Colleges and Universities

    All are welcome regardless of your academic background or current knowledge of these issues.

  • Friendship as a Spiritual Practice

    This is a sermon on Friendship I shared with First Friends meeting on 2023-04-23.

    This text is based on the story known as the “Walk to Emmaus” in Luke 24:13-35.


    Why Did We Choose Loneliness?

    In a recent episode of The Ezra Klein Show titled “The ‘Quiet Catastrophe’ Brewing in Our Social Lives.” Klein and his guest Sheila Liming, author of “Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time,” discuss how lonely Americans are becoming.

    Klein reports:

    Between 1990 and 2021, there was a decrease of 25 percentage points in the number of Americans who say they have five or more close friends. 25 percentage points. And that can just collapse into common wisdom. But…that’s a big drop. Young adults feel lonelier than the elderly. You should not look at data like that and not just say, well, that’s too bad. It should make us say, where did we go wrong?…

    There is an interesting turn in the episode when they suggest that at least some of loneliness is structural, it is the result of a series of choices we’ve made, and the way we’ve built society.

    They continue:

    [Lonlieness is] also an outcome. It is the result of a structure. It is imposed, in some ways, by culture. We make choices as a society about what we value. We chase our jobs. We live far from our families. We move away from our friends. We spread out into suburbs and into single-family homes set back behind fences and lawns. We sprawl out with automobiles. We design for atomization and isolation. And so, no wonder we get lonely.

    Klein asks a powerful query saying: [all of this] raises [a] deeper question of, why did we choose that? And what would it then look like to choose otherwise? Not just as individuals but as a society, what would it mean to structure for community?

    “What would it mean to structure for community?”

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Publications


Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance (2019)

Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance looks at Revelation from the perspective that Revelation is not about predicting the end times but is instead a handbook for early Christian resistance and survival against empire.

Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation on Bookshop.

A Convergent Model of Renewal: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture (2015)

A convergent Model of Renewal lays out a model for working with congregations and communities alike, interested in maintaining their tradition while also becoming more connected to their context and needs of their community.

A Convergent Model on Bookshop

Image of the cover of the book The Quaker World
The Quaker World Co-Edited With Rhiannon Grant – 2022

The Quaker World is a book with over 50 authors around the world covering sections such as global Quaker history, to spirituality, and embodiment and emphasizes global Quaker diversity and biographies of Quakers.

The Quaker World on Bookshop.


More books and publications by Wess