A funny Quaker card game & a bigger lesson

July 28, 2023 | Jennifer Newman, BHFH Executive Director

(Left to Right) Bobby Trice (BHFH Board Member), Allison Kirkegaard, and Jen Newman (BHFH Executive Director) play “Unable, Unwilling: A Game of Quaker Nominations” at Friends General Conference in Monmouth, Oregon.

Dear Friends,

I recently learned about a Quaker card game, called “Unable, Unwilling: A Game of Quaker Nominations,” which was created by a British Friend. 

In the game, you nominate each other to different satirical committees and roles (such as the “Assistant Plant Waterer”), and play cards with different excuses and counters to being nominated for those roles. The player that racks up nominations the quickest loses. 

I experienced the game as very, very funny, because it speaks to a truth about our discomfort with the nominating processes. 

Ideally, service should benefit all involved. I have loved serving on committees where I felt like my gifts were making a difference for my communities. 

This game highlights the flip side: in a limited pool of people, the same few can continue to be nominated for committees and burn out.

It also highlights an important question: Is this the right work? Are these committees the right ones to help us bring into the world what we want to this year? 

Sometimes, long-standing committees are exactly the right way to get the work done. But not always. But we need to get better at asking ourselves the question, “is this really the work that we need to be doing right now?” 

BHFH is an interesting example — because our residents change so frequently, new residents often ask this question. In the last six years, we have seen the creation, re-creation, and dissolution of at least 7 committees and many many more working groups (almost entirely covid discernment-related). Residents have seen work they wanted to accomplish together and created new committees to tackle it, and questioned whether committees were really serving House Meeting’s needs, especially when it was difficult to nominate people to them. 

If folks are, “unable, unwilling,” maybe we’re missing the bigger work in front of us, including how to help us reach a better balance of sharing our gifts and doing the real work we want to accomplish.

In Light and community,

Jen Newman

BHFH Executive Director

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