Friends Media Watch Faithful Witness Survey Results
                        by Dana Kester-McCabe

The results of the Faithful Witness Survey have now been tabulated. They are hardly an empirical representation of what readers of this website think and experience as "Faithful Witnesses" since response was very light. But, the survey was intended to be a learning experience and it was. It was meant to shed light on how Quaker spirituality and discernment practices affect Friends working or interested in mass media.

The first thing to be learned should have been very obvious to a Quaker: "Keep it Simple." The length and somewhat complex nature of the form was clearly a turn off for most readers. Only eleven people were kind enough to thoughtfully fill it out during a period (almost six months) when there were several hundred visitors to the site each month. Their efforts are truly appreciated and I thank each and every one of you. When I do something like this again I will ask much fewer questions - perhaps a monthly query. As I said: "Keep it Simple."

If I were to try to encapsulate the responses I would say that the people who participated had a strong sense of spiritual and ethical integrity in relation to their work. So far, my personal suppositions were confirmed that the comfort level in asking for financial support for media ministry remains low. (But this is probably true of any ministry not just one in the media.) There may not be large amounts of practical support from their faith communities in the form of support committees or released ministries; but a lot of the respondents do feel spiritually connected to them. Though this is not a scientifically accurate report, there were many reflections here that I found to be helpful. What I will present to you here are a few trends and those comments that would seem most helpful for Friends working or interested in mass media work. Occasionally a comment entered under one question was moved into the response of another if it seemed more relevant there.

Scroll down or click on the following links:
1. Personal Spiritual Discipline
2. Using Quaker Process On A Creative Project
3. Collaboration Practices
4. Effects Of Spiritual Practices On Work Practices
5. Creative Influences & Recommendations
6. Matters Of Financial Support
7. Practical Support From The Faith Community
8. Communicating Needs
9. Invitation To Share Our Journey
10. Defining Interest In Media Ministry
11. Closing Responses
12. Take The Survey

Personal Spiritual Discipline
The statement describing a personal spiritual discipline as it relates to creative process - that received the strongest affirmative response was: "Prayer and meditation are practices that I use spontaneously as needs or opportunities arise." Only a third of those answering said that their creative work was reflected regularly as part of their experience at weekly Meeting for Worship. Comments on included:

"My work grows out of my experience. Often worship/prayer are part of the experience. I think that rather than my spiritual practices focusing on my work, they're the root from which the work grows."

"My worship does not take place within any organized church and creative energy and action is at the center of it. My job supports my creativity and my spirit but does not nurture either, except in terms of dollars. I work at a job merely to support engagement in creativity and spirit in my off hours. I use spiritual practices from many world culture/traditions and I sweat my prayers."

"I believe that a spiritual discipline would enhance my life and work, but aside from regular attendance at Meeting for Worship, I haven't been able to establish that discipline."

"My active involvement in ministry through the Internet came after participating in the Spiritual Nurture Program of the School of the Spirit. Although I did not anticipate this ministry, and did not know why I was called to participate in that Program, I believe the Program was preparation for this work, which followed, beginning not long after I completed that Program. This "creative work" is almost exclusively about issues of living the Christian faith and Quakerism."

"I try to begin each work session with centering prayer. This is most effective when I'm writing or editing - solitary work. I do want my message to be God's, not mine alone."

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Using Quaker Process On A Creative Project
Less than one fourth of the respondents said they had experienced using the Quaker process of spiritual discernment when collaborating on a creative project. However there was moderate interest in opportunities or suggestions about how to make use of Quaker process their work. Comments included:

"Clearness/oversight committees can go either way; it seems to depend on how much unity there is around the work in general before any specifics are considered."

"When working on a video project called 'Increase The Peace In The Community' with teens in Dallas part of the grant money came from AFSC, we had a committee of Quakers from the Dallas Meeting as support. It was very helpful to run ideas by them. We would have liked more participation: coming to the tapings, meeting the students... But that didn't happen."

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Collaboration Practices
This topic got a lot of response. There was a serious and intentional approach to the way the respondents interact with others in the work process. For more than half this included prayers for coworkers and the consideration of their work as ministry. Communicating a truthful story, just cause, good idea or a ministry to the audience was a primary priority. Most had a moderate to strong feeling that connecting emotionally, intellectually and spiritually (with that of God) in the audience was important in their creative work. Few people expressed that the creative and collaborative process has equal value to the final product, though some felt this statement was confusing. It had been intended to ask whether participants valued the integrity they used in their process as much as the integrity of the finished product. Comments included:

"Since I work for Quakers, and most of my writing is in the context of Quaker activity, I'd hope my spiritual life/religious practice infuses my work thoroughly!"

"As a poet, musician and artist, I see myself as a mirror and sometimes as a channel and sometimes as a witness and as a friend. But never "labeled" by any denomination or limited to one source for divine inspiration."

"The workshops I am lead to create and facilitate are not openly god centered. They are about honoring each member of the projects ideas, creativity, input, energy, culture and differences. It's the learning by doing process, especially in the media literacy workshops and the document the community photography projects. Everyone learns from each other and we learn to work and play with each other throughout the process, working thru conflicts and differences of opinions as we go."

"When working with non-Friends it is hard to be led by the Spirit. Some see my receptivity as an invitation to step in and take charge."

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Effects Of Spiritual Practices On Work Practices
How have your spiritual life and or religious practice helped you with the process of collaboration in creative work?

"Since I work for Quakers, and most of my writing is in the context of Quaker activity, I'd hope my spiritual life/religious practice infuses my work thoroughly!"

"They helped me find peace of mind so that my creative work reflects something that might interest others in finding peace of mind and seeking fellowship with others of similar intent. My prayers are sweated in community setting. My creativity is done in private usually."

"I'm a better listener because of my Quaker practice. I also believe in taking enough time to discern the best and truest way to tell a story. I also have a respect for the thoughts and ideas of others."

"Absolutely essential!"

"Recognizing the value of each person's contributions... looking at all the options instead of being narrowly focused... knowing that everyone's experience of the process and the end product is unique to them. Recognizing the light within each person."

"I need help in collaborating comfortably!"

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Creative Influences & Recommendations
What are creative influences or practices that you personally would recommend other Quaker media artisans might look at for inspiration - either relating to creativity, Quakerism, social justice or spiritual nurturement?

"Sit quietly at the feet of the Teacher.... Beyond that, the Bible often helps. Journaling, especially focused journaling (keeping irregular entries on specific topics) may be useful."

"meditation in and on nature - primary"

Visit: http://www.intuition.org/idxtran.htm
Visit: http://www.hazelden.org/thought_for_the_day.dbm?Day=07%2F08%2F99

"CONTINUED study to broaden self and deepen awareness/appreciation by searching broadly for those skilled in meditative/contemplative practices and seeking their counsel"

"As an activist liberal media has great appeal, i.e. THE NATION, MOTHER JONES, WORLD PRESS, FRIENDS JOURNAL, Atlanta Monthly Meeting's NEWS AND VIEWS, etc. On radio we listen to MORNING EDITION, and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on NPR. On TV we follow ardently Jim Lehrer New Hour, Washington Week in Review, and NOW. ALSO, C-SPAN keeps one up issues and points of view being pushed."

"On spiritual nurture (although not specifically related to the creative process), the key Quaker book is Alan Kolp's Fresh Winds of the Spirit. Most of the good work in that field comes out of the monastic tradition, which is the part of the Catholic tradition closest to Quaker understanding. A practice is to let a work be written, rather than controlling the writing. For my weekly email message, I look at the week's lectionary readings, allow time for them to percolate through me, see which passage calls out to me to be the focus, and then just start writing without knowing what the message will say in advance. I don't do an outline, written or mental, before writing. This method is appropriate for some types of creative work, but not others. For my QuakerInfo.com articles, a much more organized process is generally appropriate."

"Interviewing people in the community... various ages, incomes, cultures... ask the same questions to each... what a difference of perspectives you receive. Interview elementary thru High School students for their perspective about violence in their communities, their ideas for peace and justice, their hopes and fears, their views on racism, poverty, war, terrorism (keep a journal or a recording... you can get many ideas for your next project) I research many books and get on the internet to see what others are doing... conflict resolution books by William Kreidler and the offerings at Educators for Social Responsibility... I like to catch the art films and documentaries that come through Dallas."

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Matters Of Financial Support
It may go with out saying that financial matters including the search for funding and stewardship of resources affect the work and ministry of all participants. Some responses were about where their money actually comes from including taking a pay cut to work for a Quaker organization and doing online work that brings in a small stipend and book sales. Keeping personal material needs simple and the support of loved ones were mentioned as being important. Come comments included:

"I'd want to be clear, though, that only a portion of the work/ministry is creative or artistic in the sense you're using here. What's important isn't the creative part by itself, but creativity integrated into the entire scope of the work."

"I deeply resent the idea that only those at a certain income level have anything original or creatively inspired to bequeath this troubled country."

"About funding for projects -- finding the money to support projects is a major hurdle, and often I will drop ideas rather than go through the fund-raising process. In other words, I have to be REALLY committed to a project to actually take on the fundraising process."

"The inability to find all the funding needed has halted projects and some have not even gotten started."

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Practical Support From The Faith Community
There was no clear trend on this topic. Some participants felt their faith community was completely unaware of or misunderstood their work. Others felt prayerful support and sincere interest from their core faith community. Only one person said that their faith community actively participated in their work, through clearness or support committees, other services, and or financial support.

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Communicating Needs
There was a small amount of confidence the participants' ability to communicate their leadings to their faith community. But there was less confidence about being able to nurture these skills in others. And some felt they needed help communicating leadings and preparing proposals to get support. Some comments included:

"My primary faith community frankly has practically no interest in my work with Friends elsewhere. They feel no call to support it, and probably they shouldn't - the Friends with whom I work are the appropriate body to provide oversight and support."

"I have never asked my Meeting for support of a media project. I think this is because it is like asking them to support me personally for the producing and editing work, and that feels too scary. I think some members would be open to the idea but others would resent being asked to support me to do a particular project."

"A substantial part of my creative work is directly for my primary faith community, Friends in Christ. But I don't do it for pay, and there is hardly any direct financial cost for it."

"I have not utilized the resources of the my Meeting except for one project... on the media project I had a support committee which was really helpful. There was no financial support from the meeting."

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Invitation To Share Our Journey
Everyone who comes to a life of ministry has his or her own story. The question was asked: What is the one experience from your personal journey you would most like to share with others beginning this kind of work?

"My convincement as a Friend came as a result of my passion for Walt Whitman's poetry, and occurred under dramatic circumstances."

"Working with children will quickly show the great vacuum that exists in this society. Kids are thirsty for models devoted to enthusiastic, wholehearted dedication to the joy of creativity as a legitimate and vital right."

"I recently was led to speak in Meeting for Worship and prefaced my comment with the fact that I was feeling alone in my concern. At the end of the message, which dealt with having a more even-handed opposition to war, several people indicated that I was not alone in my concern but that they hadn't known how to verbalize their feelings. One of the jobs of those of us who are communicators is to give voice to those who cannot/will not speak for themselves."

"I find that relating to individuals or a group of personal experiences gained through family living in third world countries either through AFSC work or paid government work."

"I have written about this - http://www.quakerinfo.com/int_min.shtml"

"Have a plan on how you can stay funded. When lead to do this work it can be a real challenge and a burden if there is not the money to sustain you and the project."

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Defining Interest In Media Ministry
I found it interesting that everyone had multiple areas of interest, though only three saw themselves as a member of the audience. The numbers here reflect the number of times each selection was chosen and not the number of people who answered.
Audience Member 3
Writer - Journalist/Documentarian 6
Writer - Storyteller/Narrative/Fiction/Poetry 4
Photographic Visual Artist 1
Artist of Hand Crafted Work 2
Performer 4
Audio or Visual Editor 3
Graphic Artist/Animator 2
Producer/Director/Content Editor 6
Marketing/Public Relations 3
Administrator /Grant Writer/Fundraiser> 1

Other Areas Of Work Or Interest Included:
"I am an expert in versatile, cost-effective video publishing and distribution through the US Mail using the Video CD format."

"Speaker/program facilitator; print editor, art, music and nature activities for children, writer of current international events from a justice standpoint"

"Spiritual nurture & evangelism"

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Closing Responses
Readers were asked what other comments they would like to make about creative media ministry, or what other questions they thought should have been in this survey:

"Include appeals to those who have completed their wage-earning days and explore their volunteer activities and involvement methodology."

"Some of the statements/questions require more thought and consideration for me so I may want to re-submit this survey. Some of the negatives should be re-worded as yes-no questions. Until now I had not thought of my creative activities as ministry- but it is a good idea! I think that much of my work has been more of a struggle with worldly problems (the usual stress, bad management, fear and frustration) rather than unfettered expression and altruistic pursuits. Turning one's creative work more in those directions would be a challenge- one worth considering."

"Your accomplishments here are very impressive. Thy leading is very ambitious and will be difficult to realize. I hope way will open for thee."

Thanks again to all those who particpated.

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Dana Kester-McCabe is a freelance graphic artist, writer and designer from Bishopville, Maryland.


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