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Among Friends: The Vulnerability of Description

2014-06 cover-450xThe bold title on the cover of this issue is the result not of unity, but of compromise. Let me explain. When the staff of Friends Journal met last year to plan out our slate of issue themes, we had a gloriously robust and spirited discussion about what to call the issue.

“I don’t feel comfortable using the word ‘God’ at all, and I think it will turn a lot of our readers off,” one of us argued.

Another of us offered terms that might be less polarizing: “Could we call it ‘Concepts of the Divine’ instead? Or ‘Concepts of the Spirit’?”

Several of us worried about turning off Friends Journal readers who are nontheists, for whom Quakerism requires nothing of the supernatural. We wanted to make sure there was room for such a viewpoint in these pages, because those Friends are legitimately part of the Quaker community and, therefore, their experience is a facet of Quaker experience.

I’ll admit it. I feel at home in a religion that in many ways doesn’t purport to have all the answers. We settled on “Concepts of God” for the cover because it seemed the simplest and had a snappy ring to it, trusting that the quality of the articles we would publish inside would begin to transcend language’s fundamental inadequacy to the task of describing the source and center of existence.

I’m grateful to all of the authors who contributed to this issue, because to describe God—or to describe Good—is a vulnerable act. Like the blind men in the South Asian parable, we speak of the elephant we are touching in different ways, and only in the sharing of our own experience do we begin to piece together the full picture and also realize the limits of our own perception.

As we explore, in this issue, concepts of God that Friends find meaningful to them, I am struck by the richness and variety of our religious experience, and also by the sacred role—analogous to a worship community—that Friends Journal plays in the world of Friends and those who would come to know the Quaker way. We benefit from the divine inspiration within other people only when we can in some way access their testimonies, their stories. That happens in meeting for worship. It happens when we allow our lives to “preach among all sorts of people, and to them,” to paraphrase George Fox. And it happens here in the Journal. Thanks for reading.

Yours in peace,

Gabriel Ehri
Executive Director
ED@friendsjournal.org

Gabriel Ehri is Executive Director of Friends Journal

Posted in: Among Friends, June/July 2014

4 Responses to Among Friends: The Vulnerability of Description

  1. Chester Kirchman June 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    Dear Gabriel Ehri,

    Please do not ‘worry’ about using God to title ‘Friends Journal’. Many Friends have very different views of Life on earth. Being able to look at, and correlate cross-overs in ‘Life’ can be seen as a good way of understanding our global consciousness. Quaker Universalist Fellowship has this type of belief in having all people present their aspect of Life. Hopefully, most individuals, even those who believe in God, can see beyond one presentation.

  2. susan betts June 13, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    City & State
    Wyndmoor, PS
    Friend, you speak my thoughts well and comfortably. Thank you. Sue Betts,
    Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting.

  3. Patty Quinn June 16, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    City & State
    Philadelphia, PA
    “…[S]peaking of the elephant we are touching in different ways”–a fit way to name how humanity reaches out to touch God, the Divine Spirit, or the name one feels led to use. Our planet holds 7 billion people, and each of us takes our own path to the ultimate good. Finding that path is deeply personal and yes, vulnerable.

  4. Stephen Snyder June 27, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    City & State
    Wentworth, SD
    I love the BOLD cover design. It really drew me in to read more on the inside. Isn’t God just as good a name as any to for the mystery at the heart of the universe. The word comes with baggage for me and many others, but that just makes me want to explore it more deeply.

    Thanks you for another excellent edition of Friends Journal.

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