Preparing for Hard Times

As I write, I’ve just returned from the Friends General Conference Gathering in Johnstown, Pa., where we collectively spent a week considering the theme "Coming to Peace." Friends at the Gathering, as in most other Quaker groups these days, were gravely concerned about the direction our nation is heading. Plenary speakers, musicians, workshop leaders, and afternoon interest groups addressed growing U.S. militarism and the many assaults on our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Individually and together we were challenged to become more familiar with the issues and to decide which of the many urgent concerns facing us today is calling for our own ongoing attention.

These are hard times that promise to get harder. How do we prepare and pace ourselves for difficult days ahead? In this issue, Patricia McBee speaks to that question in "Quaker Spiritual Disciplines for Hard Times" (p. 6) by suggesting that we adhere to the time-honored Quaker disciplines of retirement, prayer, living in the Cross, keeping low, and discernment. Our work in the world must be seasoned by our spiritual practices and our own inner work if it is to be lasting, and if we are to have strength for the task before us. In "Vignettes of an Antiwar Vet" (p. 10), Lyle Tatum shares stories from a difficult year of prison time stemming from his conscientious objection to war during World War II. Holding fast to the integrity of his convictions, he set an example that was honored by co-workers even during a period of patriotic fervor, and that same integrity later stymied a prison disciplinary board. We again are living in times of patriotic fervor—and these are times of preemptive war making, first strike capabilities, eroded civil liberties in the name of "homeland security," and an ominous USA Patriot Act II looming on the near horizon. There is much to consider, and discernment, integrity, and keeping low will be important tools for us.

Last month I introduced five volunteers to our readers, and thanked others who have moved on. This month I’m very pleased to introduce Herb Ettel, who has joined us as our new web manager, taking up the baton (computer mouse?) from Martin Kelley who has consolidated part-time jobs, leaving us in anticipation of the arrival of his first child this month. We will miss Martin and his cheerful disposition as he kept our website refreshed and helped us through some thorny technical difficulties. More than 72 individuals applied for Martin’s position, and from this group of very able people, we are delighted that Herb has joined us. He was online projects director/webmaster at Co-op America from 1996 to 2001, and he has over 20 years of experience in communications promoting nonviolence, human rights, and environmental protection. A graduate of University of Virginia, Herb also earned master’s degrees in Journalism and Political Science from Temple University. He and his wife are members of Friends Meeting of Washington and Takoma Village Cohousing community. For fun, he leads workshops for United for a Fair Economy and takes part in many progressive organizations and actions in our nation’s capital. He develops and produces websites and publications for other nonprofits as well. Herb joins the growing cohort of folks who do their work for us at a distance, and we are delighted to have him join us in this good work!