Reflections and a Welcome

When we published Anne Barschall’s "On Marriage and Divorce—With a Proposition Bound to be Controversial" in June, we suspected it would elicit a response. We agreed that Friend Barschall raised some interesting and valid points, although Senior Editor Robert Dockhorn and I wouldn’t necessarily have come to the same conclusions as our author. We did hear from many of you, by phone, email, and letters. One article in this issue, Ron McDonald’s "Reflections on the Purpose of Marriage" (p. 8), arrived in direct response; another, Nancy Wick’s "Saying ‘I Do’ Anew" (p. 11) reflects on the value of renewing marriage vows under the care of one’s meeting.

Ron McDonald makes some excellent points, and I am particularly taken with his thoughts that "marriage creates a sanctuary where people can learn to love as equals" (which, he observes, is not inborn) and "marriages are like crucibles where iron ore is heated so that the slag can be discarded and steel can be formed," capturing both the sacred and the gritty elements of a good marriage. Next month my husband, Adam, and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and I must say I can honestly appreciate those observations! Ron McDonald suggests that we need to share and better support each other within our meeting communities by being much more open about the challenges and rewards of our own marriages. It’s a useful suggestion I hope Friends will take to heart.

During my years in New York Yearly Meeting, co-directing Powell House with my husband, I became keenly aware of the remarkable amount of prison ministry that is taking place in that yearly meeting. In this issue, we acknowledge that ministry in a small way with the inclusion of Edward Stabler’s "Auburn Prison Friends Meeting after 30 Years" (p. 16), and two pieces by Quaker prisoners: Ismael Melendez’s "To Friends: A Call to Duty" (p. 18) and John Mandala’s "Service: Prisoners Doing Ministry" (p. 20). I imagine that serving a prison sentence at any time is difficult to bear, which our criminal justice system purposefully intends. To be incarcerated during a period such as the one in which we are living, with terrorist threats abounding and great uncertainty affecting all in the U.S., must increase the burden of incarceration considerably. In light of this, I am especially impressed with John Mandala’s recounting of ways that prisoners find to be of service, despite the extremely limited circumstances within which they must function. To meet and serve the needs of others is surely one of the best ways to overcome a sense of helplessness in the face of overwhelming circumstances. Given the present condition of our nation, a good many of us could benefit from gaining the perspective that John Mandala writes about, including our nation’s leaders.

Much of my summer has been focused on hiring. Herb Ettel, our webmanager (living and working for us in Washington, D.C.), resigned this spring after taking on a very demanding new full-time job working with OMB Watch (an organization that promotes government accountability and citizen participation). We miss him, but understand his passion to effect social change. We posted the position and received 111 applications, most from exceedingly well qualified individuals. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve appointed Peter Deitz, of Montreal, Canada, to take over this post. Peter, a U.S. citizen, holds degrees from McGill University and the University of Toronto. While growing up, he first encountered Quakers at Camp Onas in Pennsylvania, and then later, at the camps of Farm and Wilderness in Vermont. Peter acquired his web skills working for an Internet development company in New York City and later joined the staff of Farm and Wilderness as a freelance web designer. Now residing in Canada, he is eager to put his web skills to use in the service of nonprofit organizations working for peace and social justice. We are delighted to have him join us!