Since the national election in the United States last November, I’ve been reading
many commentaries by people who hoped for a different outcome that in effect
ask, "Now what do we do?" or make dire prognostications about our immediate
future. It’s tempting to get caught up in discouragement.
We are not the first people to live through troubling, frightening, or disappointing
times. I have found myself asking older Friends what the world felt like to them during
the McCarthy period, the Great Depression, or the Nazi regime. The responses I’ve
received have reassured me that we will find our way through the challenges of the
present. Other sources of hope, for me, are the role of nonviolence in ending apartheid
in South Africa, thanks in large part to the remarkable spirit of black South Africans; and
the generosity and joyfulness of many Latin Americans, despite deep poverty, oppression,
and long years of armed conflict. The importance of the life of the Spirit for people
in such times is incalculable.
The contents of this particular issue have caused me to reflect on the influence that
ordinary people can have in the course of living their lives. Brian Drayton brings us a
profile of Mary Penington (p. 27) that traces her spiritual search and her struggles with
grief and self-indulgence. Her triumph over these things and her perseverance through
the many harsh trials of early Quakerism are an example of what can be accomplished
through discipline and determination. Her life stands as a testimony 323 years later.
It’s not necessary to search so far back in history, however, to find examples of how
the everyday conduct of one’s life can leave a lasting effect on others. In "A Kitchen with
a View" (p. 14), Ann Morrison Welsh describes how the simple act of hospitality and
warm, loving support between friends has provided a haven and deeply healing place for
her and her family. Moreland Smith, in "Doorways" (p. 18), tells about seemingly
chance encounters with individuals who’ve had noetic experiences and how these
encounters have made him more aware of the openings through which it is possible to
gain deeper awareness of the movement of Grace in our lives. Children, too, can be
touched by something simultaneously everyday and extraordinary, as described by
William Alberts in "Talking to Bob" (p. 20), when third-graders connect with a retired
airline pilot in Labrador.
This month, we have included an article by Paul Buckley, "Owning the Lord’s
Prayer" (p. 6), that we hope will provide a simple and rich way to deepen one’s
meditative and prayer life. Paul makes clear that it is possible to spend years with this
prayer without exhausting its ability to provide spiritual insight and growth.
As we celebrate this 50th Anniversary year of FRIENDS JOURNAL, I’m keenly aware of
how profoundly the words in our pages can affect others. We often receive letters and
notes from people who tell us how important the JOURNAL is to them. We are blessed
that so much hope, inspiration, and encouragement flows through these pages, and that
it has done so for so many years.