Taking Steps toward Peace

For me, Easter is a particularly powerful time to reflect on the teachings and
example of Jesus. Living during a period of harsh, despised political oppression
and deep collective yearning within his community for a transformed reality, his
life, teachings, and ultimate sacrifice spoke directly to this circumstance, and more
broadly to the human condition. His witness was so powerfully at the core of Truth
that it has spoken down through the millennia to people throughout the world, across
cultures, who are struggling with overwhelming challenges and yearning for
transformation. He speaks as vividly and directly to us today as we struggle with
oppression and threats from outside and within our culture, and—yes—essentially
from within our own hearts.

I count myself a Christian, but Friends, I could not do so without Quakerism.
Descended from Quakers, my family was two generations removed from Quakerism
as I grew up attending liberal Protestant churches from the Northeast to the Midwest.
My own search for a spiritual home, begun in adolescence, took me as a young adult
into exploration of mysticism in other faith traditions—Judaism, Buddhism,
Hinduism, Native American spirituality, Islam—that ultimately led to my own
epiphany about Jesus. I am a believer, but an unorthodox one, who finds in Quaker
practice the most meaningful access to Spirit and in Jesus’ teachings the most
meaningful guide for living my life. Without direct experience of and some
understanding of mysticism, Christianity would not be an intelligible or a living faith
for me.

In this issue, you will find the testimony of other Friends who’ve reflected on the
meaning of Jesus in their lives. Fortunately, Spirit speaks to each human heart
recognizing its uniqueness. It is not necessary, or perhaps even possible, to be
doctrinaire about those promptings, but they are at the core of what our lives are

While traveling in New Zealand, British Friend Tanya Garland found herself
reflecting on Jesus’ death following a meeting for worship that focused on the film
The Passion of the Christ (p. 9). "I’m glad I was led to think through just what his
death means," she writes, "And, to be honest, I’m rather surprised at just how much it
does mean to me." Chip Thomas, in "Shake before Opening" (p. 14), shares his
leading to travel among Friends reminding us to "sweep away preconceived notions
before seeking." Raised in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Thomas experienced a
spiritual awakening among Ohio (Conservative) Yearly Meeting Friends. Living now
in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, he travels among Friends to witness to his concern
that Friends stay open to all promptings of the Spirit. In her article, "The Kingdom of
the Committee and the Garbage Dump of God" (p. 6), Kat Griffith offers wise
appreciation of the differences between evangelical and unprogrammed Friends—and
what each tradition can bring to the other. I recommend each of these personal
reflections to you.

These are challenging times in which staying open to the promptings of Spirit
could not be more necessary. Reaching out and building bridges amongst ourselves is
the beginning of the real peacemaking task. If we cannot move beyond uneasy
tolerance to genuine appreciation for our fellow Quakers, whatever their sincere
persuasions, how can we begin to offer the world a model for living peace?