A Gathered People

Contemplating this issue of Friends Journal, which has had a most unusual journey into being, I am reminded of one of my favorite Quaker theological concepts. Friends have a delightful term to describe a meeting for worship where everyone present can agree that all the pieces have come together: Inspired ministry. Deep and poignant silence. An abiding appreciation for the presence of each other, in all of our differences, all of our commonality, and all of our beatitude. Everyone’s shared participation in an act of faith. It is in worship like this where the veil between the spiritual and material world is not only thin but porous. We say that it has been a “gathered meeting.”

Gathered is a poetic way to describe this, and it’s how I’d describe the constellation of content collected here. We typically measure the life cycle of this magazine in months, from the time we plan the editorial focus, through the solicitation of articles and art, to the editing and production, and finally through to distribution and promotion. We are patient people serving patient people, and this often works beautifully because the world is not in a rush. How different this past month has felt!

For over a month, the staff of Friends Publishing has been entirely remote. We clock in for a Zoom call every day at 2:00 p.m. to check in and connect—a substitute for the genial encounters, casual conversation, and connection we might have in the office kitchen. We’ve worked from our homes, with our variety of humanizing and humbling distractions (I’ve been equal parts challenged and fortunate to have two young sons and two old cats as my new home office colleagues). It became clear very early on in the coronavirus lockdown that we needed to recalibrate and begin to gather new content that speaks directly to our readers’ lives in this unfolding global pandemic, in addition to the pieces we had planned for an issue on “Thin Spaces.” You will find new pieces by Katie Breslin, Greg Woods, and Nancy Thomas (who also joins us this spring as poetry editor—welcome!), alongside a selection of articles on Quaker mystical experience that remain quite apt and compelling, even in circumstances today that many of us could not have imagined we’d be in even a few months ago.

This issue also celebrates the work of young authors in our seventh annual Student Voices Project. You’ll find even more of their thoughtful and insightful work on our website, Friendsjournal.org.

In my own religious life, my congregation has begun to gather twice weekly for worship and worship-sharing. Our Care and Counsel Committee has reached out to every person to make sure our members’ needs are known and met as well as possible. I yearn to be in the same room as my fellow Friends again. There will be a time for that, I console myself.

I’m grateful for the ways we can gather, either virtually or through the shared experience of storytelling, reading, and listening. You, reader, are gathered, too, and—speaking for all of us at Friends Publishing—we are grateful to be a part of your journey through these times. Let us know how Spirit moves in your life, so that we may listen and learn, mourn and celebrate. Thank you.

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