In my neighborhood, an organization called Mount Airy Learning Tree has for years provided opportunities for community members to teach their passions to others in the community, in informal settings and at very low cost. A seriously eclectic catalog (carpentry to kombucha fermentation, photography to pilates, songwriting to estate planning) arrives around this time of year, and it’s always a fascinating read when the short days and low light of boreal winter leave me longing for diversions, my mind’s eye piqued by new pastimes I could imagine learning.
What is life but a long series—if we’re lucky—of developing interests, skills, and curiosities of all sorts, some of them practical and some of them not. No two people’s are going to overlap completely, and how much we have to teach each other! The articles we’ve curated for this issue of Friends Journal put me in the mind of learning and sharing. Or perhaps more aptly, I feel well taught.
What am I learning? For one thing, the spiritual practice Kat Griffith introduces in “In Which Today’s To-Dos Become Ta-Dahs!” I grew up in a corner of the Quaker tradition that did not place any emphasis on prayer, and so what is second nature to the majority of the world’s faith adherents remains a foreign practice to me. I have understood prayer academically but not bodily or spiritually, the way that ritual and experience make it so real and important to so many people. Listening to Kat, a Quaker, explain in vivid and vulnerable narrative detail how she found, tried, and came to embrace a structured prayer discipline was illuminating and inspirational. Perhaps you will be left, as I am, with gratitude and an interest in thinking differently about how you pray.
I am also learning how a Friend can take tragedy, an encounter with evil most unimaginable, and draw from it the strength to walk over the world working to reach hearts and change minds to prevent further unnecessary suffering. That’s what Peter Murchison, uncle of a Sandy Hook massacre victim and a Friend from Connecticut, teaches in “A Quaker Response to Gun Violence.” In a very different example, it’s also what Paula Palmer demonstrates in “The Land Remembers.”
And I’m learning from Ben Handy what might happen in the silence of worship when there’s really silence. Not what I expected!
My prayer for you, reader and friend, is that you may feel well taught, and that you might consider what you are ready to teach others. You never know who’ll be ready to learn.
I’d like to share a few behind-the-scenes updates with you. First, I’m deeply grateful to all who joined in support of our Beacon Campaign, which met its financial goal and will help us better serve the world for years to come. Thank you for helping to build a beacon of Quaker faith and experience. Finally, in December we said farewell to our colleague Jon Watts, who has helmed the QuakerSpeak project since its beginning in 2013 and is moving on to new challenges. Succeeding Jon on our staff as video producer is Rebecca Hamilton-Levi, with whom you’ll find an interview in this issue. Look out for a great new season of QuakerSpeak launching next month.