Among Friends: January 2014

Characters and Voices

I find it striking sometimes how much individual issues of this magazine take on a character of their own. Articles and art and poetry and all of the other components that make up a Friends Journal become knitted together into something that stands on its own. This observation of cohesion reflects positively on the work of our talented staff, who do a wonderful job of crafting each issue, but I like to think it also serves as a metaphor for our spiritual community. Here’s how: just as a magazine comprises a broad range of perspectives brought together into a wholeness greater than the sum of its parts, our community represents a broad range of individuals—each of whom carries and has the potential to tap into the Divine Spirit within. And like a good magazine, a healthy spiritual community is greater than the sum of its human parts. Together in practice and fellowship, the individuals that make up a Quaker meeting become something even more holy.

If I had to encapsulate the “character” of last month’s issue (December 2013: “Outside the Quaker Bubble”) in one word, it would be “challenging.” In it our readers found plain speaking, tough love, heartbreak, grass-is-greener longing, and a frustrated wistfulness for what could be but is not now.

It’s safe to say that the issue you hold in your hands is of a somewhat different character. Let’s call it “patterns and examples.” When we first brainstormed the topic of “Finding a Path” in a staff meeting last year, I remember wanting to find and share Quaker spiritual success stories. These are no more or less authentic than the voices we shared last month, but together I feel they illustrate—even radiate—the life-giving and life-affirming potential of Quakerism. Perhaps you’ll feel the same way after reading.

For me, both as a reader and as someone with a stake in seeing that Friends Journal fulfills its mission of communicating Quaker experience in order to connect and deepen spiritual lives, feeling the interplay and the dialogue among our issues is gratifying and enlightening.

Speaking of authentic voices and dialogue, I’m excited to share with you that in 2014, Friends Journal will be launching QuakerSpeak, a weekly series of Quaker web videos featuring high-quality interviews with inspiring and interesting Friends. Not only will we be bringing the diverse faces and messages of modern Quakerism to a vast potential audience online, we hope this project will help Friends everywhere return to what is essential and exciting about the faith we share. Many of the interviews we conduct will also enrich our print magazine. Watch this space for more announcements, or visit The project, which is made possible by a grant from the Thomas H. and Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund, is a collaboration between Friends Journal, Friends General Conference, Quaker Voluntary Service, and Quaker artist Jon Watts, who joins the Journal staff as videographer.

Gabriel Ehri

Gabriel Ehri is the executive director of Friends Journal.

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