Among Friends March 2015

The Unexpected Conversation

When we recently announced online some of the topics we were planning for this issue of Friends Journal, one reader responded tartly: “If I wanted to read about eating disorders, I would not pick up Friends Journal to do it.” It’s true, a piece by Madeline Schaefer, “Silent Bodies,” is about eating disorders, and it is the first time the subject has been broached so directly in the pages of this magazine. Perhaps our reader meant to say that the relevance of the topic to Quaker experience was not obvious to them. But that’s why we write, isn’t it? To make the unknown known and to advance our readers’ understanding of one another and (if we’re lucky) themselves.

One theme in Madeline’s article is that Quakers’ silence covers more than just the period of waiting worship we practice. There are things we just don’t talk about, and topics we are happy to expound upon in the abstract but loath to mention in the specific. In one of the classic marks of privilege, we are too often happy to overlook that a topic which is academic to some or most of us is deeply personal for others. Whether it originates out of a sense of decorum, honoring the privacy of others, or simply naïveté, silence about the things that affect us does not serve us well. Even more insidious, our culture creates and perpetuates the sense that certain topics should never be spoken of, thus sentencing those individuals who have no choice but to care about these topics to an enforced inauthenticity in order to remain a part of our community.

We have sought to cultivate Friends Journal as a place where no topic is off-limits. That doesn’t mean it’s always safe—as Madeline points out, this may be a safe topic for our readers, but it’s most definitely not safe territory for her. We have faith in the capacity of our community of readers to read and receive stories of Quaker experience in a way that respects the right of our writers to share their truth. I’m honored that, so often, the words between these covers evince a bravery that I see as a challenge to myself—a challenge to cut more simply to the truth and to be fearless in service to the missions I’ve taken on.

I hope you’ll enjoy seeing, from time to time, things it would not have occurred to you to look for in Friends Journal. Let us know what you think.

Gabriel Ehri

Gabriel Ehri is executive director of Friends Journal.

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