Among Friends: Venturing Outside Our Comfort Zones

When we make room for the unexpected and felicitous in our lives, what happens? It’s a question worth reflecting on, and one for which we are offered answers whenever we plan an open-theme issue, as is the case this month.

We humans are born explorers. We can commit not just to learning from new experiences, but to seeking out new experiences.

I read the articles that came together in this issue as products of exploration, openness, and commitment—elements that just might be essential in our spiritual and religious lives. At any point, we can decide to venture outside our comfort zones, open up, prepare to be changed, and to acknowledge that the power to change is what makes us human and gives us the capacity to improve the world around us.

In “Respect Is the Heartbeat of Standing Rock,” Quaker Earthcare Witness general secretary Shelley Tanenbaum shares the experience of three older Quaker women committing their presence to the gathering in defense of sacred Lakota Sioux land from the construction of an oil pipeline. What she learned, and shares with readers, runs deeper than the news reports we’ve all seen about this massive direct action.

We are also pleased to share with readers two pieces on that mystical experience that has been central in the definition of the Quaker way as a distinct spiritual path. Robert Atchley gives us an overview of the topic from the perspective of an elder with 30 years of research and personal practice invested in the subject. Complementing this is the voice of Sarah Pennock Neuville, new to our pages, who in “I Am Not a Religious Person” describes in vivid detail a recollection of her own mystical experience, which has led this young woman to a nuanced and developing understanding of what she calls “the litheness of spirituality.”

Frequent Friends Journal contributor John Andrew Gallery, a Friend from unprogrammed Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, collaborates with Conservative Ohio Yearly Meeting Friend Susan Smith to bring readers an outsider’s eager perspective upon attending two Conservative Friends gatherings in Barnesville, Ohio. Gallery arrives an explorer but quickly finds himself absorbed and carried to deeper understanding and unexpected vocal ministry. Smith plays the role of Gallery’s welcoming host and interpreter, rounding out and enriching this self-searching reflection.

From all of us at Friends Journal—staff, volunteers, and creative partners—thank you, reader, for giving us reason to keep exploring and sharing the fruits of Quaker discovery and deepening with you and with the world.

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