It’s only human to turn to metaphors to describe our spiritual relationships. We talk about “nurturing the seed” and “turning toward the light.” We move along on spiritual “journeys” that don’t necessarily involve any travel at all. Our conference themes often include words like weave and motion and open.
This issue begins with a more modern metaphor: the navigational systems in our cars and phones. Mary Linda McKinney asks how we take direction from something outside ourselves. Do we listen to our divine GPS devices when they tell us we’ve drifted off route and need to find a u-turn?
I live in an area with a lot of old roads going off in various directions and one big highway going to the obvious nearby city. When I plug a destination into my phone it usually tells me to get on the highway even if it’s going in the wrong direction from where I want to go. I generally ignore the directions and take the back roads. This is a metaphor, perhaps, for our Religious Society of Friends. We are dwarfed by denominations many times our size, most of which have better signage, more convenient rest stops, and wider breakdown lanes. But I’d like to hope that the Quaker way can be more direct, more surprising, more interesting, and more rewarding in the long run.
Journeys come up quite a bit in this issue. For 15 years, Mary Ann Downey has created a space in Atlanta (Ga.) Meeting for Friends to share the stories of what brought them to Quakerism. The monthly programs have evolved to bring in younger voices and to form a history of the meeting as they’ve been recorded.
Another Friends Journal regular, John Andrew Gallery, looks at the role of temptation in our spiritual journeys and suggests it can be key to a process of deep conversion and growth. I appreciate that he shares some of his own story by way of illustration.
Margaret Kelso’s journey has led her to explore the time of Lent with a small group of Episcopalians over Zoom. Although Friends traditionally don’t follow the liturgical calendar as a group, many individual Friends have been enriched by dipping into other spiritual traditions, and Margaret tells us how her experience deepened her understanding of Jesus’s story.
The final two authors also share their stories: Hayden Hobby’s from a strict Evangelical Christian church that focused on an angry God, and John Marsh’s from an atheistic background to something more agnostic and Quaker-curious. I’ve noticed that both of these trajectories have been bringing newcomers into Quaker meetinghouses in recent years, and I’m glad to get insight into their paths.
And speaking of transitions and journeys, I’d like to welcome a new member to the Friends Journal editorial team! Sharlee DiMenichi is a long-time journalist who has come aboard as staff writer, an entirely new position for us. She’ll be adding a new dimension to the magazine, both in print and online at Friendsjournal.org, writing deeply researched articles, interviews with fascinating Friends, and timely current events pieces. If you have ideas or leads, you can reach her at email@example.com. She has some great articles in the pipeline over the next couple of months, so I hope you’ll follow along and let us know what you think.