Forum December 2015

Flowing waters

We live near a rural stream and take our water from that stream (“Among Friends,” FJ Sept.). Sometimes autumn leaves block the stream for a while, and we work with neighbors to clean out the channel. Sometimes a disgruntled neighbor throws a boulder into the stream so that the water flows illegally into his property, and then we have to restore the stream into its proper channel. In winter, we have to check that ice hasn’t caused the stream to back up and overflow down the hillside. But I don’t worry any more about Quaker numbers declining. The living water that Jesus spoke of is always available if we thirst for it.

Linda Agerbak
Arlington, Mass.

A concern for silence

I have always been conflicted about the subject of abortion—recognizing that it ends a life, yet there are most always terrible costs (“A Concern for Silence” by Bridget Anderson, FJ Sept.). So, personally, I resonate with the statement that abortion needs to be available, safe, and rare. Our small city was anticipating the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic that would offer a full range of women’s and reproductive health services. One of my “Quaker mothers” in my small meeting read of the Common Ground model of bringing people (mostly volunteer activists) from opposite sides of the abortion issue together in a safe and neutral environment to really truly listen to each other. The objective was to hear how we had come to our respective positions and to seek out areas of agreement. This weighty Quaker elder suggested that sponsoring a weekend workshop for this purpose would be a worthy venture in peacemaking for our Peace and Social Concerns Committee.

During the process, women from both sides became warm friends. All, irrespective of position, supported one of our members through her unplanned pregnancy, and after her delivery, her new daughter came and cooed through our meetings for worship. We did not arrive at agreement about abortion, but that had not been our purpose. We did find we shared common concerns about society’s attitudes toward sexuality; about the necessity of adequate medical care for women, children, and families; and about adequate resources for supporting families.

Lesley Laing
MacMinnville, Ore.

I read these thoughts with care and concern for those involved. I do not understand how some Quakers are against capital punishment, as I am, and are also pro-abortion. I am a pediatrician so aborting a fetus, or a baby—as in partial-term abortions—is the absolute most atrocious, horrible event I can even imagine.

I will never agree with abortion, but given that it’s a right protected by our rules and laws, I would never stand in the way of a woman seeking this out nor would I ever judge the woman. My Quaker beliefs do not allow this.

Miami, Fla.

The right to reproductive health care should not be an issue of money, access, or shame. I also believe open conversations must be had. I appreciate deeply the idea of finding common ground—I suspect there is more than is thought.

Adrian Nelson
Atlanta, Ga.

Unseen fruit

Thanks to Joseph Olejak for sharing his story, part two of “26 Weekends at Columbia County Jail” (FJ Oct.). It affirms his humanity and that of the others to whom he listened. And it describes so perfectly the kind of listening that we do in spiritual direction. Though he may not have been aware of doing spiritual direction, his time and encounters with those around him in the prison was blessed. He may never see it, but one can sense that he planted “seeds” and that in time some will bear fruits. Blessings for this faithful witness.
Lesley Laing
McMinnville, Ore.

Friends and moderation

The English word “temperance,” as in “moderation or self-restraint especially in eating and drinking,” was seized upon by the Temperance Movement to mean “abstinence,” which is actually a different concept (“Do Quakers Drink Alcohol?,” Oct.). Abstain from eating and drinking, and you will die pretty quickly. The North Pacific Yearly Meeting query at the start of the video only asks if our use of alcohol is “addictive,” whereas I’d say Quakerism is more about “temperance” in its purer sense: moderation in all things. This dharma applies to many more possible “addictions” besides alcohol. Addictions lead to “silliness” of the kind George Fox sought to avoid—i.e., avoidance and escapism. Quakerism is not escapism; it encourages serious-mindedness.

Kirby Urner
Portland, Ore.

The plastic package

How disappointing to find my Friends Journal encased in plastic. I’m sure someone thought it necessary, but I can’t imagine anything that would justify using so much petroleum. Friends Journal needs to set a positive example.

Norman K. Janes
South Windham, Conn.

Wouldn’t mailing the journal in a paper envelope be a better ecological solution than the current clear plastic covering? An interesting graphic surrounding the address could help keep the magazine’s purpose front and center.

Clifford Ham
Berkeley, Calif.

FJ responds: I am sorry that the polybag has, for some, made getting the Journal in your mailbox less than the pleasure it should be.

This is a really tough balance for us to get right. Many of our customers have complained that the magazine was getting mangled when mailed bare. Putting the Journal in envelopes would be about four times more expensive than using the plastic, not to mention more resource-intensive. For a year’s worth of producing Friends Journal, using envelopes would add about $11,000 to our costs.

We may experiment with different cover stock, but at the moment we are going to continue to see how the polybags perform. So far their use has largely eliminated complaints of damaged magazines. It’s good to have your feedback—please know that we will take it into account as we try to find the best way of serving all of our readers with the resources we have.

Gabriel Ehri
FJ Executive Director
Philadelphia, Pa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.