Forum, January 2020

Write for Friends Journal

Friends Journal welcomes articles, poetry, art, photographs, and letters from our readers. We welcome submissions from Friends and non‐Friends alike.

Every month or so, a few months before a submission deadline, we sit down and write about some of the kinds of articles we’re looking to publish for particular issues. We call it our Editor’s Desk Blog and you can read it at If you would like to receive an email when we write something new, just fill out the form on that page. Here are some details on the issues with upcoming submission deadlines, along with the full list of themes through 2020.

Thin Spaces / Student Voices Project (due 2/10/2020)

With few rituals to guide us, Quaker worship at its core is a direct connection with the Divine. We are bridging the thin space between us and the Light. How does that work? How do we bridge other thin spaces in our lives, like births and deaths? This issue includes the seventh annual Student Voices Project.

Membership and Friends (due 3/9/2020)

Who’s a “real Quaker” and who isn’t? What does it mean for someone to join and what responsibilities do we have for those who are in membership? What other “almost Quaker” identities exist and how do we relate to them?

Pastoral Friends (due 5/11/2020)

Friends Journal comes out of the unprogrammed tradition of waiting worship, but many Friends throughout the country and the world have incorporated mainstream elements of Christian worship—pastors, planned sermons, liturgies, and even some sacraments. What are the different forms of pastoral worship and what are the unique challenges, benefits, and cautions for this style of Quakerism?

Open / Non-themed (due 6/8/2020)

Quaker Process (due 7/13/2020)

Quakers in Translation (due 8/10)

Emerging Witnesses (due 9/14/2020)

November issue on gambling

I am grateful for the November 2019 issue’s look at addictions.

As a retired healthcare worker who worked in the addiction field part of my career, and as a newly convinced Quaker, I see how much Quakers have to offer the addiction treatment world. My perception is that we live in a society addicted to adrenaline highs. To maintain these highs, we have to focus on speedy, instantaneous product instead of slower, patient process. To keep adrenaline flowing requires risk taking and living at a frenzied pace that cannot sustain health. Regardless of the substance or behavior of choice, it is the frantic focus on that external substance or behavior that maintains the addiction, numbing us from painful feelings. By racing on this societal treadmill, we can deny pain and avoid feeling.

Quakers are more process oriented and emphasize the Light within: the internal. From my perspective, these emphases are great antidotes for addiction to adrenaline highs.

Ellen Swanson
Minneapolis, Minn.


Who defines a testimony? 

Thank you for Michael Song’s “Gambling: A Violation of the Quaker Testimonies” (FJ, Nov. 2019). Gambling ruins lives and I agree, if not for any other reason, this definitely goes against Quaker testimony and values.

Palm Springs, Calif.


It is not up to Michael Song or any person to define Quaker values for anyone but himself. He seems to assume that he somehow has the power to define how Quaker testimonies should apply to every Quaker’s life. I find this attitude disturbing.

Jane Downes
Minneapolis, Minn.


Gambling is not approved for all the reasons in the article; the author is to be commended for witnessing to his beliefs. I am, however, not perfect. I bet $5 every year on the Kentucky Derby. I have bought raffles several times. I have thrown away $10 while on business trips. I am 90 years old and felt guilty each time. But considering my values to Quaker beliefs, I am not ashamed that I have strived to be honest and have integrity. Attending Quaker meeting and finding other times that the Light, Spirit, that of God is in everyone has been a joyous, grateful life.

Joan Kindler
Whitestone, N.Y.


The money gamble

In “To Gamble, for Better or for Worse,” Pamela Haines writes that “we have to face the reality that there’s no honest work involved in accruing interest” (FJ Nov. 2019).

This is not always true. When we lend our hard-earned money to someone else so they can get the tools or such, they can make more earned money. We become partners with them in the enterprise. Sitting on our savings for later retirement may prevent other people from getting a needed start. There are many willing workers who can’t work at their chosen field due to a lack of credit.

Some of us can do something about it in individual cases. Perhaps together we could build a system that would do this on a much bigger scale. Our current system was meant to do that. Sometimes it still does. Often it doesn’t.

Walter Pickett
Elsworth, Kans.


In the United Kingdom, we have been running study groups on new economics, trying to think about new ways of looking at the economy rather than just measuring gross domestic product (a measure dismissed even before World War II). Anyone interested in what we UK Quakers have been studying can learn more at

Noël Staples
Peterborough, UK


Another example of Quaker-led affordable housing

I was interested to read about the history of Friends Suburban Housing and Abington (Pa.) Quarter’s work in developing affordable housing (“Continuing a Quaker Affordable Housing Legacy” by Eric Malm, FJ Nov. 2019). My experience developing affordable housing was the most gratifying that I’ve been involved in. Susan Davies and I (then Martha Solish) from Cambridge (Mass.) Meeting founded Women’s Housing Initiative in 1987 to create affordable rental housing in the poorer neighborhoods of Boston. We negotiated with the city and obtained the rights to develop a derelict parcel of land. Cambridge Meeting loaned us a $200,000 bridge loan out of its endowment on a two-year term. With the addition of fundraising and financing, strong community support, architects and contractors, and creation of a nonprofit organization led by people of color to own and run it in the long term, Brookview House took shape. Originally set up as eight apartments for homeless, single-parent families headed by women, it has expanded and grown into a strong community-based agency providing housing, employment support, and programs for kids and teens. This year, Brookview House celebrates its thirtieth anniversary! The open-hearted early support of Cambridge Meeting made it possible.

Em McManamy
Providence, R.I.


Stop and look deeply

Bravo to Andrew Huff for progressing from material simplicity to spiritual simplicity, and for writing about it so eloquently (“Spiritual Simplicity,” FJ Sept. 2019). He speaks of learning to let go of the multiple selves we carry around until only one remains: the loving self. Then he can react to any situation with love.

I would like to suggest one further available step along this road to spiritual simplicity. If I react to another person with love, the ego is still involved—it is “I” who loves “the other.” The next step is to recognize that we are all truly one. The same Inner Light is within us all, unifying us. When we recognize this, we know that when all else falls away, love is not what we do, it is who we are.

Joe Ossmann
Paw Paw, Mich.


Thank you, Friends Journal and Andrew Huff, for this beautiful article. It speaks deeply to my own search and journey. And it brought to mind the first thing I learned, the first time I heard Thich Nhat Hanh teaching:

Stop. Look deeply.

Andrew Huff has acquired this practice, and shares from it.

Ellen Deacon
Philadelphia, Pa.


Too much and too little Christianity

“Are Quakers Christian?” (, Oct. 2019). Of course yes. Quakers are Christians who believe in and worship God just like many other world denominations. The fact that Quakers advocate for silent worship and being affirmative does not discern them from being Christian.

Reuben Wasilwa
Nairobi, Kenya


This video has wonderful commentary and perspectives but lacks the diversity of contemporary Friends’ identities and beliefs, particularly those who are Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, nontheist, pagan, humanist, universalist.

Michael Beer
Arlington, Va.


In 1963 in Chile as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I, a Quaker, was asked by a Catholic friend to be godfather for her daughter. There were Catholics who thought that I should not be godfather because I was not a Catholic. But there were Catholics, including a Jesuit priest, who thought that I could be the godfather as long as I was a Christian. But the same priest determined that I was not a Christian because I had not been baptized.

John R. James
Exton, Pa.


In my contacts with Quakers in various countries over 50 years of adult life, I have observed: (1) more practical Christian action among Quakers than more “institutional” denominations; and (2) an emphasis on contemplation and discerning the “Inner Light” that develops and enriches the Christian tradition. Friends even have the courage to learn from Buddhists or others who would not call themselves Christian.

Brian MacGarry


This video does not speak to my condition as a Christian Friend. This video feels like a group of decent people busy feeling awkward about a term. It has nothing to do with the experience of the Christ—which is what Christianity is supposed to be about. Christ is not equal to “what our modern society has done with Christianity.” Christ is a Whole Other Thing. Direct experience is advised.

Washington, D.C.


I am taken by the views shared here and wish this could temper much of the ego-driven, self-seeking, contemporary religious settings. In this particular video, the history of the Quakers coming from a Christian background was made clear and addressed in a personal way by each speaker, which I found uplifting.

Saginaw, Mich.


Quakerism has something to offer—if we were available

I am writing in response to Ann Jerome’s article “Selling Out to Niceness” (FJ Sept. 2019). I am a fairly new subscriber (one year) of Friends Journal magazine, and I am not affiliated or attending any specific Quaker meeting. I was raised Catholic, left the church in early adulthood, and finally returned to a non-denominational Christian church in my 30s—only to leave that church many years later after the pastor began stating every Sunday that we couldn’t be “cafeteria Christians.” His statement left me feeling like a hypocrite as well as unwelcome. It was during this time that I began to research religion in earnest. I read the Bible in its entirety and started visiting various churches. During my research, I learned of the Quaker religion, and it immediately resonated with me. Unfortunately, the Quaker religion is not prominent in my area. I did find a very small group that meets once a month three towns over, and I did attend one meeting for worship there. There were only five people in attendance, however, and it really wasn’t what I was hoping for. Thus my worship has become solitary. I enjoy your magazine, and I absolutely love the QuakerSpeak videos, and it is my hope that they will bring additional folks into Quaker meetinghouses. In this day and age, it is common to hear people say, “I’m not religious, however, I am spiritual,” and I believe that the Quaker religion has something to offer these folks.

Michelle Dutra
Tracy, Calif.


Forgive us a bit of gushiness over Jon Watts

Jon Watts, the founder of the QuakerSpeak video series, has decided to move on to new adventures. In “Saying Goodbye” (, Dec. 2019) he turned the camera around to talk about his six years of work. We’ll certainly be missing his presence here in the Friends Journal office (even as we get to know the next producer of QuakerSpeak). Below are just a few of the many responses to his goodbye video.

Martin Kelley
Friends Journal Senior Editor


Jon, your QuakerSpeak work has been awesome! All good wishes as you. I’ll be so eager to learn how the Spirit leads you from here. Blessings on the journey.

Paula Palmer
Louisville, Colo.


You’ve done a phenomenal job in launching QuakerSpeak. Thank you from this old folk. I’m impressed with your ability to see opportunity and seize it for the good of all, not just yourself. I hope this gift will lead you in new directions on behalf of Quakers. Embrace the future whatever it may be for all of us, Quakers and non-Quakers. It will include climate change.

Brigitte Alexander
Kennett Square, Pa.


Thank you for being so faithful to the leading you had to undertake this project. You have provided an immense offering to the present and future of Quakerism, indeed. Your mind, skill, and talent have been used so well—the QuakerSpeak series is invaluable for education and outreach in these digital times. Thank you, thank you! 

Paulette Meier
Cincinnati, Ohio


Thank you so much for this wonderful chunk of your spiritual journey. What a gift it has been to so many people, including you. I look forward to seeing where your path takes you next. I will always have in my heart that time we spent together in the rowboat on the pond at the Meeting School as you shared with me your discernment about moving forward from that place. I am certain you have more amazing things ahead. Keep on movin’ forward, f/Friend!

Sheila Garrett
Putney, Vt.


So very grateful for thy faithful ministry, Jon. If Quakers are allowed to be proud, I am of thy dream turned into vital ministry. And if not, well, then, I have unquakerly pride in thy dream turned into vital ministry! Walk in the Light as way opens into thy next ministry.

Max L. Carter
Greensboro, N.C.


The number of views is a testament to the impact of QuakerSpeak. It has been bold and clear. It has added another dimension to the Quaker discussion, along with Friends Journal and the many great books, such as Douglas Gwyn’s A Sustainable Life. Best wishes for your next steps. You have assured us QuakerSpeak will be in good hands.

As a fellow traveler (now Episcopalian, Presbyterian) in what was formerly called the wider Quaker fellowship, I know my religious and spiritual formation has been enhanced by your work. I want to thank you and all who have been involved in this project both named and unnamed.

Sam Wilson
Laurens, S.C.


Thank you so much for your video ministry. I am a newly convinced Quaker of ten years and count on your videos to continue to learn and grow in Quaker faith. May your path forward continue to be as fruitful for you as this past one has been.

Mercy Ingraham
Newtown, Pa.


As one of your most recent interviewees, I want to express what a joy it was to work with you. Your kindness, care, and enthusiasm for our project helped us co-create a beautiful video. Best wishes to you on your next endeavor.

Shelley Tanenbaum
Albany, Calif.


Well done and Godspeed, Jon. What an amazing journey from our nascent lunch of many years ago. You are a Quaker social entrepreneur par excellence and have made a major contribution to our efforts to “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.” I look forward to your continuing journey.

Norval Reece
Newtown, Pa.


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