Forum, January 2022

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Twice a year we review recent titles fit for young readers in our Young Friends Bookshelf column. For the past few years, we’ve listed the publisher’s age recommendation in the details for each book, with the reviewer’s opinion, if it differed greatly, included in the review itself. Following feedback on last month’s column, we realized this is not as helpful as it could be for our readers. There will be greater clarity for future columns; for now here are our updated age recommendations for the titles reviewed in the December 2021 issue’s column, from youngest to oldest. This information has also been updated in our online edition and can be viewed at —Eds.

  1. Walking Toward PeaceFJ recommends for ages 3–7 (same as publisher)
  2. A Sled for GaboFJ recommends for ages 4–8 (same as publisher)
  3. Ten Beautiful ThingsFJ recommends for ages 4–8 (updated from 5–8)
  4. The Whole World Inside Nan’s SoupFJ recommends for ages 3–7 (updated from 4–8)
  5. Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green BookFJ recommends for ages 4–12 (updated from 3–8)
  6. 111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every GirlFJ recommends for ages 5–8 (same as publisher)
  7. Sugar in MilkFJ recommends for ages 8 and up (updated from 4–8)
  8. WatercressFJ recommends for ages 6–10 (updated from 4–8)
  9. A Peacemaker for Warring NationsFJ recommends for grades 4–9 (updated from ages 10–14)
  10. PeacemakerFJ recommends for grades 8–12 (updated from ages 8–12)
  11. The One Thing You’d SaveFJ recommends for ages 8 and up (updated from 8–12)
  12. Kids on the MarchFJ recommends for middle and high school students (updated from ages 10–14)

Envisioning a strong future

Thanks to Johanna Jackson for her article (“Visions of a Strong Quaker Future,” FJ Oct. 2021) and video (“Envisioning a Strong Future for Quakerism,”, Oct. 2021). I wonder how the doomsday Quakerism attitude is akin to our desperation over climate change and extinction? Many Black science fiction authors invite us to imagine a future beyond the present we currently know. There is so much despair and fear in our present—yet what if we imagine what the future could be, and steward that into being as we’re best able?

Marian Dalke
Philadelphia, Pa.

I wanted specifics. How do we get from here to there? And where exactly is the there? There are plenty of groups working on sustainability, leading less materialistic lives, etc. What does Quakerism offer that they don’t? If Quakerism doesn’t offer anything more, why exist?

Signe Wilkinson
Philadelphia, Pa.

Abandoning our maps?

Thank you for this wonderful article (“Maps and Spirit” by Michael D. Levi, FJ Dec. 2021). I have recently become interested in maps—of real and imagined places, so this was particularly timely for me. Beautifully written to engage the reader in each of the approaches, with and without maps. I only wish I had seen the redwoods.

Denise Webster
Simpsonville, S.C.

Thanks for this honest attempt to navigate the Quaker terrain without a map. With considerable regret, I feel led to rain on your parade! I have been a Friend since I was 18 years old; “been there, done that,” as some would say. My sense is that many Friends have thrown away the most important Christian maps we have access to, particularly the Bible. They have also abandoned the Quaker maps that Friends in the past used, in the form of the spiritual autobiographies we call journals. Take a look at the meetinghouses in southeastern Pennsylvania; what you see is what you get when you dispense with spiritual maps. What I see is many empty meetinghouses! And, where there are still Friends in some places, many of them (as someone said to me about New York Yearly Meeting) are “old grey heads.” We dare not abandon all of our maps! I wish you the best, and hope that we someday meet along the way.

William Rushby
Crown Point, N.Y.

The healing energy of the Light

I have been struggling for some time with the idea of verbal prayer (“To Hold in the Light” by Ruthanne Hackman, FJ Dec. 2021). Sometimes it feels like a manipulation of the Spirit. I appreciate, on the other hand, the quietness of holding someone in the Light. It seems to come from a deeper place within, a spiritual yearning of the whole of oneself for the good of the other. This is important this night for me as my partner has just been taken to hospital. Of course I can pray with words, but holding in the Light, hoping that the divine presence will shine upon him, seems more powerful. Or is it simply another way of saying we become a prayer beyond words, as the Spirit already knows our hearts?

Harvey Gillman
Rye, UK

A non-Quaker friend told me of receiving a serious medical diagnosis and feeling fragile and frightened, overwhelmed by her feelings. She sent a text to a dozen close friends telling them of the news and asking them not to text or call (she didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with them) but to pray for her. Within minutes, she felt a rush of peace and her fear dissipated. She and I are convinced that somehow, something was transmitted to her.

When I “hold someone in the Light” I have to center down, open up, and let go before I can hold them. I wonder if that process of centering down allows our energy to become coherent. We are told, by physicists, that particles can influence other particles at a distance. I wonder if by thinking of the other person we help their energy become more coherent and less fragmented or fractured. They might experience that as peace, love, or joy.

Dana Bush
Calgary, Alberta

This discussion expresses my own experience of holding others in the Light, at least those times when I am being truly mindful and taking the time to pause and focus. Recently a group of us held a friend in the Light as he was dying. Afterward many spoke of the energy they felt as we all envisioned our friend surrounded in Light. When we hold others in the Light, we ourselves are encircled in that same sphere of energy and love.

Doris Martin
Mount Solon, Va.

I think John Dominic Crossan in his little book, The Dark Interval, first made me aware that such Light, even when termed as God’s judgment, is a divine gift letting us recover those aspects of ourselves we had repressed and suppressed because we didn’t want them to be seen in the Light. That judgment and discovery Light is given in love to us, and sensing divine presence in it, we can then begin to know how to grow in that Light and be open to it.

Bruce L MacDuffie
Westminster, Vt.

Being held in the Light means to be held accountable to Spirit. Like turning on the Light in the dark attic of our soul, it is not always pleasant to face what we find there, but is the first step to moving forward in our spiritual journey. We can hold those who are struggling in the Light, but we cannot direct what the Light will do with them.

Bruce Dienes
Lower Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Reimagining policing

“When Peace Requires Police” by Mike Clarke clarifies and gives voice to random thoughts I have been considering over the last few months and years (FJ Sept. 2021). If this were the only article I read in Friends Journal this year, it would be more than worth every nickel I send to this organization. Now the question is: How can I act on it? Being homebound, I have become a letter writer for causes I truly care about. The question of policing has now become one such.

Sharon Fidler
Traverse City, Mich.

Here is part of a letter the clerk of Live Oak Meeting in Salinas, Calif., sent to local authorities:

We, the Live Oak Friends Meeting of Salinas, are grieved and outraged by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor; the racially motivated killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. As Quakers, we are guided by the values of equality, peace and community.

We issue you a Call to Action to peoples of all faiths for substantial reforms to policing, to include the following:

Unjustified police violence and homicides, most recently Mr. George Floyd’s senseless murder by four members of the Minneapolis Police, must end.

We must return to Community-Oriented Policing. Serving and protecting the people must be based on the philosophy of “full service personalized policing, where the same officer patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems.” (Bertus Ferreira).

We encourage establishment of citizen-police review panels to assist departments’ adherence to policy by using modern tools of data collection and analysis (e.g., use-of-force incidents), effective communications and accountability. Police departments’ commitment to such oversight panels will ensure safe and satisfying policing in our neighborhoods.

We encourage the creation of a national database of individual police abuse, so that abusive officers cannot be rehired by another police jurisdiction.

We must demilitarize police forces by divesting military-grade equipment assets (armored troop carriers, sound cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets, etc.) that have been supplied by the Pentagon, with Federal monetary incentives to use.

George Powell
Carmel Valley, Calif.

As a Friend who lives in a historically Black neighborhood in Pasadena, Calif., I hear and support what my African American friends and neighbors want. They don’t want to abolish the police. They want police to be held accountable; for example, to fire officers who kill or assault Black men without just cause. They also want more violence prevention programs. They want programs like Cahoots, which sends trained mental health workers to deal with domestic violence, homelessness, and suicides. They want a police commission with subpoena power that can independently investigate cases of police abuse of power. As a White person, I stand in solidarity with my African American neighbors and with Friends of Color who are calling for reforms like an unarmed peace force consisting of police officers and community based peacekeepers; educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for young people in communities of color; and better training of police in racial bias. We need to reimagine policing so that those we hire to keep the peace repudiate their racist legacy and become true peace keepers.

Anthony Manousos
Pasadena, Calif.

Sci-fi kudos

I knew Hilary Bisinieks through much of their younger life. Their partnership with Annalee Flower Horne on the November 2021 issue of Friends Journal raises so many wonderful memories.

I still value the role science fiction and its partners in fantasy and other realms of imaginative writing played in opening up my mind, from my teenage years in the 1950s on. It started with a membership in the Science Fiction Book Club that brought us “hot off the press” volumes from Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and others.

Many thanks to the editorial staff of Friends Journal for inviting and authorizing our guest editors on this issue to bring us a splendid feast of outside-the-box imagining, visioning, and encountering of the Spirit. The mystery and discoveries that imbue gathered silence is here, all through these stories! And some of them are such fun!

Ellen Deacon
Philadelphia, Pa.

Thank you for an amazing story, “In Silence Doorways Open” by Michelle Goddard (FJ Nov. 2021). It certainly hits all the right themes: the prophetic words of Isaiah 6 woven into this story and Mark 4:23 are as important today as they will be in the future. Folks in this neck of the woods would say in a gender neutral way, “‘If anyone here has two good ears, use ’em.’”

From Isaiah 6:10 in the Septuagint: “You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving. This people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”

Bob Dischler
Santa Rosa, Calif.

The promise of ranked-choice voting 

The concept in “Voting for Peace and Equality” by Rachel MacNair (FJ Oct. 2021) is at this time the best possible resolution to bring politics into harmony with what people generally want but may not truly comprehend. And the overall power structure that has been in place for the long history of this country is not welcoming to any changes of this sort. That means there has to be a major shift within the Spirit of mankind to fully realize these changes. The intentions driving this shift require higher vibrations of unattached loving focus on all those at every level of our community of humans that would need to participate in these needed changes. Are we willing and able to embody that requirement when focused on, and struggling with, the current political world of conflict?

Daniel Richards
Mimbres, N.M.

Coming from a country with ranked-choice voting, I can commend your proposal but offer a warning: the optional element of voting for one or many candidates is vital to your aims. Don’t allow your proposal to be turned into ranked choice where all candidates have to be numbered, as in many Australian states. In this case you end up with a more complicated but equally destructive battle between two parties where the only thing that matters is who is placed second versus last.

Michael Wood
Melbourne, Australia

In our local political races, we select a series of candidates for the town council, but they are not specifically ranked. I love the notion of ranked voting, though. Thank you, Rachel, for your enjoyable and informative paper on this subject!

Gary Wayne Parker
Richmond, R.I.

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