The steps forward
Thanks for Dyresha Harris’s invitation to do more than contemplate problems (“The Shape We Take,” FJ May)—not only permission to act but the program and the very steps needed to move forward if we dare.
For many of us 500 Friends who attended the 2016 White Privilege Conference, the question of what now and how is nicely laid out. And yes, there are many groups who could bring spiritual gifts.
Impressed by student voices
I am very impressed with the writings of the young people in the Student Voices Project (FJ May). It is very encouraging to see the knowledge of and interest in values we consider American.
I am so proud of these young people and their suggestions for books for President Trump to read. I think they have done a marvelous job, not only with the books they recommended but also with the reasons for their choices. I am so impressed by their words and wish that the president would take these suggestions to heart.
Silence speaks to us all
I am so pleased that Jane Fernandes found that Quakerism spoke to her, as it did for me as a deaf person (“Profound Silence,” QuakerSpeak.com, May). I was 20 years old at that time, and the religious experience has stayed with me and is as profound now as it was then. There are Quakers by philosophy and Quakers by association. The former, which Jane exemplifies, is a much longer and deeper growth journey.
Diane Plassey Gutierrez
“Profound Silence” is an absolutely wonderful piece. It makes sense, and she communicates her reasons in the same way I feel. Language is not necessary in worship, and silence speaks to us all. I think this will be one of my favorites.
Drina Connors Kay
Cape Vincent, N.Y.
Very moving and affirming! May God continue to bless you , the college, and the community as you minister there. Thank you for sharing.
I’m so glad Fernandes found us. I never would have thought of a deaf person finding our silent worship so good. God bless you.
Is there a version of this where all of Fernandes’s signing is visible? I was excited to share this video with a deaf friend, but then not all of her interview is accessible. Why?
FJ videographer Jon Watts replies: Jane did not sign throughout the entirety of her interview. The only times we used the close angle of her was when she was not actively signing.
We provide transcripts and closed captioning for every video we release. We work hard to make sure they are accurate, and we are always learning new ways to make our videos more accessible.
The Quaker space within
I want to share about a meetinghouse that occupies a different space (“Quaker Spaces,” FJ Aug. 2016). When I started attending and later joined Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.) in 1953, there was a query, which I’ve paraphrased: “Do you consider your body as the temple of your soul?”
Then in 1981 I developed breast cancer. Richard Deats of the Fellowship of Reconciliation sent me an article by George Lakey. He had written that when he was in the hospital with cancer, he saw his body as a cathedral with colors and sounds.
The next First Day I tried to envision my body as a cathedral. It didn’t work! Maybe a church? A temple? A mosque? No. Finally, I envisioned my body as a meetinghouse. Yes!
My meetinghouse was made of rock with windows that looked out on one side to green trees and a pleasant landscape. Windows on the other side looked out to a desert. The walkway was bordered with black cinders separating it from the yard. Inside there were beautiful hardwood paneled walls and flooring, and a fireplace with chairs in a circle facing it. Each of these represented me in some way.
That meetinghouse was my body. The chairs represented members of the meeting, all with colors. As I envisioned my meetinghouse each time, it had meaning.
When I was on chemotherapy, I threw open the windows. When there were problems in the world or in my relationships, I had to close those windows. I also needed to keep the cinders in the correct place. If I didn’t act following my conscience or Inner Light, I needed to put those cinders back in place.
Later with a knee replacement, I found the door was off its hinge. When I was more recently in the hospital with double pneumonia, my meetinghouse was calm as the doctors and nurses did the cleaning and put it back in order.
Extending a real welcome
My first experience with Quakers was at the Hampstead Heath Meeting on the outskirts of London (“Ministry of Tourism” by Lynne Calamia, FJ Aug. 2016). What impressed me then and continues to resonant with me was a small sign above the gate at the front of the meetinghouse. The gate was always open and seemed to beckon folks to enter. The sign simply said: “All friends are welcome here.” But more important was Friends at Hamstead making an effort to welcome and extend friendship to all newcomers. As an American traveler, I was made to feel welcome and encouraged to return. Prior to and during World War II, Jewish people who had fled Germany were welcomed there. My belief is that the most important part of helping individuals connect with Friends is on a personal one-to-one basis and by extending a real welcome. In my opinion, only after a loving hand has been extended will people truly connect to the information about Quakerism and its history. Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia on Arch Street is a special place, and I hope many will visit and find a welcoming place.
Workcamps as multiracial incubators in South Africa
The article by George Kurz (“A Weekend Workcamp,” FJ Oct. 2013) revives memories of my own interaction with Dave Richie and his daughter Marty decades ago in a Moravian settlement, Genadendal, South Africa. In 1959, during the heyday of apartheid, the Moravian Church had undertaken development of an ecumenical, multiracial youth and lay training center with annual workcamps serving as the platform to create the Langgezocht Youth Centre. It was an enormous privilege for me as a searching 18-year-old to interact with Dave as one of the camp leaders in 1968. This was to be the last multiracial workcamp and also the last time that Dave visited the country. The apartheid government forbade (banned) any further multiracial camps, and Dave was no longer granted a visa to enter the country. Despite this, Dave and I continued a correspondence—his annual round-robins—for decades. He visited me and my family in Germany (1987) where we were living in political exile, and I had to the great honor of visiting him at his home in Philadelphia around 1994. We have lost track since I returned to South Africa in 1996. I am in the process of contributing to a research project on the role of these workcamps during our struggle in South Africa and was doing a search on Dave Richie when I happened on this beautiful article.
Pretoria, South Africa
Surprised by the gift of the Living Presence
The last speaker in the video “How to Deepen Quaker Meeting for Worship” (QuakerSpeak.com, Oct. 2016) spoke about “going for the power” of the Spirit. I resonate with that but the tone struck me as a bit manipulative, as if it is “something that we do” rather than experiencing inwardly the Spirit “doing it to us” or “coming among us” (I realize semantics gets in the way here). My Quaker experience of silence is one of waiting upon the Spirit, and being surprised by the gift of the Living Presence among us, always, always, by God’s love and grace.
South Hadley, Mass.
I wonder what would happen if you sat down with eight or ten Friends from the first 200 years from our history and asked them how to deepen worship. What would they say? What would it show us about what we are missing here? We could of course do this with quotations from their writings, but then we’d be in grave danger of selecting those things that reflect our own prejudices and beliefs.
My most powerful and grounded experiences of meeting for worship have been when I am in company with other Friends who have a shared understanding, as early Friends did, that the Inward Light, which searches out the depths of our being and shines forward into the darkness of the future, is not a vague and idiosyncratic inner LED but the Word through whom the universe is created, made flesh in, well, you-know-who. My own worship is deepest when I am not just waiting, but waiting for a personal encounter who loves me and all those around me, wants to help us clean out the junk in our inner basements, and has serious work for us to do, if we are willing to surrender our inner chaos to our redeemer’s care, set aside our personal agendas, and accept that serious work.