Forum, June/July 2020

Reconnecting with at-a-distance members

At Buffalo (N.Y.) Meeting, we found that the virus emergency encouraged several regular attenders to join online who had been hesitant to do so previously (“Worshiping Online with Friends” by Katie Breslin, FJ May). We have also been blessed to be joined by members or previous attenders who live too far away to commute to in-person meetings for worship. But there are some who cannot or choose not to participate in our online meetings. I am contemplating ways to move to a best-of-both-worlds scenario when in-person meetings are possible once again. How can we continue to include those now joining us online but are unable to join in-person meetings when they resume?

Matthew Venhaus
Buffalo, N.Y.


I live in a small, remote, coastal village with no Friends meeting. I’m a long-time attender of Vancouver Island (B.C.) Meeting, yet very seldom can get to worship due to travel distances.

Now with Zoom meeting for worship, based from Victoria, B.C., I’m thoroughly enjoying going to worship with Friends on Sunday mornings, and joining in for worship sharing and lunch on Wednesday noons. My hope is that, once the global pandemic is eradicated, some form of online meetings will continue.

This is the irony of the COVID-19 situation at this time. My life is once again enriched from my closer association with dear f/Friends and the larger Quaker community.

Jan Lehde
Sointula, British Columbia


The collective presence of Friends 

Our meeting also has been able to reconnect with Friends who have moved away or cannot physically attend (“Communing Together Virtually” by Greg Woods, FJ May). Indeed that is how we were able to connect with Greg Woods and this article, which speaks to the condition of so many of us. When my husband died in a nursing home this week, the collective presence of Friends felt like a blanket of love wrapped around us even with physical distance between us. Thank thee, Friend Greg, for helping us all find new ways to live our faith.

Sandy Matsuda
Columbia, Mo.


We at Willistown Meeting in Newtown Square, Pa., are so delighted to have Friends join us from a distance—something that has not happened before. Watching them, hearing their comments, and experiencing their presence is a true blessing in so many ways!

Rebecca Martin-Scull
Swarthmore, Pa.


Missing doughnuts

Bless you, Kat Griffith, that chocolate doughnut was balm to my soul (“God in the ATM,” FJ May), especially because the two boxes of Entenmann’s were omitted from my latest online grocery order (boo hoo).

I especially appreciate the acknowledgement of hardships (surely that doughnut is a stand-in for deeper losses?) after experiencing an abundance of online happy talk, to which many Friends seem addicted. Do we need to remind ourselves of our long-ago identification as Friends of Truth?

Claire Cafaro
Fort Collins, Colo.


Missing worship

Thank you for this video interview (“The 2020 FGC Gathering Goes Online,” Mar.). It’s good to actually see Friends. As an isolated would-be Quaker for the last 28 years, this is a breakthrough. Friends’ silent worship is one of the few experiences I have missed since leaving California and retiring to northern Portugal. I have time to read, but not a regular time to meet in silence with others.

Susan Knox
Ponte de Lima, Portugal


Kudos to FJ

I usually begin to devour my Friends Journal as soon as it arrives—and I usually find something pithy or amusing to read to my husband. We then move on to the more intense conversations that question and test our beliefs and lead us to say out loud what is important in our lives. This is what I have come to expect and most appreciate from Friends Journal. Articles make me laugh at myself; be greatly amused by others; angry when others tell me what I need to do; and urge me to do more, think more, pray more, and be more in the world. This is why I renew my subscription annually.

As I age and gain experience in life, so will my needs and beliefs change. When I stop seeking, I hope it is because I am dead and not because I deign to think I finally have all the answers. Friends Journal helps me understand this. Even though I often need to wave my arms around and spout loud and angry words before I get down to the business of trying to understand them, I need and welcome the fresh ideas.

Donna Bisset
Mountainhome, Pa.


Liberation theology

I remember when I was a little girl, maybe seven years old, my family was quite poor, though I didn’t know it then (“A Quaker Take on Liberation Theology,” Apr.). I was standing in a dime store looking at all the things spread out on display. I didn’t have a nickel for a box of gold stars, and I remember thinking to myself, “Why can’t everybody just have enough for what they need and be able to have what they need, and that’s enough?”

When I was older and being schooled in the evils of Communism, I remembered that moment in the dime store and thought to myself, “Oh, dear! Am I a communist?!”

A lot of time has passed. I’m 76 years old, and I find myself remembering how many times that original thought has returned. I’m no longer afraid of my thoughts; I am still the same at heart. Now I am happy to call myself a Quaker and a proponent of liberation theology. Down deep, it seems very simple.

Traverse City, Mich.


I’m not at all sure that greed is the cause of poverty, either according to Jesus or according to how things work in our time, in America or the rest of the world. Yes, people are greedy; yes, greed is a sin, and poverty is bad too; but unless greed is so broadly construed as to be all-encompassing . . . well, I just don’t see it.

Among Jesus’s teachings I always try to get back to loving other people “as myself”—which can occasionally lead to thinking I should “redistribute” my own resources, but almost always there are other things I should be doing that get more to deeper issues.

Susan Jeffers
St. Albans, W.V.


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