Forum, June-July 2023

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Choosing in a sea of abundance

Thanks to Deborah B. Ramsey for sharing the beauty and traditions of her family (“Soul Food Reimagined,” FJ May). I am sure any food choice she shares in the warmth and love with her beautiful family will be a feast.

Margaret Salpietro
Chicago, Ill.

Great points of view and an attitude I have started to share these last couple of years. Having our own egg-laying hens really taught us how animals are unique with their own individual capacity and spirit. So just because I’m hungry, it doesn’t necessarily mean an animal needs to die.

What your ancestors had to do to survive was masterful, but so is standing alone for your own principles (with gratitude) in a sea of abundance.

Sayre Payne
Cincinnati, Ohio

The first and hardest step

Amen, Andy! Thank you for the invitation in “Ten Miles Around” (by Andy Stanton-Henry, FJ Apr.). Early Friends often talked about building the kingdom of God. I ask myself frequently what I would be doing if I lived as if I truly believed that this world was God’s world, as I say I do. Loving my sexist, racist old southern neighbor is the first step and probably the hardest; it also feels like the most important one.

Mary Linda McKinney
Nashville, Tenn.

Useful and needed

Thank you for this short, touching article (“Baking Cookies for the Revolution” by Kat Griffith, FJ Apr.). I loved this line:

Smailović reminds me that these sorts of doubts are not a healthy humility—they are a lack of faith. And if we allow our doubts to drive our inaction, we will deprive the world of our sorely needed gifts.

Often I feel like giving up on my art studies to study something useful. This was a good reminder that we are not the ultimate judges of what is useful or needed.

Vienna, Austria

Memories of earlier intentional communities

I am a lifelong Friend, a member of Sandwich (Mass.) Meeting on Cape Cod. I am 95, and yet remember well my summers at Celo Community soon after its founding (“Building Cultural Topsoil” by Kavita Hardy, FJ May) when I lived with Arle and Tillie Brooks. These conscientious objectors (from World War II) knew nothing of farming the rather poor soil, even trying to use sawdust as mulch (it killed our plants).

The community of fiercer conscientious objectors called Macedonia in Georgia fared worse. I saw their store of potatoes rotting in its big bin. I love this article, showing successes over later years! I would like to hear from all of you.

Florence Davidson
Falmouth, Mass.

Faith into practice on the farm

Allen Cochran’s article, “The Lord Is My Shepherd” (FJ May), is inspirational. No one said farm work is easy. His description of the highs and lows of farming is dead on. Our job as Quakers is to find our way to God. In the process, we learn that the unconditional nature of God’s love is something we can share with family and friends and with the earth space we occupy, and in the work we do to earn our daily bread. The acronym FAITH (Forsaking All I Trust Him) may seem simplistic but is as comfortable to remember as SPICES (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship of the environment). Stone Eden Farm under the care of the Cochran family is exemplary of a Quaker family putting faith into practice.

Sheldon H. Clark
Ancaster, Ontario

Is death a summer vacation?

In “The Life of the Spirit” (FJ Apr.), John Andrew Gallery says, “We are free to follow or reject [the Lights’] guidance . . . the only consequence is that we will have to try to learn those lessons again in another lifetime.” And later he says that death is “a brief summer vacation, before the spirit returns to the learning laboratory of earthly life to undertake the next lessons.”

This sounds a bit like reincarnation where one tries, over and over again, to reach perfection. What is it within me that will cause me to follow, rather than reject, the Lights’ guidance? Do we have it within ourselves to follow the Light each and every time it guides us? I have not reached perfection in this lifetime, nor will I achieve it in 1,000 lifetimes. Hamartia—I continue to miss the mark.

Rather than relying on myself to attain perfection after multiple lifetimes, I prefer to place my trust in Jesus Christ, whose redemptive work (2 Corinthians 5:18–21) has reunited me with God. Death is not a “summer vacation.” Death is the threshold to God (2 Corinthians 5:6–8).

Alton Fly
Abington, Pa.

Stillborn grieving

I just read the article regarding prenatal loss written by Sharlee DiMenichi and it was very good (“Every Life Is Precious,” FJ Apr.). “Those mourning the loss of a baby go through stages of grief just as those responding to the passing of an adult relative do. Initially, mourners experience shock and numbness.”

That definitely brings back memories for me of my work at the hospital on the maternity ward, where I provided newborn photos. A few years ago the head nurse asked if I would be able to photograph a stillbirth to aid in the parent’s grieving. I said I would and she brought me into their room to offer it to them; they declined but I will never forget the feeling of complete shock and numbness when I entered their hospital room. It was very sad. I must say I was a little relieved when they declined, but I would have done the photo session if they had wanted me to.

Emmaus, Pa.

Learning more about free-verse Thomas Kelly

Thank you for this timely, thoughtful reminder of the writings of Thomas Kelly (“Experiencing Thomas Kelly in Free Verse,” FJ Apr.). Author Donna McKusick is a wonderful and generous writer, bringing this story to other Friends. Is that little pamphlet still available? Years ago I’d read Kelly’s Testament of Devotion, but think I don’t have a copy; I’ll look around.

Diane Proctor
Baltimore, Md.

Editors’ Note: The pamphlet can be downloaded for free at

Reactions to statements on U.S. military aid

The statement signed by Friends Committee on National Legislation and American Friends Service Committee regarding aid to Israel’s military and similar cases is exactly the wrong thing for Friends to be doing or saying (“Two Quaker Organizations Join Faith-Based Groups Calling on the United States to End Military Aid to Israel,” FJ Apr. online; May print). The moment we single out one conflict over another, we become just another worldly organization spouting a political, not a faith, perspective. It diminishes Friends and renders our peace testimony absolutely meaningless. They have no right to pretend they speak for Friends in something so fundamental. It makes me sad and ashamed and not just a bit angry.

Don Badgley
New Paltz, N.Y.

So, wait: It is upholding the peace testimony to believe that war is bad and to wish it didn’t happen, but not upholding the peace testimony to take nonviolent action intended to help bring an end to any one actual conflict?

(Now, is it overly optimistic to believe that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would end if the United States would simply stop funding/supplying it? Maybe. But there’s only one way to find out for sure.)

Every Friend has every right to speak and act as they discern they have been led by Spirit, to convey the message they have been given to share for whoever has ears to hear it, or eyes to bear witness to it.

Ron Hogan
Queens, N.Y.

As a convinced Friend of Jewish ancestry, I am convinced that the step toward peace that AFSC and FCNL are taking by joining eight other U.S.-based religious organizations in signing a letter calling on the Biden administration and Congress to discontinue military aid to Israel is one that is long overdue. I was moved to tears to see how the Israeli military and government bulldozed olive trees and homes, dumped sewage water on farmland, and humiliated Palestinian seniors. The proof was and is evident. Israel is not a democracy and billions of dollars of U.S. tax money is being poorly spent in support of apartheid.

Marlena Santoyo
Philadelphia, Pa.


A military historian informs us that the artillery in the photo by Doug Hostetter (“Higher Walls and Bigger Guns,” FJ Apr.) is of a M114 155mm howitzer, which soldiers call “the Pig,” and not a 105mm as we originally captioned it.

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