New themes announced
We’ve published a new slate of upcoming topics for Friends Journal. It goes through early 2024 and includes such themes as Quaker arts; fiction; Quaker understanding of atonement; reparations; isolated Friends, farming and food; and leadership. We have a dozen open issues to contain all the wonderful and important writing that doesn’t fit a theme. Learn more about writing for Friends Journal at Friendsjournal.org/submissions.
More business needs more silence
I appreciated reading John Andrew Gallery’s article suggesting the connection between meetings for worship and the way we worship in meetings for worship with attention to business (“Meeting for Business as Spiritual Rehearsal,” FJ, Feb.). He even notes that he needs a bit more time for worship at the start of the business meeting, and so tries to settle himself several minutes early. I was then surprised that he went on to relate a “Quaker anecdote” about a heavy agenda requiring more time in worship, and suggested it might have been intended to be humorous. I believe it was made in complete sincerity. Years ago Pat Loring wrote a brief tract on the right holding of meetings for worship with attention to business in which she related her experience at a Pendle Hill Board meeting. At the start of this board meeting, Helen Hole, the clerk of the board, said, “We have a long and complicated agenda, so we will need a longer period of silence.” She then settled into about 20 minutes of centering worship before turning to the first item on the agenda. Pat Loring reports that the business of the meeting proceeded very smoothly, and the agenda was completed in good time.
I don’t know that suggesting a longer time of worship was original to Helen Hole, but she did use that process to good effect.
Precious homes and extra sleeping bags
Thank you for sharing Andrew Huff’s “At Home in the World” (FJ, Feb.). I was particularly drawn to his words “we are all endowed with a God-given capacity to influence, shape, and remodel the world around us.” I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days about the natural wisdom inherent in all living things (God) and questioning what some of that might look like for us as a universal principle. Just as an acorn becomes an oak tree, I believe that humans have their own natural wisdom that gives them a desire for love, for belonging, and for community. I will add this to my exploration.
As I finished reading this essay, I reflected again on my deep gratitude for having lived and worked at a time when my pay as a teacher made it possible for me to buy a small, modest bungalow in which I now live, retired and in my 70s. Recently several of my friends and I gathered up winter clothes, boots, shoes, gloves, and so on to donate to a group that has been supplying these items to homeless encampments in Camden City, N.J., and the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. One item of which I wasn’t certain was my sleeping bag. I held onto it because I have been frightened by the idea of losing electric power at night due to a storm and not being able to stay warm. After reading this article, I have concluded that potential disaster is nothing compared to the existing one, and in my next—and growing—bag of items, I will put the sleeping bag. Many of us have experienced periods of homelessness and have been rescued by the bequest of a home by a dying family member. When I die, my home will be a bequest I can leave to house a relative. That makes my home even more precious to me. Thank you!
Jo Ann Wright
Mt. Ephraim, N.J.
I appreciate the insights and patient voice in Robert Henry’s “To Lovingly Cease” (FJ, Feb.). In my mind, it shows what I call “digested pain.” That is, it shows the clarity and metered voice of someone who has worked through a difficult experience toward greater healing. The article reminds me that “ceasing with love” is a countercultural act. In a culture that encourages holding control, we need alternative practices that guide us in releasing control at the right time. All Friends who have given faithful service will reach a day when they’re led to release themselves from that service. What queries do we use to stay alert for that moment?
I believe that Henry’s article pairs well with another article from this issue, “How to Retain Young Families in Quaker Meeting” (FJ, Feb.). Both essays offer steps toward a healthy generational transition. In “How to Retain,” the authors state that “to become a truly intergenerational faith community, Quakers must think through the needs and life stages of people of all ages.”
I could not agree more. I have spent much of the past two years interviewing younger Friends about their experiences of Quakerism. Many younger Friends have told me about the barriers they face as they work to bring their gifts to the community. My essay from last fall, “Visions of a Strong Quaker Future” (FJ, Oct. ‘21), describes additional ways to meet the spiritual needs of younger Friends.
I would like to affirm that the insights from Robert Henry and the seven authors of “How to Retain” are in alignment with my sense of our Religious Society at this time.
State College, Pa.
More on the manumissions project
For more of the story of the Haverford College’s “Manumitted” project (“Inside Haverford’s Manumission Archives,” FJ, Feb.), I urge you to watch Avis Wanda McClinton’s interview with Martin Kelley, Friends Journal senior editor, at Fdsj.nl/mcclinton-interview. Avis also serves on the project. Heartfelt and powerful.
Complicated Quaker heroes
I wonder how future generations will judge those of us who–knowing how harmful fossil fuels are to the environment and life on earth–still continue our unabated use of automobiles, airplanes, gas furnaces, etc. How could they? future folks will ask.
Even the character of Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Václav Havel, Jimmy Carter, or any other human currently considered good will be sullied by their participation in a practice so clearly wrong.
I am uncomfortable with the label “hero” when it is applied to Quakers. The testimony of Friends is not that we are “good.” Instead it is that we all can and should be open to the spark of the Divine, constantly striving to be better. The divine Light doesn’t make any of us perfect, just leads us continually to new insights of where we are falling short, and gives us the spiritual support to improve.
Instead of heroes, Quakers should be talking about heroic actions. Friends are right to critique the record of William Penn on slavery. At the same time, the January issue of Friends Journal does a disservice by not even mentioning his courageous lifelong campaign for religious tolerance and the separation of church and state, which began when he was young and continued until his death.
When Penn established his colony in America, he recruited a variety of persecuted religious groups from across Europe—Catholics, Jews, German-speaking Mennonites—all of whom were granted freedom to worship. When James II came to the English throne, Penn returned to England in 1685 to promote religious tolerance, for which James was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. (When the first Quaker petition against slavery was made in 1688, Penn was in England and wholly engaged in the defense of tolerance.)
Penn’s tolerance project failed in England at a cost to him and his reputation there. England still has a state-established church, and discrimination against those who didn’t join persisted into the late-nineteenth century.
Penn did succeed in instituting religious tolerance in the English colonies, where it was eventually enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, there was a period after 1688 in which the Catholic mass could not be said legally in any of the colonies except—thanks to Penn—Pennsylvania.
Kennett Square, Pa.
It was good to read Stuart E.W. Smith’s “What Makes a Quaker Hero?” (FJ, Jan.) However, I was sad to read the article’s observation that personal awareness and societal awareness “almost invariably” lead to nonviolent direct action. It is unfortunate that many Quakers seem to view nonviolent direct action as the only way to work toward social change. Direct action is very important in calling attention to problems and raising public awareness but is almost always oppositional, and, according to social change theories, it is very likely to produce a strengthening of forces on the other side, possibly resulting in no change except for increased alienation. It must be accompanied by other forms of action, including legislative, legal means, and working within the system. Fortunately we have Quaker heroes in these other venues. Notably, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) doggedly seeks to influence members of Congress to work toward “The World We Seek.”
The same issue of Friends Journal contains a story of Annice Carter, who worked within systems to promote change. Many hundreds of Quaker volunteers throughout the United States and the world are promoting nonviolent conflict resolution through the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). Some Quakers have even worked within the criminal justice system to promote change. Many other examples can be given. Personal awareness and social awareness can also lead one toward these other avenues, not just toward direct action.
As important as nonviolent direct action is, its practitioners sometimes fail to recognize that societal change is almost always incremental. In order to get from point A to point Z, it’s usually necessary to start by getting to point B. The incremental steps are what can be accomplished through legislative advocacy, legal action, and working within the system. I hope these complementary avenues will be recognized by the Jorgensen School of Nonviolence.
Paw Paw, Mich.
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