Forum: May 2016

Quaker meetings adapting to disabilities

It was with excitement that I viewed the cover of Friends Journal’s March issue, as I am keenly interested in both issues of disability and inclusion. My takeaway after reading, and in some cases re-reading, the articles is that not all disabilities are created equal. It was heartening to read the successful manner in which Maryhelen Snyder’s experience of being hearing-impaired (“Love Story”) was addressed by her meeting in McLean, Va.

I have frequently needed to discern the role of worship as it differentiates from therapy. Melody George’s article “Imagining a Trauma-informed Quaker Community” blurs the lines between the two. I’d suggest that many, perhaps most, worshiping Quakers are ill-prepared to take a useful role in forming a trauma-informed community. Lacking the professional background of Ms. George and confronting the privacy issues mandated by the HIPPA laws in our society, we can best be kind and nonjudgmental. It isn’t reasonable for passengers on an airplane to all take part in calming a person having hysteria in a confined space. I’m unable to project how a meeting for worship would best deal with irrational behavior by someone in need of professional help. Perhaps I missed something in this article. I agree that in the great majority of our lives we have or will experience trauma, though not to the degree that has earned a diagnosis from the American Psychological Association’s list of labels.

Kate O’Donnell
Odessa, Del.

I know that when I come to give ministry sometimes my voice is hardly there. It seems to be the nature of ministry that it is given humbly and gently, and therefore it may not be heard well. I have been a teacher and have a good carrying voice when I give notices after meeting; I am sure that I can be heard.

I only have the very slightest loss of hearing yet I find myself asking for Friends to speak up, not during meeting but at notices after meeting.

Deborah Williams
Christchurch, New Zealand

I first noticed my gradually worsening hearing about the time I started attending Philadelphia Yearly Meeting interim sessions at the Arch Street Meeting House, where the microphone was lovingly passed by young Friends. Many monthly meetings I attended had the antiquated overhead microphone/headset, which did not help me, either.

I can usually only hear Friends’ messages in worship if they are teachers or singers or trained in public speaking. These Friends project their voices and do not softly whisper their messages to the floor—the most common manner of Friends who feel led to speak. With courage gained from Maryhelen Snyder’s “Love Story,” perhaps I can again become active with my faith family.

Katie Kent
Lewes, Del.

Falling down, getting up

I love hearing Amy Ward Brimmer’s story, “Fall Down Seven Times” (FJ Apr.). As a teacher—a Quaker teacher—I had no doubts as to my calling from God, though it wasn’t a calling my meeting recognized. Perhaps this is because so many Friends in the meeting were also teachers. I rarely asked for support. Now that I am not teaching and I’m uncertain and failing often, the support gathers and the spiritual moments deepen. I am learning to intentionally dig further into my writing to find the true source. I fall and have to keep getting up. Thank you.

Susan Chast
Yeadon, Pa.

I have a bumper sticker on my truck: “Falling down doesn’t make you a failure; staying down does.” Seems positive to me; do you agree?

Lee Garner
Philadelphia, Pa.

Politics change when grounded in the Spirit

The story of standing in the prison brought tears to my eyes, and joy to my heart to see Noah Baker Merrill and Marge Abbott telling it (“Why Do Quakers Care About Politics?,” Jan.). I’m a wannabe Quaker of 40 years, a convinced Quaker of four years, and a member at Multnomah Meeting in Portland, Ore. I also worship often with Convergent Friends: Evangelical and Liberal together. I’m quite sure there are various party affiliations among us. When first hearing the words “Convergent Friends,” I said, “Of course. If we can’t keep peace among ourselves, how can we keep peace in the world?” I have worked on political campaigns since I was 13 years old, and now I am 72. When I volunteer during this presidential campaign for whoever gets the Democratic nod, my work will be grounded in the Spirit, so undoubtedly, my actions will be different. And this will be a first.

Tommee Carlisle
Portland, Ore.

Doing more by examining our policies

Everyone loves to endlessly talk and talk, lament and bemoan (“Talk Less, Do More” by J. Jondhi Harrell, FJ Dec. 2015). There is a simple, quick solution to mass incarceration and all the collateral damage to families and communities.

All that people who truly care have to do is demand just one hearing in Congress or a state legislature where European officials can explain their freer, more just and effective crime and drug laws. If this “freest, most just nation to ever exist on earth” were to examine its laws, 90 percent of U.S. prisons would close. Americans would also save about $100 billion per year in reduced crime costs, lower taxes, etc. All that money saved could then go programs such as education, rebuilding communities, and drug rehabilitation.

Elmira, N.Y.

Friends and war taxes

It was heartening to read the history of Friends and war tax resistance (“How Quaker War Tax Resistance Came and Went, Twice” by David M. Gross, FJ Feb.) and particularly the insert “Modern-day Resisters” about the experience of Kyle and Katy Chandler-Isacksen living below a taxable income. I purposely lived below the taxable income for about a decade (1968–1978), but it was not difficult as a poor student.

When I married, my wife did not feel called to the witness. Since then, to assuage my conscience regarding war taxes that are taken up front from my salary, I put aside the same amount and twice a year share these rather large sums with five groups: Friends Peace Teams, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Peace Brigades International, and Peace Tax Foundation. At tax time I also send a letter to my elected representatives in Congress and to the president explaining my objection to war taxes and the stark options available to conscientious objectors and asking them to support the Peace Tax Fund bill, introduced each session by Representative John Lewis, that would allow conscientious objectors to have all their tax monies spent for non-military purposes. I encourage all Friends in the United States to consider such forms of witness.

Stan Becker
Baltimore, Md.

I want to let Journal readers know about the War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund. Two of the five-member Steering Committee are Quakers. This fund helps resistors and refusers by reimbursing them for IRS-levied penalties and interest if they can’t afford it on top of the actual taxes owed, when/if the IRS finally manages to collect the taxes. Thus the fund enables people to continue their resistance who otherwise couldn’t afford to.

By providing this community of support, the penalty fund hopes to sustain and expand war tax resistance as a form of conscientious objection to war. People interested in finding out more, or in giving or receiving such help, can go to the fund’s website:

shulamith eagle
Middlebury, Vt.

Our children are pretty smart when it comes to the Bible

The First-day school unit I taught on the Bible was one of the most popular among my class of ten-year-olds (“Why I Won’t Teach Bible Stories in First-day School” by Peter Landau, FJ Apr.). We built a Jesse Tree, with a gilded Styrofoam sun and moon for Genesis. They did wool felting for Joseph’s coat and made slingshots for David. It was the Bible as mythology, but in the process they learned about the struggles and joys of the Old Testament and how their history led into Jesus’s. Our children are pretty smart: they understand the connections and can make sense of this history.

George Fox’s teachings were terribly unoriginal; he lifted most of what he said directly from the Bible. When our children sing the George Fox song, “Walk in the Light,” they echo 1 John’s “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” When we talk about peace, we quote Micah 4:3, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares . . . neither shall they learn war no more . . . but they shall sit beneath their vine and fig tree.” Galatians 5:13 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and Galatians 5:22 lists the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.”

These are simple Quaker messages, straight out of the Bible and simple enough for very small children to understand. These are not “big ideas, too complex for kids.” This is why we have religious education. Not everyone who studies the Bible is a bigot or self-righteous evangelist looking to control children. It can be a thing of great beauty and love. It is part and parcel of Quakerism.

We teach Islam and Judaism and Buddhism and we sing “Kumbaya” so why neglect our own roots? Why ignore and disdain what is so beautiful in Christianity? I understand that Quakerism has evolved, for many, into a sort of nontheistic meditation society with very strict ways of thinking and behaving, but for me, give me that old-time religion. It’s good enough for me.

Beth Taylor
Chalfont, Pa.


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