Forum, November 2023

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Hearing and feeling God’s voice

Thank you for Andy Stanton-Henry’s “All the Way Back to George Fox” (FJ Oct.). Quakerism was a charismatic movement of the Spirit when it began, and it has lost a great deal by becoming so intellectual and spiritually dry. I appreciate learning how “Vineyard roots are Quaker roots.” I pray for a revival of charismatic spiritual power active among Quakers today. The huge challenges we all will face as climate change progresses may cause many to long for a more direct and visceral experience of the Spirit at work among, in, and through us in our time.

Marcelle Martin
Chester, Pa.

I do find it that George Fox and his contemporaries were more charismatic in spirit, which made Quakerism flourish. This spirit is now being witnessed among the Kenyan and Tanzanian Friends.

George Busolo Lukalo
Bura-Tana, Kenya

Many leaders in the charismatic/Pentecostal movement speak of similar movements throughout history, and one they often cite is early Quakerism. The pastor of a charismatic church I attended for a while wrote a book on these movements and included a whole chapter on Quakers.

The Assemblies of God at one time had a peace testimony, and it cited the 1660 Quaker Peace Declaration as part of their history.

In modern American Quakerism I’ve run across some charismatic expressions. One of these was in a retreat for alumni of School of the Spirit programs. The Sunday morning session turned into a charismatic expression, including speaking in tongues. Another was a gathering of Friends of Jesus Fellowship, when a Saturday evening prayer gathering turned strongly charismatic, including about a third of the participants speaking in tongues (some of the folks involved in the fellowship had charismatic backgrounds).

That gathering led me to decide to find a new place to worship. I was first looking for a charismatic church with a theology I could tolerate, which was a real challenge. I wound up in Dayspring Church, an expression of the Church of the Saviour (which was strongly influenced by Friends Douglas Steere and Elton Trueblood) that does not define itself as charismatic and is much more contemplative than most charismatics, but does have a freedom of the Spirit which is unusual.

Bill Samuel
Rockville, Md.

My last time in a charismatic church, I came out thinking that I couldn’t really hear God’s voice, but could sure feel it! Whereas in Quaker meeting, I can hear just fine but sometimes don’t feel as much. As you say, we can all learn from each other.

Rick Juliusson
Saint Paul, Minn.

Listen and hear

Peter Blood-Patterson’s article “Many Paths to the Light” (FJ Oct.) reminded me of a path that Saint Benedict of Nursia in Italy marked out a millennium before George Fox had his spiritual epiphany. It has illuminated what I try to do in silent meeting: “Listen with the ear of your heart and hear the voice of God.”

Malcolm Bell
Randolph Center, Vt.

The universe is diverse in its details, and yet it is an expression of the Spirit. Thus there is not a one-size-fits-all for the contents of the universe. There are, quite validly in my opinion, many faiths.

Rory Short
Johannesburg, South Africa

The problem does not lie with universalists or universalism. The problem lies with particularists and particularism. As the last sentence of the article states: “Faith-based work may open up hearts where intellectual and political efforts fail.”

William Marut
Glastonbury, Conn.

Many years ago, when I was a young engineer, I managed a project to recycle waste mill scale back into steel. The owner of the company was an Oneida spiritual minister. We shared meals many times over the course of the project and would discuss the state of the world. One lunch we were discussing Oneida and Christian beliefs. I was amazed at how close my beliefs as a Christian were to his. He summed up our conversation with this statement: “There are many paths but one destination.” This knowledge is comfort to me as I live in a world of people, some like me, most not.

Donald Crawford
Monteverde, Costa Rica

If God seeks to reach everyone, everywhere, at all times, then is it any surprise we have so many religions, sects, faiths, and philosophies before technology started bringing our many ideas together? Even Christianity offers more than a one-size-fits-all. At root, the Golden Rule works pretty well for any religion or philosophy, but loving everyone (e.g. politics) is very hard when mistreated. We could quibble about details, but seeing “we” in all helps resist our less constructive hierarchical instincts.

George Gore
Chicago Area, Ill.

The need to talk about mental health

Thanks to Carl Blumenthal, for being a proponent of mental health awareness (“Quakers, Spirituality, and Mental Health,” Sept.).

Our cultural silence, caused by fear and shame, is part of why we lack funding and facilities and have a shortage of therapists to help the mental health crisis we’re in now. We and legislators can’t fix what we’re afraid to talk about. It is not well known that 20 percent of us—people at work and our neighbors— are walking around with mental illness according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Due to shame and fear of discrimination, I struggled in silence for decades with mental illness. I was fortunate to have people around me who saw a problem and encouraged me to seek help and step out of the darkness to feel life again.

I hope this video encourages folks to end unnecessary suffering and reach out and talk to a trusted friend or their family doctor about a mental health issue. The hotline 988 is not only for people with suicide ideation; it encourages anyone in crisis to call and talk.

Ray Regan
Downingtown, Pa.

Helping newcomers center

I am a convinced Quaker, convinced by the experience of my first and all subsequent meetings, large and small, “where two or three are gathered in my name” (“Young Adults Want What Early Friends Had” by Olivia Chalkely, FJ Sept.). Yesua was speaking Aramaic when he said that and the Armaic word translated as “name” can also be translated as “vibration” or “energy” or “light.” Calling ourselves Christian is not the point: being doers of the teachings of Christ is the point. “My mother and my brothers are these, who hear the true account and put it into practice” (Sarah Ruden’s new translation of Luke 8:21).

It was professors of Christianity who beat George Fox, then threw him down steeple-house steps and over stone walls. I agree wholeheartedly that something is missing for newcomers. I am not sure insisting on Christian language will supply the need. While Fox did say, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” he mostly spoke of the Truth, the Light, the Seed.

From my perspective, it seems that helping newcomers learn to center may be the greatest service we can offer. One experience of a gathered meeting changed my life forever. Continuing to experience the Light in the presence of Friends brings deeper meaning to my study of Scripture—all Scripture but especially Christian Scripture.

I see other commenters recommended resources. Mine is Silence: A User’s Guide by Maggie Ross. 

Herman Holley
Tallahassee, Fla.

A fierce and kind call

Each year I challenge myself to do more than ever before to confront social injustice in general and racism in particular (“Baggage and Blessings” by Chester Freeman, FJ Oct.). The effort can be daunting in the face of the darkness that seems to be relentlessly enveloping our civilization. Chester’s words and research have provided me with additional tools and strengthened my resolve never to abandon the cause!

Bill Wagner
Rochester, N.Y.

What a wide-ranging, challenging, and loving article. Extremely helpful to have these hard facts laid out in such a concise order. Thank you, Chester!

Mary Klein
Palo Alto, Calif.

Though written in simple, clear language, Chester’s essay has so many layers of meaning. In brief, eloquent form he tells his personal story, identifying painful baggage and precious gifts; teaches us (me) of the sometimes unpleasant history of Quakerism as it moved haltingly toward greater light; and offers up practices of coming into Spirit. The piece resonates like a deep message one might share in the silence of meeting for worship.

Drew Leder
Baltimore, Md.

I love Chester’s writing and his fierce and kind call to all of us to radical faithfulness and beloved community. He is a treasure, and I’m thrilled he is now writing for Friends Journal. This piece is a blessing to us all!

Steve D. Chase
Washington, D.C.

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