Announcing the 2016-2017 Student Voices Project
The fourth annual Friends Journal Student Voices Project is calling all middle school (grades 6–8) and high school (grades 9–12) students to add their voices to the Friends Journal community of readers. This year we’re asking students to write a letter to the next president of the United States, and we will mail them to the White House.
We welcome submissions from all students (Quaker and non-Quaker) at Friends schools and Quaker students in other educational venues. Select letters will be published in the May 2017 issue, and honorees will recognized by Friends Council on Education. The submission deadline is February 13, 2017. Instructions and details can be found at Friendsjournal.org/studentvoices.
Turning up the NPR
I read with interest Nekima Levy-Pounds’s article in the September issue of Friends Journal (“Pursuing Justice Requires Boldness”). I was struck by the following statement: “I might be driving down the street, and you’ll hear a boom, boom, boom. . . . Many of my white friends listen to talk radio. That’s just the difference in style and taste that we have to accommodate for within society.”
I believe that the above analogy is false for the following reason: If some people listen to, say, National Public Radio in their car, that is unlikely to be noticed by anyone outside the car. If other people turn up their bass, however, then those who are walking or driving by are definitely likely to be affected, many of them negatively. To me the issue is not what people of whatever race choose to do; it’s whether their choice impinges on the freedom and well-being of others. If Levy-Pounds can figure out how to ramp up her bass without anybody else hearing it, then more power to her! If not, something is wrong with her attitude as well as her analogy.
Rosemary K. Coffey
The white supremacy of Quaker food
The food at meeting looks nothing like the food my culture eats. The clumps of kale and jar of cranberry juice communicate a particular flavor of whiteness. The disciples of this identity speak not in terms of identity, but in terms of absolute truths. “Kale is a superfood,” they proclaim. “Peanut oil causes cancer,” others whisper. “Meat is murder,” a few inveigh.
Isn’t proclaiming the absolute superiority of your culture’s food another way of practicing hegemony? If your food is so much more moral and healthful, is the food prepared by my Filipino grandparents inferior? Food prohibitions, real or imagined, define what we eat. Can I bring some shrimp panceit to potluck? No—Karen is vegan; Alfred and Ingrid both just gained clarity on their gluten intolerance. Elton and Elias can’t eat spicy food. The smells and piquant contours of my culture do not fit your mold.
A jalapeno pepper will not bring down the meetinghouse. Maybe fried chicken might induce more people to stay for fellowship. Maybe everyone won’t be able to eat everything, but that is the status quo anyway. I always pass on the tofu scramble.
The boundary line of Quaker identity
Peter Moretzsohn’s question (“Are You a Friend?,” FJ June/July) has an answer, I believe: if one has not been cleared for membership in a Quaker meeting, then they are not a member of the Religious Society of Friends. I have come to appreciate that we need to allow people to not be Quakers, even if they come to meeting regularly.
My wife and I currently belong to the class of spirituality called “Dones,” characterized as frustrated with the institutional church but not Jesus. The Religious Society of Friends is the organization that most approximates my understanding of the New Testament ecclesia. The closest active Friends meeting is 1.5 hours away. I am an Almost Quaker simply because there is not a meetinghouse close enough for us to attend.
One topic I would love for Friends Journal to cover is that of decision making. One of the most impactful essays I have read in the last few years was an article written by Eden Grace, “A Witness Held in Trust.” In it she says she came to the profound conclusion that “our challenging message is our understanding of the nature and purpose of the church itself. What we hold in trust is our experience of divine leadership in the gathered meeting.” Is Eden Grace alone in this understanding or are there others who have a similar understanding of the Society of Friends?
Leadership and Quaker purity
I have been a part of two Friends communities and I have witnessed first hand the deleterious effects of the Quaker prejudice against the very concept of leadership in a meeting (“What Does a Quaker Pastor Do?,” QuakerSpeak.com Aug.). In theory at least, a Quaker community should be open and welcoming of the gifts of the Spirit, one of which is the gift of ministry. What I have seen is quite the opposite. In my first meeting, new ideas and leadings were continually met with delay, obstacles, and a kind of smirking condescension. In my second meeting every suggestion put forth to invite new members is greeted as if someone had just passed flatulence. As a result our meeting hasn’t gained a new member in seven years!
I’m what used to be called a birthright Friend. I grew up in a pastoral meeting in the Midwest; since moving to Eastern United States, I have been member of three non-programmed meetings and attended meetings all along the spectrum. I know North Carolina’s New Garden Meeting and its semi-programmed format, and the strength and effectiveness of its admirable faith community. I wish we could imbibe some of its vigor where I live now. I continue to be dismayed, after 50-plus years, with the parochialism and lack of knowledge that all too many FGC Friends have about any kind of pastoral arrangement. Too many believe that any kind of meeting staffing, even part-time, would violate “Quaker purity.” In today’s hectic, overscheduled, overworked family structure, there simply is not enough member volunteer time available to carry out all the needed outreach, care, and ministry that will nourish and sustain a meeting. And still, year after year, in all too many meetings the number of obituaries far exceeds the number of new applications for membership.