A great people to be viewing
Thanks to Max L. Carter for being patient with Jon during his four-year tenure in college (“Stripping Down Quakerism for the Internet,” FJ Aug.). The QuakerSpeak project has been a wonderful connection to the wider Quaker community. Each video introduces a subject, opens my mind, leads me to a new author, and expands my understanding. I am a faithful weekly listener, grateful for each and every video!
Vienna, W. Va.
I am grateful to Max Carter, for reflecting so creatively on the evolving phenomenon of QuakerSpeak from his up-close-and-personal vantage point. I first experienced Jon fresh out of Guilford when music was his creative medium and envisioning a great people to be gathered was a glint in his eye.
Max Carter writes about “a world where our numbers are diminished.” This is totally incorrect and a reflection of the usual American exceptionalism that discounts the rest of the world. The number of Quakers is not diminishing in Africa; this is only happening in the United States and England.
Having conversations about faith and food
It seems that at every Friends meeting potluck I have attended in the past three or four years, concern has been taken to ensure that tasty vegan dishes and desserts are part of the menu (“A Vegan Offers Three Reasons for Hope” by Margaret Fisher, FJ June/July). I think this has filtered up from young Friends who see veganism as the only sustainable and ethical food choice facing rising generations.
I am grateful to Margaret for getting this conversation going among Friends and for giving us hope that there is something we can do to restore our faith in humanity. Yes, hope is a must if love is to be the first motion to relieve current suffering and to face the ecological disasters that are headed our way.
I have been vegan for over ten years after looking at a turkey carcass and realizing that it had been alive a few days ago. There has been a Christian vegetarian society for many years which is based in the belief that humans were vegetarian prior to Noah. Cruelty to farm animals (like cruelty to dogs, cats, or horses) is now on the radar of many people. That concept of kindness and global warming makes vegetarianism a positive choice, especially for Quakers. Eating less meat or none at all is better for our health and the planet.
San Francisco, Calif.
True words, food for thought
Reading Rachel Van Boven’s “The Ministry of Quaker Farmers” (FJ June/July) makes me want to shake her hand and say “true words” like we do here in Jamaica. This article effectively challenges a wide cross-section of Quakers across cultures. Recognizing our testimonies at work as the lifestyle of those who may not even know of the Religious Society of Friends could be a yearly meeting survival skill. I can see workshops and collective advocacy strategies arising from this article.
Edwin (Bobby) Coleman
When I visit a Friends meeting for the first time, I closely observe the way they eat. It always tells me a lot about what they truly value. Looking at Quakerism through our relationship with food is a brilliant way to frame our practice. I have been wanting to simplify my lifestyle since becoming a Friend nine years ago. When I reimagine my life through the lens of the SPICES, I have a warm and hopeful feeling. I am grateful to Rachel for contributing positively to my process through her interviews.
San Antonio, Tex.
Policing others’ food
I would like to suggest that we consider rethinking and rearticulating our focus on individual exercise choices (“A Critique of Health Consciousness” by Caroline Morris, FJ June/July online). There are many of us who would love to be able to “just go for a walk” but have disabilities that make exercise, even in its common forms, impossible. We are often informed that we will be more prone to cancer, heart disease, stroke, or diabetes if we don’t get the recommended exercise. I wish I could. I try to tune out the dire warnings, but still, it grates.
It seems to me that we still have a lot to learn about proper nutrition, but a recent study of gut flora suggests that what is appropriate may be highly individual. Potlucks can certainly be a challenge. It saddens me that a time meant to provide good fellowship becomes a time of stress and tension for some.
I don’t know about anorexia or “ascetic disorder,” but I do know that when I was 21 and first heard from a Buddhist monk about not killing and eating animals, I knew that was morally right and quit eating meat. Now at age 83, I have learned that cooked red meat contains nine different carcinogens and cooked chicken contains one carcinogen. I am delighted to find my morality, my food choices, and my health in perfect accord.
Moreover, I’ve suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for over five years and recently read an article by Jonathan Otto which recommended eliminating gluten and sugar. Almost a month later, my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are nearly gone. I conclude that I am allergic to gluten and sugar.
In other words, although I sympathize with Caroline Morris’s eating problems, I totally disagree with her thesis that food and morality are not connected and one should ignore the latest research on causes of medical problems. The right food is fundamental to good health. And the wrong food is fundamental to serious health problems.
Point Arena, Calif.
It is with interest and empathy that I read Caroline’s writing and understand her predicament. Quakers, I find, are quick to criticize and slow to commend. What we choose to eat is a more visible activity than our actions toward peace or reconciliation. Therefore, food choices are in your face, literally, and open for comment. Particularly disturbing to me are the political messages given with fervor during meeting for worship; those people are rarely eldered. To me, what comes out of our mouths is more interesting and more important than whatever goes in. I urge Caroline to stay strong and do as her heart leads her; I hope my support for her choices is clear and concise.
Marcia V. Ormsby
Lessons from a turkey vulture
I read with interest the poem “Turkey Vultures” in the June/July issue of Friends Journal. I recently saw one in my backyard by the tall wire fencing that separates my property from state park land. This bird seemed to be in distress. He paced back and forth in front of the fence in a space of about ten feet. It looked like he wanted to get over the fence but just couldn’t figure it out. Every so often, I would check on him as he continued his fruitless journey back and forth. This went on for hours. Leaving my paperwork, I found him still at his quest but now seeming to slow down and tire. As I stood watching, I noticed two other turkey vultures circle over and fly on. He must have spied them because, with that, he turned from the fence, took off at a run, opened his wings, and flew over the fence.
I learned an unexpected lesson from this turkey. I, too, at times want to pursue a goal and see only the obstacles. I forget about the gifts I’ve been given to overcome and settle for the repetition of ingrained habits. That turkey made me realize that sometimes I too need the help of a friend to show me what I am truly capable of.
Learning how to pray as a Friend
David Johnson brings a lovely gentle message (“The Prayer Life of Quakers,” QuakerSpeak.com, June). I am never sure what prayer is, but I see it as carrying a message or concern in your heart. I live near an airport where an air ambulance helicopter is based. I often see it passing overhead. I can see it returning to base—at slower cruising speed. If it is going that way, it is to our local main hospital. If it is going that way at a higher speed, it is going to an even more serious major head injury hospital. Each time I have a little prayer for those involved. All need my support. And tomorrow it might be me!
This little video has captured much of the essence of the Quaker experience of prayer. We tend to forget that silence and dialogue are important when coming into the presence of God. I wonder if it is a coincidence that the words “silent” and “listen” are made of the same letters?
Beverley, West Australia
I have missed silent worship since moving to Montana. It does not always come naturally; it takes practice and mentoring, especially for those of us under pressure to achieve. It is very easy to slide into allowing the material world to take over. There is much value in centering down, in putting oneself in a position to focus on what the Spirit might be saying. It is not easy to empty one’s mind, but it is possible and a wonderful experience.
As a child who attended regular meeting for worship while growing up, I became familiar with the concept of listening to God in the silence and the richness of learning to dialogue with him. However, in retrospect, I don’t recall being formally taught prayer, how or when to pray. Maybe this is because Quakers regard the relationship with God to be a personal and an individual one—unique and different for each of us—and don’t want to be prescriptive. Upon reflection, I might have benefitted from being taught how to pray.
St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK
The sound of our worship spaces
I love our meeting room in Purchase, N.Y. (“The Intimacy of Quaker Worship Spaces,” QuakerSpeak.com interview with Paul Motz-Storey, July) Its big window overlooks our historic cemetery and brings nature into the room. We bought a wireless microphone system and ask the greeter to be a microphone runner if someone stands to speak.
New Rochelle, N.Y.
Our meeting (Twin Cities Meeting in St. Paul, Minn.) has a microphone setup, and whoever is the meeting’s closer that day announces at the beginning of the meeting that it is available. Anyone wishing to speak is asked to stand and wait until the closer, or some other designated person, turns on the microphone and brings it to them. This has worked well for us. Being designated to watch for people standing brings a different quality of worship, but it’s valuable in a different way than the usual silent waiting for a message from Spirit.