Forum, September 2020

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No more handshaking?

Regarding Stephen W. Angell’s reflection on the health of our handshakes (“The End of the Quaker Handshake?,” FJ Aug. and “The Quaker Handshake as a Sacramental Practice,” QuakerSpeak.com July), what about one or two hands over our hearts or loving, respectful eye contact as a transformed handshake among Friends?

Denise Williams

I have always accompanied the greeting handshake with a “Good morning, Friend.” It feels friendlier than “How are you?” It acknowledges the other more personally than just rote handshaking. What were Quakers supposed to say instead of good morning or good afternoon?

Rachel Kopel

I am afraid that we are falling into the trap of thinking we know better than the experts. It is my experience that a very large percentage of Friends are either in, or very close to, the susceptible category with regards to COVID-19. That being said, there really is no way that we can, nor should, resume the handshake.

While doing away with the handshake may seem drastic and a hardship for some lifelong Friends, it is, in my opinion, a lot easier to live with than watching our friends afflicted with an illness due to a reckless and ill-advised practice. We need to collectively find an appropriate substitute that respects our tradition and protects our members.

Daniel Battisti

Personally, I prefer a hand on my shoulder to a handshake. This is not a reaction to the virus but a residuum from a career spent in healthcare. You may notice that if your doctor shakes your hand, they do it before, not after, handwashing. Younger doctors don’t shake hands at all. Nurses are more likely to tap your shoulder or take your arm. Imaging techs touch the body part being screened. Medical assistants typically do not touch patients at all without gloves. There are excellent reasons for all that.

Lou Phillips

A sign-up sheet for pastoral duties

This is very interesting (“Pastoring without a Pastor” by Kathleen Costello Malin, FJ Aug.). I am now a member of an ecumenical church that has adopted some things from Quakerism, including our business process. As a matter of policy, we do not have a pastor. We have a sign-up sheet where anyone can sign up to be a liturgist (the person who prepares the program for worship and guides us through it), preacher, or giver of the youth message. We do have some in our church who have professional preparation for ministry, and not infrequently such people serve as preacher or liturgist, but often it is not someone with such a professional background.

Sometimes someone will feel a call to share a message with the church, and they will sign up to be a preacher to offer it. Sometimes no one signs up to preach, and we have a time of open sharing. It is sometimes stated that it is okay if the time is totally silent, but that seldom happens. When we are meeting in person, in the summers we meet at a pavilion in the woods. Usually a couple times each summer, our Earth Ministry Mission Group would run the message part of the service and would invite everyone to wander silently in the woods and let nature provide the message. Often a short period of sharing followed that.

We have a Worship Committee that provides coordination, and will provide a liturgist if no one signs up for that role.

Bill Samuel
Rockville, Md.

Wrestling with paid ministry 

There is absolutely no role a pastor, clergy, or theologian can play (“Training and Educating Future Quaker Pastors” by Derek Brown, FJ Aug.). If pastors in Quakerism become the rule (and not the exception), it will destroy the meetings of silence and the Inner Light concept. Quakerism will become just another Protestant denomination or like the Roman Catholic Church.

Daniel Vallejos

Pastoral ministry developed historically out of the recorded ministry and a sense of both demographic and spiritual pressures. Please try to understand the history before trashing the institution.

There was an economic and demographic crisis in the recorded ministry in the second half of the nineteenth century. Evangelical Friends, by and large, responded by developing the pastoral ministry. Friends who kept a more traditional style of worship responded—with major exceptions—by letting the recorded ministry die. Today’s so-called unprogrammed worship is a departure from traditional Quaker worship just as programmed worship is, though perhaps less in degree. Unprogrammed Friends habitually deny and ignore this truth. If there was supposedly no hierarchical difference, then why, in traditional meetinghouses, both in England and in America, did the ministers and elders sit in the front of the meetinghouse on facing benches, with the ministers in a raised gallery? This fact is a little obscured in those old meetinghouses today where, by and large, the congregation’s benches have been rearranged in a square rather than all facing the ministers’ gallery.

Overwhelming historical evidence shows that one offering of vocal ministry in the traditional meeting would last 20 to 60 minutes. And there might be two to four of them in worship, which would last the whole morning. One or more prayers from ministers might also be offered, during which the praying minister would kneel while the congregation stood.

Patrick J. Nugent

Interesting presentation (“Pastoring in the Society of Friends,” interview with Derek Brown, QuakerSpeak.com Aug.). Though I’d hate to have to write the job description for an unprogrammed pastor for herding cats! If I were to consider a pastor, though, I would want that person to be reaching out to attract the young, not to care for the old. Our Care and Counsel Committee is excellent at the latter, but no one at most meetings does the former as their specific focus. We are a dying religion as a consequence.

Signe Wilkinson
Philadelphia, Pa.

I was confused by Derek Brown’s statement that “Because this generation is waiting longer to get married, we will be seeing more single pastors who require less financial support than married pastors with children.” Wouldn’t our equality testimony demand that we offer equal pay for equal work? Does a single pastor who is paying off loans from an MDiv program have the same amount of disposable income as a two-income family?

Josephine Posti
Pittsburgh, Pa.

The author responds: 

I think it would be beneficial to look at it from the perspective of the pastor, rather than of the church. Having educated both single and married pastors (and some with children), I have seen that single pastors have greater “freedom” to serve at churches that otherwise would not have been able to support a pastor who was needing a salary necessary to support a family. Of course, it is entirely the choice of the young pastor to accept or reject what a church can offer. Many young pastors do accept a lesser-paying position, both out of a calling and a recognition that the church’s financial support is made in good faith (i.e., is not meant to “cheat” the pastor).

I believe certain yearly meetings have established salary minimums for full-time pastorates, but I am including part-time pastorates as well.

Regarding student loans: I cannot answer your question (which I believe was rhetorical), but I will say that Barclay College takes the burden of student loan debt seriously. We offer a full-tuition scholarship to all on-campus students (this is why our graduate school tuition is so competitive). We recognize how debt can reduce the freedom a person has to choose ministries that may not be able to fully financially support them, which is the point of my article.

Derek Brown
Haviland, Kans.

Looking at White privilege

This is my favorite QuakerSpeak video so far (“White Quakers Confronting White Privilege,” QuakerSpeak.com May). At 77, I’ve been a Quaker for about 35 years, and I’m grateful both for those 35 years of experience, and for the root value and practice of questioning and querying that Quakers have validated in my life.

Looking at the intersection of White privilege and Quaker simplicity confronts root issues that have troubled me since childhood, and the voices in this video clarify my understanding and encourage my efforts. The lies perhaps told in good faith in my childhood are integral to the changes I want to live going forward.

First recognize the lies, next see the damage they caused and are causing, and finally see a clear road forward. I can’t live any life but my own, but I can address the impact of my ill-informed choices.

Lou Phillips
Pennsylvania

I am disappointed by the fact that this video provided no new messaging on how to confront White privilege. I am disappointed that no perspective from People or Friends of Color were offered, even though the issue around the difficulties of including these perspectives at meetings for business was highlighted by one of the participants.

I would appreciate QuakerSpeak taking on the much more difficult topic of how Quakers dismantle institutionalized racism within each meeting today.

CSM Mitchell
New York

I did like it. We all need a kick. I’m Mexican-Cuban with light skin. Adopted by a step-father, I have a “White” last name. There were no Latino last names in my honors classes. There were no Latino last names at my college. Only as an adult did I start to see what privileges I had. Still processing.

Lucy Douthitt

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