Among Friends, May 2012

 Transforming Need into Opportunity

As I write these words, spring in Philadelphia has cast off winter’s grey robe and bathes us in new light, new life, and a sense of hopefulness that is rooted in nature and the ceaseless processes of life. In this issue of Friends Journal, we look at what sustains us—in body, anyway!

At this moment in time, call it late industrial agriculture, a growing number of Friends are joining a larger movement that takes stock of our relationship with what we eat and considers: Is this sustainable? Is this equitable? Is this right? We modern Friends try to buy vegetables grown without harmful pesticides, grown as close to the table as we can, and we sanctify our meals with a moment of worship. When I was growing up, my family always held hands in a circle around the table, and I am delighted to carry on this tradition with my two-year-old son, who likes the preprandial circle so much, he often demands another one midway through the meal! His parents happily oblige him.

I’d hazard that most modern Friends would agree with early British and U.S. Quakers that moderation in food is in keeping with Quakerly simplicity. William Penn wrote that “luxury has many parts, and the first that is forbidden by the self-denying Jesus is the belly,” and historians have pegged early Quakers’ food ways as “culinary asceticism.”

Where I think we, today, depart from these early Friends is in lifting up our appreciation for divine bounty. We can appreciate the clean, simple taste of a freshly picked carrot, close our eyes, and be filled with a sense of connection to the earth, to creation, and to an experience that our fellow humans on every continent might share. Is it not our very corporeal love for food that brings into starkest relief the injustice of a world of abundance whose poorest still go hungry?

Louis Cox’s article (“Composting as Holy Sacrament,” p. 11) strikes a chord with me. In it, he writes of “entering into a personal relationship with the land.” I think this is what Quakerism asks of us, not just in terms of what we grow and consume, but as a part of considering all of our relationships as sacred.

Transforming a daily, bodily need, such as our need for nourishment from food, into an opportunity for reflection and witness—however small—seems to be both a practical and enjoyable part of the practice of living in the Light. In doing so we will become ever more aware of moving towards right relationship with the good earth and all those with whom we share it.

At the end of April, we bid farewell to Rebecca Howe, our associate editor, who has been a valued member of the Friends Journal staff for many years. Becca found Friends at a young age through Quaker camping programs and worships with the West Philadelphia Worship Group. When she joined us as assistant editor, she was working her way through Temple University, earning a journalism degree in 2010. The Journal was lucky enough to keep her when she graduated, and she has been a tremendous asset and colleague in our ministry to Friends. In addition to a keen editorial eye, Becca brought to the job a flair for graphic design (blurring the lines between editor and designer) and enthusiasm for her work helping numerous volunteer editors and reporters contribute their talents to the ministry of Friends Journal. She can also take credit for introducing many talented new and younger voices to our pages and our website.

We are sad to see her go but very supportive of Becca in her next phase of life: being mother to two beautiful young girls. Please join us in wishing her peace and love.

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