No one would call the disruption of a pandemic a fortunate circumstance, but for those of us who have come through the fire and now seek to arrive, with our Friends, at a new equilibrium, I offer a question. Do we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to effect true and lasting change in the Quaker community?
Will we rebuild the same house, or will we take an opportunity to make it more thoughtful and accessible for the people we want to use it?
Johanna Jackson’s article in this issue, “Visions of a Strong Quaker Future,” is for readers who might want to take that question seriously. Jackson and JT Dorr-Bremme, both Friends who have been actively engaged in conversations, ministry, and study, spent 2020 and 2021 having deep conversations with a diverse selection of Quakers—especially younger Friends—from around the United States. These conversations were frank and open discussions about what is working and what isn’t, about hopes and fears for the Religious Society of Friends, and about the people we want to be.
“Visions” is an eye-opening and thought-provoking product of this ongoing ministry—qualitative Quaker research, if you will—and it is a piece in true alignment with our mission at Friends Publishing: to communicate Quaker experience in order to connect and deepen spiritual lives. Jackson has written for Friends Journal along these lines before, and adds to conversations started in these pages recently by authors like Cai Quirk, Allison Kirkegaard, Ann Jerome, and Don McCormick. Jackson and Dorr-Bremme’s project explicitly draws inspiration from Friends Publishing’s QuakerSpeak videos, in which Rebecca Hamilton-Levi, and before her Jon Watts, draw out important Quaker voices then package and present them to the world through YouTube. If you enjoy “Visions” and are inspired to take its advices to heart, I hope you’ll share this issue with others who might also be interested in building—as the subtitle puts it—“a religious society that’s creative, relevant, and thriving in 30 years.” And I hope that Friends Journal and QuakerSpeak can continue to be tools and workshops for what you build.
Among the many other fine works in this issue, I would also like to call out “Beyond Walls and Fences” by former Friends Journal senior editor Bob Dockhorn. Part memoir, part call to action, Dockhorn’s piece draws from the author’s reflections on decades of travel and study about the Holocaust and the Holy Land, and it identifies some necessary conditions for the creation of stability and lasting peace amid a confluence of international crises.
I’m grateful for your readership. If these words inspire, challenge, or spark action in you and your community, please let me know how. You’re an important part of the conversation.