Last week, after a charmed summer of swimming, reading, video games, and ice cream, my kids strapped on their backpacks and boarded the 6:58 a.m. train to Center City Philadelphia for the first day of a new school year. They’re both in middle school now, and we are settling into the rhythms and routines of fall: early-morning breakfasts of eggs and oatmeal while it’s still dark out, animated discussions of work and school life over dinner. It’s impossible not to recall my own vivid memories of my middle school years and try to put myself in their shoes—and part of me is just a bit jealous.
It’s not being a teenager that sparks nostalgia. Make no mistake: that’s a difficult and awkward stage that we all have to endure. And yeah, school can be a drag. But at the same time, there’s so much to learn, and some days I think I’d love to be back in a classroom all day as a student, soaking it up and not taking it for granted. This is the frame of mind in which I approached this issue of Friends Journal, on Quakers and our interfaith and ecumenical connections. There’s so much to learn.
One of my favorite college courses was a comparative mystical literature seminar. The professor introduced us to the writings of mystics in different Christian, Islamic, and Jewish traditions. Our class sessions filled me with the deepest sense that no matter how the words and approaches of these seekers from different paths diverged, it seemed undeniable that they all could be pointing toward some ineffable truth. Reading this month’s features, I am reminded how learning from other faith traditions deepens my understanding of my own path.
So get cozy, Friend! Sit with these pages and learn about Quaker spirituality rubbing elbows with that of Druids, Buddhists, Native Americans, megachurch Evangelicals, and Mormons, to name a few. We didn’t have enough room in the print edition for it all, so on Friendsjournal.org, you’ll hear from Quakers encountering Taoism, Islam, Wicca, and more. What we learn from our spirit-led explorations in widening our circles cannot help but enrich us, build our empathetic muscles, and make us better Friends.
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