Quaker Call To Action Video – Recommended by David Madden
Parker Palmer was the featured speaker on the Quaker Call To Action. If you missed this National Zoom Call, you can watch a video of it on the link below. I encourage you to listen to this. I think you will find Parker’s remarks, in the first 24 minutes of the one-hour video, to be as inspiring as I did.
The Ecumenical and Interfaith Spirit of Kenyan Quakers – By George Busolo Lukalo
In June 2022, I had the privilege of attending a civic education workshop that was organized by Haki Yako Organization, a non-governmental organization promoting effective leadership and governance. The workshop was held at Shemeji Hotel in Hola with the aim of creating awareness in the religious leaders of the need to have peaceful elections within Tana River County. The workshop brought together the National Council of Churches of Kenya affiliated Churches and Islamic clerics. This was my first time sitting with Islamic Sheikhs and Imams at one table and sharing our thoughts. The experience was positive as Tana River held their first peaceful elections.
Within the Bura National Irrigation Scheme, Protestant denominations have formed the Bura Pastors Fellowship, active since 1999. This body brings together nearly 20 churches within Bura. Friends Church (Quakers) Bura being one of the founders, I represent the Friends Church on this forum. This has brought relationships between Friends Church and other churches in general.
Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire – Edited by Jehad Abusalim et al
Reviewed by MaxL. Carter
A plaque in a classroom at Earlham School of Religion where courses on the Bible are taught states, “Context is everything.”
In his poem “Harlem,” Langston Hughes asks, “What happens to a dream deferred? // Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun? . . . // Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load. // Or does it explode?”
I was reminded of these quotes when I learned of the assault by Hamas on Israeli targets earlier this month and Israel’s retaliation. Quaker peacemaking asks the question, what are the seeds of war, and how may they be removed before they sprout and grow? And what might those deferred dreams be that led to the result of an explosion?
Light in Gaza is an antidote to many misconceptions about Gaza as it helps explain the context out of which the current explosion has occurred. Three American Friends Service Committee staff members who have worked on issues of Palestine and Israel for a combined total of more than 50 years have skillfully gathered and edited essays by 11 Gazans that explore far more details about life in the Strip than media sound bites provide.
For a limited time, Haymarket Books has made Light in Gaza available as a free ebook, along with two other books supporting the Palestinian cause.
Outside of worship, where do Quakers seek inspiration, spirituality, and community?
Whether you’re looking to understand the charismatic charm of megachurches, the deep-rooted history of Pendle Hill, England, or the mysticism of Howard Thurman, this month’s Quakers Today podcast invites listeners to broaden their horizons as host Peterson Toscano and his guests delve into spirituality beyond the confines of traditional Quaker worship.
Join Carl Blumenthal as he shares an intimate connection between Quakerism, spirituality, and mental illness, revealing his personal struggles with bipolar disorder and how it intersects with spiritual highs and lows. Next, Sara Wolcott and Andy Stanton-Henry discuss their unique spiritual influences—charismatic worship and paganism—and how they find common ground in their differing beliefs.
We’ll also hear about a new book examining the work of Black American mystic Howard Thurman, reviewed in this month’s Friends Journal.
Quaker Nephites – By Anita Hemphill McCormick
Latter-day Saints (Mormon) folklore is full of stories of the Three Nephites: three kindly, old men with long, gray beards who appear out of nowhere to do good turns for people in need. They’re supposed to be men who have been granted eternal life, and they roam the whole world, helping people and then vanishing, sometimes right in front of the people they helped. Sometimes only one of them appears, rather than all three.
I was raised in Salt Lake City as a “gentile”—a non-Mormon—and I have considerable faith in the kindness and generosity of Latter-day Saints. Here’s an instance: One August, I was idiotic enough to run out of gas in the Virgin River Gorge near St. George, exactly where there is no cell phone reception and the temperature was 110 degrees. After waving at passing cars for about ten minutes, I was relieved but not completely surprised when a young man with three young boys in his truck pulled over to suck some of his gasoline into a hose, which he just happened to have on hand, and siphon it into my car’s tank.
It was more than enough fuel to get me to the next gas station, and he refused to take a dime for it. Nephites, as I say, turn up when help is needed, and they turn up in modern guise. Maybe the three boys were Nephites in training.
Baggage and Blessings – By Chester Freeman
Like many of us, I came to the Quaker faith community broken and with lots of burdensome spiritual, emotional, and psychological baggage that stifled my soul. But hidden beneath, within, and among those heavy bags were blessings that lightened the load.
On my journey, I found comfort in the words of Iyanla Vanzant in her book Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color:
Being broken does not mean you are unequipped. There are enough pieces left for you to grab onto, hold onto. . . . More important, there are the pieces that well up from deep inside your being that will guide you surely and safely.
As a Quaker I believe it is that of God within me and every person that will help me put my soul back together.
What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman – By Lerita Coleman Brown
Reviewed by Ron Hogan
Lerita Coleman Brown identifies deeply with the Black American theologian and mystic Howard Thurman. It goes back to when she read his 1949 book, Jesus and the Disinherited, a “game changer” of a spiritual text that offered her “a deeper understanding of Jesus’s liberating and transformative spirituality” and a “roadmap to a place of psychological and spiritual freedom for everyone.”
As her appreciation of his writing grew, Brown self-selected Thurman as a spiritual mentor: “I stopped feeling strange for seeking silence, stillness, and solitude,” she writes. The connection she feels to his thought is always personal: “When I read about Thurman’s experiences in nature, my heart leaped… I had not been the only Black child to uncover God outdoors!”
In What Makes You Come Alive, Brown seeks to distill the essence of Thurman’s spiritual philosophy for a contemporary audience, and it’s a solid effort. Friends will take particular interest in her recurring emphasis on the semester Thurman spent at Haverford College in 1929, studying under the eminent Quaker mystic Rufus Jones. Although Thurman’s cultivation of a silent communion with the Divine began as a youth in Florida, well before his encounter with Quakerism, it was the time with Jones that firmly grounded his mystical pursuits.
All the Way Back to George Fox – By Andy Stanton-Henry
I have a confession to make. Every Easter, you will find me worshiping in a megachurch. I will be standing in a large, modern sanctuary, surrounded by thousands of people. The worship band up front will be leading us in lively singing, complete with an accompanying rock band. The transitions on the stage are impeccable, the technology cutting edge, and the audience multicultural. What’s a good Quaker boy doing in the middle of a charismatic megachurch?
I am there because my parents like to attend the church on holidays, and I want to join them. But I am also there because the worship is a refreshing change of pace from my usual experience in Quaker meetings. It’s good for me to step outside the Quaker bubble from time to time and worship in a less familiar and slightly rowdier setting.
Over the years, I’ve experienced a mix of beautiful and troubling things in charismatic worship environments. Quakerism is my spiritual path, but I still appreciate some things about charismatic worship and wonder if Friends could benefit from some lite (and Light?) experimentation with Pentecostalism.
Where the Spirit Leads Me – By Susann Estelle
I am a Quaker by choice, and use that as my system to walk into the mystery of God. My call to be a chaplain is part of my understanding of the relationship between Creator and created. God created all people, loves all people, and therefore, I must love all people as well. By assisting people in their spiritual journeys, I show them God’s love. It doesn’t matter to me what human systems people embrace; if they ask me for assistance in their journey, I will provide it if I can.
Since I can remember, I have been drawn to Native American spirituality.… I share my belief with people and am often asked why that belief system speaks to me. Do I have “native” blood? Were my ancestors Native American? I have researched many of my family trees and never found any relatives who were. I do not have an answer to the question why I believe the way I do, except that I always have. I have prayed for clarity, and recently I received this answer: “where the Spirit will lead you, there the Spirit will feed you.”
Wood’s final advice on the practice of peace is typically practical: “If you are not sure how to start, start small. Take the next small step. Invite a few people together. Sit in a circle, and get to work.”
Practicing Peace – By Michael John Wood
Reviewed by Rob Pierson
Michael John Wood’s Practicing Peace offers reflection and practical insights that he has gleaned over decades of work as an Anglican priest and chaplain, an educator for peace and nonviolence, and a leadership coach for business and church communities in Australia.
To Wood, the central revelation of Christianity is that God is Christlike. Jesus gives us a view into God’s loving nature. At the same time, Jesus exposes the ocean of violence—personal, structural, and systemic—in which we live. Although we say we want peace, our way of pursuing it only fuels the chaos. Christ interrupts that cycle and demonstrates a way of life characterized by acts of peace and healing. That practice of peace becomes central to our own way of living.
Wood looks specifically at the dark places: why we are violent, how our societal attempts to curtail violence are themselves violent, and how certain doctrines and reading of Scripture feed into that violence. But if God is Christlike, says Wood, then any understanding of church or Scripture that propagates violence simply cannot stand in the face of Christ’s revelation of a God of love.
“Can we believe that God works in the hearts of those who are following a life and spiritual path that seems very foreign to our own?”
Many Paths to the Light – By Peter Blood-Patterson
In a world that often seems overwhelmed by fears and hatred of all that is “other,” Friends have an important role to play to embrace the richness of many very different spiritual paths. Yet many Friends seem reluctant to join in ecumenical and interfaith activities.
For several years, I was blessed to have Bill Taber, a longtime Quakerism teacher at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, as my spiritual director. Bill took issue with the oft-repeated statement that Quakerism can be divided into Christian (or “Christ-centered”) and Universalist Friends. He asserted that Friends are, in fact, both Christians and Universalists. I assumed what he meant was that Friends were born out of Judeo-Christian traditions and Scriptures but that we also believe there are valid faiths other than Christianity. I think, however, that there is a deeper truth at work here.
Living Your Call – By Greg Woods and Jennifer Newman
Quaker practice has many beautiful pieces of wisdom to offer young adults, and one way to share them is to create opportunities to experience that wisdom. Since 2020, we have been working on a vocational discernment program designed to do just that.
The young adults we have worked with have been hungry for specific support for learning to make strong decisions about their future: decisions that they feel good about. Each person is navigating their own path, which is filled with unexpected challenges, twists and turns, ways opening, and doors closed. In a world where we have access to an unprecedented number of strengths’ assessments, occupational tests, and advice on what we all should be doing, parsing through information and making sense of our next steps is tricky.
One way Quakerism can engage young adults is by sharing our tools, practices, and principles within the context of their seeking some goal. Our curriculum offers a pathway for this.
“For us, Quakerism at its core holds that every person has that of God in them, and every person has unique gifts and skills that can make something manifest in the world. It’s our practice to sink down and listen for our inner wisdom to guide each of us, and one of the best ways to do that is in community with others. We can support each other by helping ourselves to go deeper in listening to our own guide.”
A Few Words from a Young Friend – By Blaise Rzeszut
From what knowledge I have gathered by studying Quaker history, the Friends I admire most were those who recognized that we needed to do better. We could stop being slaveholders, stop arbitrarily picking and choosing who was worthy of involvement in meeting activities, and start proposing radical solutions to the injustices we face today. It was Friends’ support of progressive social change and the willingness to challenge unjust authority that drew me to their meetings.
The way I see it, Quakers are supposed to be radical or, at the very least, unconventional. It is important to remember that we always have been. It is looking back at trailblazers like Bayard Rustin and the Public Universal Friend that convinces younger people—many angry at the world left for them to fix—that they should feel supported by not only their own spirit but also the precedent set by their faith to radically heal the world and express themselves fully and authentically as they do so.
A More Just Future by Dolly Chugh – Reviewed by Patience A. Schenck
When I first experienced a call to educate White people about racism, I was surprised to notice how embarrassed I felt in bringing it up with people. And I was immediately struck and confused by the defensiveness I encountered in others. People had two reactions: they would diminish or deny my concerns (or change the subject), or they would try to demonstrate to me how non-racist they were. They seldom showed curiosity about what I was learning and teaching. Clearly, this was a subject that elicited some feelings.
Today, many people are more open to learning about racism, but discomfort is still there. People (including myself) still fear making racially insensitive comments. Politically, the backlash against the teaching of honest history in our schools is widespread.
Why all this emotion and denial? This is the focus of Dolly Chugh’s A More Just Future. A social psychologist and immigrant from India, Chugh deeply loves her adopted country. And she, too, adopted many blind spots leading to denial.
Say the Right Thing By Kenji Yoshino & David Glasgow
Reviewed by Pamela Haines
Conversations about identity are hard. We may feel dizzied by change. Trying to be good allies, it’s easy to feel stupid. The more we care, the more we fear making mistakes. Yet hoping that silence or non-engagement can protect us might be the biggest mistake of all. In our attempt to do the right thing, however, we can get competitive and judge others who struggle. We bring unconscious assumptions to the table, not knowing what we don’t know. It can feel like our goodness as human beings is at stake.
Say the Right Thing speaks to all of these issues. Encouraging in tone, it is generous with those who struggle: never blaming, yet always holding out the possibility that more is possible. As two gay men, one being a Person of Color, Kenji Yoshino and David Glasgow have experiences on both sides of these conversations. They are open in sharing stories about stretching outside their comfort zones and making mistakes as allies, even as they have personal experience of being on the receiving end of non-inclusive behavior.
Pointing to the Moon – By Gene Hillman
A common modern acronym for the testimonies is SPICES: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. They all witness to our experience of the Light and are of a piece, working together as threads in a single cloth. We can’t pick and choose without tearing the fabric. Early Friends spoke of one testimony, as in “our Christian testimony,” but modern Friends are left with a list of separate testimonies.
A Friend Explores the Morality of Hunting
Allowable Diversions – By Timothy Tarkelly
I am a hunter, and it has been suggested to me more than once that I cannot be a Quaker so long as I hunt. This suggestion has moved me to serious contemplation over the matter. I have read; I have prayed; and I have even quit hunting for a while. However, after examining early Quaker thought, the real reasons we hunt, and the danger of overly idealizing nature itself, I feel firmly settled.
Why I am Leaving Quakers – By Jack Powelson
When I joined Friends 58 years ago, I felt integrated into my meeting. Quakers enveloped me and permeated me; I was at one with them. But over the last 58 years, Quakerism has changed, and so have I. I have taken leave of my meeting, but I have not resigned my membership.
Back in 1943, as many Republicans sat in the benches as Democrats, and meeting was a place for the spiritual enrichment of persons of all political beliefs; even soldiers in uniform came to meeting. If the spirit of the 1940s existed now, right-to-lifers might today sit next to pro-choicers, each being equally blessed in the eyes of God. With the spiritual under-girding of the meeting, different political beliefs would be advocated in secular organizations.
Members of the Society of Friends are not in unity on abortion issues.
Therefore, FCNL takes no position and does not act either for or against abortion legislation. On occasion, FCNL may appeal to lawmakers not to use the abortion debate to paralyze action on other legislation.
As we are a Quaker body which uses Quaker discernment and decision-making, we have been unable to take any proactive stance on the matter. I look forward to seeing how Friends discern way forward this year and whether that might change.
We are currently undergoing a discernment process grounded in Friends’ worship and discernment regarding whether to change our stance on the issue of reproductive health and abortion. That process is ongoing and should yield results once the FCNL General Committee (board) modifies and approves language on this issue for our policy statement at our Annual Meeting, November 17-19. Bobby Trice – Quaker Engagement Program Manager
Diane Randall, FCNL general secretary emerita
“We engage in public life not because activism is part of our rich Quaker tradition but because we practice our faith outwardly. Friends and people of faith have the patience, the vision, the hope, the strength to stay the course that bends the arc of history toward justice.”– Diane Randall, FCNL general secretary emerita
At FCNL, our practice of Quaker advocacy—grounded in deep listening, relationship-building, and storytelling—has shown us it is possible to find common ground and a way forward, even while we disagree. Through our nonpartisan approach, we focus on policy change over politics and have celebrated countless successes that cross or even transcend party lines.
One example is our work to address the harm caused by U.S. nuclear tests. Those in “downwinder” communities were exposed to the fallout of nuclear detonations from 1945 to 1962. They are still dealing with the deadly consequences today.
Quaker Lobby Appalled By Predictable Increase In Nationwide Childhood Poverty
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) expressed deep frustration over this week’s Census Bureau report on the state of poverty in America, specifically childhood poverty rates.
The newly released data shows more than 15.3 million more people lived below the poverty line in 2022 than in 2021, using the Supplemental Poverty Measure. Further, the child poverty rate more than doubled, jumping from 5.2% in 2021 (a historic low) to 12.4% in 2022. This is the single largest increase in poverty and child poverty on record.
“This week’s poverty report from the Census Bureau confirms what we have feared for months now: the child poverty rate more than doubled, jumping to 12.4% last year. This reality is one many saw as inevitable when Congress allowed the expanded Child Tax Credit to expire at the end of 2021.
Indiana Yearly Meeting Withdraws from Friends United Meeting – By Sharlee DiMenichi
In July, Indiana Yearly Meeting (IYM) decided to withdraw from Friends United Meeting (FUM), the international association of 26 yearly meetings in North America, Africa, and the Caribbean. IYM cited a desire to focus more precisely on its Christ-centered mission, according to an undated letter signed by Patrick Byers, general superintendent of IYM, and Greg Hinshaw, presiding clerk of IYM.
IYM arrived at the decision to separate at its annual sessions in July after years of discernment, according to the letter. Indiana Yearly Meeting hopes to continue to financially support FUM’s missions in Africa, due to the affinity they feel for Evangelical Friends churches on the continent.
Friends Journal staff writer Sharlee DiMenichi speaks with several Quaker historians about the spiritual and cultural differences that have grown between IYM and FUM leading to this moment.