Discussions

Drawing Circles, Not Lines – By Sarah Katreen Hoggatt – Friends Journal – June 1, 2020

This being June 2024 and Pride Month it would seem appropriate to revisit Sarah Katreen Hoggatt’s article on “Drawing Circles, Not Lines”

I look out among the faces in front of me and am in awe of their compassion and protectiveness of one another. The people gathered together care deeply about one another’s well-being, especially those who are typically disenfranchised or whose voices aren’t heard as loudly as those better represented in our community. We stand up for each other, firmly and with alacrity, making sure everyone is respected and given space to bloom. I love them and their loving hearts so much. Our yearly meeting, Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting, is not yet even four years old. Created after another yearly meeting decided it would not include any LGBTQ+ inclusive church, we decided at the very beginning—even before deciding we were a group—that we were passionately inclusive. The meeting has since proved those words time and time again. Continue Reading

The Radical Original Vision of George Foxby Marcelle Martin – Friends Journal – June 1, 2024

By 1648, Fox was coming fully into his prophetic powers. In that year he had a powerful inward experience, described in his Journal. In a vision, he was taken up into the Paradise of God and into the condition of Adam and Eve before their disobedience, the original human state of walking daily with God and receiving and heeding Divine Guidance. In this state, Fox was able to see into all creatures, and the “divine Word of wisdom and power by which they were made” was revealed. Then he was immediately taken up to “see into another or more steadfast state than Adam’s in innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus, that should never fall.” In this divine revelation, Fox experienced an invisible unity, a oneness that underlies the diversity and apparent separateness of people and things, uniting all in God. He wrote that this fundamental oneness would eventually be revealed to each person who sufficiently surrenders to God: “as people come into subjection to the Spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the Word of wisdom, that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being.” Continue Reading

William Pennby Sharlee DiMenichi – Quaker.org

The reputation of religious freedom advocate and early Quaker William Penn has evolved over the years since he lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A close associate of the British court, Penn was an accomplished speaker and writer. He also spent time in a debtors’ prison and died in bankruptcy. Historically, he has been lauded as a proponent of tolerance and a friend to Indigenous people. He also enslaved Africans, and historians have called into question his dealings with the Lenni Lenape native inhabitants of Pennsylvania, the colony he established in 1681. Reckoning with Penn’s morally problematic dealings with people of African descent as well as Indigenous people has led modern-day Quakers to remove his name from locations such as a room of the Friends House in London and the former William Penn House in Washington, D.C. In January 2024, the U.S. National Park Service proposed removing a statue of William Penn from Welcome Park in Philadelphia, Pa., but changed course after public comments opposing the move. This article was created for Quaker.org, our reference site for those new to Friends’ faith and practice. It will also be published in the June-July issue of Friends Journal. Continue Reading

Frog Songby Megan Hollingsworthillustrated by Bonnie Gordon-Lucasreviewed by Gail Whiffen – Recommended for ages 9 and up – Friends Journal –  May 1, 2024

As a kid who loved animals and facts, I enjoyed learning about our planet’s great diversity of wildlife. But how sad it was to learn about the extinct and endangered species! What can we do, I wondered, to stop or prevent such things from happening? There are many ways to get involved and connect with groups doing conservation work, but a child learning these facts can easily feel overwhelmed or hopeless. Megan Hollingsworth’s Frog Song offers one accessible entry point into the important work of researching these species and finding solutions to our current global ecological health crisis. Did you know that globally amphibians are the most endangered vertebrates? The back cover of Frog Song leads with this truth, and makes a promise: “We can help them.” This coupled with the cute and smiley frog on the front cover, illustrated by Bonnie Gordon-Lucas, pulled me right in. Continue Reading

Psalms of Wonderby Carey Wallaceillustrated by Khoa Le – reviewed by Ken Jacobsen Recommended for ages 6-12 – Friends Journal – May 1, 2024

Poet Carey Wallace was inspired to turn 29 psalms excerpted from the Bible into prayer-poems for young people (and for us “children” of all ages). Khoa Le illustrates each psalm with visual wonders: living mountains; fields; flowers; stars; creatures; and always, children who are playing, praying, dancing, and sharing the divine creation together. The biblical psalms were originally sung; they were a songbook, but by now we’ve mostly lost the music. Wallace invites music back into her selection of psalms. Remaining faithful to the texts, she reshapes them in musical ways, with rhythms and rhymes appealing to children that invite reading out loud. Continue Reading

Friends Seeking Non-Traditional Membership – by Sharlee DiMenichi – Friends Journal – May 1, 2024

Quakers at Collington, a Kendal-affiliated senior living facility in Mitchellville, Maryland, formed a worship group in the early 2000s. Many Friends who attend worship there also maintain membership in the meetings they belonged to before moving to the facility. Residents of senior living communities often have common spiritual needs. “I think living in a retirement community changes the focus quite a bit. We’re in a community where people die and leave a spouse sometimes alone. I think that is a spiritual need that sometimes we fail to address. And that happens more here than it would happen in an ordinary Quaker meeting,” said Jim Rose, a Collington resident who attends the worship group along with his second wife, Susanna. Rose is still a member of Patapsco (Md.) Meeting, which he and his late wife were instrumental in founding. Continue Reading

Speaking to Our Members’ Conditions – by Steven Dale Davison – Friends Journal – May 1, 2024

When I applied for membership in my first Quaker meeting, I was actively hostile to Christianity and the Bible. I told this to the Friends who served on my clearness committee, feeling that I should be honest about this for the process. Also, I later realized, I might have been putting them on notice that I would cause trouble—not consciously, but in effect. But I wanted the meeting, and the meeting wanted me.… The clearness process wasn’t quite a pro forma exercise, but nobody was surprised when the meeting accepted my application. Then I proceeded to make good on my tacit threats. I harassed a Christian member for her vocal ministry. I acted to keep the First-day school from teaching my kids the Bible. I don’t remember anybody talking to me about my behavior, but maybe they did and I’ve blocked it out. Several years later—against my will, more or less—I felt led to write a book of Bible-based earth stewardship theology. As I followed that leading, I regained the love of the Bible that I’d had as a teenager. I woke up to the harm I had been causing in my meeting and the wrongness of my militancy. And I developed a deep personal concern, born of my own experience, for how we approach membership and what membership means. Continue Reading 

The Light Will Be Shining at the End of It All – by Matt Rosen – Friends Journal – May 1, 2024

Elizabeth Hooton is often considered the first Friend to have been convinced by George Fox’s preaching and conversation. Even before the Quaker movement coalesced, with Fox preaching to thousands in northern England, Hooton had been imprisoned for the convictions that led her to admonish a priest. James Parnell was 16 when he traveled to Carlisle jail to meet an imprisoned Fox, and it was there Parnell was convinced. Only a few years later, he died in the appalling conditions of Colchester Castle’s jail. Elizabeth Fletcher was even younger than Parnell—a mere 14—when she was convinced, and she brought the Quaker message to Oxford and to Ireland before dying of injuries received at the hands of a mob of Oxford scholars. These three were clearly Friends. Convinced by the preaching of itinerant Quakers, they turned inward, discerned a need to transform their lives, and began to obey the promptings of a Light that had been there all along. This led them into radical forms of witness, for which they suffered intensely alongside many other Friends. And yet, none of them was in membership of a religious society as we understand that today. Continue Reading 

Membership at a Distance – by Dirk von der Horst – Friends Journal – May 1, 2024

I worshiped in person with San Francisco Meeting as an attender from 2005 to 2013. During that time, I served on and then clerked the Peace and Social Concerns Committee. When I moved away, I stopped attending meetings because I don’t have a car, and it would take too long to get to the other side of Los Angeles for one of the more local meetings. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, I started attending online worship with San Francisco Meeting. There wasn’t a deliberate choice [at San Francisco Meeting] to open membership to those at a distance. Rather, one person who had been participating in Zoom worship requested membership, and it was approved. I was the second person to request membership despite my living at a distance, and a member noted that the meeting had already opened the door to this new way of being a member. This decision will undoubtedly change the nature of the community in unforeseen ways. Some of those changes will strengthen the community; some of those changes will be challenges. Often major changes come about through subtle shifts that are hard to discern at the outset. Since it is far too early to see the implications of this decision for the meeting, I want to reflect mostly on how I approach my responsibilities to the community amidst the dizzying changes technology is bringing to our society. Continue Reading

Two New Years by Richard Ho illustrated by Lynn Scurfield – reviewed by Lisa Rand Recommended for ages 3–5Friends Journal – May 1, 2024

Drawing upon his own Chinese and Jewish heritage, Richard Ho shares the story of celebrating both Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year through side-by-side pages that highlight common elements of the two holidays. Illustrated by Lynn Scurfield in a bright, rich palette of inks, each page of Two New Years is filled with joy and vibrancy. On the page that says, “Both New Years inspire delicious dishes,” a person holds a tray with a jar of honey in the center surrounded by apple slices, pomegranate, fish, carrots, and other traditional Rosh Hashanah foods. The opposite page reads, “We prepare foods that symbolize togetherness and the heartfelt sharing of good wishes,” and it features a person with a tray that has an orange in the center, surrounded by lotus root, dried fruit, nuts, candies, and other Lunar New Year treats. Continue Reading

Where the Light Comes to Meet Us – by Leticia Garcia Tiwari – Friends Journal – May 1, 2024

I have been in and out of Quaker churches, meetings, online groups, and retreats over the last ten years. While I am not currently attending a meeting, I practice listening as a spiritual practice and regularly contemplate Quaker writings. I almost became a member several times at meetings I attended, yet those spaces were not designed to resonate with the rhythms that drum through me. While Quaker spirituality aligns ideologically with many of the value systems I embody, the normative cultures of those spaces—especially relating to the political polarization of Quaker denominations—do not. Conservative branches that are not LGBTQ-affirming and adopt a literal reading of Scripture are not an option for me. I refuse to attend an institution that does not affirm the identities of my loved ones, and I take Scripture too seriously to limit myself to a literal lens. However, while Liberal branches are more in alignment with my beliefs and values on paper, the racialized class cultures of those spaces are politely violent and quietly exclusionary.… These ruptures and refusals do not help me cultivate my relationship with the Light or that of God in each person, except through clenched teeth and a compassion that holds on by a string. Continue Reading

More Than a Dream by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long – reviewed by Gwen Gosney Erickson Recommended for ages 10-14Friends JournalMay 1, 2024

More Than a Dream opens with Quaker civil rights activist Bayard Rustin meeting with his mentor, A. Philip Randolph, to discuss strategy for what would become the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long deliver a full package, thanks to the inclusion of primary source illustrations, sidebars, thoughtful queries within the text, and the questions set with suggested assignments at the end. While written for younger readers, the book does not shy away from complexities and missteps: disagreements among the planners, Rustin’s homosexuality, White privilege, and the violence and danger faced by civil rights activists. Continue Reading

339 Manumissions and Beyond Partners with Howard University – by Sharlee DiMenichi – Friends Journal – April 29, 2024

Through a collaboration among Howard University, Haverford College, and the 339 Manumissions and Beyond Project, researchers intend to tell the life stories of more than 400 formerly enslaved people, mostly from the Philadelphia, Pa. area, who were freed by Quaker enslavers in the 1700s. Howard University officially became a partner on the project in November 2023 and university students began preliminary research in September of last year, according to 339 Manumissions and Beyond founder Avis Wanda McClinton, who is an attender at Abington Meeting in Jenkintown, Pa. Because Quakers have emphasized their history of abolitionism, McClinton explained, for many years, people did not think to look in Quaker archives for evidence that Friends had enslaved people. Continue Reading

Seeking the Light by Linda Seger – reviewed by Sharlee DiMenichi – Friends Journal – April 1, 2024

Seeking the Light offers an accessible and engaging introduction to Quakerism for curious non-Friends as well as those new to the faith. Writing in a conversational style, Linda Seger introduces Quakerism to non-Quakers by referring to the 1956 film Friendly Persuasion, based on a 1945 Jessamyn West book about a family of Friends who grapple with the ethical issues raised by their pacifist convictions during the U.S. Civil War. She also notes several famous Quakers such as singer Bonnie Raitt and author James Michener. In later chapters, Seger explains the spiritual significance of Light and silence to Quakers. She includes comparisons and contrasts from Friends who practice Buddhist meditation in addition to Quaker waiting worship. She also describes visualizations she uses during worship, including one in which she rides down an imaginary elevator that takes her into spiritual depths. When she leaves the elevator, she meets a contemporarily dressed Jesus figure, in whom she confides and who gives her caring advice before they walk together into a vibrant ray of light. Continue Reading

The Gospel Model of Fatherly Loveby John Andrew Gallery – Friends Journal – April 1, 2024

Joseph is not the only father who appears in the gospels, but he is one of only two mentioned by name. The other is Zebedee, father of the disciples James and John. Zebedee appears for a brief instant in Matthew 4:21, the scene where Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee and summons James and John to follow him, while they are in the boat with Zebedee mending their fishing nets. When I originally read this verse, my attention was drawn to James and John. I marveled that they could so easily walk away from their past lives. Did they know Jesus already, and did he know them? Were they disciples of John the Baptist and at the river when Jesus came to be baptized? Or were they among John’s followers when—as some stories say—Jesus stayed with John for a while thereafter? Or did they go simply because their friends Simon and Andrew were with him, and it looked like something more interesting to do than mending nets? But when I think of this incident now, in the context of my thoughts about Joseph, it’s the figure of Zebedee that draws my attention. How did he feel when both his sons jumped overboard and went off without asking permission or even saying a word of goodbye? Continue Reading

Season 3, episode 2. In this episode of Quakers Today, we ask, What does bird watching have to do with Quakers?Friends Journal – April 16, 2024

Birdwatching may seem like a serene, perhaps even solitary activity, but in the latest Quakers Today podcast, we discover it’s a window into much larger conversations about community, justice, and spirituality. Rebecca Heider discusses her recent Friends Journal article, “A Quaker Guide to Birdwatching: Eight Lessons for Friends and Seekers,” with Peterson Toscano, elaborating upon the profound joy that can be found in everyday moments of observation. As you’re listening, take a moment to appreciate the background sounds, designed and produced by co-host Miche McCall! Meanwhile, Tykee James, the president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the Audubon Society, opens up about the joys and dangers of birding while Black. Tykee shares how his experiences with urban birding as a teen exposed him to community connections and the stark realities of racial and environmental injustices, and how he’s built on those experiences—including the formation of the annual Black Birders Week, which is coming up at the end of May. Plus: Peterson and Miche tell us about the books they’ve been reading, the games they’ve been playing, and the apps they use to unwind—and how all that media resonates with Quaker spirituality. And then Peterson and Miche want to know: When you walk into a new space, what do you see, hear, or experience that makes you feel welcome? What might be present that leads you to conclude you may not be welcome? It could be someone’s home, a Quaker meetinghouse or some other religious venue, a café, a shop… any space at all, really! Share your thoughts by leaving a voicemail at 317-QUAKERS (317-782-5377) and you might find yourself featured in the next episode! Continue Reading or Listening

Altar to an Erupting Sun by Chuck Collins – reviewed by Ruah Swennerfelt – Friends Journal – April 1, 2024

Chuck Collins challenges readers of his new novel, Altar to an Erupting Sun, to contemplate how much they would be willing to risk in order to stop the terrifying destabilization of Earth’s fragile community of life. The story follows the radicalization of the main character, Rae Kelliher—but it opens at the end of Rae’s long life, with her decision to commit a drastic and violent act in a desperate attempt to stop what she considers to be a greater evil. Furious after learning that the Big Oil companies had long known about the catastrophic effects of climate change and the role of their products in creating it, Rae decides to kill an oil company executive by detonating an explosive device concealed in her clothing. Although the path to her principled action is clear to her, it baffles and bewilders her friends and many in the peace community. Collins goes on to show readers the people and incidents that shaped Rae’s thinking. She is greatly influenced by Quakers, and throughout the book, Quaker values are lifted up, along with many Quaker elders—like the real-life figures Wally and Juanita Nelson of the Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center in western Massachusetts. Collins brilliantly and seamlessly intersperses real and fictional people throughout the book, lending a feeling that what the reader is experiencing is all real history. I am personally grateful for the light that his book sheds on the challenges and dilemmas that he faced as he charted his own course as an environmental activist. Continue Reading

Planting Ourselves in Time and Place – by J.E. McNeil – Friends Journal – April 1, 2024

The U.S. Department of Defense defines conscientious objection as a “firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.” For many decades the Center on Conscience and War bought into the government definition of conscientious objection; after all, the founders of the center had helped craft it. But I became increasingly uncomfortable with the government definition, [and] in early 2007, I reached out to the group Appeal for Redress, which consisted of career military personnel who objected to the war in Iraq but would deploy there, if ordered.… Around that time, some of the service members involved with Appeal for Redress were featured in a segment on 60 Minutes, and I was invited to a celebratory dinner for them a few days later. At the event, a young marine and I had an interesting conversation. He was concerned that there might not be any vegetarian choices on the menu. I asked him why he was a vegetarian: health reasons, climate reasons, cruelty to animals? He said he refused to kill animals. I was startled for a moment and then said, “I am not criticizing you but am trying to understand: you don’t want to kill animals, but you are willing to kill humans?” A couple of weeks later he filed a CO application. Continue Reading

Radical Acts of Justice by Jocelyn Simonson – reviewed by Michele Sands – Friends Journal – April 1, 2024

Radical Acts of Justice is both a hopeful and a helpful look at mass incarceration in the United States. Jocelyn Simonson, a former public defender and current legal scholar and professor, explores tactics of hundreds of community groups and individuals, within the penal system and without, to reveal injustices and to imagine a new form of public caring when someone is wronged. With a wealth of examples gleaned throughout the country, the book focuses on four interconnecting approaches that ordinary people can and have taken: bail funds, court watching, participatory defense, and budgets. Ordinary individuals and Quaker working groups who question and want to counter the existing justice system will find this book an informative, instructional, and inspirational resource.… To the many questions the author raises, I add a query: As Jesus of Nazareth confronted the order of his society, how do we deal with a law and order system of mass incarceration that erodes the Thirteenth Amendment? – Continue Reading

Bearing Witness for Peace – by Sharlee DiMenichi – Friends Journal – April 5, 2024

Through the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), Quakers join members of other faiths to provide a supportive presence at the request of Palestinian church members in the region. EAPPI sends 25 to 30 accompaniers at a time and has provided more than 2,000 volunteers since the program began in 2002, according to its website. Israeli peace activists also offer protective accompaniment. Friends Journal talked with three protective accompaniers about their inspiration and experience. Ian Cave and Debby, who requested that we use only her first name, are British Quakers who volunteered with EAPPI from mid-January to mid-April 2023; both were based in the West Bank.… The United Nations views accompaniers as the “eyes and ears” of the UN, explained Cave, because they are able to verify and report any human rights abuses they might witness in the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Continue Reading

My Dad’s Green Burial – by Christine Ashley – Friends Journal – April 1, 2024

Dad died this past summer. Instead of a churchyard burial, he rests in the middle of a meadow filled with six-foot-tall wildflowers, hovering bees, mooing cows, and songbirds. Dad’s body was wrapped in his mother’s quilt that had the words “Sweet Dreams.” His grandchildren carried the body, which was wrapped in a shroud and placed on a board, and they used ropes to gently lower him into a shallow grave. Family and friends threw wildflowers picked from the meadow onto his body. Afterward, three grandsons shoveled about three tons of dirt onto his flower-covered body. Dad’s body lies in an unmarked grave in a conservancy cemetery, where the grasses and tall groves of wildflowers take over his plot. Only GPS coordinates locate his remains. Continue Reading

Wealth Supremacy by Marjorie Kelly – reviewed by Pamela Haines – Friends Journal – April 1, 2024

Anyone who feels the weight of White supremacy—or sees the danger signs of growing inequality or cares about a livable future on this planet—would do well to take heed of Marjorie Kelly and her new book, Wealth Supremacy. Kelly speaks of how we are living in a trance in a reality we cannot see. Unnamed wealth privilege has been embedded in our cultural psyche for centuries.… The silent encoded message says that wealth is to be revered above all else. The rest of reality—workers, communities, small businesses, and the environment—is all implicitly subordinate. Kelly sees the power of creating a shared understanding that capital bias against people and in favor of wealth is illegitimate. Continue Reading 

A Quaker Guide to Birdwatching – by Rebecca Heider – Friends Journal – April 1,2024

I finally found time to explore nature photography during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 was my year of insects, when I spent long hours in sunny meadows chasing butterflies; 2021 was my year of mushrooms, poking around in wet leaves on the forest floor. In 2022, I was ready for the year of birds, so I purchased a camera with a telephoto lens. I thought our family trip to Alaska—specifically a day of rafting through a bald eagle preserve—would be the perfect time to launch my career in bird photography. In fact, that was a foolish and hubristic plan. I could barely operate the camera, and I now realize that even a veteran photographer would find it challenging to get a good photo while bobbing over whitewater. By waiting to begin my journey into bird photography until I had traveled thousands of miles to this one special place on this specific day, I had set myself up for disappointment. And I had missed out on opportunities to get started earlier closer to home. This brings me to my first lesson: If we look to connect with Spirit only in a designated sacred place or on a specific holy day, we limit our opportunities for spiritual transformation. Continue Reading

Pray without Ceasing – by Chester Freeman – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

What is prayer? For me, prayer is a spiritual experience whereby we tap into the spiritual resources of the universe. Praying is a lifestyle choice. It is the way we live our lives, the way we work with others, and the way we think of others. In other words, it is the way we live. This is how I interpret the Scripture that says “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). I used to ask myself, How can you do that? But when you live a prayerful life, that is how it is accomplished. When the thought of someone comes in my mind, while I am working or even washing dishes, that focus of energy on that particular person is my prayer. It could be a friend, a relative, or an acquaintance. At that point, I am focusing on raising my energy level to send positive and uplifting thoughts to and for that person Continue Reading

A Quaker Ecology: Meditations on the Future of Friends by Cherice Bock – reviewed by Lauren Brownlee – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

A Quaker Ecology is an expansion of Cherice Bock’s Bible Half-Hour series at New England Yearly Meeting’s annual sessions in 2020. Overall, the book invites readers to consider how we might best live in right relationship with Spirit, people, and the Earth, extending an invitation to “ecotheology” grounded in the idea that all liberation of people and planet is connected. I want to be a part of the future that Bock envisions for Friends. She encourages Quakers to move “from our tendency as a Society of Friends in the United States to get caught up in systems that perpetuate white supremacy and ecological degradation, toward participation in the community of all life.” Her road map for the potential next steps for Friends is one that I believe to be a worthy touchstone for Quaker communities Continue Reading

Dear God, Help Me Here – by Sharlee DiMenichi – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

When Vonnie Lynn Calland prays, she wants to speak sincerely: without acting or putting on airs. She asks God to fill in the gaps caused by her shortcomings, while “bending, yielding, and staying low” before the Divine. Lynn Calland, who is a member of Charlottesville (Va.) Meeting, has been a Quaker steeped in the tradition of silent waiting worship since the age of seven. When she first started her chaplaincy training, she did not know how to pray aloud. She adapted to vocal prayer because she realized that chaplains have to be ready to support dying people from a variety of faith traditions. Listening to the patient and their dear ones is a key part of praying for them, according to Lynn Calland. She encourages families to create a peaceful space for the dying patient and promotes a narrative of hope and agency for bereaved loved ones.… When she prays, she wants patients to feel the presence of God. She asks God to provide safety and care as well as to turn each hospital room into a sanctuary. When people are in a liminal space between life and death, they need a lot of spiritual protection Continue Reading

We Are All Held in Love – by Peter Blood-Patterson – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

I think many Friends feel unable to pray because of uncertainty about what prayer is. Many think of prayer as talking to God or asking for specific things. I do talk to God and ask for results at times, but I’m not really sure what happens when I pray in that way. If I believe, as I do, that God knows everything about me, why name my needs to God? I believe this is because somehow God needs me to name my deepest needs in this way. There are serious problems, however, with asking God for a specific outcome that we desire or feel we need. If we ask God for something specific and our prayer is not answered, does that mean we or those we pray for or even God have somehow failed or done something wrong? When we hold someone in the Light, we are asking God to be with them and with us in our caring for them. We are asking God to help our love reach those we are praying for. God can and does respond to prayers of this kind. I don’t know whether offering such prayers changes God, but such prayers change me. Continue Reading

Restorative Justice: Insights and Stories from My Journey by Howard Zehr – reviewed by Pamela Haines – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

Restorative justice replaces the usual questions—what laws were broken, who did it, and what do they deserve—with new ones: who’s been hurt, what are their needs, and who has obligations. Offender, victim, and community are part of a common search for a genuine solution: one that meets the requirements of justice and is based in respect, responsibility, and relationship. While our legal system focuses on minimal permissible behavior and our culture emphasizes rights over responsibilities, restorative justice offers a more comprehensive moral vision of how we should live together. This collection of essays, reflections, and photos by Howard Zehr goes beyond his well-known Little Book of Restorative Justice, published 22 years ago. Zehr is clear that he is not the “father” of restorative justice; its principles and practices have been articulated by many others from diverse traditions and perspectives. Rather, he works to articulate the best of such traditions, in a way that connects with both biblical justice and contemporary Western thought. His work at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding has created a space where wisdom can come forth, and this has sparked connections and projects throughout the world. Continue Reading

Sowing the Seeds for Corporate Climate Witness – by Pamela Haines – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

Fifteen members of our meeting community gathered last summer to notice what we love about the earth, share several things we each feel pleased about in our lives as we face environmental injustice and climate chaos, then consider ways we might stretch to respond even more faithfully and powerfully. Those who came are already doing a wide span of activities—from recycling; to moving our households away from fossil-fuel reliance; to greening our investments; to participating with others in community projects; to lobbying our elected officials; to support of and leadership in Earth Quaker Action Team, a nonviolent climate justice group. When one person lamented the seeming insignificance of the recycling she was doing, and blurted out a wish to “plant a forest in the ghetto,” we were on to the stretches. What might we do if we had more resources, more support, more courage? Continue Reading

Welcome Home – by Moon Beiferman-Haines – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

We awoke to a clear, blue sky and hummingbirds buzzing around our heads. Breakfast was enjoyed at a picnic table with a view of granite mountains rising up into the sky. After we ate, we packed up and drove to the park. There was a place where we could climb up to Hanging Lake. The path was just a mile and a half long and practically straight up the side of the mountain. All of us began to climb the rocky path. We came to a cool, clear stream and took a sip from it. It began snowing, and we were glad we had winter coats. We resumed our climb; it was very steep. Finally, there it was: Hanging Lake. Looking around we realized we were above the treeline. We broke up into small groups. I was alone and walked slowly to the edge of the mountain to see what I could. Deep-green pines grew on the side of the mountain. Then—wham—I felt a big thump straight into my chest! What was that? In the next moment, a voice spoke: “I am here.” I took a deep breath and realized it was God. It had to be. This experience cracked my heart open. Then all was still again. Continue Reading 

Quakers Today Podcast – March 12, 2024

The Quakers Today podcast is back for our third season! Join Peterson Toscano and new co-host Miche McCall as they delve into the powerful role of Quaker testimonies in today’s society. In this month’s episode, Nathan Kleban shares valuable insights on the intersection of spirituality and social activism. Nathan discusses his work with the Alternatives to Violence Project and Right Sharing of World Resources, and explains how confronting economic injustices has become a critical step in his work with others to spur meaningful change in society. Then Lauren Brownlee talks with us about Quaker principles and the pursuit of racial equity. She explains how core testimonies like peace, stewardship, and community can serve as antidotes to the influence of White supremacy culture in Quaker meetings—and in the world beyond. We’ll also hear Lauren’s thoughts about a new book from Cherice Bock, A Quaker Ecology, which challenges Friends to deepen their relationship with nature and act on environmental stewardship. Podcast Link

Tending Sacred Ground:Respectful Parentingby Pamela Haines – reviewed by Janaki Spickard Keeler – Friends Journal  – March 1, 2024

As parents, we often long for straightforward answers to our parenting questions, but the dilemmas we face are rarely simple. Should I allow my child to play with toy weapons? How do I help my kid respond to bullying? When is it better to let my child learn from the natural consequences of her actions, and when is it better to intervene to avert disaster? Pamela Haines shares stories from her own parenting journey that model her approach of “respectful parenting.” Tending Sacred Ground rarely has direct answers or advice for the big questions, but Haines’ honesty and the intentional way she approaches each interaction help us look at the bigger picture of how to parent in a world that often does not look out for our children’s best interests. Continue Reading

Trusting God in a Season of Waiting – by Rebecca Lucas – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

I am neither a biblical scholar on the topic of prayer, nor am I a scientific researcher of the physical benefits of prayer. I am a seeker, trying to understand close encounters I have experienced with the Divine. I have had questions most of my life. Why do my spiritual sensibilities seem out of sync with my upbringing in a nondenominational Christian church? Why do I feel a presence calling me to serve? Why am I being haunted by the healing lyrics of a particular song on the radio every time I get in the car? How do I know if the inner voice speaking to me is divine intervention, my own inner monologue, or enemies of the Light? Where is God’s voice when I need it most? I have suffered the unexpected loss of a spouse, cared for a dying parent in hospice, felt rejection and heartbreak in a relationship, and known the regret of making poor decisions and their consequences. I’ve had my fair share of being alone in the darkness shouting Why did this have to happen? or pleading Please take away this pain! In those prayerful moments of accepting that I am broken and feeling that I have lost control, my season of healing begins. Continue Reading

Carrying Light to Need – by John Calvi – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

I’ve been asked to pray for many people. Here’s what that experience has grown into and become for me. I gather some deep quiet and stillness. Then, with all my tenderness, I bring into my awareness and consciousness a sense of the person’s essence, feel it deeply, and share my essence of calm and reverence, always listening for any messages. It’s a joining of beings, sensing another’s experience and bringing a gift of peace. It is carrying Light to need, not joining in suffering (which honors no one). The simple work of spiritual care is easily spoken, but the concentration and maintenance of an open posture is exhausting, especially while living in a noisy, popular culture of commerce rather than community.… Like sitting in meeting for worship, we can strengthen the muscles that let us be still and not hear ourselves. One’s capacity to listen without thinking comes to that quiet place of wonder and awe. That’s when prayer is most organic: it’s lots of power that only needs witness, and the meaning becomes clearer later. Continue Reading

The Fundamental Principle of Quaker Spirituality: Light in the Conscience by David Johnson – reviewed by Patricia McBee – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

Early Quaker writings affirm that everyone is anointed by an Inward Light and endowed with a conscience that is illuminated by that Light. But we know that not everyone lives a life of compassion, integrity, and faithfulness. As David Johnson notes, “All people have the Inward Light, but some just do not notice it.” We need an operating manual for how to access that Light and to empower it to guide us. While The Fundamental Principle of Quaker Spirituality is mainly focused on, as the subtitle announces, the Light in the conscience, Johnson weaves in some basic elements of such an operating manual. Continue Reading

The Glory of God Was Revealed – by Marcelle Martin – Friends Journal – March 1, 2024

William Dewsbury, like many of those who became the first Quakers, was a spiritual seeker from childhood.… He had been disappointed by other zealous religious groups, and he asked himself, was God truly at work among these people? According to an account by Edward Smith, author of William Dewsbury c.1621–1688, Dewsbury prayed to God for clarity: “I cried mightily unto the Lord in secret, that He would signally manifest Himself at that time amongst us, and give witness to His power and presence with us.” Afterward Dewsbury witnessed some miraculous healings, and this provided him the assurance he had sought: “I can never forget the day of his great power and blessed appearance, when he first sent me to preach his everlasting Gospel. . . . And he confirmed the same by signs and wonders; and particularly by a lame woman who went on crutches. . . . Richard Farnsworth, in the name of the Lord, took her by the hand, and George Fox after, spoke to her in the power of God, and bid her stand up, and she did, and immediately walked straight, having no need of crutches any more.” This healing and others witnessed by Dewsbury were for him outward signs of God’s blessing on the Quaker message and ministry. They corresponded to the inner confirmation he had already received, and this provided a joy and courage that stayed with him even during subsequent long years of imprisonment. Continue Reading

Jon Fosse: “To Me, Writing Is Listening” – an interview by Sharlee DiMenichi – Friends Journal – February 29, 2024

Last October, Norwegian author and playwright Jon Fosse was awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature. When we learned he has Quakers in his family, and attended meeting for worship for a time himself, our curiosity was piqued—even more so when he told Friends Journal staff writer Sharlee DiMenichi during a recent Zoom interview that, even after formally converting to the Catholic Church, “I experience the mass very much like a Quaker meeting.” In this excerpt from that conversation, Fosse talks about what initially drew him to Quakerism: “I left the Norwegian Lutheran Church as soon as I could, at 16, because I thought it was rubbish. I couldn’t stand it. And then I didn’t belong to any kind of—I had no religious connection. But I knew about the Quakers, and I read more about them and I learned about them. But as a young man, I called myself an atheist. What changed my way of thinking about it was, in fact, my own writing. Where does it come from? When I think about other writers and composers, the music of Bach, where does it come from? How can you explain that in a materialistic way? No, you can’t. Then that spiritual space, or what you call it, opened up for me…. And then it wasn’t that long to come to this kind of understanding of the concept of Inner Light and to reach God, through science in a way. To me, it was and it is obvious. It became completely obvious to me. So it is. That’s the truth for me. And it still is.” Continue Reading

Being White Today by Shelly Tochluk and Christine Saxman – reviewed by Michael S. Glaser – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

Bridget Moix, the general secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), recently wrote in a report to FCNL members: “Our Quaker faith compels us to listen deeply, respectfully and in recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of every person, including those with whom we disagree.” A core message in Shelly Tochluk and Christine Saxman’s Being White Today is very similar to what Quaker author Parker Palmer urges in his 2011 book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: we must practice making time to listen to each other’s stories if we are ever to be able to understand and meaningfully respond to people whose views are different from ours. Additionally, we must develop some profound awareness of how we are different from those whose ideas we would hope to change. Continue Reading

Escaping Oppenheimer’s Shadow – by Anthony Manousos – Friends Journal – February 20, 2024

Growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, in the early 1960s, I was best friends with Sam, who was the son of Princeton University professor Marvin Goldberger, a renowned nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, studied with Enrico Fermi, and was a colleague of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Watching the movie Oppenheimer brought back memories of this formative period of my life. Oppenheimer’s life story is profoundly tragic, as most war stories are. Nolan’s film portrays him in all his ambiguity: brilliant, full of hubris, and morally conflicted. He realizes too late that he has released the genie of mass destruction from its bottle, and his efforts to curtail the consequences of this act of hubris prove futile. I’d like to contrast this tragic and morally ambiguous story with that of the unsung heroes of the peace movement who helped to end the Cold War and reverse the arms race. Continue Reading 

Brightening My Corner by Ruth Lor Malloy – reviewed by Judith Wright Favor – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

Quaker practices, divine directives, and innate curiosity guided Ruth Lor Malloy in her lifelong fight against racial discrimination. Now in her 90s, the author started life in a small Canadian town, the granddaughter of a Chinese concubine. After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1954 where she studied religion and had been involved with the Student Christian Movement, she traveled to Mexico to participate in a workcamp run by American Friends Service Committee. This experience introduced her to Quaker beliefs. She started going to meetings for worship once back in Toronto, and later became a member, calling Quakerism her “spiritual anchor” as she traveled the world. Continue Reading

Revelation in the Woods – by Carol Shearon – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

I experience God the Creator most directly when I am immersed in the natural world. Surrounded by the forests, mountains, and ponds of New Hampshire, I feel awe and joy. It’s hard work to climb the high peaks: work I’ve done gladly, hiking all 48 of the 4,000 footers in the White Mountains. So the mile-and-a-half hike from the trailhead to Cole Pond, a gorgeous remote glacial pond, is literally “a walk in the woods” that I’ve done 100 times in the last 25 years. On a Thursday in late August, I needed the solitude of Cole Pond. I put my sunglasses and my thermos filled with ice water in my fanny pack and drove to the trailhead. At 2:30 p.m., I set off. Walking briskly, I inadvertently left the path. This wrong turn seemed so obvious, the path so clear, that I knew I was on the old path and decided to follow it. After about 20 minutes, I saw a downed dead tree that looked familiar, not from years ago, more likely ten minutes ago! A series of clear and surprising realizations came to me. I was not on a path. I had likely walked in some kind of circle from which I would not be able to retrace my steps. I had no idea where I was, and I’d left my phone at home. I also hadn’t told anyone where I was going. Continue Reading

Lending Their Hands – by Sharlee DiMenichi – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

Some Quakers have a long history of helping newcomers adjust to life in a strange country. Others got involved in resettlement support in response to anti-immigrant rhetoric before and during the time of former President Donald Trump’s administration in 2017–2021. With the support of their meetings, as well as partnerships with other faith-based organizations, Quakers are lending their hands to people who have fled dire circumstances in their home countries and sought refuge in the United States. Five years ago, Ann Arbor (Mich.) Meeting got a call about a man from Guinea who collapsed due to end-stage kidney failure as he was being deported, according to Johanna Kowitz, who is a member of Ann Arbor Meeting. “The response from our meeting was, ‘How can we not do this?’” said Kowitz. Continue Reading

Dancing in the Darkness by Otis Moss III – reviewed by Lauren Brownlee – Friend Journal – February 1, 2024

Dancing in the Darkness is full of spiritual guidance that is relevant to this moment. Otis Moss III calls readers to “spiritual audacity,” and shares that we can achieve it by grounding ourselves in “courage, faith, self-love, prayer, meditation, or compassion in the belief that we are designed with purpose and agency to shift small elements in our control that may result in larger changes.” He gives us tools for our spiritual toolboxes: vulnerability, prophetic grieving, forgiveness, and “liberation listening,” which is “faith that if we will truly listen, then your liberation will be my liberation, and mine will contribute to yours.” He helps readers understand that if we implement those practices, we will continue to be able to see the Divine Light in each other, no matter how dark our world can feel. Although Moss is a pastor to a United Church of Christ community, I believe that many Quakers will feel as I do, that he is speaking to our condition. Continue Reading

Gathered Together by John Colman Wood – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

Keeping bees is not simply a matter of taking their honey. We beekeepers have a reciprocal relationship with our bees. And bees are remarkably attentive. They know what the beekeeper does and what the beekeeper smells like. There is even science to indicate that bees recognize individual people by sight. Beekeepers also come to know the personalities of our different hives. We know the behaviors, the sounds, and even the smells of healthy and sick, strong and weak, peaceful and agitated colonies. Being together, we come in time to know each other. I have come to see my work with bees as a form of worship. Writing about bees is an opportunity to reflect on what worship means to me, and it has helped me to explain why I much prefer in-person worship over worshiping on Zoom or other virtual platforms. Continue Reading

Enlarging the Tent by Jonathan Doering and Nim Njuguna – reviewed by Patience A. Schenck – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

Have you ever enjoyed eavesdropping on an interesting conversation? That is what reading Enlarging the Tent, the transcript of a series of discussions between two Quaker men on the topic of racial justice, is like. Jonathan Doering and Nim Njuguna explore many aspects of antiracism. One is alliance with the people directly oppressed by racism: How do we do it effectively? How do we connect with White people in denial? How do we work for diversity and inclusion among Friends without inflicting guilt or shame, which often hardens denial? How do we gain intellectual knowledge about racism without neglecting to continually examine our own attitudes and the assumptions we grew up with? We need to recognize how culture and the media reinforce certain beliefs, attitudes, and societal forces; how they are hard-wired to reinforce privilege; and how blind we can be to these factors. And how do we become comfortable with being uncomfortable? As Doering comments, antiracism is not an event; it is a lifestyle change. It’s the work of a lifetime. Continue Reading

Move Toward the Suffering – by Nathan Kleban – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

Previously, if you asked me to share my spiritual autobiography as Friends do, I might have described a trajectory of growing up without religious or spiritual community, exploring different faith traditions, serving with various Catholic Worker communities, living in Buddhist practice centers, and eventually making my way to Quaker meetings. Spiritual practice carried a sense of cultivating healthy thoughts, speaking kindly, and loving my (immediate) neighbors. Now the narrative of participating in particular communities and working on my individual growth has shifted to recognizing and being called to work with wider material concerns, including the ecologies within which we are enmeshed. Prior to my “spiritual” life, I received an undergraduate degree in economics. Over time, my attention has moved back toward learning about topics like global debt structures and monetary policy, as they’re deeply related to material and ecological concerns.… The etymological root of the word economics means “the way to run a household,” so economics isn’t so remote from these concerns: we’re all a part of the global household, including those working the fields and incarcerated people, who are also often performing some kind of work. Continue Reading

Quaker Dreams – by Marcelle Martin – Friends Journal – February 1, 2024

Dreams predicted the beginning of Quakerism before it happened. Mary Penington was an ardent Puritan before the English Civil War. Widowed by the war in 1644, she lost faith in the various Puritan denominations and stopped attending church services. Still, she continued praying for guidance on a daily basis. In her time of grief, she had some remarkable dreams about a future religion. In one she saw Christ, in both male and female form, enter a large hall wearing plain gray clothes. Christ embraced a series of humble people, which she saw as a sign of his wisdom. Finally he beckoned her to come to him. When the Quaker movement began a few years later, it proclaimed that the Spirit of Christ can manifest itself equally in men and women. Several years later Quakers collectively began dressing in plain gray clothes. Continue Reading

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence – Recommended by Ann Watkins

This Palestinian American professor leans on his Quaker faith during conflict – Recommended by Sarah Perry

Sa’ed Atshan is a professor of peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore College. He is also a Palestinian American with family still in the West Bank. He grew up going to a Quaker school in Ramallah and through that experience became a Quaker himself. And he is personally tethered to the news in a way I didn’t expect. Read More (NPR)

 

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