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Communicating Quaker experience to connect and deepen spiritual lives
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April 2018 Full Issue Access

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:35
Members can download the full PDF or read any article online (see links below). Features: “Nurturing Growth and Healing through Stories” by Astuti Bijlefeld, “Balancing Acts” by Ruthe Schoder-Ehri, “Meeting for Worship for Healing” by Richard K. Lee and Sarah M. Lloyd, “The Cost of a Healing Gift” by John Jeremiah Edminster. Poetry: “A Day of Waiting” by

Among Friends: Holding in the Light

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:30
I sat, scared and feigning calm, on the crinkly paper of an exam table in a surgeon’s office, my spouse in the chair beside me. I remember the waiting. It had been three weeks since the biopsy, with no word at all about what they found, and the minutes waiting for the surgeon to come in felt especially concentrated. We had been hearing the click of her high-heeled shoes, back and forth down the hall. They were going to click into our room, the surgeon a picture of competence and certitude, and we were going to hear

Nurturing Growth and Healing through Stories

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:25

@milosz_g

Early each spring, my garden offers me images for the work I do as chaplain. Some days as I walk through the garden, there is mud everywhere. There is much to be cleaned up, and there are stark reminders of last year’s mistakes and failures. I begin to think how much work this garden will require. On some of these days, I wonder what makes me think that the garden will turn out any better this year.

On most days, however, I see more than last summer’s shortcoming. I see the mud but also the possibilities. I actually look forward to the coming work and know that I will bring with me the lessons from past successes as well as failures. Those are the days that the garden holds promise and endless possibilities. On those days, I know for sure that this time the garden is going to be good! These are my images for the work I do as chaplain: walking through the mud; seeing possibilities; and watching for signs of growth that point to hope, as new life begins to reach for the light.

In this setting, hope and signs of growth often lie buried deep beneath the surface. In this space, through sharing stories, we find ways to uncover hope and to notice small signs of new life beginning to take hold.

During the past five years, much of my chaplaincy work has been with veterans in a substance abuse treatment program. Several times a week, we meet in small groups to explore the role of spirituality in recovery. At their best, these groups become a space for listening, for giving voice to the big questions, and for allowing these questions to sit with us. Many veterans come to this place weary and heavy-laden indeed. They carry burdens of grief or guilt, loss or shame: burdens some of them have already carried for decades. They come with the humility to be honest about the wreckage they have left behind and with the courage to ask for help.

In this setting, hope and signs of growth often lie buried deep beneath the surface. In this space, through sharing stories, we find ways to uncover hope and to notice small signs of new life beginning to take hold. We switch to another language, to another way of looking at the world and at ourselves. This is no longer the language of facts and proof and differences; this is the language of imagination and possibilities and connections. Stories are the language of spirituality. Spirituality pertains to what gives meaning and purpose to our lives, provides a framework, and offers continuity and community. As Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham write in The Spirituality of Imperfection, human beings throughout history have resorted to the medium of stories, “which use words in ways that go beyond words to speak the language of the heart.”

A story may catch us off-guard when we suddenly recognize ourselves in it. Stories can charm their way past our defenses, bypass our resistance, and overturn our ready answers. Standing in a long tradition of master storytellers, Jesus often taught through parables. To those who already had all the answers and who were sure they always knew right from wrong, Jesus would respond with a story: “There was a man who had two sons” or “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Stories work because we recognize the people and situations in them, and we will likely meet ourselves in there. God and truth and right are no longer abstracts in a story: they are suddenly there in our midst. In Storycatcher, Christina Baldwin quotes from the Hasidic tradition: “What is truer than truth? The Story.”

As we relearn how to tell and to listen to stories, they are no longer “just stories”—they become truer than truth. There are times in a group that the change in the room is tangible: people relax and may even sit back while we all become listeners as someone begins, “Here is a story, a true story.” As people begin to tell and hear and value their own stories, they may also begin to change and give new shape to the narratives of their lives. It can happen that someone comes across the answer he or she has been searching for, already contained within the story. There is always awe in the silence that follows such a revelation and awe in the voices that gently ask the speaker, “Did you hear what you just said?”

The language of spirituality is the vocabulary of hope, in Kurtz and Ketcham’s elegant phrasing. Spirituality offers guidance and direction. More than explanations, spirituality offers forgiveness. Hope, direction, and forgiveness are what veterans in my groups are searching for. With each new group, we return to the Exodus story as a narrative of the long, long road to freedom. Especially in this setting, it becomes clear that this journey is not only a geographical but also a spiritual journey. Far more than “changing people, places, and things,” this journey requires changing the way we see ourselves. All travelers on this road are not merely changing where they are but who they believe they are. Since spirituality is about “how I see myself and my place in the world,” one of my tasks is to listen for changes in another’s self-understanding. Even finding a starting point for this journey can require real courage. Often as we begin this conversation, someone in the back of the room will say, barely audibly, “I don’t even know who I am.” As we talk about the losses veterans carry with them, more than one will name the most painful loss: “I lost my way, my soul, myself.”

While watching growth happen is a joy, watching grace happen is a gift.

Blade of Light by Cherry Rahn, a sculptor and painter and a member of Central Finger Lakes Meeting in Geneva, N.Y.

In this particular garden where there often is a lethal lack of hope, heartbreak and enormous challenges grow like weeds. There can be open resistance and even hostility. The question is never far away: what makes anyone think it will turn out better this time? Any growth is all the more precious because, here, hope is always a fragile sprout. Here we know the odds, the very real dangers, and setbacks. We know that some veterans will leave the program in anger, in impatience, or in despair. We know that some may return again years later, ready to change, and that some may not live through their first weekend out.

While watching growth happen is a joy, watching grace happen is a gift. In one group, this exchange took place between a veteran in his 60s and another veteran a good 30 years younger: “Listen to me, brother: you don’t want to keep doing this; you can still change.” The response: “I hear you. I love you, man, but in 30 years I don’t want to end up sitting where you are now.” Direction, guidance, acceptance, hope, love—it was all there.

Some weeks ago, a very young man in the group of newcomers mustered the courage to ask a question that was haunting him. He described his struggle with drugs and his failing to live up to his good intentions, saying, “I can’t do what I really want to do, and I keep doing things I don’t want to do.” The word his church’s leaders had used to judge him when he went to them for help was seared in his memory. He asked, “Do you think that makes me defective?“ Silently I said, “Thank you, Paul,” for allowing me to respond with confidence, “No, that makes you human” (Rom. 7:19). The young man let out a long breath as others silently nodded their agreement. Spirituality is the language of hope.

Of course, the image and metaphor of the garden is ancient. The glorious hymn of awe and praise that is the first chapter of Genesis is followed by this image in the second, “and the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Gen. 2:8). As soon as the Holy One had called light and skies and stars, seas and mountains into being with a word, the real work began. God looks at this world and at us as a gardener does, seeing this year’s potential and not last year’s failures. Like any gardener, God looks around, sees the endless possibilities, and gets to work. And the work continues, some of us planting, some watering, while God gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6).

The post Nurturing Growth and Healing through Stories appeared first on Friends Journal.

Balancing Acts

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:20

©PerfectLazybones

 

Healing is a dynamic and a kinetic, a fluid action, a movement toward balance and peace. Our true north, our core nature, is homeostasis: a place of balance and peace. Our human organism seeks this at all times, as we breathe and as we are breathed. We seek balance as we eat and as we are eaten away; we balance as we sing, as we are sung. These are truths that I know from my life, and this is my invocation: O Mystery, bring me to a still point, to soft equilibrium.

I was a nurse for 35 years. This profession for me was an earnest combination of altruism and endless curiosity. Nursing was a tireless meeting of others in need: assessing, responding, encouraging, cleaning, instructing, documenting, praising, coaxing. We often juggled the needs of several sets of patients at once at a busy childbirth center, with a public health caseload, or in a village outreach program. My family, marriage, and sons needed many of these same skills. Considering what constitutes healing was often set aside until I felt that I had time to rest and ponder. At meeting for worship on First Day, I would sit down and sink into the silence, accompanied by the thousands of tiny interactions of my busy week, and know that I could finally allow all this to return to Source.

In this prepared ground, this milieu of meeting together, the Great Mystery is most welcome.

The most useful core concept that animated my practice was this: You nurse with your self. This was relatively radical—to the root—and a concept usually reserved for classes in the four-year nursing education programs’ courses in nursing philosophy. It was not well understood by many of my coworkers, supervisors, and administrators. Nursing as one human being actually being with another was captured neither in the National League for Nursing (NLN) professional board examinations, nor the hospital documentation matrices, nor efficiency time studies.

Yet, for me, this tenet survived through all those years of long hospital shifts, and later as a public health nurse, meeting impoverished young teens and families in the complex urban “jungle” of Seattle or in an Alaskan village. This took time. This was a priority. This became even more true as my experience deepened and I questioned whether healing actually resulted from my efforts to apply conventional medical interventions, or whether healing was a rather mysterious occurrence for both myself and my patients or clients.

You nurse with your self. This interpersonal dynamic—this meeting of souls—was present when all the hard stuff and all the good stuff happened through those years. This is the golden filament that carried through from allopathic nursing and into holistic medicine when I became a classical homeopath. I love this process; I stay with this.

In homeopathic consultation and healing—as in Quaker meeting for worship—there is a belief in the presence and power of the vital force or the inner Light in each being. Both worship and homeopathy invite and employ expectant presence and patient waiting. At best, there is a release of attachment, judgment, and assumptions. Deep listening ensues.

In this prepared ground, this milieu of meeting together, the Great Mystery is most welcome. Mystery—and the unfolding of a person, body and soul—is listened for and longed for. Space is made for right and true energies. And in this way, whatever is out of balance, that which is wonky or wobbly or seemingly broken beyond repair, arrives as well, often cloaked with veils of mystery. These are fascinating to a homeopath or a seeker: these teasing tendrils of life experience and personal expression. Homeopathy calls this the constitutional self-regulating core of being, as it unfolds in conversation, in gesture, and often in silence. For me, it is the fleeting precious arrival of the numinous between us.

We are privileged to discover together that this sweet spot is the occasion of healing. Dynamic and elusive, healing is one of the loveliest gifts of human existence. As one self truly encounters another, as pain or puzzle is expressed, witnessed, and held, there opens a space for a shift, however tiny, toward the good, toward the just, toward the true.

Healing is cherished and invited but ever mysterious: sometimes dancing just beyond our reach, other times sneaking up on us from behind in a dream.

The task is to stay here, quietly, perhaps longer than feels comfortable, away from value judgments, associations, and explanations. As we just rest in the silence together, what can and will emerge is some indication or some clue to lead the way toward the wholeness, the healing, or health that is sought.

This moment may not look or feel like what we want. A dying patient may not get up and say, “Well that was a close call, but I’m not going to die now.” Yet a deep healing can have occurred in the conversation or silence, in the meeting of souls, in the realization of the precious gift of life and choice.

Overt recognition of healing in the labor room may be eclipsed by the excited welcome of a glossy, sputtering new being, yet the mother and all who attend her have witnessed a miracle. The mother takes with her a knowing in her flesh and bones that she has been incredibly brave and that she has participated in the most intimate way in the incubation and bringing forth of new life.

There may not have been anything wrong in her pregnancy and labor; there may not have been a diagnosis or problem for the hospital problem list. Yet great healing has occurred! For this moment at least, all the time when she doubted her own character, strength, and abilities has dissolved. She knows, in her fatigue and great amazement, that now she has arrived at a new place and time. She is new, in relationship, as the healing vessel for this child and for herself. She’s done what she didn’t believe possible, and she has been witnessed and accompanied.

In all of this, healing is a dynamic and elusive force. Healing is cherished and invited but ever mysterious: sometimes dancing just beyond our reach, other times sneaking up on us from behind in a dream. Healing is a verb: a slowing, flowing movement toward balance, toward the good. Healing is always occurring on a continuum, a trajectory of goodness.

I feel incredibly grateful for all the opportunities given to me to meet another and to meet myself. We become partners together in a healing process. We all can nurse ourselves toward the goodness of being ever more fully human.

The post Balancing Acts appeared first on Friends Journal.

Meeting for Worship for Healing

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:15

© Burlingham

Meeting for worship for healing (healing prayer) is a gathering for the purpose of holding people, concerns, and situations in the Light. Jesus Christ was a healer. There are 42 stories of his healings in the New Testament, and he assured those whom he called “friends,” rather than “servants” (John 15:15), that they would be able to do the same miracles he did and even more (14:12). Healing has been an activity of Friends from the very beginning. George Fox, James Nayler, Elizabeth Hooton, Mary Penington, and other members of the Valiant Sixty were healers, but records of their healing work were suppressed out of fear of persecution: Friends did not wish anyone to think they were drawing upon or claiming occult powers. George Fox recorded his miraculous healings in a book in order to prove that he followed in the footsteps of Jesus, having the intention it be published after his death. This book, however, and other mentions of healing work were suppressed by Friends of his time, and remained in the shadows until the mid-twentieth century.

Historian Henry J. Cadbury reconstructed some of the book of miracles using the index of Fox’s writings, Fox’s letters, and his unedited Journal. It was published as George Fox’s Book of Miracles in 1948, with an extensive introduction and notes relating to the healing activities of early Friends. It was reprinted by Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) in 2000. Friends Fellowship of Healing, in England, has supported the healing work of Friends and meetings for worship for healing since 1935. It has among its publications many pamphlets dealing with healing, including George Fox and the Healing Ministry by R. D. Hodges. Healing and miracles did not stop when the Valiant Sixty passed on.

Richard Lee first encountered meeting for worship for healing in the home of his English Quaker grandmother when he visited her in Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire, in the late 1960s. Although she was part of a continuous practice passed down from early Friends, it was little known and rarely practiced by North American Friends at the time. The tradition of meeting for worship for healing rose out of early Friends meetings for sufferings during the time when Quakers were being persecuted and thrown in jail on the slightest pretext, often leaving children, livestock, and crops behind and in need of care. At these meetings for sufferings, Friends would gather and worship with attention to what needed to be done to alleviate suffering brought on by persecution. As led by the Spirit during worship, they would then divide up tasks. When the persecutions subsided, the focus changed to folks who were ailing. Gradually, some of the meetings for sufferings evolved into meetings for worship for healing.

Wholeness can come in many different ways. People can receive their heart’s desire as a result of healing prayer, but sometimes the problem presented is a metaphor for something else in life that requires a person to explore further.

© Tatyana

Richard’s grandmother Florence Rose Morgan began instructing him in the ways of healing prayer when he visited her several times in his late teens and early 20s. She held meeting for worship for healing in her home, following the tradition passed down to her through the Foresters of the Forest of Dean in Cinderford, where she spent most of her adult life. Based on this tradition, she appreciated the work of James Nayler more than that of George Fox, although she recognized them both as healers. Friends she knew in Arlingham had records of early Friends meetings for sufferings going back to the 1600s, and they shared this information with Richard in 1966.

In the mid-1980s, Richard began holding occasional meetings for worship for healing in his home. He and Verne and Shirley Bechill also offered them at Lake Erie Yearly Meeting and at the Friends General Conference Gathering as an interest group. In the early 1990s, he traveled to meetings throughout North America and visited England, where he interviewed elderly Friends who had lived into the tradition. He also met with representatives of the Friends Fellowship of Healing and collected their published materials. In 1994, Richard established a regular monthly meeting for worship for healing in his home under the care of Red Cedar Meeting in Lansing, Michigan, that continues to this day.

Meeting for worship for healing is a Quaker meeting for worship that differs from First-day worship in that the clerk directs the attention of worshipers to the persons, concerns, and situations for which healing prayer has been requested. Messages are welcomed. Laying on of hands is also welcomed, if the person requesting healing is comfortable with that. Meeting for worship for healing is not exactly “faith healing,” nor is it shamanic or Reiki. It is, however, friendly to and supplements other healing modalities including Western medicine. Laying on of hands, in particular, can be an important supplement to Western medicine, which rarely includes touch. The purpose of healing prayer is to shift the energy in and around the person or situation in the direction of wholeness. It is usually not intercessory prayer. Spirit is present within and around us all the time and illuminates the worship for Friends from within. Friends assembled often experience a sense of being surrounded by Light or warmth or a loving Presence. Holding the person or situation in the Light both corporately and individually, we join with Spirit to help make the change that is needed.

Wholeness can come in many different ways. People can receive their heart’s desire as a result of healing prayer, but sometimes the problem presented is a metaphor for something else in life that requires a person to explore further. We may discover that someone or something close—an herb, a pet, a family member—can open the door to healing. The emotions around the request can be important. When meeting on behalf of someone seriously or dangerously ill or something direly wrong, it’s important for us to share our fears when the request is first mentioned, and then later, as led by the clerk, go into worship and see what Spirit can do. When physical healing is experienced, it is important to check the situation out with medical or other professionals. Our group has experienced what many of us would term miracles.

Red Cedar Meeting’s meeting for worship for healing is held from 7–9:00 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, and usually there are at least eight to ten of us who faithfully come together to hold individuals, concerns, or situations in the Light. Some Friends come early to help with setting up and having the important preliminary social conversations. Others arrive when they can and slip in quietly, if worship has started. It is better to come late than not to come at all. Healing prayer can take a lot of energy, so there is always food plus a variety of hot teas.

The formal part of the evening begins with the clerk asking for signs of hope, including updates on folks who were held in the Light at earlier meetings for worship for healing. Richard places great importance on the training of clerks, and he has been at this for 23 years, so we have a lot of folks who can serve. Someone clerking for the first time will find a lot of guidance and support from other participants. The group helps the clerk compile the list. Generally, we aim to keep our primary list of requests to around eight, giving priority to folks who are physically present. It’s important to keep requests confidential within the group. After a period of centering, as the clerk is led, he or she will introduce the requests one at a time into our gathered worship, and we will hold it in the Light with full attention. Each clerk has her or his own style of determining the order of the requests and the length of time devoted to each one.

Friends also have their own approaches to healing prayer, and very different experiences of the presence of Spirit. Some folks see colors; others visualize physical problems in detail; some are led to sing or to give vocal ministry as they would in a First-day meeting for worship. Others may be led to laying on of hands. Since not everyone is comfortable with being touched, a chair is placed in the center of the healing circle and persons who wish laying on of hands and who are able can move to it when their request is presented by the clerk. Persons who stay in place in the circle will be held in the Light but not physically touched, unless they have requested it. When those requesting can’t be physically present, worshiping with us from wherever they are can be helpful. Toward the end of our worship, folks are encouraged to name other individuals or concerns, expanding our healing prayer to include many more requests than the original seven or eight. We aim to keep a framing silence after each offering. We find that as the evening progresses, the worship deepens. Sometimes Friends experience a very deep connection to each other and to the Spirit, and the closing of worship is difficult because it is truly covered.

Before the next meeting for worship for healing, we usually follow up and check in with folks who have been held in the Light in the previous gathering. Our aim is for wholeness, recognizing that a situation might be part of a larger picture. We each approach the Light as we are individually and corporately led, and we are careful to pray as the focus person would wish. Therefore, we don’t pray in judgment or condemnation. We also don’t pray for someone who does not wish for prayers. At the end of the evening, Friends often share our individual and corporate experiences that have come out of the worship. Sometimes the conversations continue well into the evening.

Wholeness may manifest immediately or slowly over time, and sometimes it is achieved only after the person dies: a good death can be a form of healing.

© Feel good studio

Coming into wholeness can take a variety of forms. After healing prayer, a friend facing surgery might find during pre-op testing that the surgery is no longer required. A Friend may realize during healing prayer that a long-standing family feud is being caused by his own greed. A Friend may discover while being held in the Light that forgiving someone instead of wanting to kick him may allow a stubborn ankle sprain to heal. Vocal ministry heard during healing prayer may lead a Friend to a new attitude, a new course of action, or a new doctor. Wholeness may manifest immediately or slowly over time, and sometimes it is achieved only after the person dies: a good death can be a form of healing.

Since 1994 Richard has led or co-led 22 weeklong workshops at the Friends General Conference Gathering. Sarah Lloyd, Richard’s assistant, has been the person of presence at the last two. The workshop size has ranged from 8 to 35 Friends. These workshops have “taught Friends how to do it” while also providing a space for individuals, families, and friends to experience healing. Richard has also led more than 30 workshops at Lake Erie Yearly Meeting and done weekend workshops for monthly meetings. For more descriptive, historical, and background information in support of the meeting for worship for healing, please go to the resources page on the Red Cedar Meeting website, Redcedarfriends.org, and type “Meeting for Healing Resources” in the search box.

This work is all a blessing, and healing can “confound the calculus of rationality” as South African Friend and physicist George F. R. Ellis once remarked. Please feel free to join us in healing prayer on the third Monday of the month from wherever you are. We welcome folks to share their own experiences in Quaker meeting for worship for healing. Strive to be open to miracles, Friends, in your own lives.

The post Meeting for Worship for Healing appeared first on Friends Journal.

The Cost of a Healing Gift

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:10

© kreus

“Know the virtue of a healing tongue and how to use it.” —James Nayler (1618–1660)

“This anointing is for real. Don’t abuse it.” I woke with my palms buzzing, hearing a voice in my mind saying these words. I’d heard that voice before, and it had a ring of authentic divinity to it, though I couldn’t explain why I thought so. But surely many of my Quaker readers have read “The Lord said to me” in George Fox’s Journal, and perhaps also Isaac Penington’s famous outburst, “This is he, this is he; there is not another, there never was another!” Well, Friend, these things still happen, and I guess that’s what keeps Quaker faith in continuing and immediate revelation alive. God may reveal Godself as He, She, or It, but God does talk to us. (I’ll be using the pronoun “He” in this account only because that’s truest to my personal experience of the Divine Person.)

That voice had first spoken to me years earlier, not long after I’d made a formal offering of myself to God, inspired by my reading of nineteenth-century Quaker Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life:

Do you, then, now at this moment, surrender yourself wholly to Him? Then, my dear friend, begin at once to reckon that you are His, that He has taken you, and that He is working in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Shortly after that surrender, I heard that voice say, “I give ear.”

The Naming of the Gift

I’d just recently returned from a Christ-centered Friends weekend conference at New York Yearly Meeting’s Powell House, where a gifted namer of Friends’ gifts had identified me as carrying a gift of healing. (Me? Really? Well, coworkers at the box factory had told me that my hands took away their headaches … but a divine gift?) At the end of the gathering, she put her hands over mine, and blessed and “sealed” the gift. And now, a few mornings later, I was hearing confirmation from on high—with a warning attached: no abuse of the gift.

To hear “this anointing is for real” left my mind silent for a moment. Then, predictably, my mind and feelings went wild: What does this mean? What’s next?

I felt fear, of course, that I’d “abuse” the gift in some way that would put me into disfavor with God that I’d rue forever: I certainly wouldn’t ask for money! “Freely ye have received,” Jesus said (Matt. 10:8); “freely give.” Would I fall prey to sexual temptation? I hoped not! But might a subtler temptation blind-side me, like a desire to please and impress people? Or might I abuse the gift by self-protectively hiding it under a bushel?

At the same time, I felt excited to imagine that I might have a miracle worker’s career opening up before me. Bzz! From now on my hands might buzz to tell me that they were “charged” and ready to work wonders. Bzz! They’d tell me where the cancer or the kidney stone was, I’d lay them where the buzzing was loudest, and presto! when the buzzing stopped, I’d know I was done and the patient was cured. It was a little boy’s fantasy of having magical powers, with no doubts, no ambiguities, no failures, no grief over sufferers left unhealed. Problem was, my hands never buzzed again. I sometimes tell people that it’s a “blind gift”: it’s not given to me to know when or how it’s working; I just pray that healing occurs. And enough people report improvement, or heat from my hands, that I persist in offering hands-on prayer.

By the grace of God, I had my life partner, Elizabeth, to share my experience with, and she took the news of the buzzing palms and the interior locution soberly. She’d gone to that weekend conference with me, and had her own gifts of wisdom; discernment; and healing named, blessed, and sealed there. She’d heard the divine voice at times, too.

The prospect of inviting spirit guides reminded me that my gift had been from the Holy Spirit, who would surely be spirit guide enough.

Growing into Giftedness

With encouragement from other Quaker healers, Elizabeth and I began to study techniques of hands-on healing: we went to weekend training workshops; we read the writings of Christian healers; shamanic healers; and practitioners of Reiki, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and homeopathy. I longed to be able to inspect people’s etheric and astral bodies, their chakras and marmas, with a diagnostician’s eye. So long as it involved no straying from Christ, I aspired to know how to mobilize healing virtues in plant spirits, minerals, colors, and sounds, and how to recognize “holy” places.

But none of that connected for us. Then I came to realize that whatever healing knowledge there was to be found in these disciplines, the Omniscient Teacher knew it all already, and He could guide my hands and mobilize healing energies as He knew best. My part is to pray for the patient innocently, willing only to be Christ’s instrument as I lay hands on. Sometimes I imagine His hands superimposed on mine, dark nail-wounds at the center.

Elizabeth and I dropped out of one training program when we were told that at “Level 3” we’d be encouraged to connect with “spirit guides.” We both smelled temptation. But the prospect of inviting spirit guides reminded me that my gift had been from the Holy Spirit, who would surely be spirit guide enough.

I’ve learned to listen to my own moods, as well as body feelings, as possible indicators of a patient’s condition.

Traditional Chinese medicine finds times of day medically relevant, and medical astrology names better and worse times for healing, but no one knew the right time better for my visit to Carla than the Holy Spirit did. Carla was an old friend who’d gone on to medical school and become an MD. Her pituitary gland was overfunctioning, causing Cushing’s disease, and I’d heard she’d gone into the hospital for corrective surgery. I’d had another errand to run in the city, and her hospital was on the way to it, so, I thought, why not pay Carla a visit? I happened to come to her bedside a few hours after the surgery, as she was plunging into a life-threatening Addison’s disease crisis from pituitary underfunctioning. Did my prayer help? Only God knows: but Carla told me later that my timing had been perfect. I’d call it providential.

I learned an important lesson about healing one evening when, in a casual moonlit conversation with a neighbor on our adjacent doorsteps, she told me of her thyroid trouble, and I offered to lay hands on her neck. Whoosh! No sooner had I touched her skin than I felt powerful, unanticipated sexual arousal. “I’ve never been unfaithful to my husband,” she blurted out nervously: she’d felt it, too. No more touching women without a third party present! I’ve made exceptions to this rule since then, but only rarely, and with awareness of the danger involved.

Along the way, I’ve learned some other lessons about being affected by contact with patients. No one else’s sickness has ever made me feel physically sick, but I was once plunged into an inexplicable mood of despair by the close presence of a woman, who then revealed that her husband was dying of cancer. So I’ve learned to listen to my own moods, as well as body feelings, as possible indicators of a patient’s condition.

Growing into Discipline

But the most challenging limitation that my gift imposed on me was one that only dawned on me gradually. It was about discipline of my speech and thoughts.

First, I met two other Christian healers, Wallace and Vanessa, who, like so many (including myself), had been made aware by a miraculous hands-on intervention that the gifts of healing evidenced in the early church (1 Cor. 12:9, 28) had never been taken from it. This had made them eager to seek out other churches in Manhattan that had healing ministries, and someone at the Friends quarterly meeting office had given them the names of Elizabeth and me. The rest, as they say, is history. Through their ministry, I received the training preparatory to membership in the International Order of Saint Luke the Physician (OSL), a body of “clergy, health professionals, and lay people who feel called to make Jesus’s ministry of healing a regular part of our vocation.” I was inducted into the OSL on October 12, 2013.

Part of that training was the systematic study of the healings of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. In those healing stories, I noticed a pattern: Jesus, when about to do a healing, never imputed the morbid condition (leprosy, blindness, deformity) to His patient; instead, his words anticipated the healing He intended to bring about: “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk!”;  “The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth.” To my dismay, I thought I’d found a contrary example in His statement “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14), but upon inspection of the original Greek, I learned that Jesus had said “Lazarus died”: a declaration of a past occurrence but not of a present state. My conclusion was to not risk reinforcing the undesirable condition by talking or writing as if it’s the truth of the situation. Instead I help realize the desired state by naming and celebrating it as if your words had the creative power to help it come true.

The Call to Truthful and Harmless Speech

It grew on me that this was part of a more general calling to what I call “truthful and harmless speech.” The apostle James, challenging all believers to tame the tongue, warns us not to let blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth (Jas. 3:10); Paul also advises, “Bless, and curse not” (Rom. 12:14). This happens to be a teaching of spiritual wisdom worldwide: right speech is one of the components of the Noble Eightfold Path of Theravada Buddhism, and the Hindus’ Bhagavad Gita (17:15) prescribes an “austerity of speech” that limits speech to the inoffensive, the truthful, the desirable, and the practice of reading Scripture. It may seem, of course, that the truth is at times quite offensive and undesirable, and I must charge a person with, say, lying. But instead of calling him a liar (which would be “offensive,” and also “undesirable” in the sense of tending to fix him in that identity permanently), I may simply call his statements untrue, and exercise my option of hoping and praying for his repentance of a frequent recourse to untruth, as I was led to repent of my own. There’s a difference.

Any feelings in my heart of the person’s otherness would tend to subvert that connectedness: gender otherness, ethnic or racial otherness, political or religious otherness, particularly any “other” that, by its very nature, is engaged in a competition for dominance or survival with “my” kind.

Right Livelihood, Nonpartisanship, and Chastity of Thought

None of this taming of the tongue, I realized, would be possible without my abstinence from employment where my superiors would require as part of my work my telling untruths or making  evil appear good (Isa. 5:20). Perhaps a Buddhist would say that right speech requires right mindfulness and right livelihood, two other aspects of the Eightfold Path. By the grace of God, I’m now retired from a world of industry, commerce, and mass persuasion, where I was sometimes complicit in corporate truth bending (may God forgive me). Healers, like other framers of prayer, must mean what they say.

Another realization came when I realized that I must not engage in a contest of wills with a person I wish to heal (2 Tim. 2:24). This meant, for me, ceasing to vote in national elections, although I also had other reasons for doing that, chiefly that I couldn’t, in good conscience, express a preference for one armed Caesar over another armed Caesar. That would be voicing a desire for a lesser evil over a greater evil, after Christ had forbidden me to choose evil at all. Paul warned, long ago, against the kind of sophistry that justifies evil means by the supposedly “good” ends they serve (Rom. 3:8).

But I’ll expand further on the connection I feel between the healer’s call and political nonpartisanship: when I do healing work, “I” step back and ask Christ-in-me to work, which I believe He does in concert with Christ-in-the-other-person, Christ being in no way divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Any feelings in my heart of the person’s otherness would tend to subvert that connectedness: gender otherness, ethnic or racial otherness, political or religious otherness, particularly any “other” that, by its very nature, is engaged in a competition for dominance or survival with “my” kind.

It should take only a moment’s reflection to realize that one can’t hope to tame the tongue if one is exercising no restraint on the heart: “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). To maintain harmless speech, I must steer the heart not only away from violent desires but also from lustful ones, greedy ones, and self-serving ones of all kinds that go beyond the simple demands of self-care. They will still be there in the heart, of course; the point is not to encourage them. I call this discipline “chastity of thought.” If I should happen to fall in love with someone who is not my wife, I may sober myself up with the memory of something I heard the divine voice say one morning when I saw a heartbreakingly beautiful young woman out of my bus window on my way to work: “So you love her, do you? Have you prayed for her?”

The post The Cost of a Healing Gift appeared first on Friends Journal.

A Day of Waiting

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:05

© Richard Griffin

 

Holy Saturday waits
Like a patch of dirt in the lawn
Nothing happening
But shoots, then buds appear
Followed by tomatoes, squash and beans.

Holy Saturday looks dull
It’s the spring in a can
Just boring coils of gray metal
Doing nothing,
Worthless scrap
But waiting 
For the lid to come off.

Hope lost
And was buried.
Nothing to do but go home
And put one heavy foot in front of the other
Because it’s Holy Saturday
And nothing’s happening.

But then Mary shows up with funeral spices
And the gardener whispers her name
And she gets the surprise of her life.
It’s Holy Saturday
Like so many days
Nothing is happening

But the joy

Is in

How

Wrong

We are.

The post A Day of Waiting appeared first on Friends Journal.

Passages

Sun, 2018-04-01 04:00
© digitalskillet1 Perhaps my death will be like Dad’s, surrounded by children and the chaplain and the hospice nurse and some aides on staff who had come to love him, too, singing and praying him on his

Forum April 2018

Sun, 2018-04-01 03:55
Mismanaging fear Thank you for “The Trouble with ‘Strangers’” (Gerri Williams, FJ Feb.). I agree that we need to establish firm limits around people who are intent on mismanaging fear by demonizing others. It is good to maintain a level of compassion for their suffering but never compromise the truth arising from the facts of history. As I see it, the Trump supporters and those who subscribe to fundamentalist beliefs are entrenched in judging themselves and others. It makes them very fearful and angry. They have difficult work to do

News April 2018

Sun, 2018-04-01 03:50
New website features WWI conscientious objectors A website featuring a collection of over 700 digitized archival items from the Swarthmore College Peace Collection that relate to conscientious objection during World War I debuted in February. The website, “Conscientious Objection and the Great War: 1914–1920,” was created and curated by Swarthmore archivist Anne Yoder. The origins of the project go back to 2003 when the Peace Collection received a boxful of documents by brothers David and Julius Eichel, Jewish socialists who were both conscientious objectors (COs) during World War I. Unlike members of

Heart of Oneness: A Little Book of Connection

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:55
By Jennifer Kavanagh. Christian Alternative Books, 2017. 88 pages. $10.95/paperback; $5.99/eBook.

This meditation by a British Quaker may be modest in size, but the subject it addresses is a dauntingly ambitious one; in fact it’s one that could risk a bit of superficiality: the paradox of a world of incredible diversity in creative tension with a mutual interconnectedness. The author wisely does not attempt a head-on tackle of this matter that such volumes have been written about, but merely invites us to think with her about where within ourselves we can learn to find underlying unity. “It is this series of paradoxes that this book will seek to address.”

As the narrative gets underway, her detailed review of the wide reach of this dividedness in the world (colonialism, nationalism, segregation, injustices, social divisions, prejudice, thoughtless exploitation of the environment, and more) could tempt the reader to think, “All right, I really don’t need to be reminded once again of all the world’s familiar disconnections,” but Kavanagh soon begins to introduce examples of the underlying unity shining through in endeavors such as the United Nations and European Union, Alternatives to Violence Programs, and a long list of others down to the personal level. And this is only the beginning: her sweeping journey through various challenges to recognize connectedness also includes learning “shared creatureliness” with other animals, another—by way of the challenge of sustainability—of our relationships to the planet, and our “vertical” oneness across time, manifested compellingly in care for future generations.

Then, as a step toward understanding this tugging of opposites, she brings in the incredible diversity of the natural world, and reminds us of our all-too-recent—and still far from complete—realization that all this is interconnected down to the last atom (in fact, “interconnectedness” shows signs of becoming a fashionable buzzword). The question, as she has posed at the outset, is how then do we find our way to this same unity in our social world? Here we deal with the time dimension just mentioned, and even more strongly with the space dimension. The connectedness we experience in various ways (group performance, Skype, group meditation, and so on) is a “field” that surrounds us, and Friends’ meeting for worship stands for us as a potent distillation of this. It is this consciousness of others’ inner lives and minds that makes for depth of worship. We are seeking unity in the Divine, and this leads the author to the final step (I’ve been rearranging her thoughts a bit to reflect my perception of how one idea develops into another).

God is often defined as no more but also no less than the pure relational act itself: God is “the ultimate oneness,” and oneness with God is oneness with all being. So we need to find oneness with our true self, and finding unity means becoming a unity within ourselves. How do we do this? “Living within ourselves requires allowing enough space … for the Spirit to enter in.” We hold within ourselves balances of disconnection such as light–dark and diversity–unity, and balance is at the core of a unified life. My finding oneness in the world must inevitably be preceded by finding oneness in myself. She reminds us that this—formulated in endless different ways—is to be found at the center of all religious traditions.

But achieving a glimpse of the oneness at the heart of existence and then in oneself is not really the goal here, but merely the gateway to insight. The really crucial step each one of us must take is discerning how this insight guides our living and acting in the world. Within the cramped space of only 66 pages, Friend Kavanagh’s meditation offers a direction.

The post Heart of Oneness: A Little Book of Connection appeared first on Friends Journal.

Warner Mifflin: Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:50
By Gary B. Nash. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. 352 pages. $34.95/hardcover or eBook. Buy from QuakerBooks

Thorough books have been produced in recent years by historians exploring the writings and works of early Quaker anti-slavery activists, including Marcus Rediker’s biography The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (reviewed in FJ Sept. 2017) and David L. Crosby’s annotated collection, The Complete Antislavery Writings of Anthony Benezet, 1754–1783 (reviewed in FJ Nov. 2014).

These books and others have been efforts to recover a little known aspect of early American history: how a small band of religious white people—the most vocal of them Quakers—pressed for the universal emancipation of slaves on moral grounds. They met strong opposition from those with vested economic interests in slavery, including fellow Quakers, yet they persisted.

Now Gary Nash, a history research professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has produced a comprehensive biography of the all-but-forgotten leader of this small movement, Warner Mifflin.

Mifflin, the scion of a wealthy plantation owner, became convinced through epiphanous awakenings to see slavery as an evil antithetical to the natural order and the God who created that order.

Mifflin (1745–1798) freed his own slaves, urged others to do the same, lobbied legislatures to press for slavery’s end, and even advocated and practiced a form of reparations—he called it restitution—paying slaves he freed with money or goods for the work they had done. Southern politicians hated him, with one declaring him “a meddling fanatic.” Many slaves and former slaves held him in the highest regard, as a man who pushed for their cause long after both Lay (1681–1759) and Benezet (1713–1784) and other abolitionists like John Woolman (1720–1772) were gone. Though he would have little or no contact with these activists, Mifflin would take up their cause.

Mifflin grew up on a plantation on the Delmarva Peninsula. As a boy most of his companions were slaves. He did not publicly question the peculiar institution, however, until his late 20s, when he suffered an illness and in his recuperation became, as he wrote, “fully persuaded in my conscience that it is a sin of a deep dye to make slaves of my fellow creatures.” He also wrote he would free slaves because he believed “it to be impossible to obtain that peace my soul desires while my hands are found full of injustice …” Mifflin’s efforts to abolish slavery were complicated by the American Revolution, which tore colonial society apart and sorely tested the Quaker testimony of peace, which Mifflin and others held dear. Many revolutionaries considered Quakers to be royalist sympathizers and profiteers. Quakers were abused and their property destroyed. Mifflin and others risked their lives to travel to Quaker gatherings and to meet with both British and American military leaders to urge peace.

Throughout the war, Mifflin only became more committed to his belief that slavery was a moral wrong. He freed all his slaves and paid them back wages, and his home became a safe haven for slaves and ex-slaves.

Mifflin and other Quakers press leaders of the new United States, including Congress, for an end to slavery. Mifflin was widely known during his lifetime as a leading abolitionist, being praised by like-minded people in the United States and Europe, including Thomas Clarkson, who mentioned him in his popular book on Quakers opposing the slave trade. Southern politicians and businessmen railed against him. But after he died of yellow fever in 1798, his legacy faded almost to oblivion. Now, Professor Nash has delivered a noble effort of, as he puts it, “[r]estoring Warner Mifflin to public memory.” Bravo.

The book has some weaknesses. At points it loses larger themes in too much detail about Mifflin’s family life and his comings and goings. A bigger problem is no fault of Professor Nash, but of the historical record. Here is yet another work about white abolitionists where we learn very little about the people they were trying to free. Slaves, even if named in the book, remain undeveloped as characters because little record was made of their opinions and concerns. We are left to wonder what they thought of the cruel social order in which they were expected to inhabit the lowest level in perpetuity—and we learn little of their own efforts to escape that system’s broad reach.

 

The post Warner Mifflin: Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist appeared first on Friends Journal.

Evicted AND Dream Hoarders

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:45
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. By Matthew Desmond. Crown Publishing Group, 2016. 422 pages. $28/hardcover; $17/paperback; $12.99/eBook. Buy from QuakerBooks Dream Hoarders: How the Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It. By Richard V. Reeves. Brookings Institution Press, 2017. 196 pages. $24/hardcover; $17.99/eBook.

I am not sure when I first became aware that there were (at least) two economies in the United States. Maybe when my client got to my office by three buses instead of one DC Metro train because riding the bus was so much cheaper. Surely when my receptionist quit paying her rent and waited for eviction so that she had enough for a deposit and first month’s rent for her new place—a tactic that never had occurred to me.

These two books reflect those different economies. The one you live in and the one that others live in. Evicted is primarily how the poorer economy works. Dream Hoarders is about the economy in which most Friends live and how we help perpetuate the other economy. Together, these books paint a grim picture, but also give a glimmer of hope.

These books are not focused on racism—they are about poverty and wealth. Ultimately, however, they are about the enduring burdens of segregation and red-line districts.

Evicted, through the fascinating interwoven stories of renters and landlords, tells how eviction has become so profitable that the process has exponentially increased. Tenants are trying to survive a system that is not set up for their survival. Neither good nor bad choices seem to have much bearing on their quests to live in acceptable housing, have enough to eat, and provide stability for their families. In a society that expects people to spend 30 percent or less of their income on housing, some people spend 70 percent or more of their already inadequate income on housing, leaving only a few dollars for food and emergencies. Any emergency means not making the rent and—eventually—getting evicted from their already inadequate housing.

Or maybe not—who gets evicted depends on the caprice of the landlord. A person who complains about rats and holes in the walls and owes a few dollars is more likely to be evicted than a person who passively accepts the horrors in which they live. Anything that brings the police—including complaining of being beaten by their man—can result in eviction. Going to court to oppose eviction may mean the loss of the inadequate job they cling to. A person who is aggressive in the face of demands (usually a man) may be left alone; another person who just tries to avoid being seen (usually a woman) may be evicted instead. Desmond writes: “If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

Those who are evicted find themselves in even worse situations. Furniture, clothing, toys, and food are abandoned, stolen, or destroyed. Court notices and appointment reminders go to the wrong address. A person cannot get an apartment in a better, safer place with an eviction on their record. Their children may have to change schools. Depression may threaten to hang over the whole family. And in most cases eviction leaves the evicted person with insurmountable debt on the court records.

You’d think the insurmountable debt wouldn’t matter—after all these people have nothing that the landlord can levy or attach a lien to—but it does. There are companies that profit by watching to see if the evicted person ever comes into money, for instance, from the final results of litigation over the accident that put them out of work, or from finally crawling up from the depths of their lives. And then one more time they are smacked down, and the money they saw as their salvation disappears, in whole or in part, along with their hopes.

Desmond argues that the federal voucher system where individuals pay 30 percent of their income and the government pays the rest works and should be expanded—an unlikely result in today’s political climate. Although it is clear that the individuals who found stable housing had relatively happy endings.

But the voucher system pays landlords more than the fair market value for apartments, becoming a veritable windfall to landlords even with the additional “burden” of keeping the housing up to code. Because of this skewing many fewer people receive vouchers than qualify and that could be funded. A December 23, 2017 U.S. District Court decision in D.C. required using local neighborhoods to determine fair market value; this decision may have changed that practice.

All in all, this is a book which illuminates Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “Every condition exists simply because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.”

So other than being a shockingly sad story in the human family (a rather abstract view), what does this other economy have to do with most Friends? That is where Dream Hoarders takes up the story.

Dream Hoarders is full of data, most of which is not surprising. There is a widening gap between classes in our country. Rather than call people rich, we call them “upper middle class” and leave that term, “rich,” for the 1 percent. People with money who have children spend that money on helping those children succeed. People without money who have children have fewer choices. There are dozens of graphs illustrating the various points. This is information that you could find in a dozen books over the last ten years. And this, too, is a picture of the legacy of Jim Crow.

What makes Richard Reeves’s book worth the read (besides his humor) is how he frames and explains the data we have heard countless times since the Occupy Movement in 2011. He is focused less on the 1 percent and more on the top 20 percent—the upper middle class in which many if not most Friends comfortably reside. And he focuses on the things people do that don’t just help their children, but that actually harm other children—intentionally or not. He looks at society in the United States as a zero-sum society in which affluent parents violate some vague antitrust rules by promoting their children’s positions. Finally, he provides suggestions on how we, as a nation, can move toward the society which we claim to have and one where the American Dream is not just a fantasy in Frank Capra movies.

But while his framing of the issue is useful—how the upper middle class profits from 529 plans to fund the tax-free education of their children and how they have created a glass floor—his solutions are not.

He suggests the need for downward mobility without really exploring what that would mean. Must children be impoverished to make society fairer? Or could we focus more on grants rather than using the tax code to provide educational aid to those who cannot afford to buy it? The most recent “reform” of the tax code has limited aid for education, but 529 plans for the affluent are still protected. The extremely wealthy, especially employers, gain. Teachers and employees are written out of the code. Is education even the answer in a society where highly educated people cannot reliably find work since 2008? Can we encourage more people to look to skilled work or vocational education? Can we continue to work to blur the red lines of yesterday rather than just displace them with gentrification?

Two books which ostensibly explore economics ultimately highlight the continuing price of white privilege. Neither one provides a complete solution, but both offer insight into a way forward. Both will make you think.

The post Evicted AND Dream Hoarders appeared first on Friends Journal.

Jesus, Christ and Servant of God: Meditations on the Gospel According to John

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:40
By David Johnson. Inner Light Books, 2017. 278 pages. $35/hardcover; $25/paperback; $12.50/eBook. Buy from QuakerBooks

It is certainly not surprising that Quaker publisher Inner Light Books would publish a collection of meditations on the Gospel of John, for light is a prominent theme in John. Early on we read, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people,” and later on Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” John is often referred to as “the Quaker Gospel.” So Australian Quaker David Johnson (son of John?) writes Quaker meditations on this Quaker gospel for a Quaker press. What is he “pressing” for? Johnson writes, “Each of us is invited to follow the inward Light in trust, seeking the possibility of a life of real holiness admitted by Jesus for himself.” Jesus is Christ in that he makes God present for us, and he is servant of God in that he does the will of God.

Here Johnson continues to pursue the task he set out in his previous book, A Quaker Prayer Life. In reading the gospel, Johnson attempts to move his reader “from the head to the heart,” from the intellectual to the spiritual, from information to transformation. Johnson certainly doesn’t neglect the head, for he includes some important information about John, but he aims for the transformation of the heart. The last line of the epilogue is representative: “Open our hearts, O God, to the Light of Christ.”

In 2007–2008, Johnson read every verse of the Gospel of John. For eight months he didn’t read anything else. It was a spiritual journey for him. He notes how the Holy Spirit opened up new meaning for him, and so these meditations are the fruit of that labor of the Spirit in Johnson’s life. He therefore produces what is in essence a Quaker commentary on the Gospel of John. He covers virtually every passage in the gospel, beginning with the Prologue (chapter 1 in John), continuing with the conversations with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman (chapters 3 and 4), moving on to the Feeding of the 5,000 (chapter 6), the miracle of healing the man born blind (chapter 9), the raising of Lazarus (chapter 11), the Farewell Discourses (chapters 13–17), the trial before Pilate (chapters 18–19), and the Resurrection accounts, which include the miraculous catch of fish and the fireside chat with Peter (chapter 21). And he reads these passages in the company of early Friends as well as modern mystical writers such as Thomas Merton. (Unfortunately, the vast majority of the people he quotes are male.)

This book is Christocentric but from a universalistic bent. It centers on Jesus, as the Gospel of John so radically does. Yet it is also open to the truth of other faiths. Johnson often refers to other religious traditions, such as Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism, and says that they communicate that same search for the Ultimate.

This book reminded me of another one with an almost identical subtitle, Conversation with Christ: Quaker Meditations on the Gospel of John by Douglas Gwyn (Quaker Press of FGC, 2011). Curiously, Johnson does not refer to it, though he does refer to two of Gwyn’s works on early Friends. He also does not refer to Quaker biblical scholar Paul Anderson, who has written a number of important works on the Gospel of John. I think particularly of Anderson’s 2000 Pendle Hill pamphlet, Navigating the Living Waters of the Gospel of John.

Nevertheless, Johnson is successful in his project. He shows how “the Quaker Gospel” might still speak to those yearning for authentic religious experience in this age of pluralism. Johnson connects the time of the Gospel of John to the time of early Quakers to today. Anyone interested in a Quaker—or mystical—approach to John could read this book with benefit and inspiration.

This book found me in something of a “dark night of the soul,” so I resonated with his approach. In reading his book, I felt the light of Christ shining in my own (New)heart.

The post Jesus, Christ and Servant of God: Meditations on the Gospel According to John appeared first on Friends Journal.

A Seeker’s Theology: Christianity Reinterpreted as Mysticism

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:35
By John G. Macort. Self-published, 2016. 231 pages. $9.50/paperback. Buy from QuakerBooks

John Macort, formerly an Episcopalian priest but long acquainted with Friends and recently a member, shares with the reader some elements of his spiritual autobiography. The present volume represents a compilation of lectures delivered over the course of several years, and perhaps is best appreciated not by a cover-to-cover march through the book, but rather by reading the chapters as one is drawn to them. Yet the book as a whole is intended to build up a picture of the author’s theology, as a result of his grappling with modern Bible scholarship and modern science.

Macort is strongly of the opinion that (in Bishop John Spong’s words) Christianity must change or die. He shows a broad familiarity with twentieth-century theological currents. The effect of these was to strip away traditional certainties about the nature of God, the nature of the atonement, the place and role of Jesus, and the reliability (or not) of Scripture. In grappling with the latter, theologians from whom Macort has learned an understanding of scripture as the product of communities of faith. With the Christian scriptures, one can make reasonable conjectures about who was speaking, to whom, with what emphases and purposes, and what at least some of their raw materials were. In addition to this humanist–historical view, there also grew up an understanding about the nature of myth (in the sense of a culture’s way of expressing big ideas about its identity, purpose, and values). This kind of scholarship, along with the rapid advance of the sciences, and the general trend of modernity to “desacralize” or “disenchant” the world, has eaten away the authority of traditional religion.

Macort clearly has confronted these challenges, as he recounts, and has sought a more rational, flexible, and open religion. Mysticism, a way of being in the world organized by the personal experience of the holy, has seemed to give him powerful tools for understanding Jesus’s preaching, the universal dimensions of the Spirit, the mystery of the Eucharist, the nature of human spiritual growth, and authentic worship. His particular take on mysticism is linked to his stance as a “panentheist”—one who subthe view that God is in everything, rather than a separate entity “out there.” (This is a stance taken, for example, by Thomas Merton; and see Tom Gates’s Pendle Hill pamphlet #422, Reclaiming the Transcendent.)

With this background, Macort sees Quakerism as described by Rufus Jones and Douglas Steere, as one among many mystical movements that have sprung up across centuries and cultures. As the back cover says, “God is experienced mystically in many cultures and religions. The Christian faith must be reinterpreted as mystical experience.” Quakerism’s method allows for God’s active love, most fully embodied in Jesus, to break through and work transformations in the world: “Through meditation, we are guided in ways to act in love for others and respect for all existence.”

This book is not a systematic theology, but records an individual’s striving to work out his faith and put the results into words. Some will find it appealing, and some baffling, but I appreciate it whenever a Friend takes a deep breath, rolls up their sleeves, and undertakes to speak of their struggles and the discoveries they have made, as pilgrim souls in this bewildering world of wonders.

The post A Seeker’s Theology: Christianity Reinterpreted as Mysticism appeared first on Friends Journal.

Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:30
By Dacia Palmerino, illustrated by Andrea Grosso Ciponte, translated by Michael G. Parker. Plough Publishing House, 2017. 160 pages. $19.95/paperback; $9.99/eBook.

Renegade is one of the numerous biographies of Martin Luther published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It stands out in that crowded company because it is a graphic novel. Despite the “comic book” format, this is a serious effort by two Italian authors to engage with history, hewing fairly closely to well-established fact.

Each chapter covers key events from Luther’s biography, including his youthful decision to become a monk, his opposition to the sale of indulgences, his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, his time spent in disguise as a knight, the translation of the Bible into German, and his later years married to Katharina von Bora. Luther’s early life is exciting enough material for a graphic novel; the moment where he defiantly declares at the Diet of Worms, “I cannot act contrary to my conscience” is as dramatic as fiction.

Renegade should be commended for not shying away from the most disturbing parts of Luther’s career and for portraying his complexity. One chapter places a spotlight on Luther’s choice to side with the nobility in the midst of the German Peasants’ War. In a memorable and brutal scene Luther’s writings—which urge the rebellious peasants to be “killed like a mad dog”—are juxtaposed with images of a peasant family being murdered by soldiers. Luther’s rival in those events, the Anabaptist minister and revolt leader Thomas Müntzer, is depicted as being excessively violent, but his advocacy for the oppressed and downtrodden peasants makes him at least as sympathetic as Luther. A later chapter shows Luther’s intense anti-Semitism, and how he urged the destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues, and schools. This critical perspective offers a sharp contrast with the celebration of Luther present in other works, like Eric Metaxas’s recent biography. Such attention to the disturbing side of Luther’s life can perhaps be attributed to the publisher, Plough, which is part of the Bruderhof movement, an Anabaptist peace church that has a conflicted view of Luther’s legacy and his version of the Reformation.

Renegade makes an effort to explain the historical and religious context of Luther’s ideas, but would probably be confusing to anyone not already acquainted with the causes of the Reformation. For example, Luther’s growing conviction that salvation comes by faith alone is illustrated by an image of Luther reading a passage in the Epistle to the Romans; a subsequent comic panel shows him suddenly shouting the word “faith” to himself; and then the book depicts him quoting a passage from St. Augustine as an explanation of his thinking. Readers would have to have foreknowledge about Catholic ideas of purgatory and the sacraments, and Luther’s ideas of grace, to make much sense of this or many of the other religious debates depicted. The use of excerpts from Luther’s writings or important religious texts is interesting, but often comes at the expense of other explanatory dialogue.

The artwork, which was created digitally using 3D models, can be crude. Some of the characters have been rendered with contorted facial expressions that make them look unintentionally bizarre or inhuman. It is often difficult to tell faces apart to keep the characters straight. Many of the images are blurry, and others use so many dark colors that they are hard to discern. The illustrations include gruesome depictions of executions, beheadings, and burnings, which make the book unsuitable for young children. In this reviewer’s opinion, the overall effect of the art is that the book does not look entirely professional.

Readers searching for a straightforward account of Martin Luther’s life might be better off with historian Lyndal Roper’s recent biography, or even with the dated but still highly readable classic Here I Stand by Roland Bainton, but Ciponte and Palmerino’s graphic novel is not really competing with such works, as it is aimed at a younger audience. This is an educational graphic novel, not a dense historical tome, and despite being unpolished, there is nevertheless a charm in such a quirky and unique effort. A bright high school student or college student who had spent some time prior studying the Reformation would likely get at least an afternoon’s enjoyment from reading the book, and it is conceivable to imagine a parent borrowing it to flip through it themselves. Renegade is a read that, much like the man it portrays, is ultimately messy, complicated, and fascinating.

The post Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography appeared first on Friends Journal.

Kenneth Bradley Bordwell

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Bordwell—Kenneth Bradley Bordwell, 75, on October 30, 2017, at his home in Cincinnati, Ohio, unexpectedly but peacefully, from a heart attack. Ken was born on February 1, 1942, in Dayton, Ohio, to Katherine Lucille and Bradley Hobart Bordwell. He supported social and racial justice from boyhood. As a volunteer with the Peace Corps from 1966 to 1968, he worked on literacy and community development in Brazil. He did community development for Cincinnati for 31 years, retiring in 2002 from an effective and joyful career. He was an active member of

Bob Eastburn

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:05
Eastburn—Bob Eastburn, 71, on December 8, 2017, at Winslow Campus of Care in Winslow, Ariz., in the arms of his wife. Bob was born on May 17, 1946, in Wilmington, Del., to a Quaker mother. Although she did not often attend meeting, he acquired a sense of what it meant to be a Quaker that would guide him throughout his life. He married Elise Foy in 1968 and graduated from University of Delaware with a bachelor’s in geology and from a Delaware community college with a degree in industrial engineering.

Ruth Corwin Meyer

Sun, 2018-04-01 02:00
Meyer—Ruth Corwin Meyer, 83, on May 11, 2017, in Rio Rancho, N.M. Ruth was born on September 21, 1933, in Rochester, N.Y., the only child of Elizabeth and George Corwin, founders of Wilton (Conn.) Meeting. This birthright Friend grew up in Wilton Meeting, attending First-day school and taking part in Young Friends activities. When her first piano teacher in grade school told her parents she had no aptitude, they soon found a more insightful teacher. She graduated from Oberlin Conservatory of Music in piano and French horn in 1955 and earned

Quaker Works April 2018

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A semiannual feature to connect Friends Journal readers to the good works of Quaker organizations* in the following categories:

*Editors’ note: We invite all explicitly Quaker-founded and/or Quaker-run groups and organizations to submit to the Quaker Works column. Most, but not all, are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The content is supplied by staff members of the organizations and edited to fit the style of Friends Journal. More details can be found on the Quaker Works submissions page.

Advocacy Friends Committee on National Legislation fcnl.org

As FCNL marks its seventy-fifth year, Friends are celebrating its lobbying for peace and justice and looking toward the future of Quaker advocacy. Anniversary events are planned in FCNL’s birthplace (Richmond, Ind.) and Washington, D.C.

In March, hundreds of young adults came to Washington, D.C., for Spring Lobby Weekend, focused on advocacy for compassionate, just immigration policy. FCNL is a key advocate on immigration, co-chairing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and working to promote the love of all our neighbors, without exception.

The new Quaker Welcome Center, adjacent to FCNL’s office, hosts programs that equip people to change policy, nurture integrity in governance, and collaborate across political differences, including a recent congressional bipartisan dialogue on climate change. Each Wednesday FCNL hosts lobby training and silent reflection at the Welcome Center.

Building on decades of advocacy on Native American issues, FCNL welcomed Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco in November as the first congressional advocate on Native American policy. During her two-year fellowship, Onco will lead FCNL’s lobbying to honor the promises made to the native peoples of this country.

Friends are actively discerning FCNL’s legislative priorities and speaking at local meetings about their spiritual journeys. Nearly 80 Advocacy Teams are spending this year advocating against war and for diplomacy with North Korea. In all its work, FCNL advocates for peaceful, just public policies to address the country’s challenges.

Quaker United Nations Office quno.org

The United Nations (UN) has experienced a tremendous shift in recent years, with peacebuilding and prevention being placed back at the heart of its work. In this environment, QUNO has been actively working to impact and support the prioritization of peace issues.

The Civil Society-UN Prevention Platform was founded and co-convened by QUNO in partnership with the UN Department of Political Affairs and others to enhance civil society and UN cooperation on prevention. It has provided a key forum for cross-communication and bringing together different perspectives. Highlights include bringing together diverse UN actors with the Mediation Support Network, a global network of NGOs that support peace negotiations, and hosting the first briefing in New York with Under-Secretary-General and Senior Advisor on Policy Ana María Menéndez.

QUNO has also been active in supporting greater inclusion of the perspectives of peacebuilding practitioners within UN policy discussions. In June 2017, QUNO was asked by the UN to arrange for the formal presence of civil society representatives at the annual meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission. Additionally, QUNO partnered with the Office of the President of the General Assembly for a half-day UN-led dialogue at Columbia University with governments, private sector, civil society, and academia on the topic of partnerships for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. QUNO ensured civil society representation and moderated half the event.

Consultation, Support, and Resources Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts fqaquaker.org

Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts has a new website. One section displays digital issues of the journal Types and Shadows. The most recent issues featured Meed Barnett’s elegantly crafted jewelry, the art quilts of Asake Denise Jones, poetry by Jen Gittings-Dalton, and Adrian Martinez’s life-size paintings evoking the life of eighteenth-century Quaker Humphrey Marshall.

The home page features news of upcoming events and monthly postings of Quaker-related stories from storyteller Chuck Fager, and podcasts with discussions about classical music from Paul Somers. The website also contains archives, with articles concerning various art media and topics such as the history of Friends’ relation to the arts, spirituality and witness.

Last year FQA coordinated the Quaker Art Center at the Friends General Conference Gathering, and this “Art of Fearlessness” project featured art events—musical performances, art shows, discussion groups—by Quakers around the country. The 2018 project will focus on “The Arts in Our Beloved Community.”

Friends General Conference fgcquaker.org

In 2017, Friends General Conference retained Crossroads, a nonprofit organization serving faith communities, to facilitate FGC’s anti-racist transformation. Crossroads will work with FGC over the next year to conduct an institutional assessment on racism. Last November, 43 FGC staff members, committee clerks, some yearly meeting representatives, and members of the Institutional Assessment Task Force convened at Stony Point Retreat Center in New York for the first training. During the training, participants shared experiences of the historical roots of white supremacy within the Religious Society of Friends and our society, the insidious nature of racism embedded in these cultures, and the impact that racism has on governmental systems, people, and communities in the United States and Canada.

QuakerBooks, FGC’s bookstore, has relaunched thanks to a new partnership with Massachusetts-based book service Publishers Storage and Shipping Corporation (PSSC). Thanks to PSSC, QuakerBooks can now ship five days a week and offer expanded ordering options.

In an effort to help Quaker meetings be more welcoming to people of all walks of life, FGC is launching the Welcoming Friend Project. FGC has hired an assistant who will work closely with the Spiritual Deepening Program Coordinator to plan and implement the first year of the project.

Friends United Meeting friendsunitedmeeting.org

FUM has committed to revamping its entire communications effort to better equip, connect, and inform Friends as they build faithful fellowships to do God’s work in the world. In order to communicate news from FUM communities and missions around the world in a more timely manner, FUM now has weekly e-news emails, a regular blog and social media presence, and a monthly Connections newsletter.

FUM also updated its website and changed Quaker Life into a quarterly journal featuring thoughtful writings about personal faith journeys. In 2017 Kristna Evans was hired as the new managing editor of Friends United Press and manager of an upcoming, greatly expanded online bookstore and resource center. It will offer close to 400 carefully curated books, pamphlets, and other resources to Friends.

In addition, FUM recently published two new books: Modern Psalms for Peace and Justice, written by Dwight Wilson, and a second, revised edition of Luke’s Summer Secret by Randall Wisehart. With a dedicated press editor, FUM is also poised to bring out several more books this year with some exciting projects underway for the future.

Friends World Committee for Consultation (Asia–West Pacific Section) fwccawps.org

In October 2017, an uplifting Section Committee meeting was hosted in Osaka, Japan. Quakers from India, Hong Kong, Philippines, Australia, and Japan met in a Japanese monastery—where Osaka Quakers worship monthly. Michael Wajda of Philadelphia, Pa., attended to help with organizational development.

FWCC Asia–West Pacific Section’s priorities are to build connections, boost finances, strengthen the committee, and share stories. The committee celebrated progress and planned next steps. AWPS lifted up a calling to connect young Friends throughout the Section, to continue a Section-wide online meeting for worship, and to create a development committee to help strengthen the Section’s financial base. AWPS made a commitment to have a Section gathering with workshops and young Friends activities, hopefully in Hong Kong, in 2018.

AWPS worshiped, enjoyed fellowship, and attended to business blessed by their Japanese hosts. AWPS is conscious the region is geographically large and culturally diverse, and recognizes the privilege to have glimpses into this rich diversity. AWPS values the friendships in this committee, and renewed a commitment to encourage Friends to reach out to each other and to build meaningful links and friendships.

Friends Committee on National Legislation’s message “Love thy neighbor (no exceptions)” spoke to all—a simple message that challenges Friends in their daily lives and as an organization.

Ronald Titus now serves as Section clerk.

 

Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas) fwccamericas.org

On October 1, 2017, Friends celebrated the diversity of Quaker experience during the fourth annual World Quaker Day. Meetings exchanged visits, shared food, organized intergenerational worship, and more. Photos and stories are available on the FWCC Americas Facebook page. World Quaker Day 2018 will take place on October 7.

The Section of the Americas has named the newest members of the FWCC Traveling Ministry Corps, adding seven ministers from Latin America and four new ministers from the United States. All of the Spanish-speaking ministers gathered in La Paz, Bolivia, in January, to train the new ministers and share in fellowship before embarking on their ministries. The North American group met at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pa., where they also conducted a panel discussion exploring the Quaker tradition of traveling ministry in the twenty-first century. More information about the Traveling Ministry Corps, and the ministry of each member, can be found on the FWCC Americas website.

Meetings and churches can invite one of the Traveling Ministers to visit their congregation by filling out the request form on the Visitation section of the FWCC Americas website. FWCC Americas continues to envision a more interconnected network of Quakers in the Americas and around the world, and the Traveling Ministry Corps will be a vital conductor of that energy.

Friends World Committee for Consultation (World Office) fwcc.world

FWCC supports the vitality of Quakerism around the world and amplifies the Quaker voice. In November 2017 FWCC represented Friends at COP23, the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany, and signed the Interfaith Climate Statement promoting sustainable lifestyles. These talks, which were presided over by Fiji, offered a stark reminder of the devastating human impacts of climate change and the need for urgent action.

FWCC is undertaking an ambitious and exciting new project working with Friends around the world to strengthen environmental commitment and gather a collective voice through a positive, global Quaker sustainability movement. This stems from the significant commitment Quakers globally have made to global sustainability and stewardship of the Earth in the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice (2012) and the Pisac Sustainability Minute (2016), which asks yearly meetings to initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability, involving young adult Friends in key roles.

FWCC’s sustainability communications officer is collecting stories of Friends living sustainably and justly on this earth; this effort is meant to help inspire yearly meetings to take further action, engage young adult Friends across the Sections, and encourage yearly meetings to report on their work. These stories can be found on the FWCC website under “Sustainability Resources.” Friends are invited to share their story as a video or case study. More information on the website.

Development Friendly Water for the World friendlywater.net

Friendly Water for the World is working with a community of people with albinism in Shinyanga, northern Tanzania. People with albinism in East Africa face heavy discrimination, and in Tanzania, are often hunted for their body parts, which are considered good luck. More than 100 are killed annually, many while walking long distances to gather water. To try to protect them, the government gathers people with albinism onto reserves, where there is rarely enough food, adequate shelter, toilets, or decent schools. There is no employment, and almost never access to clean water.

Through an affiliate called the Community Life Amelioration Organization (CLAO), Friendly Water is training people with albinism to build BioSand water filters, both to provide clean water for themselves and to sell to the larger community, which should also serve to deter violence against them. Trainees can purchase filters for the cost of materials, and provide the labor themselves. The local government is so excited about the project that they provided  police protection and free hotel space and food for the five days of the training. The police took up a collection for more materials themselves.

Once this effort is well established, people with albinism will be trained to build rainwater catchment systems, interlocking bricks, and MicroFlush toilets. Twelve other communities of people with albinism have already contacted Friendly Water about future programs.

 

Quaker Bolivia Link qbl.org

Quaker Bolivia Link has embarked on a partnership with Rotary International to fund water projects in the altiplano of Bolivia. As climate change is already creating weather pattern shifts, the availability of fresh water year round is becoming more and more critical. Funding is in place for three more villages already as QBL enters its twenty-third year of service to the indigenous Aymara people.

Right Sharing of World Resources rswr.org

Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR) is an independent Quaker not-for-profit organization sharing the abundance of God’s love by working for equity through partnerships around the world. RSWR gives grants to groups of marginalized women in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and India to fund micro-enterprise projects. Right Sharing’s work is grounded in a sense of stewardship for the world’s material, human, and spiritual resources.

The October 2017 Right Sharing board meeting was held at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pa. The board approved funding for 22 new projects: 6 in Kenya, 5 in Sierra Leone, and 11 in India. The meeting concluded with a joyous fiftieth anniversary celebration at Kendal at Longwood.

Several in the RSWR community traveled to visit projects in January. Program Director Sarah Northrop visited Kenyan RSWR Field Representative Samson Ababu and met new RSWR trainer Pauline Andisi and recipients of RSWR grants. Current board members Marian Beane and Doug Smith and former board member David Camp traveled to India. Stories from these travels will be featured in the spring issue of the RSWR newsletter.

At the end of March, General Secretary Jackie Stillwell facilitated a workshop on “The Power of Enough” at Powell House in Old Chatham, N.Y. Right Sharing is accepting requests to bring this  workshop to interested monthly and yearly meetings.

Education Earlham School of Religion esr.earlham.edu

Seven ESR students were awarded $2,500 Innovation Grants for proposed entrepreneurial ministry projects. These Innovation Awards are part of a grant the school received from the Association of Theological Schools. ESR was selected as one of 58 seminaries and graduate theological schools in North America to receive such a grant.

ESR also awarded its annual Mullen Ministry of Writing Fellowship to current student Andy Henry. Henry’s fellowship project is a book called Recovering Abundance: Resources for Place-Based Ministry. The purpose of his book is to “connect faith communities to the insights of those doing the work of community renewal and draw out the spiritual and theological resources available to people of faith.”

This spring semester includes many campus events, beginning with the annual Spirituality Gathering on March 3. This year’s theme is Buddhist and Quaker Spiritualities and features keynote speaker Sallie King. The week of March 19 Dwight Wilson was on campus as Friend in Residence. In April the 2018 Willson Lectures and Trueblood Symposium will host keynote speaker Monica Coleman sharing on the topic of process theology.

 

Friends Association for Higher Education quakerfahe.com

Friends Association for Higher Education issued a request for proposals for papers, panel discussions, and workshops for its June 2018 conference at Wilmington College on the theme of “Keeping Faithful in a Time of Rapid Change.” FAHE also began receiving proposals for chapters in the next volume in its book series on Quakers in the scholarly disciplines. The topic for volume six is Quakers, Creation Care, and Sustainability, highlighting Friends’ contributions to biology and environmental science, past and present.

FAHE started the school year under the leadership of its new co-clerks, Deborah Shaw and Wess Daniels of Guilford College. Donn Weinholtz of the University of Hartford moves into the role of clerk emeritus.

Friends Council on Education friendscouncil.org

Friends Council on Education nurtures the Quaker essence of schools through professional development offerings. Each year, over 160 Friends school educators are oriented to Quaker principles, practices, and testimonies through the Educators New to Quakerism workshop. Friends Council programs support Quaker schools in developing educational programs that connect to Friends principles. This year’s offerings include responsive programming on timely issues, including immigration and sanctuary, working for social change, and helping educators embrace the tensions of teaching in these uncertain times.

Thanks to support from many people and organizations, Friends Council has provided tuition aid for 219 Quaker students to attend Friends schools this school year. Developing initiatives enhance this program’s national impact while strengthening the Quaker nature of individual Friends schools.

Friends Council helps schools focus on issues of equity, community, and justice through a variety of programs and partnerships. A series of community conversations around race and white privilege have emerged after a screening of André Robert Lee’s film I’m Not Racist…Am I?

Friends Council convened a panel of Friends school educators to present at the National Association of Independent Schools conference on the topic of supporting transgender and non-binary students.

The collective strength and work of 78 member schools is lifted up through the newly launched e-newsletter, “QuakerEd News,” available through the Friends Council website.

 

Quaker Religious Education Collaborative quakers4re.org

Quaker Religious Education Collaboration has redesigned its website. The new, intuitive design invites readers to explore QREC’s cross-branch, international, grassroots work as Quaker religious educators. The website hosts a collaborative, searchable, online library of religious education materials, inviting Friends who use the materials to share their experiences.

The website serves as a portal and an archive for events such as the annual QREC retreat, online Conversation Circles, parenting workshops, and teacher training opportunities. Because QREC thrives on the wisdom and experience of its community of practice, the website offers the invitation to join in the work and get involved in a variety of ways, including membership, and the opportunity to donate funds that make its projects possible.

QREC’s work continues to draw from multiple perspectives and approaches to Quaker spiritual formation. The 2017 retreat program included a diverse panel on the role of the Bible in Quaker religious education. This rich discussion generated a series of Conversation Circles in the months that followed; notes and additional resources have been posted to the website. The next QREC retreat will be held at Powell House in Old Chatham, N.Y., August 17–19. Plans are in development to host a gathering of Friends from Latin America before the retreat, as QREC continues to widen the circle of its community.

School of the Spirit Ministry schoolofthespirit.org

The School of the Spirit Ministry is experiencing a season of rebirth and new leadings. Of primary interest is its new independence—the School of the Spirit left the care of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to become its own independent nonprofit. This change better reflects the appeal to Friends throughout North America.

Three new core teachers—Erika Fitz, Evelyn Jadin, and Susan Kight—are working to refine the curriculum for an eleventh class of the “On Being a Spiritual Nurturer” program that will provide participants a structured way to discern and grow into gifts for spiritual hospitality as informed by the Quaker tradition. Its overarching goal is to help participants live in a contemplative rhythm with a deepened faith that God is at work in the world. The program involves six residencies over 18 months beginning September 5.

In addition, the School of the Spirit sponsors contemplative retreats during the year. The next one will be at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wis., April 5–8.

More details about all available programs are on the website.

 

Sierra Friends Center woolman.org

The board and staff of Sierra Friends Center are moving forward with a vision of continuing its mission of student-directed inquiry, spiritual growth, and healthy living through its summer camp and facility rentals to individuals and groups for retreats and workshops.

SFC is also planning two newly evolving programs: the Woolman Outdoor School and the Jorgensen School for Nonviolence. For a second year, an urban charter school is visiting in May for a three-day experience that is the pilot program for the outdoor school.

SFC recently welcomed Sierra Streams Institute to its campus. This nonprofit works in the local community to implement citizen science, ecosystem restoration, and environmental education. The center is finding creative synergy with these scientists and educators, and foresees shared projects, envisioning a vibrant ecosystem on the campus and an environmentally literate community of learners.

Camp Woolman and the Teen Leadership Camp will run concurrently for six weeks this summer from June 24 to August 4. These two summer residential camp programs include overnight backpacking trips for all campers, and are being organized and implemented by emerging young leaders with a deep love for the people and place that are Woolman.

Woolman and SFC welcome visits and correspondence, and are grateful for the support of the community as they seek ever more relevant ways to bring Quaker educational experiences to the West Coast.

Environmental and Ecojustice Earth Quaker Action Team eqat.org

“We need renewable energy with racial justice. None of us without all of us. If we are going to rebuild, we have an opportunity to rebuild on equity and justice. [We can] build it right this time.” These were the words spoken by community members at the Climate Justice and Jobs convening organized by EQAT’s campaign partner, POWER, last fall. The interfaith Power Local Green Jobs campaign calls on PECO, the largest utility in Pennsylvania, to purchase 20 percent of its electricity from solar by 2025, with a priority on creating local jobs.

On December 7, 2017, the “Big Change Day of Action” saw four actions at PECO facilities throughout the Philadelphia region. So far, PECO has responded to calls by advancing a small jobs-training grant and proposing a regulatory tweak, but these steps are a drop in the bucket for a company that makes $1,000,000 in profit every single day.

This winter EQAT members peacefully approached CEO Craig Adams at public events, and supported faith communities to come and worship in PECO’s Center City lobby. PECO kicked out the worshipers to avoid the public witness. EQAT recently planned a series of actions in the last week of March to deepen the call for justice on a livable planet. Its members ask for prayers of courage as they work to move this corporation.

Quaker Earthcare Witness quakerearthcare.org

QEW is network of Friends across North America faithfully working for a restored Earth in our homes, meetings, and communities. The world is experiencing climate disruption, depleted fisheries, decreasing biodiversity, soil erosion, declining water resources, and growing human population, all rapidly escalating. After celebrating its thirtieth anniversary last fall, QEW has recommitted to addressing these concerns. QEW sees its primary purpose as bringing about a spiritual transformation within the Religious Society of Friends with regard to our relationship with the natural world.

QEW’s most recent publication, BeFriending Creation, highlights Friends and earthcare; stories include topics such as economic integrity and ecojustice; science warnings; population; earthcare witness in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Mexico; standing up for environmental policy in D.C. and Sacramento; and installing composting toilets at a Quaker camp. QEW recently released a new pamphlet, “Eco-Justice: Ecological Responsibility Linked with Social Justice,” for individuals and meetings. QEW also runs a mini-grants program, offering $500 to Friends starting environmental concerns projects.

The Earthcare for Children curriculum is now available on the website as downloadable lesson plans. Topics include “Earth Is Our Home,” “Soil, Seeds, and Climate,” and more. The lessons accommodate varying ages and interests in First-day schools, with multiple options to suit all branches of Friends.

Quaker Institute for the Future quakerinstitute.org

QIF has two research and writing projects in process for bringing Quaker values to critical issues: (1) Energy Choices: Opportunities to Make Wise Decisions for a Sustainable Future, and (2) Toward a Life-Centered Economy. Each project will produce a QIF Focus Book on its area of research.

QIF’s first Focus Book, Fueling Our Future (2009), was concerned with energy technology, ethics, and public policy. Energy Choices will be a companion volume that surveys and details the options now available for personal, household, business, and community action on shifting to clean renewable energy.

Toward a Life-Centered Economy will bring together the range of options now being developed to restructure the economy so it works for the health and well-being of Earth’s whole commonwealth of life instead of the accumulation of financial wealth and power for a few.

QIF’s 2018 Summer Research Seminar will be held in Ithaca, N.Y., July 9–14.

Investment Management Friends Fiduciary Corporation friendsfiduciary.org

The goal of the Friends Fiduciary Corporation Planned Giving Program is to support the development efforts of Quaker organizations which in turn strengthen and grow the Religious Society of Friends.

The program had a strong year which can be attributed to donors who actively and passionately supported Friends organizations of all types located across the country. In 2017, donors to Quaker organizations established over $900,000 in charitable gift annuities, made $117,000 in gifts to donor-advised funds, and contributed $133,000 to newly established endowment funds, all through Friends Fiduciary. Private foundation funds of $2.4 million were placed with Friends Fiduciary for administration and investment management. In 2017 Friends Fiduciary facilitated 111 stock transfers totaling $757,000 and benefiting 40 Quaker organizations. It was a productive year.

Friends Fiduciary is a Quaker nonprofit corporation with the singular purpose of supporting fellow Quaker organizations in their efforts to achieve financial sustainability through planned giving strategies and investment management. Learn more about supporting Quaker organizations at Friends Fiduciary’s website.

Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers Friends Center friendscentercorp.org

Friends Center manages the office complex and Quaker meetinghouse at 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, Pa. Outside groups who share Friends values may rent space for meetings, trainings, conferences, films, rehearsals, staging marches, and more.

In the last year, that business grew. Recent renters include Quaker organizations (Earth Quaker Action Team, Friends Publishing Corporation, Friends Life Care, Friends Select School); advocates (ACLU of Pennsylvania, Media Mobilizing Project, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, Public Citizens for Children and Youth); academics (American Council of Learned Societies, Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development, Swarthmore College, West Chester University); funders (Bread and Roses Community Fund, Seybert Foundation); service or policy nonprofits (American Vegan Society, Broad Street Ministries, City Year, Covenant House, EducationWorks, Entrepreneur Works, Health Care Improvement Foundation, JEVS Human Services, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, LGBT Elder Initiative, National Adoption Center, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the Food Trust); mindfulness programs (Myrna Brind Center for Mindfulness, Penn Program for Mindfulness); and arts groups (Mendelssohn Club, Mural Arts Program, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts).

Many are attracted by Friends Center’s identity as the local Quaker hub for peace and justice. Having these events in turn advances Friends Center’s mission to express the beliefs and testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends through stewardship of the property.

Pendle Hill pendlehill.org

In September 2017, Pendle Hill hosted the Social Justice through Economic Resistance conference with support from American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER). Presenters included Dalit Baum of AFSC, Eileen Flanagan of Earth Quaker Action Team, and Rev. Greg Holston of POWER, among other leaders.

During November, 45 aspiring and current meeting and committee clerks joined the annual clerking workshop, designed and led by Arthur Larrabee. The participants learned the basics of serving their communities with joy and confidence, grounded in Quaker practice. Additionally 22 students started the Journey Toward Wholeness program, the popular four-part retreat based on the work of Parker Palmer.

Pendle Hill organized a two-day program on Pennsylvania Community Rights in partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and facilitated the basic training of the Alternatives to Violence Project.

Annual New Year’s workshops rang in the New Year with live music and a candle-lit meeting for worship after guests enjoyed a delicious dinner orchestrated by chef Henrik Ringbom and the kitchen team.

In January, Pendle Hill presented the Beyond Diversity 101 workshop with 34 participants interested in the healing transformation of personal relationships and community living. In February, Pendle Hill hosted the Values in Action conference in partnership with the Trinity Institute and offered the racial justice H.E.A.R.T. workshop led by Amanda Kemp.

Silver Wattle Quaker Centre silverwattle.org.au

Silver Wattle Quaker Centre in Bungendore, New South Wales, was established in 2011 for spiritual retreats, learning, healing, and preparation for witness. The 2017 program offered courses on discernment, life transitions, Quakerism, clerking, creativity, Indigenous spirituality, peace witness, and sustainable living. A full program of courses is available for 2018.

Silver Wattle manages a large land area (2,800 acres), including the lake bed of Weereewa (Lake George), with ongoing work to eradicate weeds and restore biodiversity lost when the land was originally cleared for sheep farming. Once brown, barren hills are greening up under care, and seedlings planted in 2011 are now four-meter-tall trees.

A rainwater collection system and solar energy works have increased the center’s self-sufficiency. The orchard and vegetable gardens provide about half of the food consumed at Silver Wattle. The center harvested an amazing 70 kilograms of garlic this year, with the surplus being sold at the local farmers market.

An online mid-week meeting for worship was instituted in late 2017 so those involved across Australia could spend time in prayer together. The resident community has been bolstered by a program to encourage Quakers and other sojourners to spend time apart there. Eighteen people have registered as resident volunteers since November 2017. Silver Wattle welcomes visits from traveling Friends.

Service and Peace Work American Friends Service Committee afsc.org

AFSC was named one of the organizations blacklisted by Israel due to its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end militarism and human rights abuses against Palestinians. Despite the ban, AFSC programs in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are continuing.

AFSC continues to support groups and individuals in engaging in economic activism, including through an online tool called Investigate that shares research on companies that profit from human rights abuses in prisons, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the occupied Palestinian territories. The website can scan a list of companies in an investment portfolio.

Immigrants, Muslims, and communities of color have been under a new intensity of threats since President Donald Trump was elected, sparking the initiative Sanctuary Everywhere. AFSC believes impacted communities and allies can work together to create more safety from targeting. A series of webinars presents how to support the work.

The relationship between the United States and North Korea is volatile. As an organization that has worked in North Korea (DPRK) for decades, AFSC knows how humanitarian work can open up space for dialogue and reconciliation. AFSC is sharing lessons with Congress and the Administration, and building momentum for humanitarian engagement such as people-to-people exchanges, reuniting Korean and Korean American families, and repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen left in the DPRK after the Korean War.

 

Canadian Friends Service Committee quakerservice.ca

In 1981 Canadian Friends came to unity on the need to abolish prisons. The Canadian Yearly Meeting minute reads in part, “The prison system is both a cause and a result of violence and social injustice. Throughout history, the majority of prisoners have been the powerless and the oppressed. We are increasingly clear that the imprisonment of human beings, like their enslavement, is inherently immoral and is as destructive to the cagers as the caged.” Advances toward this vision have not come easily or swiftly.

This work is one focus of Canadian Friends Service Committee, which also seeks to abolish the “penal” justice system. Punishment is neither an effective tool for justice nor a healthy part of finding a way forward from a harmful event.

For several years CFSC has been leading workshops across Canada on penal abolition. The workshops that have taken place (in seven of the ten provinces) have created closer connections between Quakers who are working on criminal justice in Canada; deepened grassroots knowledge about CFSC’s work in this area; and led participants to a better understanding of the slow but clear progress that has been made toward penal abolition. Friends are renewing and strengthening their commitment to the 1981 minute as it approaches its fortieth anniversary.

Friends House Moscow friendshousemoscow.org

Friends House Moscow continues 20 years of service in the Russian Federation and Ukraine with British, American, French, Belgian/Luxembourg, and German Friends’ cooperation.

Current projects of Friends House Moscow include alternative service consultations and Alternativshchik newsletter in Kazan. These and similar efforts inform men of their right to perform alternatives to military service, and provide advocacy for those conscripted in breach of legal rights. In Ukraine, Friends House Moscow runs Alternatives to Violence Project workshops, training participants in nonviolent conflict solutions, particularly focusing on ethnic group tensions among displaced persons.

Other programing includes work to prevent teen suicides, establishing school mediation programs, helping orphanage graduates with communication skills in English, and translating over 40 Quaker books and articles into Russian.

Friends House Moscow provides support for Moscow Meeting, a midweek worship group, and Russian-speaking Friends in other countries. This year the group is expanding its use of social media and other online resources, including an informative Facebook page.

Friends House Moscow’s projects all support its mission to support Friends and individual seekers interested in Quaker faith and practice, specifically by promoting a voluntary social work culture and by protecting the rights and providing services for minority or targeted groups and individuals.

Friends Peace Teams friendspeaceteams.org

Friends Peace Teams (FPT) is a Spirit-led organization working around the world to develop long-term relationships with communities in conflict to create programs for peacebuilding, healing, and reconciliation. FPT was founded by Quakers from several yearly meetings with the goal of making every Friends meetinghouse and church a center for peacemaking. This work has formed “initiatives” to offer opportunities for communities in conflict to create human and material resources to build peace.

The African Great Lakes initiative strengthens, supports, and promotes peace activities at the grassroots level in the Great Lakes region of Africa (Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). The Asia West Pacific initiative seeks to connect communities of conscience between the United States and communities in the Asia West Pacific region to provide opportunities for conscientious service. The Peacebuilding en las Américas initiative promotes peace and healing in countries of Central and South America where the violent legacy of civil war has added to the continued poverty and injustice that sparked the conflicts.

FPT is governed by a council of Friends that meets face to face each spring and monthly online. The latest issue of the biannual newsletter, PeaceWays, includes in-depth updates on all of FPT’s work around the world.

Quaker House quakerhouse.org

Quaker House has been continuing to work for peace while helping to heal current wounds of war and militarization.

Quaker House attended the Conference Against the Use of Drones in Warfare and the public hearings on civilian participation at airfields and on flights used as torture taxis that originated in North Carolina. Quaker House also provided a presence of understanding and compassion in the courtroom for Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier who endured five years of torture and then faced prosecution for desertion. Staff members shared information and lessons learned in the organization’s newsletter, blog, email lists, and other forums.

At the invitation of Fort Bragg units, Quaker House participated in three summits, one addressing each of the topics of mental health, sexual assault, and victim advocacy in the military. With the support of donors, Quaker House continues to offer free counseling for domestic violence, sexual assault, and moral injury to the military community including family members, and the GI Rights Hotline counselors remained busy with calls from service members reaching out for help.

Quaker House also continues with conscientious objection education, recently hosting This Evil Thing, a play on tour from England about the experiences of a World War I conscientious objector. Quaker House is thankful to Guilford College for the use of their auditorium.

Quaker Service quakerservice.com

Quaker Service is a Quaker charity that provides support for people in post-conflict Northern Ireland going through difficult times. Quaker Service currently delivers two main services.

Quaker Connections, a volunteer program based at Maghaberry Prison, supports visiting families through befriending and practical support services. Services are currently available at all the prison establishments in Northern Ireland.

Quaker Cottage, a cross-community family crisis and daycare center in west Belfast, offers daily therapy for mothers and projects for young people up to 18 years. It serves those most vulnerable in these communities where the conflict and sectarian violence is as prevalent as ever. Social deprivation, isolation, and lack of opportunity trap many in a vicious cycle, where rates of suicide are the highest in the UK.

A storytelling project organized by Rory Docherty, a teenage worker with Quaker Service, is planned to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Agreement (signed April 10, 1998). The project will engage young people from the sectarian interface and support them in telling their personal stories of how, for them, peace in Northern Ireland has not yet come. They will have their stories recorded on film and printed in a book. The launch of these stories will be delivered to an audience of politicians and decision makers in the Stormont Parliament Buildings.

Quaker Voluntary Service quakervoluntaryservice.org

Quaker Voluntary Service has made substantial progress toward opening its newest outpost in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minn. Friends in the Twin Cities and Sonja Sponheim, the Minneapolis startup coordinator, have worked and met with QVS staff. When QVS Fellows arrive in early September, they’ll live together in community and work in partnership with some very exciting social service and advocacy organizations in Minneapolis.

QVS is happy to announce two additional staff positions. Mike Huber will serve as director of program. In that role, he will endeavor to strengthen ties between QVS and local Friends in each city where QVS operates, provide supervision and support for QVS city coordinators, and ensure cohesiveness of programming across the cities.

Oskar Castro has expanded his role at QVS, and now serves as director of equity and community in addition to his Philadelphia city coordinator role. In his new position, Castro will help QVS better embody its commitment to equity and inclusion as an organization and as a voice for wider societal change.

William Penn House williampennhouse.org

William Penn House began its fifty-first year of service much as it started the first: offering hospitality for activists traveling to the U.S. Capitol to “speak truth to power,” educational opportunities for students of all ages, active partnership with organizations seeking a more peaceful and inclusive world, and a chance to experience worship and community after the manner of Friends.

January saw the International Honors Program filling WPH to capacity with back-to-back groups of college students preparing to spend a semester studying community health initiatives in countries on four continents. The conference room served as a classroom, while the living room and dining rooms did extra duty as break-out and hang-out space. Students, laptops, and luggage filled every nook and cranny. The founders would have felt right at home.

WPH also recently launched quarterly Sunday dinners that fill the house with longtime Friends and new neighbors, and a new social justice movie night series that brings guests and local activists together for conversation and inspiration.

The WPH board has adopted a renewed mission statement, affirming the calling to “serve and inspire everyone seeking a more peaceful, just, and inclusive society.” A new website and expanded Facebook presence are helping to share news of the mission and programs with new communities to encourage expanded program participation.

Youth Service Opportunities Project ysop.org

YSOP has had a busy winter with groups and schools from all over the country serving the homeless and hungry in New York City and Washington, D.C. YSOP offers service-learning programs for students from seventh grade through graduate school. It also has programs from time to time for groups of adults. All programs offer hands-on service to homeless and hungry folks framed by an orientation and reflection facilitated by YSOP staff.

The Washington, D.C. program hosted its eighth annual MLK Day lunch in January, where local volunteers and their families prepared, served, and shared a festive meal with homeless and hungry guests from the community. The youngest volunteer was just three years old, proof that anyone can serve.

YSOP’s New York program continues to develop strong relationships with Quaker groups, among the many religious and community groups, schools, and colleges that serve there. In the past, Friends Academy divided its tenth grade into three YSOP overnight groups throughout the year, but for the past two years, has extended into four separate overnight programs with YSOP. YSOP was excited to host returning groups from Oakwood Friends School and Purchase (N.Y.) Meeting. YSOP National Program Director Lisa Gesson spoke at Medford (N.J.) Meeting in October 2017.

 

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