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Rob Pierson


Long Distance Walking in New Mexico and Colorado What is the line that separates walking from pilgrimage?  When does a journey cross over from distance, in miles, to presence and transformation?

Issue: On Neighbors (September 2019)

An Under-Appreciated Point Dear Editor: As an engineer who went to seminary, I often find myself defending both Science and Faith. Like Jim Humphrey (“Here Sleep Dragons,” March/April 2017), I’m a “pro-science guy” who agrees that science often gets distorted by materialism. And like Brylie Oxley (“Time Crystals,” same issue), I am fascinated by discoveries, like time crystals, that open our minds to the awesome structure of reality.

Issue: On Balance (May 2017)

The Adventures of QuakerMan Dear Editor: In a time when even Superman, Batman, Ironman, and Spiderman slug it out amongst themselves, I’ve been thinking about a new comic strip: The Adventures of QuakerMan. Cape, a big “Q” on the chest, able to leap over the ocean of darkness is a single bound, etc. A hero who flies in (no, actually – arrives by public transit) to solve the latest threat to peace and mutual understanding, using X-Ray Discernment and a tenacity greater than steel. An illegal immigrant whose homeland has been destroyed by military insurgents, he was hidden as a child in the American Midwest during the Sanctuary Movement and was raised by a loving family, who taught him about Truth, Justice and the Antiestablishmentarian Way.

Issue: On Insight (March 2017)

We Complete Each Other Dear Editor: Thanks to Friend Searl for helpfully reminding us that there need be no schism between Friends led to inward devotion and Friends led to outward activism (“The Illusion of a Split,” May/June 2016). Quakers like Thomas Kelly have long noted that inwardness and outwardness interdepend like roots and fruits. And, although it is essential to cultivate both inward reflection and outward action in one’s personal life, it as also good to remember that we need not all be alike and need not each be gifted in everything. Not every activist will be gifted as a pastoral companion. Not every contemplative Friend will be gifted as a prophetic witness. We are a community, completing each other, not an army of clones striving to be alike. John Woolman and Anthony Benezet both influenced the anti-slavery movement, yet their gifts and spiritual expressions were very different. One’s Truth was directed more outward, the other more inward. Together, they did more than either alone, and the vocal ministry of both existed within a community full of silent gifts of which we seldom hear. Let’s strive for community (commonunity), not uniformity. Together, we are far more than any one gift.

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

Paths of Faith There are many fine books exploring the relation of science and faith, including excellent texts by Friends who are scientists, theologians, or both. Paths of Faith in the Landscape of Science: Three Quakers Check Their Compass, however, offers something distinctively Quaker. Canadian Friends Strunz, Miller, and Helmuth use their personal life stories – testimonies – to show continuing revelation as involving all truth, whether spiritual or scientific.

Issue: On Limits (May 2016)

The Right Mix of Gifts Dear Editor: Thanks to Friend Kirby Urner for throwing light on the sometimes troubled relations between Meetings, their Nominating Committees, and their Peace and Social Concerns Committees (“Sticking Out Like Sore Thumbs,” July/August 2015). My Meeting has felt this tension, and I’ve talked to other Meetings that have as well.

Issue: On Play (September 2015)

Do Quakers Mean Business? Recently a Methodist church invited me to a book study. They had been reading books on ethically based business, including Deborah Cadbury’s Chocolate Wars, and had grown wildly curious about these peculiar Quakers and their century and a half of confectionary success. The group leader tabulated a list of famous Quaker business leaders – not only in cocoa, but also in ironwork, railways, footwear, chinaware, household goods, pharmaceuticals, and banking. Why, she asked, was the list so long? Why were there so many Friendly industrial innovators? Why so many business names they now recognized as Quaker – from Cadbury chocolates to Barclays bank to Clarks shoes? What was it about this relatively small, seemingly austere, and ethically demanding faith that drove such a disproportionate share of business enterprise?

Issue: On Production (May 2014)