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A Call to Friends (review)

Charlene Weir
On Debt (July 2021)
A Call to Friends: Faithful Living in Desperate Times
by Marty Grundy
reviewed by Charlene Weir

What are Friends called to do in these times? Is there an answer to be found in the current spiritual life of our meetings?

Marty Grundy has written a richly woven and moving discourse to help us answer these questions. She calls us with urgency and potency to engage in “. . . a paradigm shift in the way we think about the world. As a religious society, we need a deepening relation with the Holy Spirit. We need a vision of a different way to organize society that is not inherently exploitative and hierarchical.” (p.10)

Grundy advises us to use the spiritual truths known to early Quakers to transform both our meetings and our outer society. This envisioning involves both listening deeply to the Light Within and actively changing our behavior. Grundy invites us to bring this vision to life in our meetings and communities by returning to the fundamental practices of the Society of Friends. She reminds us that Quaker traditions contain seeds that can be planted in modern times to create new and modern meaningful responses to our current situation.

The fabric of the book, the underlying matrix, is the transformation process itself. No less will suffice to bring us forward to a new paradigm, a new age. This process of transformation begins first with awareness of the need for change, an understanding that we are beguiled and memorized by the patterns of Empire. We need to wake up to our blindness and our loss. As Grundy notes, our life is controlled by the universal forces of “honor/shame” and “patron/client.”

We grieve for the loss of the illusion of a safe nation, a rational community, and the experience of unconditional love. The full experience of grief brings us to the transformational doorstep, where we acknowledge that there is a Power greater than ourselves. As Thomas Kelly, older Friends, and Alcoholics Anonymous all teach, this step requires that we “surrender” to this Power and admit that we cannot go it alone. Only from this position are we be able to envision a different way to organize society, one that eschews the shaming and exploitation we now see all around us – to create the patterns of a community life centered on Love and Light, which is our heritage. 

To create the Kingdom of God on earth we must engage the power of Love and Light, and we must live as though we are convinced that Love actually is the supreme force of life. Marty Grundy’s persuasive narrative reflects on the power of “inner knowing” to create new patterns of relating in our meetings and in our communities at large. Our lives should give witness to our relationship to the Spirit. This book is both a call to personal transformation and to societal change.

Grundy draws from a wide range of sources – from the Bible to Thomas Kelly to other Quaker writers – and her scholarship is a gift visible on every page. Readers will be grateful for Grundy’s insights as she weaves Quaker history and archaic language into new meanings.

It is hard to express fully in a short review the emotional impact of Marty Grundy’s impelling call. She is calling for us to truly repattern the Quaker traditions into the modern world – to lose individualistic strivings, resist the patterns of the modern state, and surrender to the call of the Light Within.

Charlene Weir is a professor of biomedical informatics and a member of Salt Lake City Friends Meeting (IMYM).

Transformation Quaker history

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