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The Illusion of a Split

Even though Quakers possess skills in conflict resolution (as well as conflict avoidance), a perplexing conflict seems intractably lodged in our Quaker community: a split between Quakers who are drawn primarily to the spiritual side of our practice – emphasizing silence, contemplation, and stillness over all else – and Quakers are who are committed to social action – including demonstrations, lobbying, letter writing, and various forms of political protest.

On Limits (May 2016)

Beautiful Article about Minding the Earth

Dear Editor: “A New Story for Earth” by Mary Ann Percy, in the November/December issue, is one of the best articles that I have ever read. I happened to read it right after our meeting held our second-hour discussion one First Day, concerning what each of us can do to be more mindful of the earth (and promised to try). I think we might discuss this article in another second hour soon. It ties a lot of big questions and big concepts together really well, and it is beautifully written.

On Mediation (January 2020)

Illusions and Miracles

Military forces in the 18th and 19th centuries employed a deceptive tactic called “the Quaker gun trick.” This involved using wooden cannon replicas, sometimes painted black, to trick an adversary into withdrawal or surrender – without a shot being fired. We are not talking Peace Testimony here, but perhaps Friendly Trickery – deception for the greater good of de-escalation.

On Tricks (May 2021)

A Personal History with Korea

Like many Friends, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in my youth. The Peace Corps Act includes three goals for volunteers: do a job, introduce host country locals to a U.S. young person (usually young), and bring an awareness of the host country’s culture and history back to the U.S. Of those three goals, far and away the most difficult has been that last one. Family and friends typically enjoy hearing a few stories, seeing a few pictures (even a slide show back in the day), but any in-depth thinking about the volunteer’s host country is rare. I’ve used a number of venues to talk about my host country, Korea. Now, with the current political situation, I feel again the need to share my thoughts and what I’ve learned over the years. This is a task made much more difficult by the strongly negative portrayal of the northern part of Korea today. [pullquote]Please notice that I will not use the terms “North Korea” and “South Korea,” as no countries exist with those names.[/pullquote]

On Puzzles (May 2019)

On Loss

Many Friends in the West today trace our religious ancestry back to the arrival of Joel and Hannah Bean in California in 1882. The monthly meeting that the Beans enlivened in San Jose eventually became the root stock of three new yearly meetings – Pacific, North Pacific, and Intermountain (to oversimplify). Thirty years earlier, Joel and Hannah had traveled with the pioneer “Bean wagon train” that relocated dozens of Beans from New England to the brand new “free state” of Iowa. The Beans were central in the formation of Iowa Yearly Meeting, and Joel and Hannah clerked its two constituent meetings (men’s and women’s) for about ten years.

On Loss (May 2023)

Surmounting Limits in Quakerism

When I asked Mary Klein if she would publish an article about the 2016 meeting of Friends World Committee on Consultation, she suggested that I write one for the issue on “Limits.” My initial response was: “Is she kidding?” I was grateful for her offer, but something in me bristles at the word “limits.”

On Limits (May 2016)

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.

On Heritage (July 2016)