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Self-Compassion and Quakers

Like many others, I was drawn to the Religious Society of Friends by its compassionate work with people in need. As an undergraduate in the 1960s, I witnessed that compassion first-hand by participating in several AFSC projects, including visiting mental-hospital patients in the Bay Area and working with disadvantaged children during Freedom Summer in Memphis, Tennessee. Those experiences inspired my later career as a child psychologist. Yet almost from the beginning, I have found it difficult to live up to Friends’ idealism; and over the years, I have grown to perceive among Friends a hidden, unmet need – for self-compassion.

On Mixture (November 2018)

Two Quaker Observers to COP24

2018 was a year of climate records. The fourth warmest year since the beginning of the industrial revolution, it featured intense drought and wildfires in western North America, a devastating hurricane season in the Southeast, unprecedented flooding in southern Asia, and continued loss of Arctic sea ice. It was also the year that the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that humanity had twelve years to stave off global climate catastrophe.

On Puzzles (April 2019)

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? *

I became a convinced Friend the first time I walked into a Quaker meeting for worship. I was twenty-one, and I experienced the best of what Quaker worship can be. Compared with my previous experience of religion –  a “stand up, sit down” experience of being “preached at” – I said to myself, “this is the real thing.” That was fifty years ago.

On Puzzles (April 2019)

Expanding the Concept and Practice of Nonviolence (abridged)

The following text is an abridged version of a recently discovered, previously unpublished article. The full version is published online at: westernfriend.org/media/expanding-nonviolence

On Neighbors (September 2019)

A Word from the Lost (review)

Nayler – this name brings to mind, if not in much detail, the ride into Bristol and the quotation, “There is a spirit that I feel . . .” David Lewis’s book is a fine remedy for this common shortfall in knowledge about James Nayler. It is a brief but remarkably rich account of a Nayler text, Love to the Lost, and its context. Lewis’s book is a theological exploration of Nayler’s writing and much more – including historical, biographical, and political accounts that bring the religious and personal dimensions of Nayler into meaningful connection.

On Mediation (January 2020)

On the Side of the Rebel Jesus

During my year of spiritual service with Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), Jesus’s teachings became much more relevant to my life. I began to notice how his message relates to facets of my life that once seemed separate from my spirituality – in particular, my activism. Being introduced to the topic of liberation theology during my time in this program opened up a new window through which I could look at the world.

On Wealth (May 2020)

A Shift in Our Priorities

Dear Friends: In March, when the 2020 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference was postponed, the planning committee was originally going to ask the plenary speakers, of whom I was one, to write something about how the topic of their plenary related to the COVID-19 pandemic. I'd been nearly constantly thinking about that –Earthcare in a time of COVID-19 – anyway.

On Wealth (May 2020)

The Messy Ethics of Giving

Why do Quakers soft-pedal the importance of financial giving?  It’s true, our unprogrammed meetings don’t need as much as conventional churches since they typically lack paid staff and large buildings.  But beyond those differences, we seem to be quite uneasy in even bringing up the topic.

On Wealth (May 2020)

Meditation, Worship, Science

In 1969 in Seattle, getting help from the American Friends Service Committee on my application for conscientious objector status, I went upstairs to see what the Quakers were about. That Sunday meeting was my first experience of mindful meditation. “We sit in silence and listen for thoughts from God,” they told me. I liked the silence, and I liked that there was no dogma, but I didn’t believe in God. Even so, what people said in Quaker meeting made more sense than anything I was hearing anywhere else. I remember sitting in meeting the first few times, checking each thought that entered my mind: Is this one from God? It was pretty clear that hardly any were candidates for consideration.

On Secrets (July 2020)