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Alternatives to Prison

Prisons rank high on the list of institutions that Quakers want to eliminate, very close to war. The most recent statement of legislative priorities by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (possibly the most widely-discerned document in the Quaker world) includes advocating for a system that “eliminates mass incarceration and promotes law-enforcement that is community-oriented and demilitarized.” The Board of the American Friends Service Committee, after producing an extensive background paper, took the position – back in 1978 – that it supports the abolition of prisons. Clearly, Quakers by and large want to live in that Light and Love that takes away the occasion of all prisons – along with jails, detention centers, and other places where people are held in cages.

On Alternatives (March 2022)

Forging a Relationship with Self

When I was a child, I craved quiet places where I could be alone with my feelings. Sometimes I would go along the side of the house where camellia and pomegranate grew or down the stone steps to a small orchard under a tangerine tree in full fruit. Later in life, when I was old enough to be trusted, I would venture to a meadow and lie down in the tall grasses or climb high in a tree. Each of these places offered an essential opportunity to experience my inner being. [pullquote]Children have access to this “still small voice” in nature, preferably alone, where they can connect with their dreams and harness themselves for disappointment, which will surely come in life.[/pullquote]

On Place (May 2022)

Soul-Work in Community

[This article was abridged from a far more detailed original, available at: https://westernfriend.org/media/soul-work-quaker-complative-reading]

On Normality (July 2022)

That Spark of Connection

Back in the days of my Dark Night Journey, I worked hard to define what I meant by “spirit” and “spiritual.” What my reasoning mind came up with was an analogy: Just as our eyes are physical organs of sight, designed or evolved to detect certain frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, our spirits are as-yet-unidentified organs of relationship. (I hear Isaac Penington raising a Friendly alarm against this rationalistic formulation.)

On Normality (July 2022)

Deep Hope in Optimystical Times (abridged)

For decades, I’ve been talking publicly about the gathering catastrophes of climate change and social injustice, and about the decline of the Society of Friends. Sounds pretty gloomy, I know. My day job as a palliative care chaplain at a large urban hospital entails sitting at the feet of those very powerful teachers named in Buddhist tradition: old age, sickness, and death.

On Cooperation (September 2022)

On Conflict

As Friends, it matters to us that we try to listen. Those times when we are forced to admit that, in fact, we actually have not been paying attention . . . well, we want to fix it. The impulse to repair misunderstandings is commonplace. But the ability to follow through on such repair often takes more patience and humility than a person can muster on a given day.

On Conflict (January 2023)

Abortion and Community

“Community” is central to Friends’ faith and practice, and of course, it is central to all of humanity. Life starts with a community of two – the mother and her infant. A baby’s community grows as she grows. Eventually it may include her father, other siblings, and many others.

On Healers (September 2023)