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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)

Staying Connected with Our Children

The school year is about to begin. Parents and school districts are making decisions about what is best for children in the midst of a pandemic, anxiously weighing health risks against social and mental health benefits, deciding between distance learning and in-person, socially distanced learning. We are facing these same kinds of decisions in our Quaker meetings, as we yearn for social connection and consider our options. As we consider our adult needs and capacities, let’s also remember to ask ourselves: What are we doing to stay connected with our Quaker children and families? How are we attentive to their spiritual needs?

On Teachers (September 2020)

Vision for the Day to Be

Peace I ask of thee of river, Peace, Peace, Peace. When I learn to live serenely, cares will cease. From the hills I gather courage, vision for the day to be. Strength to lead and faith to follow, All are given unto me. Peace I ask of thee of river, Peace, Peace, Peace.                     by Gwyneth Walker

On Vision (January 2021)

Cassandra 2020

Part faux Republican presidential campaign, part art project, with its candidate drawn from Greek mythology, Cassandra 2020 resists categorization. It has taken the form of community conversations, performance protest, video art, and guerilla sign-drops. It has been supported by a constant flux of contributors and co-creators, many of whom are also Quaker. It has sparked amusement, concern, scorn, joy, connection, and most importantly, curiosity.

On Vision (January 2021)

Small Steps toward Climate Justice

Dear Friends: Thanks to Shelly Tanenbaum, Kathy Barnhart, and Rick Herbert for their Western Friend article (Jan/Feb 2021) on their role in encouraging University of California’s divestment from fossil fuel companies. I appreciate their Quaker modesty about their role and about what divestment can do. By itself, divestment cannot bring Exxon, Chevron, Shell, & Company to their knees, but . . . “small steps,” as some Friends say. 

On Relevance (March 2021)

DIY Divestment

Some tasks seem to take a long time to get started. Doing dishes, weeding the garden, and paying bills come to mind. Once I’ve finally gotten going, I wonder why they ever seemed like a big deal. Divesting my family’s bank accounts from fossil fuels was like that.

On Debt (July 2021)

Sabbath Economics

Sabbath economics offers an alternative approach to dominant paradigms of economic theory and practice. Theologian-educator Ched Myers coined the term “Sabbath economics” in the 1990s, drawing from the Torah standard of social and economic justice and based on God’s call to “keep the Sabbath” by alternating good work with periods of rest.

On Debt (July 2021)

Friends for Racial Equity

I had struggled before over whether to speak during worship, but this was different. It was near the close of worship, and a long-time member was sharing a folk tale from childhood. The story clearly moved him, and I can only imagine it was intended as a gift, a tender ministry for all of us in worship. But it was not a gift, at least not of the kind intended. The tale was of an enduring struggle between two iconic opposing figures – one evil, one good. On another morning, I might have let such a story drift in and out of my awareness, a familiar premise with no hint of a surprise ending. Instead, as I listened, I felt my body stiffen; [pullquote]I was paralyzed and mortified. Here it was, in a folk tale, in worship: racist ministry.[/pullquote]

On Cliques (September 2021)