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The Legacy They Gave Us (review)

I really enjoyed this short book by Matilda Hansen, who grew up in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) in the mid-1900s. Luckily for us, Hansen decided to research and document her Norwegian Quaker ancestors. The resulting book has a lot in it – a love story, a story of conscientious objection, immigration, travel, a Quaker split, and the Underground Railroad. If you are interested in the history of western Quakers in twentieth-century America, you will also likely be interested to read about some of the roots of that history in nineteenth-century Iowa.

On Bosses (July 2018)

Uprooting Racism (abridged)

My son was raised as a Quaker, but he left the meeting and joined an African American mega-church. Both our daughters were raised as Quakers, and they also left. During a retreat I attended this summer, several African American Friends told me they no longer attend their Quaker meetings because they cannot tolerate the racism they experience there on a weekly basis.

On Children (September 2018)

In Memory of Mary Dyer

The martial music plays, bronzed alive only the invisible songs survive to fuse two sculptures in a final swoon singing today’s melodies of hope and doom, the Holy Spirit’s breath whispering between them as Mary Dyer speaks to the Colonel’s men, urging them to ascend to Jesus once again, chanting songs of the beginning and the end

On Mixture (November 2018)

The Earth will be Fine

Dear Editor: Many thanks to Kate McClellan for her letter in the November/December 2018 Western Friend. I appreciated her pointing out that the climate crisis and other environmental crises are not really going to affect the earth fundamentally, but only the biosphere of the earth (which includes us, homo sapiens). The earth will be just fine with or without us. We are not really trying to save the earth; we are trying to save ourselves. What an arrogant species we are!

On Weapons (January 2019)

Money and Soul

Dear Friends: I have just read Pendle Hill Pamphlet #450, Pamela Haines’s “Money and Soul,” and I encourage Friends to read it. It’s based on a talk that the author gave at Intermountain Yearly Meeting in 2017 (which was published by Western Friend; see: westernfriend.org/article/money-and-soul-abridged). Haines packs much that is central to economic justice into this little pamphlet – both on the institutional/systemic and the individual levels. The latter often seems more difficult to discuss. Because of its clarity and hopeful tone, this pamphlet would be a useful resource for study groups and worship-sharing groups in all our meetings.

On Water (March 2019)

Before the Monsoon (review)

In the author statement that concludes Eleanor Dart’s latest book of poems, Before the Monsoon, Dart writes, “I don’t want to leave my writing buried in filing cabinets when I depart this life. Hence, this book.” I imagine her poems being rescued from papery depths, freed from the ponderous weight of file folders and metal drawers. Perhaps these poems once lived among tax statements, instruction manuals, love letters, but in this volume, they live together without any trace of compression or randomness.

On Water (March 2019)

Warner Mifflin, Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist (review)

In Warner Mifflin, Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist, Professor Gary B. Nash brings to life a long-neglected leader of the Quaker abolitionist movement. Although largely unknown to historians and scholars, Mifflin was known and admired by his contemporaries – including such prominent figures as Washington, Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson – who saw in him a tireless and premiere legislative lobbyist who worked at the local, state, and federal levels for the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery.

On Puzzles (May 2019)

Black. Christian. Anarchist.

I am an African American whose encounter with God is more an attitude than belief system, a certain swagger and daring in the face of what black liberation theologian James Cone would refer to as “obvious failure.” By all quantitative standards, the post-Reconstruction experience of African Americans would meet the definition of failure. Today, the median wealth of single Black women is – prepare yourself – five dollars. In San Francisco, African Americans are only five percent of the population. If all religious practice is a response to a set of particular historical circumstances what can speak to this collective misery? The African American religious experience is ultimately about the quest for freedom and self-determination.

On Control (July 2019)