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Elizabeth Gurney Fry: A Quaker Mess

Friends are doing a lot of reevaluation these days, reexamining our past and our venerable Quaker ancestors. In some cases, when moral inconsistencies emerge into the open, reexamination means that some iconic Friends are losing their luster. In other cases, stories of early Friends’ messy lives help us to see their humanity, which can lend greater depth and nuance to their spiritual writings. This happened for me when I read Chad Thralls’ May 2011 article in Friends Journal on the “embodied” life of Thomas Kelly. Learning how Kelly confronted his inner demons through surrender to Spirit increased my appreciation of his lyrical testimony.

On Conflict (January 2023)

Mindfulness and Quaker Worship

In meeting for worship, we center down, listen to vocal ministry, discern authentic vocal ministry, and hold people in the Light. The practice of mindfulness helps me with all of these. Also, if it weren’t for my mindfulness practice, I probably would have had to abandon Quakerism decades ago.

On Flesh (November 2016)

A Science of Quaker Practice

I have explored a lot of Quaker writings, and I also enjoy participating in Quaker practices such as silent worship, worship sharing, and business meetings (yes, those too). At the same time, as a person with a science background, I often find myself exploring books on neuroscience, evolution, and related topics, and I try to sort out how our Quaker ways relate to current findings by scientists in such fields. I see at least four human abilities under scientific research that relate to our Quaker practices:

On Flesh (November 2016)

Living Grief, Finding Connection

As climate disasters, species extinctions, and the relentless unraveling of the Web of Life on Earth become ever more impossible to ignore, eco-anxiety becomes ever more widespread. There’s now a name for this unique mental anguish – solastalgia – a term created by environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht in the early 2000s. Unrelenting hurricane seasons, devastating forest fires, smoke- and smog-filled air, prolonged drought, extreme heat, clear-cutting – all these can trigger solastalgia. Buddhist deep ecologist, eco-philosopher and activist Joanna Macy expresses this well in The Bestiary:

On Loss (May 2023)

The Perplexity of Prayer

A dove-white drapery is placed over a casket which cost several thousand dollars.

On Prayer (March 2024)

Earth Justice Worship

My most powerful worship experience of the last decade took place on a chilly morning last November, on a folding chair outside Vanguard headquarters in Malvern, PA.

On Prayer (March 2024)