Quaker news editor needed

Here at Friends Jour­nal, we’re very lucky to have some very com­mit­ted vol­un­teers. Karie Firooz­mand and Eileen Red­den sends books out to dozens of vol­un­teer read­ers and pull the results togeth­er into our month­ly books col­umn. Rose­mary Zim­mer­man reads through all the poet­ry that comes in, care­ful­ly select­ing pieces to appear in the mag­a­zine. Mary Julia Street reworks the birth notices and obit­u­ar­ies that come in to include more inter­est­ing details than you get in most news­pa­per list­ings.

Last year we won the “Best in Class” award from the Asso­ci­at­ed Church Press. We’re proud, of course, but I was pleas­ant­ly. Com­pared to most denom­i­na­tion­al mag­a­zines, Friends Jour­nal is crazi­ly under­staffed. For­give the pugilis­tic metaphor, but these vol­un­teer edi­tors are a big rea­son we punch above our weight. Cut­ting through cul­tur­al sta­t­ic and the man­u­fac­tured busy­ness of mod­ern life and reach seek­ers is a never-ending chal­lenge. Think about whether you might be led to work with us on this

The extend­ed dead­line is Jan­u­ary 16th. MLK Day. Learn more at:

Are We More Than Our Demographics?

One of the things that is intrigu­ing me late­ly is the nature of Quak­er debate.  There are half a dozen seemingly-perennial polit­i­cal issues around which Friends in my cir­cles have very strong opin­ions (these include abor­tion, nuclear pow­er, and the role of Friends in the trou­bles of Israel/Palestine) . We often jus­ti­fy our posi­tions with appeals to our Quak­er faith, but I won­der how often our opin­ions could be more accu­rate­ly pre­dict­ed by our demo­graph­ic pro­file?


How many of your polit­i­cal posi­tions and social atti­tudes could be accu­rate­ly guessed by a savvy demog­ra­ph­er who knew your date of birth,  postal code,  edu­ca­tion and fam­i­ly income? I’d guess each of us are far more pre­dictable than we’d like to think.If true,  then what role does our reli­gious life actu­al­ly play?

Reli­gious beliefs are also a demo­graph­ic cat­e­go­ry,  grant­ed, but if they only con­firm posi­tions that could be just as actu­al­ly pre­dict­ed by non-spiritual data, then doesn’t that imply that we’ve sim­ply found (or remained in) a reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty that con­firms our pre-existing bias­es? Have we cre­at­ed a faith in our own image? And if true, is it real­ly fair to jus­ti­fy our­selves based on appeals to Quak­er val­ues?

The “polit­i­cal” Quak­er writ­ings I’m find­ing most inter­est­ing (because they’re least pre­dictable) are the ones that stop to ask how Quak­er dis­cern­ment fits into the debate. Dis­cern­ment: one could eas­i­ly argue that Quak­er open­ings and tools around it are one of our great­est gifts to human spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.  When we build a wor­ship com­mu­ni­ty based on strict adher­ence to the imme­di­ate prompt­ing of the Holy Spir­it, the first ques­tion becomes fig­ur­ing out what is of-God and what is not.  Is James Nayler, rid­ing Jesus-like into Bris­tol, a prophet or a nut?

When we go deep into the ques­tions,  we may find that the answers are less impor­tant than the care we take to reach them.  Wait­ing for one anoth­er,  hold­ing one another’s hand in love despite dif­fer­ences of opin­ion, can be more impor­tant than being the right-answer ear­ly adopter. How do you step back from easy answers to the thorny ques­tions? How do you poll your­self and that-of-God in your­self to open your eyes and ears for the poten­tial of sur­prise?

Bible Illiterate No More

One Year BibleA bit of a mile­stone – I fin­ished the One Year Bible read­ing plan last night! I man­aged to stretch it out to 27 months but that’s alright. I start­ed in Jan­u­ary 2009 and ini­tial­ly kept the dai­ly read­ings going till May of that year, when I feel hope­less­ly behind. I kept a men­tal note of the date and in May 2010 I start­ed where I had left off. I kept read­ing reg­u­lar­ly until the last week in Decem­ber, when I was under­stand­ably dis­tract­ed by the birth of our third son Gre­go­ry on 12/28. Know­ing I want­ed to keep the cycle going, I skipped that week and start­ed again on Jan­u­ary 1, 2011. It was only last night that I went back and fin­ished up that last week – fea­tur­ing Malachi and Rev­e­la­tions (which has the Lamb’s War metaphor so impor­tant to ear­ly Friends).

Thanks go to Gregg Kosela and AJ Schwanz for let­ting me know such a thing as one year Bible read­ing plans exist­ed. I had nev­er been able to stick to a reg­u­lar Bible-reading reg­i­men before. The grand­moth­er who fre­quent­ly declared me a Bible illit­er­ate would be so proud! (Actu­al­ly not, she’d find some­thing else to cri­tique, but her hangups around fam­i­ly and “Chris­t­ian” liv­ing are a much longer blog post!).

It’s been great hav­ing a reg­u­lar spir­i­tu­al prac­tice. I’m glad I can find my way around the Bible now and my under­stand­ing of Friends has deep­ened. The ear­ly Quak­er writ­ings are steeped in Bib­li­cal allu­sions and we miss a lot when we miss those ref­er­ences.

Introducing Gregory Kelley Heiland

Bothering babies to make them make cute faces is fun!

On Tues­day, Dec 28 my love­ly wife Julie gave birth to our third son. After some dither­ing back and forth (we’re method­i­cal about baby names) we picked Gre­go­ry. Every­one is hap­py and healthy. Vital stats: 20 inch­es, 7 pounds 9 oz. The broth­ers are adjust­ing well, though Theo’s first response to my phone call telling him it was a boy was “oh no, anoth­er one of those.”

Francis is now also a big brother! Proud brother

That’s 5yo Fran­cis (aka “lit­tle big broth­er”) and 7yo Theo (“big big broth­er”) meet­ing their new sib­ling at the hos­pi­tal. More pics in the Gre­go­ry! and Gre­go­ry in the Hos­pi­tal sets on Flickr.

As you can see, we’ve basi­cal­ly bred triplets spaced over three years apart. As fur­ther evi­dence, here’s Theo and Fran­cis in their first pics (links to their announce­ment posts):
Brotherly love

As I men­tioned, we’re method­i­cal about names. When we were faced with Baby #2 I put togeth­er the “Fall­en Baby Names Chart” – clas­sic names that had fall­en out of trendy use. It’s based on the cur­rent rank­ing of the top names of 1900. “Gre­go­ry” doesn’t appear on our chart because it was almost unused until a sud­den appear­ance in the mid-1940s (see chart, right). Yes, that would be the time when a hand­some young actor named Gre­go­ry Peck became famous. It peaked in 1962, the year of Peck’s Acad­e­my Award for To Kill a Mock­ing­bird and has been drop­ping rapid­ly ever since. Last year less than one in a thou­sand new­born boys were Gregory’s. While we rec­og­nize Peck’s influ­ence in the name’s Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry pop­u­lar­i­ty, Julie is think­ing more of Gre­go­ry of Nys­sa [edit­ed, I orig­i­nal­ly linked to anoth­er ear­ly Gre­go­ry]. Peck’s par­ents were Catholic (pater­nal rel­a­tives helped lead the Irish East­er Ris­ing) and were pre­sum­ably think­ing of the Catholic saint when they gave him Gre­go­ry for a mid­dle name (he dropped his first name Eldred for the movies).