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

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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).