Friends don’t have a particularly good track record with regards to controversy. There’s no reason we need to pretend to be talking historically. We’ve had two major yearly meetings break up in this summer (meet Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting and North Carolina Fellowship of Friends), with at least one more “at bat” for some future long hot summer.
Controversies flare up in many places. Friend Sa’ed Atshan just broke his media silence to talk about the cancelation of his talk at Friends’ Central School in February and the subsequent walk-outs, firings, and litigations. The controversy around Avis Wanda McClinton’s disownment by Upper Dublin Meeting continues to incense large numbers of Philadelphia Friends, with fuel to the fire coming from the role that the Undoing Racism Group does or doesn’t have in the yearly meeting structure. Last year a majority of Friends of color boycotted public events at the FGC Gathering over frustration at the site selection process and the underlying issues extend to other Quaker venues.
The most-commented recent article in Friends Journal is “It Breaks My Heart” by Kate Pruitt from the online June/July issue. Many readers related to her sense of alienation and loss. Two comments that hit me the hardest were:
Not all Friends are found in Quaker Meetings. You’re better off without your meeting.
Gone now is the hope… of finding community among Quakers. To be frank, why bother? There’s plenty of brokenness right where I am.
And I get enough “Why I’m leaving Friends” manifestos in my email inbox every month that I could turn it into a regular Friends Journal column.
It seems to me that are a number of underlying issues that tie these controversies together. What do we do when a group of Friends starts acting in a manner that seems contrary to our understanding of Quaker testimonies and practices? How do we balance love and judgement when conflict arises among us? When do we break out of Quaker niceness? Maybe even more challenging, how do we maintain our integrity and accountability when controversy breaks us into camps willing to engage in exaggeration? And just what do we say when the outside public only gets half the story or thinks that one side is speaking for all Friends?
So this is a plug for submissions for December's Friends Journal. The theme is “Conflict and Controversy" and the submission deadline is September 9. We’re not looking for blow-by-blow accounts of being mistreated, and we’re not terribly interested (this time) in manifestos about Quaker cultural norms. I'm less interested in specific issues than I am the meta of discernment: How do individuals or small groups of Friends move forward in the heat of controversy. What do we do when the easy solutions have failed? How do we decide when it's time to break out of Quaker niceness to lay down some truth—or time to kick the dust off your sandals and move along?
When we came here in fifteen or so years ago, Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden was a magical oasis tucked in the middle of a block in Key West, a small forest said to be the last undeveloped acre in the city’s Old Town neighborhood. Full of winding paths and trees it was the rarest of spaces: loved, carefully tended, and shared with the public as a gift of beauty. But even then it felt besieged. In 2012 taxes and expenses became too much and Nancy sold off parcels to developers. From an article in Key News:
The tucked-away entrance to Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden off Free School Lane in the 500 block of Simonton Street will be closed to the public after today, as finances and property taxes have forced Forrester to sell the land parcels that have housed an artist’s cottage and gallery, parrots, orchids, rare palms, meandering pathways and a meditative garden for more than four decades.
These days the garden has been reduced to a small backyard on Elizabeth Street which Nancy uses as a rescue parrot refuge. In the mornings she gives educational lectures on the birds, full of facts about their brilliant behavior, the destruction of their native habitats, and gentle lectures about how we can all protect native parrot habitats by living more lightly on the land (hint: no red palm oil or beef). From behind the fence came the sounds of a swimming pool being installed in the cutdown middle of the former garden. Nancy has life tenancy on the ill-repaired house where she lives with the parrots.
I don’t know the details of the real estate transactions or Forrester’s finances but I find it incredible that Key West couldn’t rally around one of its living treasures. I’m glad that Nancy remains along with her parrots and I’m grateful my kids got a chance to meet her.
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:
From the NPR description:
Many of us spend lots of time and energy trying to get organized. We KonMari our closets, we strive for inbox zero, we tell our kids to clean their rooms, and our politicians to clean up Washington. But Economist Tim Harford says, maybe we should embrace the chaos. His new book is Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.
Uh-oh, should we stop being so fussy about cleaned-up rooms. Just last night I spent 45 minutes cajoling and threatening and begging my five year old to clean an amazing block city he had constructed in the living room. Curiously, the link to the podcast was sent to me by my wife.
And in all this craziness I missed that Neil Young had just dropped a new tune on us.
And apparently, this is just one of four new songs:
Famed rocker Neil Young has played hundreds of towns and cities all over the world since starting his illustrious career in the ’60s, but last night marked his first performance in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. Neil Young and Promise Of The Real treated fans to a 21-song performance as part of their first of two consecutive shows at Town Park in Telluride on Friday.
It seems a lot of conversations I’m in these days, on social media and IRL revolve around how we should be responding to Trump’s election. I know there’s a certain danger in being too deterministic, but a lot of answers seem to match where individuals are in the vulnerability scale. Some are counseling patience: let’s see how it goes after the inauguration. Maybe we don’t know the real Donald Trump.
Well, I think we do know the real Trump by now, but what I don’t think we know is the actual flavor of a Trump presidency. Have we ever seen a president elect who was so thin on actual policy? Trump rode his lack of policy experience to victory, of course, citing his independence from the people who govern as one of his chief qualifications. But it’s also his personality: on the campaign trail and in his famous 3am tweets from the toilet he often contradicted himself.
He’s a man of high-concept ideas, not detailed policy. This means the actual policies – and the governance we should and shouldn’t worry about – will depend disproportionately on the people he hires. Right now it seems like he’s trolling lobbyists and a handful of neocon dinosaurs that started the Iraq War on forged documents. He’s bringing the alligators in to “drain the swamp” and in the last 24 hours they’ve already signaled that a lot of key campaign pledges are open for reconsideration. How much we have to worry – and just what we have to worry about – will be clearer as his team assembles.