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Communicating Quaker experience to connect and deepen spiritual lives
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Sunday Morning Whiteout

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 2:30am

© kichigin19

All night falling snow, a trackless silence,

and now dawn light snow filled until

all ways across the field have failed but still

at the table soft voices warm as hands.

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Categories: Articles & News

November Full Issue Access

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 2:10am
Members can download the full PDF or read any article online (see links below). Features: “The Transformation of a Small Quaker Library” by Ruth McNeill, “Meeting with Friends in an Old Library” by Sheilah Hill, “Interview with Friends Journal Book Editors,” and “Library as Metaphor” by Gwen Gosney Erickson. Online exclusives include: “Costini with Olive Tapenade… and Tea” by Ruthie Tippin, “Are Meeting Library Encumbrances?” by Carol Kitchen🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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Categories: Articles & News

The Silent Spaces That Speak Volumes

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 2:05am

Our younger son, who turns five this month, just got his first library card. He’s a voracious reader, and ours is a household that celebrates reading as a virtue and a pleasure, so this marks a joyous milestone for our family: we’re all not just library fans but card-carrying ones. We’re connoisseurs of the children’s sections at many branches of the library system in Philadelphia, where we live, and even our family vacations often find us haunting the local library, like we did in Homer, Alaska, this summer just before a pizza dinner near the beach with extended family and some local Quakers.

At the meeting where I worship, the library is small but well-stocked. It’s computer-free, but we’ve got DVDs available for borrowing (including the QuakerSpeak series) and a handsome rack of Friends Journal issues. Our intrepid library committee reads the book reviews in Friends Journal and regularly adds to the collection, and I don’t think I’m the only one who surreptitiously adds volumes as gifts to our meeting’s literary life. I sometimes worry, though, that if it’s your first time at our meeting, the library is easy to miss, an overlooked gem. It’s difficult, since there’s no librarian on duty, for a visitor to know where to begin, if they should happen to make it inside. But the library, at least, is free of the sense of foreboding that I recognize in the “before” portrait in Ruth McNeill’s “The Transformation of a Small Quaker Library.” Reading along, I felt invested in her valiant struggle to turn her meeting’s library into what it ought to be for her community, so much so that I sighed in satisfaction when reading as she gave her final report on her project to her meeting for business.

Libraries should be spaces that invite discovery, foster serendipity, and help their users feel at the greatest of ease in finding what what they need—whether or not they go in knowing what that is. As the media we use change, we should think, as Gwen Gosney Erickson and her colleagues and students at Guilford College’s Hege Library did, about how a library might change, too. Their story is told in “Library as Metaphor.”

As we put together and plan future issues of this magazine, and future QuakerSpeak videos, we seek to learn as much as we can from what our readers’ and viewers’ behaviors tell us, to pay attention to what they do, not just what they say. If there are books or other resources that seem particularly well used in your library, it’s worth noticing, and worth asking yourself, “Why?” What needs are being met, and what can you do to anticipate and satisfy other needs that follow? What does your library do to meet users where they are and help them move further into an engagement that will help them deepen their spiritual lives and, in turn, deepen yours as a community?

These are queries that shouldn’t just be rhetorical questions. They have answers, and we’re with you, reader, in seeking those out. What are the books you’d replace, time after time, if you found they kept disappearing from your meeting’s library?

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Categories: Articles & News

Forum November 2017

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 2:00am
Nonviolent responses to Charlottesville I was very impressed by the brave actions of Friends from Charlottesville, Va. (“Charlottesville Quakers and the Ongoing Stand against White Nationalists” by Isaac Barnes May, FJ Sept. online). As someone who has been a Friend for 55 years, I have been concerned about the lack of discussion about a nonviolent response to the incident there. Since I wasn’t in the city, I felt I had no right to ask for a nonviolent response, but local Friends carried it out. Thank you. Margery Cornwell Brooklyn, N.Y.   Recognizing that of God🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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Categories: Articles & News

Terrorism and Not Being Afraid

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:55am

© Dolat Khan, Via Wikimedia

 

The result of terrorism is rarely what terrorists think it will be. Terrorists believe that their act is going to get people to change their ways or teach them a lesson they won’t soon forget. Terrorists hope to instill fear in people, so that they’ll be willing to give up their status as persons worthy of respect and care, and thus submit to the ideology of the terrorist, be it religious, patriotic, or tribal. Terrorists believe this works because they themselves have given up their status as people worthy of respect and care, and become submissive to an ideology.

The faith of terrorists, however, succeeds in only one way: it produces counter-terrorism, which is merely terrorism in a new disguise. Those who’ve been attacked become terrorists, willing to inflict injury on those who represent the source of their fear, even though many innocent bystanders are injured, too. The consequence of terrorism is the spread of terrorism and the breeding of more terrorists.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Ps. 23:4). Notice that the psalmist doesn’t say there will be no evil. That is not something to hope for; it is an indulgence in fantasy. Rather, my fear and the damage to the community that it can cause needs to be my concern. We are hardly aware of the evil consequences of fearing evil; everything we fear is strengthened and empowered by our fear: Fear makes us act in ways that increase the force of what we fear. Fear changes us and makes us defensive. When we become fearful, we create a gap between ourselves and that which we fear, and consequently become fully equipped to do evil. This gap cuts us off from those who love and support us, because they see the danger we have become. The price of fear is always too high.

Fear comes from the ego’s need to defend itself. Hence, the only way to let go of fear is to find a guide other than self. And the other guide is indicated in another section of the psalm: “He leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my soul” (2, 3). (The male pronoun is just a pointer; don’t imagine you know the sex of the referent.) It is when we are quiet and have come to a still place inside, underneath the ego, that we are enabled to let go of our fears. In that place, we come to know a connection to reality where we can never be anything but safe. The separation between ourselves and what we previously saw as a threat fades away. Saying this is easy; doing it is a hard discipline. Many people would rather die angry than subject themselves to this discipline. Killing the devalued other is so much easier, and “justification” (meaning an eye for an eye) is easily found. We can fantasize that we can nurture our anger, destroy our enemy, and thereby “keep the peace.” When we do that, we ignore the fact that our “peace” was never real, but was merely the studied lack of awareness of the violence in which we had immersed ourselves. Those who are surprised by terrorism ignore or discount its causes: what their own side did to cause terrorism to arise. Also ignored is the way their own violence leaves a legacy of hate that will fester and erupt later.

If we hold fast to our Guide, we will be able to let go of our fear and come to genuine peace. We will be able to retain our love and compassion and our recognition that even terrorists are human beings, however lost they have become. Both love and hate have power to change people, but love alone can heal the world. The only hope for us is to let go of fear and hate and equip ourselves with love. All the rest is a snare and an illusion.

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Categories: Articles & News

The Transformation of a Small Quaker Library

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:50am
The Corvallis Meeting library after renovations and reorganization. Photo by Laurie Childers.   Corvallis Meeting in Oregon is a small but vibrant unprogrammed meeting, with a Sunday attendance of 20 to 25 worshipers. I first showed up at the end of October 2004, with only a slight acquaintance with Quakerism. I was seeking peace and quiet after moving with my husband across the country from🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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Categories: Articles & News

Meeting with Friends in an Old Library

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:45am
Photos of Beacon Hill Friends House © Vickie Wu.   The north windows are at my back, and the south windows are in front of me. I’m sitting at a long library table at Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston. What an unexpected delight to be in this library and in this very old house with the very old books! Across the Boston Common🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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Categories: Articles & News

Interview with Friends Journal’s Book Review Editor 

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:41am
Karie Firoozmand Interview

Please introduce yourself, and explain what your role is at Friends Journal, and how long you’ve been in that role.

I’m a convinced Friend. And my membership is in Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore Yearly Meeting; Stony Run is in the city of Baltimore. I think I’ve been at Friends Journal since 2011 where my role is choosing books to review.

What I do during the workday is make a living: I’m an executive assistant at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But it’s really the things I do outside of that work that make my life: my family, my meeting, doing this volunteer work with Friends Journal, and with committees at my monthly meeting and yearly meeting.

What is your approach to deciding which books we end up reviewing?

I see the column as a very precious, very small space. It’s not a lot of space when you think about all the books that we could review. So I look at the ones that you in the office send me in boxes. And I keep my ears open about new publications.

We have a couple dozen reviewers; around ten of them are very regular. And then some others are available but not all the time. I’ve enjoyed getting to know what topics different reviewers are interested in. Developing those relationships has been really rewarding for me.

How do you recruit new reviewers?

I recruit people by asking them if they’re interested, and if they are, then I explain the process. Once they’re reviewers, I match them with books based on their stated interests. Because we have so many reviewers, I’m able to work with people’s windows of availability and areas of expertise and interest.

There are different topics that Quakers are working on right now, and it’s important to have reviewers who are people of color, people of different ages, as well as people of various sexual identities. Diverse reviewers can add to our wisdom and advance the conversation among Friends. Interested readers of this interview should reach out to me.

Because Friends have been a community with primarily a European background, we have a lot of learning to do about what it means when we say we want to be diverse. We have a lot to learn, and I’m hoping the Books column is one way that we can do that.

What makes putting together a book review column for a Quaker audience different or special?

I always keep in mind the fact that there are a diversity of theologies and there are Quakers outside of North America. It’s important that we review books that are broad in their theology; not each book is broad in its theology, but the book review column includes books from different points of view.

When we review books that are secular in nature, we ask the reviewer to make the Quaker connection for us. I hope that the reviews bring across that the selection of books has been carefully curated: we’re putting this in front of you because this book is about a topic that’s important to Quakers, or this book is about a topic that has been important to Quakers for a long time, i.e., the Bible.

Some Friends say we publish too much on social justice topics and not enough theology. And then some people say we should publish more on social justice.

Not every book needs to satisfy every Quaker reader. We need to present books that will appeal to some and not others. You sometimes lose the power in something when you try to make everybody happy at once. We wouldn’t want to miss reviewing a book that has some important teaching, just because it won’t make everybody happy. Not everyone is going to read every book that’s reviewed.

We need to include books that will touch the heart of the experience of one kind of Quaker and not another. And then we need to turn around and touch the hearts of other people’s experiences with books that others wouldn’t like or wouldn’t be interested in. Some might feel a book is too Universalist, and others might feel that a book is too Christocentric. This difference exists in the Religious Society of Friends, and it exists in the Books column too.

What are the three Quaker books you wish existed?

I would like to see three books that would help us understand and learn what we’re really saying when we say that we want to be inclusive and we want to be diverse. Help us understand what we need to do next.

Publishing has changed a lot even in the last few years. There’s a lot more self-publishing and electronic publishing. How has that changed what’s available?

Self publishing creates more of a due-diligence burden for us because we have to check out that material. You don’t have the luxury of knowing that the piece has already made it through a publisher’s editing and selection process. So we have to read more of it and see is this a book that has been adequately edited. Is this a book whose content we think is interesting or relevant enough to be included in that precious, small space that we have?

The good thing about self-publishing is it has created access to getting your words into print if that’s what you want to do.

What about electronic or digital publishing?

Reviewers like having the hard copy book. But as far as patterns in purchasing or whether a book’s availability in electronic format affects a purchaser’s decision about getting it or not, I don’t really know.

The post Interview with Friends Journal’s Book Review Editor  appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Interview with Friends Journal’s Assistant Book Review Editor

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:40am
Eileen Redden Interview

 

Please introduce yourself, and explain what your role is at Friends Journal, and how long you’ve been in that role.

I would describe myself as a wife, mother, retired educator, volunteer, teacher of lifelong learning, and avid reader who likes to travel. I’ve been volunteering for Friends Journal since 2008.

When I’m not doing Friends Journal stuff, I travel; I read; I volunteer. I have a list about a mile long of places I would like to go to. I don’t think I’m going to make it to all of them. In July I went to a program at Oxford in England through the Smithsonian. And we went to Germany recently because we have a former exchange student, whom we call our German son, who got married. So we went to and participated in the wedding basically as members of the family, which was really unbelievable. So we’ve done some interesting travel recently.

As the assistant book review editor, you manage the Young Friends Bookshelf column, which we publish twice a year in the May and December issues. How do you decide on the books that we review?

I kind of imagine the reader and try to figure out what they would like to have reviewed, what kinds of things they would find useful—assuming that they don’t spend a lot of time necessarily looking at what’s being published in children’s books and maybe are just looking for a present for a grandchild, or something they can use in First-day school, or whatever. And so I spend a lot of time thinking about this, and I try to find books that are of interest to Quakers.

And I try to find things that are for different age groups, so that we don’t have just all picture books, or all young adult books. I try to make sure we hit different literary styles—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, all kinds of things. And then I consider what we’ve reviewed recently. So if we had a wonderful book on a particular topic six months ago, and another book comes out and it is equally wonderful, it may not get reviewed simply because there’s limited space.

Describe your process for matching books with reviewers.

I do read most of the books that get in the column—plus a lot of things that don’t get in the column. And first I decide whether I think a book has made the cut. Then I go to the next step, which is who’s going to review the book. We have 21 people who have agreed, at this moment, to review children’s books. But some of those people will only review picture books, or they’ll only review young adult books, or they’re only really interested in books on certain topics. So that narrows it down right there.

I try to match the reviewer with a book based on what I know about the people. And sometimes I feel like I really know them—even though some of them I’ve never met—from various emails that have gone back and forth over the years. And also I have a resume from almost everybody who’s come on board in the last few years. It tells me what they’ve done vocationally, what their interests are.

I also try to move it around a little bit because I have 21 reviewers. I obviously cannot put 21 reviews in any one column. There’s a lot of balancing going on, a lot of thinking about the person, thinking about their expertise, whether or not they’ve done an assignment recently, what kind of book it is, and so forth. I take all that into account as I’m assigning. But they are volunteers, and sometimes they’re just too busy at that particular moment to do a review.

Can you describe our reviewer base for young Friends books?

Our reviewer base right now is mostly, first of all, bicoastal. They’re either on the East Coast or the West Coast. So we could definitely use people who are Friends in the Midwest and in the South.

We could use men only because—maybe this is sexist on my part, but I assume that men, who were little boys at one time in their lives, may be qualified to judge a book for boys better than women might be, who never were little boys. And men also might have some interest in some topic, or have knowledge or expertise in subjects and topics that we are missing because we have very few men reviewers. It is better than it used to be. We are improving, but we do not have as many men as I would like to see.

And I’m always looking for people with varied backgrounds—because you never know when you may need someone who can read that language or knows something about that particular time period. We can’t know that in advance. So having a large pool of people available obviously helps, and also we need to have not only geographic diversity, but diversity in Quakerism—the size of the meeting, for example.

If you are a member of a very small meeting, and you’re used to having to make a lesson fit the 3-year-old and the 13-year-old—which is a challenge—because there are only five kids in the meeting, then you may have different experiences. And you might look at a book differently than someone who comes from a very large meeting, where they have a class for three-year-olds, and a class for teenagers, and so forth and so on.

And you may have noticed that in our column, there quite often are things in there about this could be used for a lesson on such and such. Because a lot of our reviewers are people who teach First-day school, and they’ve thought about that: how could I use this book?

Have you noticed any patterns and trends lately in the books that we’ve been reviewing for the Young Friends column?

One recent trend for us is reviewing bilingual books. But that is a big hang-up sometimes because I need to have someone who knows that particular language at that particular time. In the last column, we had an Arabic book and a Spanish one too, and I was glad to share those books.

But there’s a trend that’s even bigger, I think, which is wordless books, where you just have to look at the pictures and figure out what’s going on. It never tells you what’s going on. Those are wonderful books for one-to-one, and less possible to share with a group. You can imagine having 30 kids sitting around one picture book trying to look at the pictures and figure out what’s going on.

And of course, there’s also trends in books in a certain topic. Certain topics become very popular, and there’s a lot of copycat in publishing, like anything else. If there’s a bestselling book on something, then the next year or six months later, all the other publishers come out with a similar book. So you do see that. Environment is probably the easiest topic for me to find and the one where I have the most reviewers who have an interest in it. Simplicity is probably the hardest topic to find. It’s a Quakerly attribute, but it’s not one that’s widely shared in our society. And publishers don’t see a need to write books about simplicity usually.

In last year’s December column, there were a lot of nonfiction biography titles focused on real stories about one person. There was Ada’s Violin, The William Hoy Story, The Water Princess, The Artist and Me, Dorothea’s Eyes, and The Extraordinary Suzy Wright. What are your thoughts on these kinds of books?

They’re publishing a lot of those books now because, in the schools, that’s the new way of teaching history: read a book about somebody from this time period. I think these types of books are very valuable. They are a valuable way to talk about certain issues or about somebody who’s stood up for a certain thing. It’s a way to address maybe equality or simplicity or whatever by demonstrating somebody who had that quality or tried to have that quality.

Our Young Friends column covers a wide age range, from toddler board books to teen novels. How different is the publishing for those audiences?

I find it tougher to find books for the teens. I found that was true even when my children were teens because, as a parent, you realize that your teens have very fixed ideas as to what they will or will not read. So they’re only going to read science fiction, or they’re only going to read about vampires or whatever it is. So that’s a little tougher. They’re more complex books sometimes, and just harder to find ones that seem to fit what I’m looking for. But I do make a real attempt to include things for every age.

What are the most essential books for young Friends that Quaker meetings should have in their libraries?

Thinking back to my own children’s lives, and they’re in their 30s now, I remember when they were young, they quite often would be waiting for me to get through a committee meeting or finish helping wash dishes in the meetinghouse or whatever, and they would grab a book from the bookshelf and start flipping through it. So I think it’s really important to have a lot of children’s books available and accessible, so the kids can read them or pick them up in situations like that. And of course they’re important for using in religious education. But just while they’re waiting for a parent, they’re going to look through it.

But if you don’t have an unlimited budget and you have to make a choice as to what to buy, I think I’d probably always go with the picture books because the picture books can be adapted and used with more age groups, including even adults. You can do a worship sharing and use a children’s book to prompt thought on a certain subject. So that would be my generic recommendation—not a particular title, but a particular type of book that I would suggest.

Lastly, what book would recommend for someone new to Quakerism?

Well right now, I am reading The Quaker Reader by Jessamyn West, so that would be a good book for such a person. But I think a really easy thing for a person in that situation to do is to get a subscription to the Pendle Hill pamphlets, because then they would be getting every couple months a small, little dose of Quaker thought from a Quaker author. And instead of having to commit to a 300-page book, they’d be committing to a 32-page little pamphlet. And if they’d like to read more, they have an idea of who to read next. But if they don’t particularly enjoy that or whatever, in two months there will be another pamphlet, and maybe they’ll enjoy that one more.

 

 

The post Interview with Friends Journal’s Assistant Book Review Editor appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Library as Metaphor

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:35am
Entering a New Chapter

Students in the Guilford College Library, 1909. (Friends Historical Collection, Guilford College, Greensboro, N.C.)

The shushing librarian in The Philadelphia Story (MGM, 1940).

Popular stereotypes hold both Quaker meetinghouses and libraries to be quiet, often historical places of refuge with dust motes and stern yet friendly human residents. The first documented image of a “shushing librarian” in American film is a Quaker librarian portrayed in The Philadelphia Story from 1940. Both Quakers and librarians are seen as discerning and helpful to others but a bit separate from the everyday noise of the modern world. Where do these stereotypes come from, and are they still true today?

Read also: Escaping the Dusty Bookcase

Queries for Friends to consider as they discern how to maintain a meeting library.

Friends Journal

Stereotypes by their very nature often contain some kernel of truth. Some meetings and libraries are dusty ancient places for quiet and are often cherished for these very attributes. But is fulfilling a sense of nostalgia what we are being called to do in the present? If not, how might we balance the tensions at play and open our institutions to new opportunities? A possible case study is the current evolution of one library that is part of a Quaker heritage institution. Guilford College’s Hege Library in Greensboro, North Carolina, is transforming from a twentieth-century library touting the number of items held to a twenty-first century library branded as an academic commons nurturing connections and collaboration.

Guilford College was founded as New Garden Boarding School and began 180 years ago in August 1837. The first book in the institution’s library was a copy of Robert Barclay’s An Apology for the True Christian Divinity (first published in 1678). Bibles, George Fox’s Journal, other Quaker texts and writings pertaining to Scripture were among the first books in those early years, along with texts on grammar and arithmetic. Perhaps with the exception of grammar and arithmetic titles, these early publications are familiar ones to most nineteenth-century Quaker libraries, and older meetings will likely find many of the same editions tucked away on their own bookshelves. As the school grew and the curriculum expanded to offer a more thorough classical preparatory education, the library grew and expanded to meet those needs. Quaker memoirs, journals, disciplines, and core writings of early Friends were joined by non-Quaker histories, biographies, philosophy, and religion as well as science publications (poetry and literature came along to join them about a generation later). Over time, the expansion continued to support the growing standards for an academic library as the boarding school transitioned into a four-year college. A beautiful Carnegie Library was constructed in 1909 to house the library’s book collections and to serve as a space for student study and research overseen by Quaker librarian Julia White.

Fast-forward a century later: student information needs and expectations, as well as how we all access and use information, have changed dramatically. Libraries need to be much more than quiet sanctuaries housing an ever-growing number of books. Many have been much more than that for decades, but the focus of visitors often still tends to be a question about the number of books owned by the library rather than deeper questions about the learning experiences nurtured within the space.

Guilford’s Hege Library was poised for a new era and sought to discern where it needed to be through an intensive strategic-planning process. The executive summary of the complete plan states:

We believe in the library’s central importance as a dynamic physical learning environment. We celebrate the library’s re-envisioning, which extends its role beyond one of knowledge repository to interactive learning laboratory.

In the three years since plan approval, a transformation has occurred—not just of physical space but also of operations and identity—as Guilford’s library incorporates academic technologies more fully into its responsibilities and seeks to cultivate collaborative opportunities by intentionally inviting academic partners to co-locate within the physical space. The root of the mission remains the same as educators committed to our students’ learning. However, it has evolved to make use of new tools and expanded to encourage closer cross-campus collaboration.

Guilford’s library planning process received encouragement along the way. We approached our process using the strengths-based strategy grounded in the Appreciative Inquiry model developed in the 1980s by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva at Case Western Reserve University. Rather than seeking out weaknesses and threats, we sought to identify opportunities and aspirations. We recognized that changes would be difficult for some. This was made easier by offering regular opportunities for communication and by remaining open to listening where words might be coming from so that we could work through points of tension. Choices had to be made as we decided to lay down some traditional activities and reduce overall collection size, as needs for newer services were identified. Each of these junctures provided an opportunity to reflect back on our core mission. Was something being maintained out of habit or because it remained useful for the community? If we chose to maintain something not originally on our priority list but held as a preference by a few, would that hinder implementation of a more recently identified essential need?

Libraries and books are something many hold dear. It can be painful to reduce the size of a physical collection. However, I have found my experience to be one of joyful pruning that creates opportunities for new growth. This is the right season for Guilford’s library to do some major pruning. The accession logs listing all the books placed in the library when the current building first opened in 1908 and the successive additions in later decades are preserved in the college archives so we can learn what resources our students used in the past without keeping each volume. The spaces created by shifting books are now an innovative collaborative classroom and additional student study spaces. The books that remain on open shelves are easier to browse, and those most useful jump out now that they are no longer hidden among the many less-used items. Our closed shelves have been greatly expanded to provide additional space for archival materials that are truly rare or unique to Guilford’s Quaker heritage. Our library’s collection is in the process of being revitalized, and our library, both as a building and as an organization, has been transformed.

The visioning process of our library could perhaps be held up as a model for meetings and other Quaker institutions. Are there new tools to consider and collaborations to nurture beyond Friends’ traditional borders? Do we let others (or a few individuals) define Quakerism based on past assumptions, or do we grapple as a meeting community with deeper questions about what Quakerism means to us in this particular time and place? Who do we include as our partners? What are we called to do as a community? Are we only preserving a past, or are we growing and living into a space that more fully develops our potential gifts as Friends?

Bonus online feature from the author: “Escaping the Dusty Bookcase”

Author Gwen Gosney Erickson provides a list of queries for meetings to discern how and why they might maintain a meeting library. One intriguing suggestion is to separate the meeting library from a meeting history room. Read this and more online features on the theme of “Quaker Libraries” at Friendsjournal.org/online.

The post Library as Metaphor appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Vigil

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:25am
© Photographee.eu I The hospice nurse was shaving his slack jaw when we arrived. Unresponsive was the word she had used. His body was a still plank on the narrow bed. He gulped deep seismic breaths, three minutes apart. My brother brushed his hair. II Because I knew hearing was the last to go, I said the necessary—we’re here Dad, you’re not alone🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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Categories: Articles & News

Co-curricular Learning in the Quaker and Special Collections

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:20am

Photo courtesy of the author.

Introduction

It’s the beginning of August as I write this piece—the time between when summer interns leave and when students return for the fall semester. It’s also just over two years since I began as the curator of the Quaker Collections at Haverford College, and ten years since I started to love archives and Quaker history as a student worker at the Earlham College Friends Collection and College Archives. I’m one of three curators at Haverford, who spend our time building our collections, maintaining them, making them available for use, and working with students, classes, and researchers.

The author teaching classes at Haverford College. Photo by Haverford Library staff.

As Quakers, we often look upon our history, our founders, and the changes in our theology and practice over time to help us inform our current theology and practice. As an archivist, I’m always working to make sure the collections reflect who we have been, who we are, and who we might be in the future. Working with Quaker materials—preserving them, helping people use them, and talking about them in their larger worldly contexts—gives a place for Quaker history not just within the religious body, but also in the academic realm, where the work that Quakers have done, and are doing, with all its strengths and weaknesses, is illuminated alongside the work of other people. In the United States, Haverford is one of four main Quaker archives where in-depth research into personal papers, journals and serials, organizational records, and genealogical materials can happen.

Classes

Dorothy Steere’s journal, check. Letter from Martin Luther King Jr. to Dorothy Steere, check. Martin Luther King and the History of the Civil Rights Movement comic book, check. It’s a Tuesday morning, and I’m getting ready to teach a first-year writing seminar class using archival materials related to Quaker involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Students will each sit in front of a book, letters, and other pieces, and evaluate it for about 5 minutes. Then they’ll move counterclockwise around the tables until they’ve looked at everything. This is one of my favorite activities—“speed-dating” the materials. It’s a way for the students to explore the various physical materials, talk about their similarities and differences, experience what changes in learning when they look at documents in person rather than in digital copy, and to dynamically recreate more of the history together.

In a Quaker history class, professor Emma Lapsansky brings the class to the Collections to look at tracts from the 1650s and 1660s. We get to talk with the class about the text of the tracts, about the theology that was brought forth in them. They learn in One Sheet Against the Quakers (Richard Baxter) that Quakers were not universally loved. In Susanna Bateman’s I matter not how I appear to man, the class engages with questions of gender equality in Quakerism. And, in Richard Farnworth’s A VVoman Forbidden to Speak in Church, students learn about the expense and process of printmaking in the seventeenth century—sometimes it takes two V’s to make a W, after all.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, the Quaker and Special Collections worked with over 80 classes, collaborating with professors on bringing primary source materials into the classroom. As an archivist, I love to see students engaging with archival materials, whether for the first time or hundredth time. Their insights are different than mine, and I appreciate learning from them as much as I enjoy teaching them.

One of the great things about Haverford is being able to have students engage critically with materials in ways they are passionate about…

Student Workers

Where is the Penn Treaty Elm? What was the relationship between Quakers and Indigenous people in the 1700s? How have Quakers treated people who are mentally ill? These are some of the many questions with which our student workers engage. Students work in the archives year-round on a variety of projects, including curating exhibits, arranging and describing manuscript materials, and working with researchers.

Even though there is no museum studies program at Haverford (and at 1,300 students, it is a relatively small institution), there are many opportunities for students from across the disciplines to curate large-scale exhibits. Most of these exhibits have Quaker connections. In February, to celebrate the American Friends Service Committee’s centennial, we collaborated on an exhibit, curated by Sophie McGlynn ‘18: “Waging Peace: 100 Years of Quakers, Moral Quandaries, and a Quest for Justice.” AFSC provided banners for the exhibit, while Haverford provided archival material and shaped the overarching storyline. Later in April, “Expanding the Universe: Astronomy and the Telescope,” curated by Victor Medina del Toro ‘17, explored the history of astronomy at Haverford.

This fall, with support from the Scattergood Foundation, “Deprived of the Use of Their Reason: Quakerism & the Curability of Mental Illness at Friends’ Asylum 1817-1867” will explore the records of the Friends Hospital (then Friends’ Asylum) and explore questions of morality, humanity, and ethics in treating people who are mentally ill. One of the great things about projects like these is that while they use Quaker materials, they also explore the context of the world outside Quaker communities. This is one of several projects done with Scattergood’s support. For three summers, in collaboration with the Digital Scholarship department, materials from this collection were digitized, and used to collect data to look at trends at the Hospital. These articles and data were put into a portal called “Quakers and Mental Health” where visitors can explore moral treatment of patients, learn about Quaker theology and mental health, look at patient profiles to see who was at the asylum in the 1800s and what their ailments were, and other information available.

Another example of collaborations between the Digital Scholarship and Quaker and Special Collections departments is “Beyond Penn’s Treaty: Quaker and American Indian Relations,” which is also a collaboration with Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College that explores the relationship between Quakers and American Indians from the 1740s to 1860s. Materials from these two collections were digitized. In this portal, visitors can explore journals through clickable maps, and help to transcribe letters from the Friendly Association, a precursor to the Indian Committee.

One of the great things about Haverford is being able to have students engage critically with materials in ways they are passionate about, whether it is a student interested in museum studies being able to design an exhibit, someone who is interested in library school getting to work with researchers and learn valuable skills, or a historian looking to interpret materials in a new way. All of these are valued and needed as part of a larger body of Quaker scholarship.

One of my favorite things is that we are still bringing in collections from families who have had materials at Haverford for generations.

Outreach

I’ve had many people joke with me that I must have become an archivist to work alone in a basement doing research and not talking to other people. That perception couldn’t be further from the truth! I became an archivist to engage with people—students, researchers, scholars, peers—on topics that I’m passionate about, including archival theory, Quakerism, history, and more. In the 2016-2017 year, our department worked with almost 1,300 researchers, which included Quaker meeting members, academic researchers, genealogists, independent researchers, and students.

So far, in the past three years we have worked with five Friends in Residence, who come to Haverford with a program through the Quaker Affairs Office for approximately three weeks in the fall or spring. Each of them has come to the Quaker and Special Collections to talk about something associated with the topic of their visit with Haverford, and if possible, relating to Quaker history. For many of these presentations we have brought out archival material for attendees to explore. In one talk, “Know One Another in the Light: Quakers and Sexual Morality,” Kody Hersh presented on the history of Quakers and sexuality, based partially on research using primary and secondary sources from our collections. Benigno Sánchez-Eppler gave a talk about his project Raices Cuaqueras, a collaboration with Susan Furry to translate Quaker texts in English to Spanish, in “A Spanish Voice for Early Friends: A Quaker Legacy for Spanish Readers.” The department is excited to continue this collaboration throughout our library renovation and after we reopen in 2019.

One of my favorite things is that we are still bringing in collections from families who have had materials at Haverford for generations. As people my age, my parents’ age, and my grandparents’ age clean out attics, basements, and closets full of family albums, letters, letterbooks, diaries, and journals, I get to work with people to bring in collections from the 1700s to the present, engaging in the changing nature of family, theology, and Quakerism over time.

It is as important as ever to have places where stories both old and new are being gathered, accessible for many people to use and explore, representing the whole of Quakerism.

Future

One of the major tasks, as we look toward our future in Haverford Special Collections and the archives field in general, is decolonizing collections. Our Quaker collections are dominated by white, upper class people in what appear to be heterosexual relationships, which is not representative of the body of the Religious Society of Friends. As a department we are also thinking about potential donors and researchers who are from different racial, cultural, socio-economic, gender and sexual orientation backgrounds, with whom we can develop relationships to understand how we can support them better.

This is an historic time in Quakerism, with splits in yearly meetings, new yearly meetings being created, new theology sprouting into life from around the world. It is as important as ever to have places where stories both old and new are being gathered, accessible for many people to use and explore, representing the whole of Quakerism. As I grow into this position, I’m grateful for the ways I get to collaborate with students, my coworkers, and the Quaker community as a whole.

The Haverford Library Quaker and Special Collections is closing for renovations starting on December 15, 2017, for approximately 12-14 months. If you have any questions please contact us at: hc-special@haverford.edu. Although we are unable to work with researchers during the renovation, we are excited to welcome them to our new space in winter 2019. We are still available to talk with donors and potential donors during this time. Our new space will include a beautiful reading room, a classroom, and better storage for our collections. Please check the Haverford Library website for details on the renovation and reopening dates.

The post Co-curricular Learning in the Quaker and Special Collections appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Escaping the Dusty Bookcase

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:15am

Considerations for Meetings

Meeting libraries can be a useful resource for members and inquirers or can devolve into cluttered stacks of stuff on dusty bookshelves. The following are queries for meetings to consider as they discern how and why they might maintain a meeting library. Meetings may also consider if they need to distinguish between their meeting library and a meeting history room. Depending upon the meeting, each might be useful resource but are likely best managed as distinct collections.

Read also: Library as Metaphor

A 180-year-old Quaker library begins a new chapter.

Friends Journal Queries for Meeting Libraries

Who does my meeting library seek to serve? What information needs do we seek to provide? Is there a desire to provide both informational and recreational resources? Is the space set up in a way that is conducive to providing the intended access? Are there other ways beyond bookshelves that some needs once served by my meeting library might be better served by using new tools and resources? Are there resources located elsewhere that my meeting can readily refer inquiries to as an increasing amount of information becomes more accessible online?

Does my meeting library focus on a particular subject or seek to meet a number of likely resource needs? (Example categories might include historical Quaker texts, contemporary Quaker spiritual reflections, broader information needs relating to spiritual development, pastoral care, or/or contemporary social justice issues, recreational reading.) Is there an expectation that the available resources include materials that are accessible to a wide range of ages and intellectual abilities? Are materials collected in standard book form only or are other formats (large print, audio, video, etc.) also made available?

Are new materials added to meet the current information needs of the meeting community? Are older materials reviewed and updated as appropriate as needs and resources change over time? Does my meeting have ways to refer people to resources beyond those maintained at the meetinghouse? Are members (or other potential donors) provided with information regarding what types of materials are (and are not) sought for donation so they may better support the work of the meeting in their own book purchase and/or downsizing choices?

Queries for Meeting History Rooms

Does my meeting have a designated archival repository (either through my yearly meeting or another arrangement)? If yes, does my meeting make routine deposits and keep record of what materials are already preserved there? Does my meeting seek to maintain copies of unique meeting records at the meetinghouse or simply collect more ephemeral items and publications specific to the meeting and/or local Quaker history?

Does my meeting have the physical space and energy needed to maintain a history room (or corner)? Does the meeting have a common understanding of what types of materials are sought and maintained for the history room (i.e. does it include artifacts, family papers, rare editions of classic Quaker texts, or just items specific to the meeting’s own history)? Are members (or other potential donors) provided with information regarding what types of materials are (and are not) sought for donation? Does the meeting have a process for directing potential donors to other sources when offered items might be better housed elsewhere?

The post Escaping the Dusty Bookcase appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Are Meeting Libraries Encumbrances?

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:10am

By Saeidpourbabak via Wikimedia.

When I learned of the testimonies of Friends some 25 years ago, I was especially intrigued with the testimony on simplicity. Simplicity received six sentences in New York Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice. The second sentence reads:

When we open ourselves to God, we want to unclutter our lives, to free ourselves from dependence on our possessions and self-indulgences, or from encumbering details and self-appointed tasks and activities that consume and distract us [from God].

This testimony speaks to those of us who are painfully aware of the demands that possessions make on us, including things that occupy homes and meetinghouses. Things that are not organized become clutter.

Now an elderly Friend, I live with clutter and days of cleaning up the clutter. I tolerate less casually these days possessions that are neither in use nor of sentimental value. These things have become encumbrances. This was my viewpoint when I began to look critically at the library in my meeting in Rochester, New York, some years ago.

In my earlier life, I was a professional librarian for a few years. Some principles of library organization stayed with me as I moved on to other ways to earn a living. I am a regular public library user and am often reading three different books at one time. Back when I was new to Friends, I found some of the books I borrowed from the meeting’s library helpful in learning about Friends and their practices.

Periodically, Friends in our meeting remove items from the meetinghouse because they are neither in use nor expected to be used. Unclaimed jackets and personal objects are given away. Dishes and tools in the kitchen are also given away, discarded, or recycled. Bulletin boards are cleared of outdated notices, invitations, and thank-you notes.

The meeting’s library committee began its work in the new setting, perhaps with dreams of bringing order to the collection of books, only to become discouraged at the costs…

Books are another matter. The books on the shelves in our old meetinghouse 20 years ago were moved to shelves made especially for them in the new meetinghouse. Joining those books on the newly built shelves were a few cartons of particularly old books that had been stored in local archives until the Friend who worked in those archives left town. Their boxes remain unpacked, as Friends expect them to be displayed at an historic Quaker site in this region at some future date.

When the meeting moved to our new meetinghouse, the usefulness of computers was still being discovered by many of us after recent installations in our workplaces. Computers were not yet taken for granted in all settings, nor were there tablets or smartphones in wide use. Computers were used daily by some Friends, while others continued to live without them. Some Friends talked of the usefulness of a computer in the meetinghouse, possibly for maintaining library records. The meeting’s library committee began its work in the new setting, perhaps with dreams of bringing order to the collection of books, only to become discouraged at the costs of programs written for library purposes. As images of a modern computerized library dimmed, the energy of those Friends then on the library committee shifted to other activities and meeting concerns, and that committee became inactive. Meanwhile, Friends who attended yearly meeting sessions brought home stacks of new books to add to the shelves each summer.

I first felt led to the project of updating the meeting library ten years ago. At that time, I was active in two other meeting committees and consciously delayed thinking about the library. As other committee work drew to a close, I requested a clearness committee with whom to discuss my leading to sort through the library collection, weed out the books that held no interest for current Friends, and finally add to the collection those donations of books that had accumulated over a five year period. My clearness committee of three included an avid reader of history, a new Friend who is an historian, and a retired teacher who is a long-term member. The committee found me clear to proceed with the project. I expected to withdraw many of the books crowding the shelves and thought that a process in which my choices agreed with those of others would best support the meeting and myself. The history reader and the historian joined me on the new library committee, and we worked together until the task of weeding was almost finished and we had agreed on which donated books to add to the collection.

In the past four years, I removed from the library shelves over 20 cartons of books. Excluded from the cartons were those books that were falling apart or consisting of mimeographed pages: ephemeral publications that had outlived their usefulness that went directly to recycling. The remaining books on the library shelves were either Quaker classics or books that had been borrowed within the previous five years. My choices together with any titles I had questions about keeping would be reviewed with the two committee members in our periodic meetings. It was work I enjoyed doing.

One Friend, a retiree like myself, voiced her concern when she learned of my paring the collection of library books. Her hearing from me the criteria to select the titles that would remain on the shelf—copies of classics by well-known Quakers as well as the books that Friends had borrowed in recent years—seemed to relieve her. We agreed to offer the discarded books to Friends before moving them from the meetinghouse. We found that Friends took advantage of the three different opportunities to select discarded books for their own use. In fact, this probably halved the number of boxes we removed to public libraries that offer withdrawn and unneeded books for sale to the public, where I had confirmed that any books not sold are recycled.

I no longer assume that a library has a viable place in the world of a monthly meeting.

This past year, I’ve been joined on the library committee by a Friend who had just moved to Rochester and shared her participation on library committees in other Friends meetings. As we compared our experiences in various Friends settings and considered ways to simplify the library of Friends in this meeting, I have been revising my assumptions about libraries in meetinghouses.

First, I no longer assume that a library has a viable place in the world of a monthly meeting. Now I would further reduce the collection to classics by Friends, recent Quaker histories, and recent titles about the organization of Friends. The meeting would no longer have a library; it would have instead a small collection of books―perhaps about 30 different titles. There are three reasons for making this change.

The term “library” carries with it notions of quiet space for reading, controlled environment to preserve the condition of books, oversight by dedicated staff, and so on. In contrast, all a collection of books really requires is a space, perhaps a shelf or two, where they can be looked at and returned.

If a title disappears—i.e. is not returned to the shelf after an absence of months—we replace it with another copy through whatever committee is focusing on outreach, or pastoral care, or the life of the meeting. After the meeting decides which committee is to be allocated some funds to purchase replacements, there is no longer a need for a library committee. That said, it seems unlikely that such a collection would be maintained for very long, given the turnover of Friends on said committees unless one Friend is willing to attend to the collection and replace missing copies as needed, much as the custodian looks after supplies for his cleaning and refurbishing tasks.

Second, our most widely read periodical, Friends Journal, is still available in hard copy as well as on the web. Copies are read several months after their publication, so they are saved for a few years, while Friends become accustomed to looking at old issues online. Other Quaker periodicals will also be located near the books and replaced as new issues arrive at the meetinghouse. There is rarely a need for a yearly meeting yearbook more than a few years old, and these too are available online, so allow for the discard of older hard copies.

Third, the old librarian in me wants to provide myself and others with a list of additional titles of Quaker books that are available in our county library system and where specific titles can be borrowed. I would offer these to Friends in the meeting who are library users and also through the meeting website. A quick search of the library’s public catalog assures me that over 100 nonfiction titles are available through various branches.

In the twenty-first century, our information is coming to us in different ways than it did the first 350 years of Quaker history. Perhaps now it’s time to rethink our priorities, seeking what is timely, necessary, and useful.

 

The post Are Meeting Libraries Encumbrances? appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Crostini with Olive Tapenade… and Tea

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:05am

© Charles Haynes via Wikimedia

When was the last time you talked to God about a library . . . especially about the library in your meetinghouse? There may be many things we speak to God about regarding our meetings and our meetinghouses, but how often do we take our concerns regarding our libraries to God? It’s been my experience that God responds to our concerns about such things just as God does about most things: in God’s time; with some effort and interest put forward on our part; and often, with a surprising result.

Some Friends meetinghouses have libraries that fill just one bookshelf, with books donated for adults and children, borrowed and returned as needed, perhaps with a sign-out sheet. Other Friends meetinghouse libraries are set aside as a room full of shelves with books cataloged by author and subject in computer files and sign-out processes with dates due. In any case, particular people in each meeting cherish their libraries, use them, and need them. I have always been one of those particular people.

First as a school teacher and then as a pastoral minister, I have always found books to have significance for me. They hold great treasure. Whether they provide spiritual insight, pleasurable release, or foundational teaching, books bring richness to my life and way of knowing, to my understanding of God and myself. Not only individuals but an entire meeting—young and old—is made richer by the collection of books it holds and shares. And books, pamphlets, and flyers have had a place among Friends since the Society’s beginning.

Early Friends, Publishers of Truth, knew the power of words and their significance. It was not only important to live and speak Truth but to print and publish it. The power of the written word meant that many more people, in far distant places, could have access to the intention and direction of leadings. Early Friends ministers carried tracts with them as they traveled, sharing what it meant to be Quaker. Friends testimony was explained. Texts could be read and reread. Hearsay could be limited. Historical documents could be maintained with accuracy. The integrity of the Religious Society of Friends could be upheld more carefully by publishing Truth.

The library began to come to life. But then we faced a new struggle: how would we sustain this?

When I began my ministry in a small Iowa meeting in West Branch, I found their library—a collection of four tall bookcases—on the opposite side of one of my office walls. Once carefully tended, it was now under the care of one retired librarian with great heart but little energy. It was a lovely collection but now underused and underappreciated. What to do? First, I had a conversation with God. Did this ministry in reading and writing matter to anyone other than me and this dear volunteer? Were the stories, history, and study materials held between book covers still meaningful to folk in our meeting?

The two of us began by asking questions. Acting with the meeting, we found newcomers who were interested in reading, books, libraries, and in finding a way in—a way of belonging to the meeting in a significant and helpful way. A revitalized Library Committee was formed. With this small group, reviewing the library holdings began: purging books that were no longer current, assessing subject areas that needed more titles, etc. Book reviews began appearing in the monthly newsletter. Children’s books about Quakers or Quaker themes appeared alongside quiet toys and games on the children’s meetingroom bookshelf. The library began to come to life. But then we faced a new struggle: how would we sustain this? Our main need was the financial concern of supplying new books and replacing old ones. Thus began the West Branch Friends Library Tea.

With the rising popularity of tea and the number of bibliophiles in the world, we thought the connection of a good book and a “spot of tea” would be a great idea. At least it was worth a try! We had space in the meetinghouse, tables and chairs, and lots of ladies with sets of china and teapots in their cupboards at home. The Library Committee, now well formed, divided the work of preparing the teas, sweets, and savories under the leadership of a gifted culinary Friend, and another to set up the space.

People gathered from the entire community once a year on a spring Saturday afternoon for a “spot of tea”—all kinds of teas, in fact, served with sweets and savories on the china sets donated by the women of the meeting. Friends would come for an incredible afternoon of delicious treats, music (“Tea for Two,” “Polly Put the Kettle On”), and great conversation. You can guess what we used for the centerpieces: library books! And a short game was played where each table group had to look up information found in those library books! A small ticket price was charged, eventually with reservations after the event became popular. Entire tables were reserved at one point. The proceeds provided money to furnish books for the West Branch Friends Library. But that’s not the end of the story. During the tea, news was shared about Quaker libraries around the world and the work of Friends in teaching and learning. Half of the proceeds from the teas were sent to other Friends libraries: the Swift Purscell Boys’ Home in Jamaica, Belize Friends School, and Friends Theological College in Kenya are just three of the libraries that received funds. The purchase of tangerine tea one year meant money would go to Room to Read, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing underprivileged children the lifelong gift of education. The teas continued for five years or more, with a Tea Times cookbook printed, supplying all the recipes for the sweets and savories served, along with the suggested teas to pair with them: blackberry sage, soiree, green tea heaven, cardamom cinnamon herbal, Earl Grey lavender, and rose petal.

Could we have taken an offering each year, and brought in about the same amount of money for the library? Maybe. But it wouldn’t have tasted like lemon tarragon tea cakes . . .

The treasure of a meeting library became a rich reward in friendship, support, expansive growth in ministry and outreach, a great deal of work, and a great deal of fun. The library holdings were strengthened as were the connections between newcomers and older members, and between core people and those on the margins of meeting life. And a new way was found to incorporate the people of our larger community with our own ministries and those of the larger Quaker body around the world.

Could we have taken an offering each year, and brought in about the same amount of money for the library? Maybe. But it wouldn’t have tasted like lemon tarragon tea cakes, smoked salmon tarts, or lavender meringue. It wouldn’t have sounded like a community of friends singing “Polly Put the Kettle On” and then falling apart laughing. And it wouldn’t have been nearly as beautiful as the panoply of patterns of china spread across those tables or all those incredibly different teapots. We were publishers of Truth, sharing the integrity of our lives as Friends, and friends. The conversation with God about our library was well worth the time.

And that’s just one of my meetinghouse library experiences . . . I’ll tell you another one sometime. Until then, here’s a savory recipe from the first annual Library Tea:

Crostini with Olive Tapenade

To make Olive Tapenade:

  • 3 cups coarsely chopped olives (Kalamata, black, and stuffed green, or any combination you prefer)
  • Canola or Olive Oil

In a food processor, coarsely chop olives. Drizzle in canola or olive oil to spreading consistency. Let cure in refrigerator for 24 hours.

To make Crostini:

  • French bread, sliced ¼” thick
  • Pam Cooking Spray, Olive Oil flavor

Spray slices of French bread with Pam cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, turning once. Let cool.

Spread tapenade on crostini, and garnish with an olive slice.

The post Crostini with Olive Tapenade… and Tea appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

News November 2017

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:00am
AFSC files concerns over travel restrictions to North Korea

On August 22, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) International Programs Asia Region filed a public comment with the U.S. State Department expressing deep concerns over the travel restrictions to North Korea that took effect on September 1. AFSC, a Quaker service and relief organization, has been working with North Koreans since 1980 to address human rights and global security, and is one of the few U.S.-based organizations operating in the country today.

The new State Department restrictions prohibit a U.S. passport from being used to enter or travel through the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Passports used to do so may be revoked by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), and criminal punishments may also apply. According to the comment, AFSC “calls upon the DOS to recognize the ever-growing need to establish more forms of communication and expand spaces for people-to-people connections between the U.S. and DPRK.” AFSC’s comment argues that when communication lines are open, the DPRK is less likely to engage in nuclear missile tests and other concerning actions.

The comment goes on to note that “the travel restrictions could impact essential humanitarian assistance to ordinary North Koreans,” and urges the State Department to enact clear processes for exemptions and appeals. Additionally, AFSC requests a process for third parties to submit applications for the travel exemption on behalf of those who are elderly or disabled. As it currently stands, permission for travel into North Korea with a U.S. passport requires special validation on the basis of humanitarian or national interest. According to the State Department website, permission will only be granted for single trips, and “will be issued on an extremely limited basis.”

“We’re deeply concerned about these travel restrictions and their potential impact on the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea,” said Daniel Jasper, advocacy coordinator for AFSC’s work in Asia. “AFSC’s work in the DPRK has been the most continuous example of a successful relationship between U.S.- and North Korean-based organizations, and we want to see increased avenues for engagement, not more restrictions.”

AFSC has been engaged in relief efforts on the Korean Peninsula since the years after the Korean War. AFSC’s North Korea program is currently working with cooperative farms to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices in the region. The full comment is available on AFSC’s website, afsc.org.

Quaker groups partner with Everence to expand financial resources

Two Quaker groups that support yearly and monthly meetings have started new partnerships with member-based financial services organization Everence, a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other religious organizations. The two groups are Friends General Conference (FGC), based in Philadelphia, Pa., and serving 16 yearly meetings in the United States and Canada, and Friends United Meeting (FUM), based in Richmond, Ind., and serving 34 yearly meetings and associations in North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East.

After discernment, Everence and FGC’s Friends Meeting House Fund (FMHF) are moving forward with a partnership that makes Everence a preferred provider of loans to Friends meetings through the fund. FMHF, a nearly 60-year-old program, provides loans and grants to meetings for use in purchasing, expanding, or repairing meeting properties, including improvements in environmental sustainability and physical accessibility.

Barry Crossno, the general secretary of FGC, said of the partnership, “Everence can provide more flexible financing and make larger loans than FMHF could make when it was operating on its own—this is great news for Friends.”

As part of this new arrangement, Everence purchased the existing FMHF mortgage portfolio, consisting of ten loans to FGC-affiliated meetings throughout the United States. These meetings received the same terms as they previously held through the FMHF. The meetings currently holding loans now also have access to other resources provided by Everence, including financial guidance and support.

Over the last 58 years FMHF connected Friends-affiliated investors with meetings in need of loans. Since its beginning, the fund has loaned or granted over $4.6 million to more than 200 meetings. FMHF approached Everence in June 2016 to explore partnership opportunities to better serve monthly meetings’ financing needs. The purchase of the fund, completed on July 30, 2017, builds on Everence’s current portfolio of church mortgages.

FUM and Everence announced formation of a stewardship partnership at the FUM thirty-first Triennial in Wichita, Kans., in July.

A significant feature of the FUM-Everence partnership is the creation of an Everence stewardship consultant role for FUM and the broader Friends faith community. Kelly Kellum, a lifelong Friend and pastor, began in that role in April.

Kellum views stewardship ministry as a pastoral calling to support Quaker meetings, churches, and organizations to fulfill their callings and achieve their stewardship goals. He is a member of High Point (N.C.) Meeting, where his wife, Kathy, serves as the pastoral minister.

The partnership and Kellum’s role were introduced by FUM general secretary Colin Saxton at a meeting for business session at the triennial. Saxton announced that Everence will provide stewardship resources and support for FUM and other parts of the Friends community, including monthly meetings, yearly meetings, and affiliated organizations. Over the years, Everence has worked with FUM and other Friends groups in various ways, including on the Friends Retirement Plan and Friends Mutual Health Group for meetings, churches, and nonprofits.

Appointment

On September 1, Kindra Bradley became the new executive director of Quaker House in Fayetteville, N.C., replacing Lynn and Steve Newsom, who served as co-directors since 2012 and are now retired. Quaker House provides services and advocacy to military members, veterans, and their families. Its mission is to “provide counseling and support to service members who are questioning their role in the military, educate them, their families, and the public about military issues; and advocate for a more peaceful world.”

Bradley was raised in a military family and understands the difficulties these families face. A love for the people in the military and a desire to do more to create peace are central to her life. She was born during one of her father’s two tours during the Vietnam War. One of Bradley’s brothers was a Marine reservist in a specialized winter warfare unit, and her future son-in-law serves in the National Guard in North Carolina. She knows that serving and protecting is at the core of their being, but she also understands the possible consequences of that service.

Bradley’s family moved every three years and lived in different parts of the United States and in Germany. While in Germany, she learned that no matter where she went in the world, there were good people. She was also confronted by the realization that some Germans wanted, and actively sought, a decreased American military presence in their country. That was her first introduction to a viewpoint that was not pro-military, and was the catalyst for her efforts to broaden her thinking about the military and war.

Bradley decided to study law in order to become a better advocate for justice, mercy, and understanding, with the hopes of working with a nonprofit organization that would mirror her own vision for our world. She is grateful to have found an ideal blend of all these interests in Quaker House. As executive director, she will not be working in a legal capacity, but is appreciative of the perspective that background has given her.

After Bradley passed the bar exam, she wanted to invest in regular volunteer work and chose to work with the Red Cross. Bradley brings a high level of energy, experience, and commitment to Quaker House. She previously attended Spring Friends Meeting in Snow Camp, N.C., and currently attends Fayetteville (N.C.) Meeting. The Quaker peace testimony resonates strongly with her.

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The Gathered Meeting

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 11:40pm
By Steven Davison. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 444), 2017. 34 pages. $7/pamphlet. Buy from QuakerBooks

The first time I read Steven Davison’s pamphlet my heart leapt and I said, “Yes!” The second time I read it, I wept. Why the difference? The first time I united with Davison’s proclamation that the gathered meeting is “one of the great gifts we have to offer the world.” The second time I realized the truth of his acknowledgment that too many Friends have never experienced a gathered meeting and have no idea what they—and we—are missing.

Drawing on Thomas Kelly, William Taber, Patricia Loring, and his own deep experience, Davison brings us along from a description of a gathered meeting, through his own transforming experience of such a meeting, to the essential elements of a gathered meeting and its necessity to our faith as a religious society, and finally to a discussion of what we can do to encourage its more frequent occurrence.

Just what is a gathered meeting? A meeting in which “we experience what we seek as a religious community: inward confirmation in our personal faith, collective unity of purpose in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and a profound sense of the Presence.” Davison describes these attributes present in a gathered meeting: energy, presence, knowledge, unity, joy, and holy communion.

Davison’s own most memorable gathered meeting occurred in 1991 at the Quaker consultation in Richmond, Ind., on “Quaker Treasure: What Do We Hold in Trust Together?” Not only did members of the diverse group find themselves in agreement on four essentials of Quaker faith and practice, but were “swept along” to a much fuller agreement. He remembers a “great surge of joy” and a “profound gratitude.” What held it all together was love.

It is encouraging that there are things we can do, individually and as a meeting, to prepare ourselves for the possibility of being gathered. Encourage Friends to sit closer together, perhaps by roping off the back benches. Have “reasonably comfortable seating and climate control.” Recognize that it takes about 20 minutes for a group to center, and this time is extended by latecomers trickling in. It helps to have all latecomers enter at once to shorten the time of disturbance. There is a great deal that individuals can do to prepare for being present in worship. An important practice Sunday morning before meeting is keeping the mind focused on the Spirit by devotional reading and centering at home. Listening to the news or reading the paper distracts from deeply centering, as does being rushed. If those with a concern for the depth of worship are able to come early and begin the worship, that helps. Once in worship, an impulse to speak should be checked by inwardly asking if this message deepens worship or brings folks up toward the surface. Pray for the meeting, that Friends be gathered, that love be experienced by all who are present. Ultimately, of course, a meeting is gathered by a power higher than ourselves, called the Spirit of Christ by earlier Friends. Don’t let the name of the gatherer be a stumbling block. Be open to experience the Love in which and by which the meeting can be gathered.

Davison rightly concludes that the gift of being gathered, whether in a meeting for worship or for business, is our best outreach tool. It is the essence of who we are. If we experience it, we will be changed; if visitors experience it, they are likely to return to taste it again. Young Friends, having experienced it in their home meetings, will be drawn back by more than sentimentality.

Davison concludes with a short bibliography and five discussion questions. It would be good if every Friend read and pondered this pamphlet, and if every Ministry and Counsel Committee studied it carefully and considered implementing its suggestions.

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Coming to Light: Cultivating Spiritual Discernment through the Quaker Clearness Committee

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 11:35pm
By Valerie Brown. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 446), 2017. 27 pages. $7/pamphlet. Buy from QuakerBooks

In this short pamphlet, Valerie Brown introduces readers to the Quaker clearness committee, shares personal stories of how they have worked in her own life, and deepens the discussion into the spiritual development and formation that can result.

That’s a lot to do in 27 pages. Brown does it by starting with an acknowledgement of other existing Quaker writings on the clearness committee, which she quotes at various points. She describes briefly the development and traditional use of clearness committees for membership in and marriage under the care of a monthly meeting.

And then the fun begins. It is effective and enjoyable to learn through stories, and Brown tells stories of her own clearness committee experiences. She also recounts using the process during her training and later in her work in Center for Courage and Renewal workshops.

Coming to Light is user-friendly in several ways. Many readers are familiar with Quaker usage of ordinary English words to describe experiences in a way that is peculiar to our worship. “Waiting” and “watchfulness,” for instance, mean something different in a Quaker context, and Brown offers definitions here. Brown does use the word “God” in her writing. She does this early on, and as a reader I found it helpful to know what she meant: “For me as a Quaker and a Buddhist, God is a Spirit of Oneness; the Light or Seed Within All Things; the Energy of Compassion, Love, Understanding, and Peace.” Since this appears on page two, it helped me frame the rest of Brown’s words.

Following that is a section of the elements of the clearness committee; here is a lengthy discussion of querying, deep listening, and the role of silence. In fact, Brown even describes how a chair is placed in the circle and left empty for the presence of silence in a Courage and Renewal clearness committee. It is a powerful reminder of the role of silence: it does what no words can do in holding a space and gathering us in. It becomes holy, and so do we when we mind its power.

Early on, Brown tells us that “the clearness committee supports individual discernment within a living community” and that discernment “arises from faithfulness, unfolding over time as you cultivate your own inner spiritual landscape and relationship with God.” We come to “determine what is truly from God,” see “where God has shaped your life,” and “notice emerging patterns that might bring you closer to God.”

Since the point of clearness for discernment is no less than this, our Friends who query and listen to us are well to feel free from the desire to advise, fix, or offer help. It is here where Brown’s discussion of querying, deep listening, and silence is most helpful. Her words empower us to use this “counter-cultural” tool in ways that honor our commitment—and ability—to gather in the Spirit. As she says, because of the “intensity of presence that is the hallmark of the clearness committee,” it is possible for “committee members [to] perceive whether their own interior movement is aligned with others’ interior movement; they sense God palpably present.”

Brown includes a brief description of times in a person’s life when it is helpful to use the clearness committee and a sample format. The writing is 27 pages, but on pages 28–34 are appendices covering guidelines for asking questions, additional guidelines called “touchstones” from the Center for Courage and Renewal, reflection queries for pamphlet discussion, and endnotes.

If you think that such a short pamphlet is a sprint through a weighty subject, you will be happily surprised by this pamphlet. By treating several aspects briefly, Brown sets aside a large proportion of her text for describing the things that make clearness committees work: querying, deep listening, and silence. This short format is a gift to those of us who need introduction, teaching, and reminding. Brown’s words have power, and so does the practice she invites us to.

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Categories: Articles & News

Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 11:30pm
By Iris Graville. Homebound Publications, 2017. 260 pages. $17.95/paperback; eBook coming December 2017. Buy from QuakerBooks

This wonderful memoir tells the story of a Quaker woman and her family as they leave city life behind and seek a simpler life deep in the mountains east of Seattle, Wash. Burned out after years of nursing and seemingly fruitless public health interventions, Iris Graville retreats with her husband, Jerry, and their 13-year-old twin son and daughter to an isolated lake deep in the North Cascade Mountains. Her family looks for adventure. She finds solace in the lush landscape, quiet dirt roads, baking, and writing.

The “hiking naked” part of the story does not refer to the like-minded sporting groups you can find online, but to the moment a year earlier when Graville realized she needed to change her life. Hot and exhausted as she and Jerry hike high into the mountains on their yearly getaway alone together, their twins happily staying with a grandmother, Graville stops and wonders if she can walk another step. Slowly she rounds a bend and sees her husband standing there, waiting for her, naked and grinning. It is her sign, and the metaphor for her journey to come—to lighten up, count her blessings, let go of heavy baggage, and hold on to what really matters.

Stehekin—a Salish word that means “the way through”—becomes their next stop together. A tiny community of 85 residents, the village is accessible only by boat, floatplane, or hiking. The kids become the seventh-graders of the one-room schoolhouse. Jerry becomes the bus driver. Iris becomes a baker, bicycling to work in the early morning darkness on the dirt road down to the village. Hours off fill with chores—chopping wood, repairing plumbing, and cooking—punctuated by trail hikes and cross-country skiing.

Food is planned a week ahead, the handwritten list sent by ferry down the lake to the friendly grocer, who sends the boxes back in a day or two. Occasionally a black bear wanders into the backyard; winter snow piles up against the windows; a forest fire threatens to sweep down into the valley; and a spring flood strands them for three days—nature’s way of reminding them of their powerlessness. Trees fall onto power lines, leaving some evenings brightened only by candles and kerosene lamps. With no phone, no TV, no Internet, the family embraces old entertainments anew. They read books, play board games, learn to juggle, make block prints for Christmas, and write letters to friends and family.

Graville embraces this rustic life as a way to simplify—leave behind the noise of highways, crowded urban streets, and schools with hundreds of students. Most important, though, she knows she needs to let go of 20 years of anxieties about her job, in particular, her fears of inadequacy in the face of the overwhelming human needs of her patients.

A practicing Quaker, she feels at home in the deep quiet of the woods. When the summer tourists leave and the bakery closes for the winter, she uses the silent days to write in her journal, waiting for “the still, small voice” as in Quaker meeting, seeking insight into the past that had tied her in knots, and writing her way into a calling to come. As she “attends to what is important”—the tasks of family life in a small, close-knit community and her times alone—she discovers that “the smallest touch, the briefest contact, the quietest diligence can make a difference—can change the course of a river.”

In the end, through solitude amidst the pines, family support, and deep friendships old and new, she finds a spiritual footing to carry her into her next chapter. Their family will move to Lopez Island off the coast of Washington state, larger and more developed than Stehekin but offering similar kinds of quiet and leadings through natural beauty.

And Graville will continue to write. Her essay “Seeking Clearness with Work Transitions” was published in the February 2015 issue of Friends Journal. She has also published the award-winning Hands at Work: Portraits and Profiles of People Who Work with Their Hands; and Bounty: Lopez Island Farmers, Food, and Community. Now, she publishes Shark Reef literary magazine. This eloquent memoir shows the move to Stehekin was indeed her “way through” to her new calling as a writer.

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Categories: Articles & News

Faithful Sexuality

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 11:28pm
By the Working Party on Spirituality and Sexual Ethics. New England Yearly Meeting, 2016. 68 pages. $10/pamphlet; free PDF available at neym.org. Buy from QuakerBooks

At the end of August, a group of evangelicals published a document referred to as “The Nashville Statement,” which explicitly reaffirmed the authors’ orthodox, exclusionary sexual norms and went to the trouble of explicitly disavowing acceptance of any transgender identities. The release of such a document makes “Faithful Sexuality,” a report from New England Yearly Meeting’s Working Party on Spirituality and Sexual Ethics, all the more important in our nation’s debate around sexuality and gender.

In the twentieth century, there have been a few formal efforts to help with discernment for Friends on issues related to sexuality. The approaches have been squarely centered in the equality testimony in that recommendations tend to focus on full inclusion of Friends previously excluded in some way, such as gay and lesbian Quakers and, more recently, transgender Friends. The most widely known example of this is Towards a Quaker View of Sex, a report published by the Friends Home Service Committee of London Yearly Meeting in 1963 that focused primarily on the rising acknowledgement of homosexuality among Quakers in Britain.

In my own lifetime (b. 1980), the sexuality issue I most clearly recall being discussed among Friends is marriage of same-sex couples in meetings. While the dust has mostly settled among liberal unprogrammed Quakers, the issue is not actually dead: more conservative monthly and yearly meetings continue to grapple with homosexuality; recently, the conflict has led to several dramatic splits in yearly meetings. The Nashville Statement makes clear that in many other faith traditions, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals—as well as those who engage in any sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage—are unequal and, unless they choose a life of chastity, unwelcome.

Despite the absence of overt rules about sex and sexuality among Friends, New England Yearly Meeting’s young adult Friends community in 2005 formally asked the yearly meeting to take up the question of “What defines a positive and spiritual sexual relationship?” In 2007 NEYM formed a working party to discern answers to this question, and “Faithful Sexuality” is a report on the party’s work over a period of eight years.

Quakers in the United States represent a wide spectrum of values and beliefs about sexuality, sex, and gender. NEYM’s document reflects and will resonate most with those who are liberal. It takes as a given the equality of gender and sexual orientation; that discrimination against people for their sexual identity is not acceptable; and that a variety of forms of sexual expression can be part of normal, healthy, and spiritual relationships.

I particularly appreciated the statements from NEYM monthly meetings about their own discernment processes; these should be instructive to meetings wondering where a process of wrestling with issues related to sexuality and inclusion might take them. While many Friends meetings are havens for those who have been excluded from and wounded by religion because of their sexuality and/or gender identity, the Nashville Statement spells out the ways in which many people—heterosexual and cohabiting, LGBT and not celibate, or trans—may continue to experience exclusion, discrimination, and hurt in their faith communities.

The report demonstrates many years of discernment and work, and is an affirmation of shared liberal values on a spectrum of issues that individuals and meetings might confront related to sexuality and relationships. Given that this document was prepared by members of an unprogrammed, liberal yearly meeting who self-selected into a group to discuss sexuality, I wish that the language used throughout was fully inclusive: cis-normative terms such as “man” and “woman” appear where non-gendered terms could’ve easily been used to make the text inclusive of all who might read it.

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