Adult Education: Report about session on Western Friend

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Report about a Adult Education Session
January 1, 2017
Topic: Western Friend, the Magazine
From Stanford J. Searl, Jr., Co-Clerk of Adult Education

It was a wonderful session, so deep, open, probing and fourteen people attended.

I woke up early that morning and in a half-asleep, partially dreaming state, the theme or idea/feeling of what it means to accompany someone else (or in a community or through the magazine) came into my heart and mind. I realized (and spoke about this in our worship that morning) that Quakerism meant that I could cultivate the gift of being accompanied by others and doing the same for them, in the sense of fellowship and companionship and that this was a spiritual path/gift. I realized that one of the great gifts of Quaker community was this reality of accompanying others, a kind of deep dialog and connection between two Friends (or more and more) on their spiritual journeys.

This theme of how we are deeply connected with and accompanied by one another had such resonance, given my own up-bringing as so competitive, even an aggressive individualism. So, being in a supportive, loving dialog with other Friends, a back and forth represented by committee work, clearness committees and so many similar relationships, this mattered.  I felt that this accompaniment represented a gift of how to be in community with other Quakers and to yield some of the ego over to the Spirit.

Coming closer to the November/December 2016 issue of Western Friend, I spoke about how I appreciated the editor and pointed to her editorial statement about how to hold fast to the earth.  Then, I spoke a little about Don McCormick’s lovely “Mindfulness and Quaker Worship” and how a couple of Don’s illustrations reflected upon his experience in our Santa Monica worship for many years. I pointed out how my Quaker poetry ad (with comments by the great Ben Pink Dandelion) was cushioned by Steve Smith’s book and the Latin American composers. Then, we heard from others, wonderfully searching.

People loved the cover! It felt real, in the mud and authentic.

We talked a lot about the “western” quality of the magazine and how it mattered, that plain speaking and quirky, sometimes zany, unorthodox and daring aspects of the magazine.

One Friend commented how the personal experience aspects of the writing in the magazine and the deep connection with the Divine made such a difference. There seemed to be a language of the heart and of experience and this provided energy.

Another Friend said that the Western Friend magazine brings a deep unity, a testimony of equality to the work. It’s somewhat unsophisticated but that this is a positive, affirming quality, open to all, a kind of gathering in of the Spirit.

We had a conversation about the letter by Kate McClellan and one Friend recommended that this kind of statement – moving from anger to love and reconciliation as I mentioned – might serve as a larger forum from the magazine, hearing from Quaker Trump supporters (or something) and offering a way out of the divisions, disunity and divisiveness of the current politics. Could the magazine play a role in all of this? What might it be? What could it mean? How can the Spirit lead us today in this difficult, fractured time and bring more unity and love, in spite of everything?

One Friend spoke about the themes that emerged from our session and how they seemed to be accompaniment and permission. We reflected about the importance of simplicity in the magazine and how that’s apparent and real in the editing and direction.

Friends responded with various metaphors and images about openings, circles, eddies and pools and oceans, maybe to indicate the depth of our conversation.

One Friend, recently moved out here from the East Coast, commented about the welcoming, openness, something about the West Coast and how this welcoming was reflected in the magazine.

Friends reflected: how can we be more engaged in a deeper listening, to overcome the gaps in understanding and be less judgmental, more affirming of our underlying wholeness and unity?

One Friend spoke about the poet, Keats, and his negative capability and the importance of being open to ambivalence and to remain in doubt and uncertainty. How can we maintain worship and silence and be open to the Light, even in radical uncertainty?

Another Friend spoke about how it’s important to be searching and open to finding a voice and that the magazine offers this.

To subscribe to Western Friend, a print only copy is $36/year to Western Friend, 305 N. California Avenue, Suite 203-B, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

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