Mark Johnson. September Coordinating Editor.
Much of the history of The Society of Friends is punctuated with examples of prophetic energy and the vision of a new world order. There are so many individuals and movements that embody the dynamism of being-Quaker. Nor has this effort been concentrated within one domain of experience, for Quakers have been as active in social reform (if often led there gradually) as they have been in evangelisation; in the silent and stable experience of God’s Light, as following that same Light’s leading in mission. It is both exciting and humbling to read and learn of the rich diversity of the Children of the Light. We need to be encouraged, we need to be inspired, and we need examples of those that have been led before us.
But at times we may feel a vague disconnection between such a seemingly diverse and peculiar history and our own experience of being-Quaker. The writing of other lives can so often have a dual effect of being both inspiring and encouraging, but yet also an odd sense of our being detached from such a different life, as if the very success of such a life pushes us away.
Sometimes too many of those historical Quakers are just too damn good at being-Quaker!
That has been part of the motivation for having a September ‘special issue’ of the Australian Friend. To not just explore the many ways in which we realise being-Quaker, to discern the distinctiveness of that ‘voice’ – although that of course has been primary – but to have voices that we know, Friends who are friends, near and familiar voices we can almost hear in their experiences and reflections that this ‘special’ issue’ contains. Not at all to relegate the vital many of history to the background, but rather to have those voices of near, here, and now participate in that continual history; and our actual knowing these contemporary speakers bringing us into contact with the larger journey of our Society.
In this September issue of the Australian Friend there are the reflections of friends considering the distinctiveness of being-Quaker in their everyday endeavours and interests. Contexts of work, mundane financial transactions, poetry, worship, life’s journey, education, care of the earth, interfaith, science, and of peace and justice, to list some contexts.
This issue of the Australian Friend has also asked two friends of Friends to write for us. One, Stephen Burns, is an Anglican priest from Britain who has been long familiar and associated with Quakers in Britain, and has also worshipped with Friends whilst staying at Silver Wattle. Stephen lectures in the area of liturgy, and so considers the distinctive contribution that Quaker worship gives to the larger arena of Christian worship.
Another friend of Friends, and who is also an attender at Wahroonga local meeting in New South Wales, is Garry Trompf. Of course many Friends do know, or know of, Garry. He has taught for many years at the University of Sydney at which he holds the Chair of the History of Ideas. He writes for us on a peculiar theme, that of recurrence. This was a theme that such a peculiar people as the Children of the Light employed so to give shape to the early understanding of being-Quaker.
We at the Australian Friend thank all of our contributors to this special issue. I am particularly excited about the range and depth of so many articles. We are a diverse lot aren’t we; each context opening up new layers of what it is to be Quaker. There’s something organic about it. No, not in the warm and huggy-bunny sense, but in the sense that being-Quaker is about a peculiarity of life as lived and engaged with. Lives that speak diversely, that speak a quality…diversely; and that one seed-quality germinating and spreading out and unfolding in so many endeavours.