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Book List:
Basic Quakerism
Corporate Discernment

Riding the Train with my Nook

from Chel Avery

The Wisdom To Know The Difference: When To Make A Change - And When To Let Go Black Fire, Epub Ebook: African American Quakers On Spirituality And Human Rights Conversations With Christ, Epub Ebook: Quaker Meditations On The Gospel Of John Build It! Download: A Toolkit For Nurturing Intergenerational Spiritual Community Where Should I Stand - Epub Ebook Lively Faith, Epub Ebook: Reflections On Iowa Yearly Meeting Of Friends ( Conservative)

Traveling requires books.

It’s not just about whiling away the long hours of a transcontinental flight or getting through the middle-of-the-night wakefulness that comes with a time shift. I’m often more selective about what I read when I’m on the road. I have never wanted to load my luggage with too many books, so I developed the habit of choosing carefully, sometimes saving books for weeks in anticipation of taking them on a trip. Even in these days of “weightless books,” travel is special time and I want to be companioned by a special book. Many titles are tangled in my memory with the trip I was taking when I read them: Anna Karenina in New Zealand, A Portrait in Grey in France, At Home on the long drive with my husband this summer to the FGC Gathering in Iowa.

But most of my travel is local. I spend two hours a day riding SEPTA’s R5 commuter line between my home in Chester County and the FGC offices in Philadelphia. There’s a lot to be said for more-or-less quiet, uninterrupted time at the beginning and end of every workday. But I could not face it on a regular basis without books.

These days, when I board the train, I am often carrying not a single book, but dozens and dozens of them, all downloaded into my bottom-of-the-line, two-pound ereader. I use a Nook. Other passengers use iPads, Kindles, Sony Readers, and other devices I don’t recognize.

Look around the train, and it’s obvious that ebooks are here to stay. Not everyone is happy about it, and there are all kinds of pros and cons. It’s true that you can mark passages and insert comments into your ebook, and you can bookmark the parts you want to come back to, but I miss the dog ears and marginalia of the “dead tree books” for which I am a second or third reader – I miss the traces of other readers who have gone before. Reading, like riding a train in which all the passengers are interacting with a device, is a more solitary activity than it used to be.

On the plus side, all of the books in my Nook are in large print – because I chose to configure them that way. And they are searchable. Where did we meet that character before? – I can find the page in seconds.

I bet you’ve guessed what I’m working up to! QuakerPress is now offering our most recent publications as ebooks, as well as in print. Over time, we expect to bring some of our older books into electronic format as well, but all three of our most recent titles, as well as an earlier one, can be downloaded for electronic readers. Some of these books are good ones for discussion groups or adult classes in meetings, and as I learned in my own book group, it’s always helpful when at least one person in the conversation has an electronic version. What was that really clever remark that Elizabeth made when Darcy snubbed her? It can be called up in half a minute!

Here are our ebooks. More to come!

NEW! Conversation with Christ: Quaker Meditations on the Gospel of John by Doug Gwyn. As someone who has always had a very mixed relationship with the Fourth Gospel (it’s beautiful, it’s deep, Jesus seems so obnoxious!), I am grateful for the way this book holds my hand through specific passages. In a format perfect for an ongoing discussion group or a meeting’s adult religious education class, Doug Gwyn takes 13 conversations out of John (“the Quaker gospel”) and explores closely what is happening in the immediate, mutually transforming encounters between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, Pilate, Simon Peter, and others. Each of these conversations is followed by “Reflections from the Quaker Tradition,” a section exploring the conversation’s themes from the perspective of Quaker history and witness. Finally, there is a guided meditation inviting us into our own “Conversation.”

NEW! A Lively Faith: Reflections on Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative) by Callie Marsh is a short, personal portrait of rural Friends from one of the three Conservative yearly meetings. Who are they? How are they connected to the Wilburite movement? In what ways are they similar to other Friends? In what ways are they unique? How are they addressing present-day challenges, such as same-gender marriage? This is interesting train reading.

NEW! Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights is a collection that breaks easily into short chunks that work well for commuters and discussion groups alike. For the morning ride, I prefer something meditative, such as the spiritual essays of Jean Toomer or the poems of Howard Thurman. On the ride home, I want something lively to counteract the day’s fatigue: Bayard Rustin’s account of his nonviolent response to being removed by police from a bus in Tennessee or selections from Mahala Ashley Dickerson’s “Negro Lawyer in the South.” This anthology speaks to both ends of the day.

Where Should I Stand? A Field Guide for Monthly Meeting Clerks is a wise, practical handbook that we published three years ago. It was our first experiment with epublishing, and helped us decide that we should do more of it. Elizabeth Boardman discusses the many questions she asked herself in her first term as a meeting clerk, from how she should handle her relationships with visitors, committees, and “disappointed Friends” to “am I a Mary or a Martha?” If you are a clerk, think you may be one someday, or if there is a clerk in your life, this book is a helpful, Friendly companion.

NEW! Available not as an ebook, but as a pdf download, is the new creation from FGC’s Youth Ministries Program, Build It! A Toolkit for Nurturing Intergenerational Spiritual Community. This collection of resources was prepared to assist meetings and other Friends groups in nurturing community and connectedness between young and old. About half of the book is devoted to “tools” ― activities for deepening relationship, games for gathering, for learning about one another, and for a variety of other purposes. The chapters that comprise the other half of the book share the insights developed by committee and staff in their own experiences building communities of all generations. See more about it and get some sneak peeks over at www.fgcquaker.org/toolkit.

Also great for discussion groups – even if we only have them in paper:

The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make a Change―and When to Let Go, by Eileen Flanagan. The author of this book is one of my favorite Quaker writers. She delves into her own experience, listens to the experience of others, and writes authentically from what she has discovered. This book grapples with the mystery at the middle of the well-known Serenity Prayer, which asks God for the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. How does one know the difference? There are no easy answers in this book, no self-help rubrics or step-by-step solutions. But there is insight about living into the dilemma and discerning the path forward. The book contains stories from people of many faiths and all walks of life, those who have learned to accept with serenity and those who have braved the fear of change.

The Evolution of Faith: How God is Creating a Better Christianity by Philip Gulley. Early in this book, the author describes carefully holding a stunned hummingbird in his open hand, waiting for it to recover enough to fly away. He writes

I've often thought revelations and insights about God ought to be handled much the same way, loosely and softly so as not to smother or harm them. Unfortunately, this is usually the opposite of how divine truths are held. Our tendency is to grab them tightly, seizing them, squeezing out their vibrancy and vitality until life is gone from them.

Philip Gulley, a Quaker pastor, explores his religion from a relaxed grasp. What is God like? Who was Jesus, really, and were there others like him? What aspects of religion are helpful to us and what aspects get in the way of a healthy spirituality? What about suffering? Death? Nothing is too sacred to hold in open hands and consider anew, based on experience and thought rather than on codified teachings. The twelve chapters each come with three discussion questions, any one of which could keep my meeting engaged for a morning.

May you dwell in the Light,
Chel

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