Take publishers, for instance

There's something unique about Quakers. It might be that we have a peculiar singularity of purpose that keeps us moving forward. It might be stubbornness. But the truth is that there's no good reason for the number and variety of Friends institutions in the world.

Take publishers, for instance.

The field of publishing is a place where the news is of budget cuts, reorganizations, mergers, and bankruptcies. Yet Quakers have more than a dozen publishing houses in the U.S. alone. I'm not sure the survival of so many presses is a mark of our success. But it says something — maybe even something good — about what kind of people we are. That we keep going when so many others are giving up. That we are survivors.

Last month, I attended my first meeting of Quakers Uniting in Publications, an international network of Quaker booksellers, authors, and publishers concerned with the ministry of the written word. And much of the talk was of a way forward, of what it might mean that we're still around when so many other religious publishers are being bought out or shut down. We listened in our times of gathered worship for what God might reveal about his place and purpose for us in the world.

So what did we hear?

Some spoke of budget concerns. Some spoke of the need to more creatively engage young Friends through technology. Some spoke of the places in which the world needs us now more than ever. Many of us didn't speak much, but we listened. And there was a shared sense that God continues to call people to feed the hungry, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked and care for the sick, to visit the prisoner. And that God continues to use us as vessels through which that call can be carried to the people God calls.

Eric Muhr