Broken pipes

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Priscilla Hochhalter reflects on Paul’s plea in Philippians 4:2 for Euodia and Syntyche “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” We don’t know for certain the source of their conflict, and maybe, for our purposes, that’s not important. What matters, according to Priscilla, is that “the two women . . . had split apart and were leaking out damage.”

I have a friend who for years has been reminding me that conflict is “a dangerous opportunity.” When we engage one another on the point of our disagreement, there is the potential that we might uncover and resolve some hidden source of dysfunction. The engagement, though, creates friction. Not only do we risk hurting one another in our disagreement, but there may also be danger for anyone close enough to feel the heat.

Priscilla uses a plumbing problem from her own kitchen as a metaphor for what happens when we’re not in unity: “Pipes are meant to fit together and work as a network.” Which might illustrate why “Jesus prayed his followers would ‘be one’” (John 17:20-23). When the pipes in Priscilla’s kitchen “were detached, it was amazing how much water . . . leaked. The cleanup took longer than the fix.”

Is there a way for us to stay together when we disagree? The answer is yes, but there’s a catch. If there isn’t mutual agreement that the relationship matters, forcing people together won’t resolve the problem. It just increases the friction. 

I’ve been thinking about the role Barclay Press might play in helping people to come together, and in supporting the work of reconciliation and renewal. There are a few things we’re already doing.

Each day we provide a short, first-person reflection in Fruit of the Vine. These devotional pieces are one of the ways our shared stories help us to grow in our sense of who all is part of this family of Friends from across the country and around the world. You can find a print subscription to Fruit of the Vine in our bookstore. We also have an inexpensive digital version that comes right to your email inbox each morning. 

Our Illuminate curriculum – starting next month – is different from previous years in that it has a little less commentary and nearly three times as many questions for discussion and reflection. I’m convinced that one of the best ways to bring people together is to get them focused on and talking about the Bible. The questions are open-ended, designed to challenge assumptions, and written to help small-group participants find safe ways to share their stories.

Additionally, we’re bringing out more books and pamphlets in the next year than in any year in our recent history. We’re re-releasing several small collections of essays and talks on Quaker polity and theology. We’ll be presenting some new poetry, a series of studies, a history, and a volume on Friends’ views over the centuries on the nature of God as well as their understandings of the atonement. If you’re interested in supporting this work, you can click on the Barclay Press link in the right margin of this letter and donate through Paypal.

Finally, there are a lot of things that Barclay Press isn’t doing. At least not yet. Some of these might be projects we just haven’t thought of. Some are beyond our capabilities. But I trust God has a purpose for Barclay Press and for us as Friends. Because there are a lot of broken pipes in the world. A lot of dangerous opportunities.

Eric Muhr