About this issue

by Clancy Drake, issue coeditor

The editorial board of God’s Friends met, as planned, around Margaret Lukens’s dining room table on September 19, 2001. In addition to the food we always share when we meet, this time we also brought to the table our feelings of fear, anger, confusion, and grief, and our urgent needs for solace and understanding.

Our government had already identified Osama bin Laden as the principal suspect in the airplane attacks of September 11. Our president said it was war. Already millions of people both inside and outside American borders, including each of us, were being pulled into myriad states of conflict and allegiance. Sitting at Margaret’s table, we deferred our plans for an issue about a capella congregational singing and spoke instead about ways God’s Friends might address this new encounter with violence and war.

Peace, compassion, love, forgiveness—these are at the heart of our Christian practice. But so is justice. So is action. How can we bring all these parts of our practice to bear when we engage an enemy? Maria Schell, writing about her experience with Aikido, has found one satisfying answer.

How are we, who are urged to pray for peace and to love the enemy as ourselves, to bring the violent to justice? How can we go to war while holding on to our longing for peace? Episcopal priests Rick Fabian and Mark Spaulding offer eloquent—and very different—reflections.

Where does “us” stop and “them” begin, and what do we do about the distinction? Jacob Slichter’s account of visiting a mosque in New York on September 14—and what he witnessed on his way home—speaks vividly to these dilemmas. So do David Sanger’s photographs of religious leaders in Jerusalem and so does Bishop Bill Swing’s commentary that accompanies these images.

Whenever and however members and friends of the St. Gregory’s community came together in the days and weeks following the attacks, we sought understanding and comfort. But more than once, our conversations made us uncomfortable, exposing adversarial positions among friends. And often we had to admit that we did not understand quite a few things, and maybe never would. Afraid, combative, stricken, resolute, gracious—we were just like people everywhere, which may have been all we needed to know for sure.

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