An Opportunity to Live Differently
An Interview with Philip Gulley
Author of Living the Quaker Way
(Convergent Books 2013)
by Bob Henry
Philip Gulley is the author of more than fifteen books, including If Grace Is True, The Evolution of Faith, and several collections of his beloved “Front Porch Tales.” His most recent book, Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today (Convergent Books, 2013), is an introduction to five key Quaker values—simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality—written for people who aren’t necessarily Quakers themselves.
Gulley is also the co-pastor of a Quaker meeting in Camby, Indiana. To conduct this interview, we called upon Bob Henry. In addition to being the pastor of Silverton Friends Church, an evangelical Quaker meeting in western Oregon, Henry is an Indiana native. Before the interview formally began, Gulley and Henry realized they had several mutual friends in Oregon and Indiana. Gulley also remembered that he had volunteered at a homeless shelter at Englewood Christian Church (home of The Englewood Review of Books) back in the 1990s. This set the tone for a warm conversation frequently punctuated by Gulley’s easy laughter.
Bob: I recently heard about a trend where the twenty- and thirty-somethings of the Millennial generation are seeking out or returning to churches or groups associated with Anabaptist traditions. Included in that spectrum are Friends. What is it about Quakerism in particular that makes it more relevant or enticing to younger folks?
Philip: I’m noticing this trend in our little community too. I suspect it is related to several factors. One is the emphasis on social justice, which continues to be meaningful for so many young people. It was a priority for many of us when we were younger, when we were in our twenties and thirties, and of course that continues for some of us. But I think it’s an especially rich longing when we’re finding our voice at that age.
I think the other issue might have to do with community. The Anabaptist traditions seem to do that well. Not that others don’t, but I think it might be a more historic priority in Anabaptist traditions. So when these young people first begin attending, their longing for community and the Anabaptist appreciation for community intersect.
Bob: You mention in your book that Quaker values are best honed in the crucible of community. And many of your novels have been all about community. What has community looked like for you in your spiritual formation?
Philip: Well, I’ll tell you, it’s central to it. There are other things in life that supply what I need as a human being, but when it gets down to my spirituality, I couldn’t do that without the context of community. It gives me intimacy. It gives me a place where I can be vulnerable. It gives me a place where I can be held accountable. It provides deep joy for me, and companionship. As much as I love my wife and my sons, they are unable to provide every aspect of relationship that I need in my life. So my meeting provides me with deep friendships. The more I get the more I find I need and value those things.