Quaker curmudgeon ;-)

on the ferry

On the ferry to Burlington, Vermont, on our return from Montreal, Quebec

I live in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania with my wife Patricia Daly (BFF, main squeeze, spiritual companion, and lover) and our cat Nabi (나비=butterfly in Korean), a rescue cat named by our daughter-in-law. I am a Quaker in more ways than one: a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania :Go Quakers!, and Pat and I are members of Goshen Monthly Meeting (Religious Society of Friends=Quakers), in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM, with apologies to the other PYM out west). My son Geoffrey is general manager of “Azie in Media” and lives in Media” with his wife Kim Yeji (김예지) and their son Solomon. Geoffrey and Yeji met at Smyrna church in Changwon (창원), Korea while he was working for Ducom, and she was completing a masters in vocal music at Changwon National University. My step-daughter Natalie is a social worker who lives in Kimberton, Pa. with her wife Lynn, an ER Physician’s Assistant.

This is the most recent version of a page I created while working for PYM as Coordinator of Adult Religious Education (2000-2006). I continue to maintain and update it to advertise my availability as a teacher and retreat leader, and along with other pages at this site it serves me as a repository for links which I find fun or useful, or which I have recommended to those in my workshops (particularly the Quaker Resources page). Having exceeded the Biblical “three score and ten,” editing this brief autobiography also allows me to review my life. I have recently retrieved some old pages from archives and moved them to a Google site (I find some of the old links, those that still work, interesting). WordPress allows me to work directly with the HTML source code, so I can also get practice with basic HTML programming.

Credo: I am convinced of the gospel (the good news: Mark 1:14-15) in its Quaker understanding, “Christ has come to teach his people himself” (e.g. George Fox Journal chapter 6 second paragraph). I find the “Kingdom of God,” of which Jesus taught, in the gathered Quaker meeting. I also believe, with John Woolman: “There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath had different names. It is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any…” (Considerations on Keeping Negroes, edition printed by B. Franklin & D. Hall, Philadelphia 1762).

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In front of the Sojourner’s Lodge at Ben Lomond Quaker Center near Santa Cruz, California, 2008

My theology and spirituality are firmly grounded in the Quaker tradition and an apophatic theology. I had no religious upbringing, and embraced a materialist worldview until the age of 40 (the age of wisdom according to the Talmud). Under the influence of two martial arts teachers I began to practice Buddhist meditation and study Buddhist teachings (see my martial arts page). A personal crisis led me to Quakerism and I joined Annapolis Monthly Meeting. When I became a Quaker my karate teacher, Robert Galeone, introduced me to the Philokalia (some of the authors of which I later studied at Villanova) as a bridge text between Buddhist meditation and Christian prayer, but Hesychasic prayer, which it teaches, goes hand-in-glove with an apophatic theology based in Christian Neoplatonism extending from Pseudo-Dionysius, to The Cloud of Unknowing (both of which I also studied at Villanova) My Quaker understanding developed through reflections on my own experience, courses while on staff at Pendle Hill (“A Quaker Center for Study and Contemplation” near Philadelphia), and extensive reading and teaching (see “Quaker Seasoning” below). My theology was has been further educated by Episcopalians in Education for Ministry and retreats at Holy Cross Monastery; and Roman Catholics with Franciscans at Neumann College (certificate in Pastoral Counseling), and Augustinians at Villanova University (M.A. in Theology, 2005). I am also indebted to the friends of Bill W, through whom I learned some practical theology.

The Bible is our scripture. Early Friends quoted from it, and drew upon it extensively. It is hard to understand their thought and writing without first having some familiarity with it. Yet it is of secondary importance to the direct inspiration of the Spirit (see Barclay’s Apology Proposition 3). Following Origen, I accept that the Bible can be understood at more than one level. Parts I take as literally true; parts as allegorical. Paul makes explicit use of the allegorical in Galatians 4:21-24. I find many stories often seen as literal accounts are useful when taken as metaphor. Either or both of these can lead us to the moral understanding. Likewise, talk of God can be useful even when we understand, again with Origen, that God is not corporeal, and any effort to confine God to human words and categories has to be misleading. This is why much of scripture is like fingers pointing to the moon, not to be confused with the moon itself. In addition, early Friends went beyond the traditional levels and used scripture in an evocative way. Among themselves it was used to call up images which summed up a point, as in Fox’s famous assertion he had come back through the flaming swords (Journal chapter two, para. 21).

tiger mapAfter college at Lincoln University (Pa) where I earned a B.A. in Political Science, I served for two years with the  Peace Corps (평화봉사단) in Korea, living in rural GongJu (공주) county in the in the late 1960s, working in a public health project. I married into a very traditional Korean family (my father-in-law was a (TCM) country doctor). Having worked in the old rural Korea, and with my family now intertwined with two Korean families (that of my first wife and mother of my son, and now that of my daughter-in-law); and still speaking and reading the language passably, I think of my self as an old Korea hand; and so created my Peace Corps Korea web page for memories, to hold useful links, and for my own use when I’d visit. The “East Asia” tab (above) will take you to a page of links, particularly to pictures and blogs, or hover over it and a pull down menu will show other related pages on this site. While in Korea I was exposed to the three teachings (or doctrines) and wrote my senior thesis for my B.A. on “Neo-Confucian Influences on Modern Korean Politics.” I also began my study of the martial arts. Both the three teachings and the martial arts have had a major influence on my life.

Back in Philadelphia, and married, I obtained employment with Victor P. Satinsky, M.D. at Hahnemann Medical College (now part of Drexel University). I worked for him as a technician, running the heart lung pump in his lab soon after high school, and now helped him administer his several NSF and NIH supported training programs. I was studying educational statistics at the University of Pennsylvania, and on graduation (M.S. in Ed.) was appointed a Research Associate in the Department of Mental Health Sciences, and continued in that capacity for three more years. After leaving Hahnemann, I worked at the U.S. Naval Academy as a statistician and taught computer programming for ten years. All the while I continued my study of the martial arts, and two teachers deepened my understanding of Buddhism and the practice of meditation. One was Bob, who I mentioned above in connection with hesychasm.

Quaker Seasoning: I began school at Downingtown Friends School (since laid down) but I was not then a Quaker. It was in Annapolis that I became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (RSF) by joining Annapolis Monthly Meeting. Soon after I felt led to prison ministry and  joined Sandy Spring Friends visiting inmates at Patuxant Institution. I also became active with the Baltimore office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Within a few years, while serving as clerk of Annapolis (and feeling more and more uneasy working for the navy), I was offered employment at Pendle Hill, and I moved there with Geoffrey. It was then that I was recruited by PYM to teach Quakerism at local meetings (congregations), and also taught for meetings in Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM), where I served as clerk of Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting. While at Pendle Hill I continued work in prison ministry, now at Chester County Prison. On leaving Pendle Hill (I was undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer) I continued the work under the care of Western Quarterly Meeting, with a minute from Annapolis Monthly Meeting. Able to take on regular work again, I did some teaching (statistics, computers) for Neumann University (where I met Pat). and then worked for the Delaware County Sexual Abuse Center, teaming with county detectives and local police investigating allegations of child sexual abuse, all the while continuing to teach Quakerism, and serving as lead trainer for the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) at Gander Hill prison in Wilmington, Delaware.

Toshiba Digital Camera

Pat and I were married under the care of Middletown Monthly Meeting in 2003. We are flanked by Geoffrey and Natalie.

For the decade of the 1990s I represented BYM on the General Board of Friends United Meeting (FUM), and in turn represented FUM at the National Council of Churches. I was the instrument by which a minute on the care of the creation  was brought to and approved by the 1999 FUM Triennial Sessions in Williamsburg, Virginia. Then, between 2000 and 2006, I served PYM as Coordinator of Adult Religious Education, and transferred my membership to Middletown Meeting (Concord Qtr) in PYM. I have continued to work in various forms of prison ministry, both paid and unpaid, most recently working for Gaudenzia at SCI Chester as an addictions counselor.

Picture 192

YouthQuake 2003 in Estes Park, Colorado

In 2001 Pat and I attended The International Consultation of Historic Peace Churches at the Bienenberg near Basel, Switzerland where I presented a paper “Quakers and the Lamb’s War: A Hermeneutic for Confronting Evil” (published in Quest) This was an attempt to draw together the 17th century Lamb’s War, the thinking of Walter Wink, and the teachings of AVP. My articles have also appeared in Quaker publications including Friends Journal, Quaker Life, What Canst Thou Say? and the newsletters of both Baltimore and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings.

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With Geoffrey in front of the meeting place for Seoul Quakers

I am currently retired, spending my time writing and doing volunteer work (currently at the Delaware County Literacy Council, and back at SCI Chester where I had worked). I am available to lead workshops and classes on Quaker faith and practice, the Bible, and on Quakerism’s unique take on this basic western scripture. The page Quaker resources, holds useful links for those in my classes or workshops.  From time to time I may add blogs (see to the right) commenting on Quaker themes, apophatic theology, Korean politics, or whatever strikes my fancy.

I can be found at Facebook, and on QuakerQuaker.

You can contact me at genehillman@alumni.upenn.edu or:

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