Servant Leaders and Friends

by Carl Blumenthal
Brooklyn Meeting


Jesus said, “Henceforth I call you not servants…But I have called you friends (John 15:15.) I call my friend  Daniel Frey, age 43, and Friend Margaret Carne, age 87, best friends forever (BFFs) and servant-leaders in my field of mental health care.


According to Robert Greenleaf, the test of the servant-leader is: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”


Dan Frey is a Bronx native who like me was born and raised Jewish and now is a resident of Brooklyn. We both live with mental illness. I met him in 2001 after Ken Steele died, his mentor and publisher of New York City Voices, a peer journal of mental health, where Dan volunteered as an editor and writer.


Dan asked the Baltic Street Mental Health Board in Brooklyn, where I worked as a job counselor, for help continuing the publication, and, with my experience as a journalist, I volunteered, and have continued helping out to this day.


Margaret Carne, who lives in Jersey City, introduced me to Quakers—at the Chatham-Summit Meeting of NJ in 1987. We had been working for Jersey City’s Department of Housing and Economic Development—I as a housing manager and she as a social worker, who also had family members with mental illness.


Dan joined me as a job counselor at the mental health board in 2004 and, in addition to producing the paper, we organized conferences on “The Arts of Recovery” over the years, including one that took place at 15th Street Meeting and Friends’ Seminary.


Dan has created The Friendship Squad to pair caring, trained, and supervised volunteers, who have the lived experience of mental health and/or substance use challenges, with their peers who are reentering the community from institutional settings, such as the criminal justice system. The volunteers support their friends through attentive listening, mutual respect, and trust while acting as role models.


Margaret, a birthright Friend and refugee from Cornwall, UK, who settled in NJ during World War II, became an immigrant rights advocate, visiting people incarcerated in local detention centers. Since entering private practice as a therapist, including a stint with a group of Quakers who were also counselors, she has focused on the mental health challenges immigrants face adapting to their new country.


Lately, through NYYM’s Inside-Outside letter-writing collective for incarcerated Friends, and as part of a group who welcome formerly incarcerated Friends to Brooklyn Meeting, I have tried to practice our testimony of prison reform, like Dan and Margaret have. And as a sometime ARCH visitor I have aided her in the transition from living alone to moving to an assisted living community.


Dan and Margaret have never met but I feel like a member of the “sandwich generation” who has mentored a younger friend and is now offering spiritual accompaniment to a Friend who once mentored me and now needs my support.


The principles of mental health Intentional Peer Support and social work are like our SPICES testimonies and the practices of ARCH volunteers. Dan, Margaret, and I are also carrying on the “moral treatment” of folks with mental illness initiated by English Friends in the 1790s and imported to Philadelphia by Quakers who founded the first private psychiatric hospital in the U.S., which is still operating after more than 200 years.


I hope that Jews and Quakers will live by our humble examples for another 200 years.