Lessons on outreach from British Friends

Quakers on the tube

I was scheduled to have a blog post go up on the QuakerYouth blog last week, and since it happened to be the start of National Quaker Week in the UK (and apparently Australia too), I decided to write about British Friends. Emily was on vacation in NC though and didn’t post it in time, but if you can turn you mental clock back a week or two, here’s the link to Lessons on outreach from British Friends.

A note on being constructive

Having just posted a basically intellectual reply to two comments on “Carrying the Society as long as you can”, I want to also affirm the wisdom of what philosopher Philip Kitcher says in this interview, which you should listen to if you have any interest in the things I’ve been writing about lately.  MORE »

The post-religious destiny of Quakerism

[The following grew out of a reply to Bill and Richard’s comments on the last big post.]

It’s certainly true that early Friends were Christian – very much so. There’s plenty evidence of that.

But it’s a profound mistake to see these outward beliefs – and if you’ve read much of early Friends, you know the disdain they attached to that word “outward” – as what is essential to Quakerism.

What is essential to Quakerism is best summed up in the opening sentence of Britain Yearly Meeting’s Advices and QueriesTake heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts.

This is the essential core of Quakerism for two reasons. Normatively speaking, it’s the most valuable pearl of wisdom they have to offer the world. And descriptively speaking, it’s arguably where the characteristic Quaker experience starts. Everything else is just interpretation of that experience (theology) or elaboration of its effects (the testimonies).

And everything else comes second. There’s no reason to assume their interpretations of their experience are the best ones, or that their discernment of those inward leadings is inerrantly true for all people at all times. Everything is open to revision based on these promptings, for us, today.

The promptings of love once moved us to repent of our involvement in the slave trade, and today are moving us to take greater care of the earth.

The promptings of truth once moved us to refuse to swear in court, and to be honest in business.

We were once moved to oppose dancing and music, but in the centuries since have felt moved to embrace them.  MORE »

Business, Quaker chocolate and dried peas

On a more upbeat note, I just saw a fascinating article in the Globe about how all this to-do about contaminated products from China tends to forget that American capitalists did the same kind of shady things, or worse, when we were industrializing in the 19th century:  MORE »

Carrying the Society as long as you can

[Apologies to feed or post-by-email readers who received an incomplete draft of this post…]

If you’ve been following this blog for the past few months, you probably recall the entry “A post-Quaker vision of the Society of Friends”. When I wrote that, I was in the opening throes of a period of intellectual reorganization, which I think is mostly done now, at least for the time being.

So I’d like to share the perspective on Quakerism I’ve been coming to, including some reflections on the recent New England Yearly Meeting sessions. (It’s a little long…)  MORE »

Mutual aid and Olympia Friends

I had a good visit at Olympia Friends Meeting last week (wow, was it only last week?), which seems to be a very vibrant meeting. There were about 80 people attending that morning, in a space small enough that there weren’t many open seats left. I appreciated this, because I think the quality of a meeting for worship/group meditation is greater when people sit closer together.

While sitting there, I felt some impulsion to speak about the need, as people of integrity, to be wary of believing things that have little evidence supporting them. But this went away, in part because there was a group singing before meeting began, and the last song they sang had stuck in my head: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, an old black spiritual. Aside from worship, we sometimes talk about our careers or businesses, relationships, and more. I got to meet one of the developers of bestsaws.reviews -- a site where circular saw reviews and information on other types of saws can be found. Being interested in carpentry and DIY stuff, I was stoked!   MORE »

La espiritualidad post-religiosa

At times like these — when you notice you’re being linked to by what looks like a great blog written from Ecuador — I wish I knew more than the most rudimentary Spanish. An excerpt, from “Mi espiritualidad post-religiosa”:

Así entonces escogí considerarme cuáquero [= Quaker] (luego se salir del colegio), todo el que crea en la luz interior lo puede hacer, sin bautizo ni nada más, de raíz protestante, hasta hoy en día en que hay budistas y hasta ateos que se consideran cuáqueros y así, hay algunos más ortodoxos [que curiosamente son muchas veces son los más pluralistas], mientras otros menos ortodoxos son de tendencias más conservadoras.  MORE »

Report on the Nontheist Friends interest group at New England Yearly Meeting

I was reluctant at first about hosting the Nontheist Friends interest group at New England Yearly Meeting this year, because I’m not very well-versed in the experience of other nontheist Friends — I haven’t even read Godless for God’s Sake yet — and I’m not sure I agree with most nontheist Friends about the wisdom of remaining with our Religious Society. But I realized that the people who showed up were the real stars anyway, and I just had to kick things off.  MORE »

Nontheist Friends interest group on Tuesday

The details of the nontheist Friends interest group at New England YM, as promised: it will be tomorrow night at 9 pm, room 359 of the Unistructure. I haven’t been able to find any other nontheist Friends who are attending sessions this year, aside from one YAF who is of the more post-Quaker persuasion like me, so I’m worried I won’t do the best job of representing the community. But overall I’m confident that it will go well.

Early report on NEYM and FUM

Lisa G and the Young Friends briefing us on NEYM and FUM history

Anyone who saw this year’s New England Yearly Meeting sessions schedule (PDF) might have assumed, as I did, that yesterday’s 7 pm meeting for business session on “Our relationship to Friends United Meeting might have produced something newsworthy.  MORE »

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  • Kevin: The ads on the tube seem like a wonderful, non-intrusive way of informing the public. I happen to get immediately turned...
  • David M.: Your quaker.org.uk link doesn't work.Great picture, by the way.
  • Jim: I, like many humans, feel a need to connect. In my case, that connection must include growing ever more inclusive of t...
  • Judy: In response to Nils,I think we may have met through NYM; I'm in Milwaukee.Anyway, you might want to look at the ...
  • Michael: Friend Zach,I am very grateful to you for sharing your post-Quaker, nontheist quest in this blog--as well as in your...
  • Nils: Zach,I find this idea, of creating a positive alternative to 'magical-thinking' religion, very appealing, even thoug...
  • Kirk: Over and over, I see Quakers as emphasizing process over product, and that's a good thing. But process is much harder to...


  • The Quakers are not so blindly attached to antiquity, as to keep to customs, merely because they are of an ancient date. But they are ready, on conviction, to change, alter, and improve.

    A Portraiture of Quakerism (1806) by Thomas Clarkson

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