Thursday, July 10, 2008

More Thoughts from My Recent Trip

I wanted to share some more thoughts and impressions from my recent trip to Woodbrooke and the conferences.

First of all, we were sad that Richard M could not attend the FAHE conference this year. We missed him. The Quaker Philosophers did gather again for the second year in a row to talk about the intersection of our lives as Quakers and our lives as Philosophers. It was good to share further thoughts about this.

For myself, I am really happy to have connected Quakerism and philosophy explicitly in my research now. The more I work on this, the happier I become. And I was delighted to find that so many others are interested in my project. I'm hoping to finish an article by the end of the summer to send out for publication.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about Quakerism, worrying about the declining numbers of Quakers, and wondering what kind of renewal is needed. I am encouraged by the signs of renewal in the Quaker blogging world, and the Convergent Friends discussions. But what I was wondering specifically, due to the nature of the conferences I was attending, was whether Quaker researchers have a special role in the renewal of Quakerism.

A theme that came up a lot in the second conference (the joint conference of the Quaker Studies Research Association and the Quaker Historians and Archivists) was whether it is time to write a new comprehensive history of Quakerism, in the spirit of the "Rowntree" Quaker History Series. That series was written at a particular time, and had its own purpose. So why now is there talk about writing a new and updated history? What is it about this time that prompts this question now? What would be the purpose for doing this now?

It is not surprising to me that we Friends do want to take stock of our history in a comprehensive way again now. I myself can think of several answers to the above questions, but I think it may be more interesting to leave them as questions -- or queries perhaps.

There are other disciplines involved in Quaker Studies as well, besides history: sociology, theology, economics, philosophy. And of course the interdisciplinary field of Peace Studies intersects with Quaker Studies too. What role could these fields play in the renewal of Quakerism?

Another question/query I've been thinking about is whether Quaker scholars have a responsibility to write more about Quakerism for a wider audience. A lot of our writing is and needs to be for each other. When we write for wider audiences, we tend to keep our Quakerism in the background, and often don't mention it at all. Probably some of this writing has to be this way. But, all of this leaves a gap. Should more of us be writing about Quakerism for a wider audience?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Back Home Again

Yesterday I departed from Woodbrooke and returned home.

It was a long day of travels. Of course, flying west, we chase the sun, which extends the day. This time, we covered 3 hours in about 7.5 hours, making each hour 2 hours and 30 minutes long! (See my earlier post about my arrival). We were flying a northern route to avoid the worst of the strong headwinds, and we had spectacular views of Greenland!

My visit to Woodbrooke was amazingly wonderful in many ways. I re-met old friends, and met lots of new friends. I got a lot of good research done. I worked very hard, and was happily tired by the end of my two weeks. Although I was sad to leave, I was also really fine about returning home, even looking forward to it. I have a feeling I will continue to find good excuses to return, and so this felt more like a "good-bye for now" than a "good-bye and I may never see you again!"

One of the nice things about getting older is the way one's sense of time changes. Long stretches of time no longer seem like solid walls of separation. Time in and of itself no longer seems real, as such. Instead, time and space shift and bend to allow changes, and to give you different experiences. In that shifting, you are brought close to some people for a time, and to other people for another length of time, and you go back and forth, and in all of that, relationships are formed and evolve and change, and they are what is real.

Everyone feels close in my heart, and so I do not feel far away from them at all.