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?


  1. I also have been wondering about this. It was my historical and theo/alogical studies that first led me to begin attending a Friends meeting. I know that this was true for other Quaker scholars with whom I have worked. I also find that when teaching my own undergrad students, even sharing basic information about Friends' history can inspire students. They think that Friends no longer exist and are surprised to find that such is not the case. They are amazed at what they hear and comment on the compassion and the sanity of Friends' history and wonder why they were not told about it before. What is particularly sad is that I am teaching in Upstate NY where there is a very strong Quaker history which has been all but ignored except in the work of a very few individuals.

  2. I think it is wonderful and enriching that Quakerism attracts so many people who think and write for a living. However, I believe that there is no one category of people who have more to provide the renewal of Quakerism than others.

    I know that is *not* what is being said in the post, but I believe so strongly in the ministry of all that I hope discussion of what each individual has to offer can also include discussions of what we all have to offer.

    If, as we follow our leadings and use the gifts we have been given, we can also keep in mind that this is an unfolding time in Quakerism, the sum of all our efforts will bear fruit.

    So I encourage people to think about what they do best, and keep in mind the saying: "where your greatest gift meets the world's deepest need."

    It's exciting for me to think of all we have to offer in our different ways.

    I'm not surprised that students mentioned in the post think that Quakers no longer exist, but I'm fully confident that this misconception if being cleared up by their professor. :)


  3. Thanks Hystery and Cath for sharing your thoughts.

    I agree that everyone should be working at this in a variety of ways. And I too have found the advice to look for "where your greatest gift meets the world's deepest need" to be very valuable and helpful!