I was asked to speak at Quakers United in Publications earlier this month at the beautiful Penn Center on St. Helena’s Island in South Carolina. It was a lovely road-trip south and a nice time seeing friendly faces. I was glad for the opportunity to spend some time thinking and writing on the question they posed:
Are Quakers Still Publishers of Truth?
I took the challenge because I have been thinking about this subject since Peggy Morrison, Kathy Hyzy and I put on a weekend retreat we called “The Nursery of Truth” a few years back.
Initially, the question brought up more questions:
What is an obligation to publish truth when others are disinterested or don’t care?
What does it mean to publish truth when we do not lay claim to another’s theological tradition or practice?
And of course, what does it mean to speak of truth? How is it anchored in a community of practice? How is truth experienced? What does it look like? Who gets to decide what truth is?
How does truth get understood in today’s political and cultural climate where we easily turn a blind-eye to “alternative facts,” and outright lies from leaders in every arena?
Are there ways in which we might apprentice people within our faith tradition(s) to the truth? Are there ways in which we can learn from the past in rebuilding some kind of “nursery of truth?”
Finally – What role does our understanding of truthplay in the ongoing disagreements and fracturing of our faith communities?
Back in February, I had the opportunity to travel back to Portland / Camas to speak at Chris Hall’s “Way of the Spirit” spiritual apprentice retreat program. I go to talk about the Bible, talk about discernment, Quakers and be in conversation with retreat goers. Some of the kinds of things I like to do.
While I was there I was reminded of my little discernment flowchart I created last June for my care committee (it’s like a personal support group for people under a particular ministry or calling). The flowchart is a pretty simple, yet fun activity of reflection one can do alone or in a group. So I thought it’d be worth sharing with others, in hopes that you find it useful as well.
“You are the branches of the true Vine, you Spouses of the Beloved, you Daughters of [Zion] and Sons of Jacob…let the tribulated [rejoice] and sing, let the poor in spirit be glad; let them that dwell in the Valleys [rejoice], who drink of the Springs of the Fountain of Love; where Peace and Joy encreaseth, whether Love to the Brethren is multiplied…For our God is Love, and we must be made like unto him in all things. O little Love, overcome, overcome all your hearts, that Life may fill your vessels, that bowles of compassion and tenderness may flow one into another, that every Soul may swim in the fulness of Love, that all may be filled with the eternal Power, that the new Wine of the Kingdom may be poured from vessel to vessel, that all your Cups may over-flow with the Conslation of God.”
-Dorothy White (A Trumpet of the Lord of Hosts Blown Unto the City of London, 1662)
Ben Pink Dandelion, Quaker professor at the University of Birmingham (UK) and one of my tutors has recently (as in this week) published, The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction with Oxford University Press. It’s a perfect book for someone who knows little about Quakers and doesn’t want to work through his much larger introduction (though I must say it is really good). This shorter intro is the kind of book that will cover all the really important bases: some belief and practices, a little history, key figures and what the Quakers are up to now. If you can’t wait to get your hand then I suggest downloading Dandelion’s lectures he recently did at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center on the same subject.