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February 8, 2006

Pendle Hill Pamphlets

In addition to books on Quakerism, the Pendle Hill Pamphlets series offers a tremendous amount of information in small packages. They started publishing in 1934, and just released pamphlet #382, Holding One Another in the Light. A number of pamphlets are available for free online, while most can be ordered from the Pendle Hill Bookstore's catalog.

Pendle Hill, home of the bookstore and pamphlets, is "a Quaker Center for Study and Contemplation", located in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. It's named after Pendle Hill, on which George Fox wrote that "the Lord let me see atop of the hill in what places he had a great people to be gathered." (Nickalls, 103-4; QR, 70; QS1, 78-79; QS2, 30 )

February 6, 2006

Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity (2001)

Unlike the other collections I've mentioned, Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity, by Sorin Books, is more a collection of quotes for contemplation than an organized set of readers to explain what Quakerism is about.

Whitmire introduces each chapter with a few paragraphs for context, and then different sections of each chapter contain brief excerpts of prose and poetry. Chapters have titles like "Keeping to Plainness by Choosing" and "Growing Together in", with sections like "Community", "Decision-Making", and "Reconciliation and Forgiveness". It's easy to find a selection of quotes on a lot of different subjects, but browsing the book generally is also fun.

Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings (2005)

Someone at Harper Collins apparently liked the Paulist Press series "The Classics of Western Spirituality", but decided they were too long for today's readers. As a result, they've published several shortened editions, including Emilie Griffin's shorter version of Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings. It's much smaller than the original version, but still includes key writings by George Fox, John Woolman, Caroline Stephen, Rufus M. Jones, and Thomas R. Kelly.

Isaac Penington and Fox's Epistles aren't included, and a foreword by Rick Moody reflecting on his interest in Quakers replaces Douglas Steere's extended introduction.

Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings (1984)

Douglas Steere's Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings includes selections from George Fox (the Journal and the Epistles), Isaac Penington, John Woolman, Caroline Stephen, Rufus M. Jones, and Thomas R. Kelly. The selections are generally longer than they are in the Quaker Reader, and more focused strictly on religion, though Steere provides some historical background as well.

This book was published by Paulist Press, which focuses on Catholic publishing. This book is part of a series called "The Classics of Western Spirituality", which includes authors from many traditions.

The Quaker Reader (1962, 1992)

The Quaker Reader was one of the first books I bought on Quakerism, mostly because it was the only book on the subject my local Borders had in stock. It proved a great choice.

Pendle Hill Publications reprinted this 1962 book in 1992, updating the introduction slightly. Sixty-one separate entries explore Quaker faith and history. One of my favorite features is that it includes pieces from non-Quakers, and not always friendly non-Quakers, as well as identifying Quakers from the early period, Quakers who were born into the commmunity, Quakers who were convinced, and a few Quakers who left.

If you're looking strictly for religious insights, this may not be the right book. However, if you want a sense of how those religious insights related to how their proponents lived, it's an excellent book.

[Sorry - I had to turn comments off for this post because of an amazing volume of spam.]


I have four collections of Quaker writings I refer to regularly:

I'll review each of these separately. I'll admit that I purchased the shorter version of Quaker Spirituality before I realized it was a reduced version of the larger book, which I already had but couldn't find. Both books are useful, though, and the smaller one frequently stays in my bag for times when I have to wait for something, and would like something to read. (Plain Living is good for that too, I think.)

When possible, I'll provide citations for quotes all of these, at least for the first three.

February 5, 2006

Who's writing this?

I'm Simon St.Laurent, and I attend Ithaca Monthly Meeting. I previously attended Swarthmore Friends Meeting while going to college there.

I'm not a minister. I've had very little religious training. I rarely speak in meeting. There's no reason to think what I write is authoritative because I wrote it. I do feel a leading to write this, and maybe later I'll feel a leading to share it.

I wasn't raised Quaker, just baptized Catholic.

I also run Living in Dryden, a site about the town I live in. For more about me, you can see the disclosures page there.

Can speak to thy condition

George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, spent years in spiritual ferment, talking with ministers, or priests and professors, as he often calls them. None seemed able to address his concerns. As Fox reached the bottom of his despair over his concerns and the inability of the ministry to address them, he was raised by the insight that created Quakerism:

And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, Oh then, I heard a voice which said, "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition," and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord did let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have pre-emninence, who enlightens, and gives grace, faith, and power. Thus, when God doth work who shall let [prevent] it? And this I knew experimentally.

(Nickalls, 11; QR, 47; QS1, 65-66; QS2, 11-12 )

This founding story combines key elements that appear elsewhere in Fox's Journal, and which develop through Quakerism:

  • Christ (through the Inner Light) "enlightens, and gives grace, faith, and power."

  • Even the best of men - priests and ministers included - can't communicate this grace.

  • Fox knows this through his experience of God - "experimentally" meaning "through experience" - not through the ministry or even the scriptures. (It corresponds well to scriptures, but it is Christ's authority which makes it true, not the Bible's.)

This initial insight may in some ways been seen as completing the Reformation, as James Wood pointed out in his The Distinguishing Doctrines of the Religious Society of Friends:

The true understanding of this requires some definite test as to what is the fundamental difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. The formula of Schleiermacher is generally accepted by both sides as a correct statement of this. "Catholicism makes the believer's relation to Christ depend upon his relation to the church; Protestantism make the believer's relation to the church depend on his relation to Christ." It follows from this that if the believer's relation to Christ is made, in any degree, dependent upon his observance of any ordinance or ceremony of the church, or upon any exercise of sacerdotal authority by its priests or ministers, in so far, the fundamental principle of Protestantism is violated and the principle of Catholicism is maintained.

...both in the Church of England and among the numerous bodies of dissenters that arose, some upon one point of doctrine or practice and some on another, there was continually some recognition of the Catholic principle, and it was not until a hundred years had passed after the Reformation began that a body arose that clearly and unequivocally took the position that the believer's relation to Christ does not depend upon his relation to the church, and which brought the Reformation to its logical conclusion. That body was the Society of Friends.

Much to contemplate.

February 4, 2006


Perhaps it's strange to write about silence, but I have too many ideas rolling through my head now, flowing from my participation in Quaker Meeting and the reading I've been doing about Quakerism.

I'm hoping to use this space as a place to write about leadings and readings, including the writings of Quakers from George Fox to the present and the scriptures themselves. Perhaps I'll open it up to a broader audience at some point, but at least initially it'll be a place for me to put my thoughts and have them remembered outside the swirling ideas in my head.