The Western Friend magazine will soon hold an online discussion about the value of learning about Quaker history.
This is a very good idea; it should happen more often. But why is it a good thing for western Friends (& others too) to learn more about Quaker history?
Let me suggest it’s because in the American west, liberal monthly and yearly meetings embody and reflect less of an “ancient” tradition, and much more the legacy of a radical insurgency in American Quakerism. This movement shaped the liberal stream in the east, and appears to have provided much of the basic outlook for the independent western YMs — yet it had been essentially forgotten and ignored until just the last few years.
The post about the end of NCYM-FUM has been read widely. And a question has recurred in comments across Facebook and in other media. It is:
How did this happen??
It’s a legitimate question; and it’s one we’ve been grappling with for three years. It’s also one this blogger is feeling a bit overwhelmed at having to try to explain again and again for those who are new to the saga.
Yet it’s important for concerned Friends to have answers for it.
I was only able to visit Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) for two days of its five-day session in Frederick, MD (that’s annual session number 345 & counting); so there’s much I missed. Too bad for me; but there was pressing business at home.
Still, I was able to get a good whiff of BYM’s atmosphere, and it smelled like home (I first attended in 1978, and am still a non-resident member), and it smelled healthy.
The “curtain” will rise at 8 PM, for “The Sword of Peace.” This gripping outdoor dramais based on actual events related to the American Revolution, in which many Quakers were involved. Convictions of patriotism, Quaker religious devotion to peace, courage, suffering and mercy all clashed in the historic Battle of Guilford Court House in 1781. This will be its 44th season. Continue reading “The Sword of Peace” — 44th Season Opens Thursday→
Been hearing & reading a lot lately about “cultural appropriation” & how awful & widespread it is.
I’ve been musing about this all week, while sitting in on rehearsals for “Pathway to Freedom,” out in the woods of Alamance County NC.
Here, at the Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre, an interracial cast is preparing to perform the only ongoing play about the Underground Railroad. On July 13, “Pathway” will open its 23rd season. The cast has been working hard every day,
On June 27, 2017, Mark Sumner’s friends and family buried him in a quiet North Carolina cemetery.
But tonight, in a wooded grove some miles away, Keisha Little Eagle will resurrect Sumner. And she’ll do it by running away.
No wonder issues of race in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting are in a mess.
I’d read and interviewed and blogged about this on March 23, 2017; but it was brought home to me directly in early June.
That’s a restrained way to put it.
More plainly, I was set upon, ambushed by two persons claiming to be part of the self-styled Philadelphia “Undoing Racism Group,” or URG, as they called it for short.
It began at Pendle Hill in early June, where I was visiting their Young Adult Friends conference, as a specimen Geezer Quaker, before moving on to the Quaker History Roundtable later in the week. It came as a request to hear some “concerns” about my March blog post; I agreed.
It turned out, though, that the two URGers, a white male and female, wanted rather more than to “express concerns” about the post. In a session that stretched to three hours, they declared it was full of racist lies, had damaged their cause, and that it and I were thereby shown to be enablers, even pillars of racist white supremacy.
To set things right, they insisted I must retract the post, publicly apologize for both the text and its headline, and as a sign of real repentance, become a booster of their agenda.
I was unable to meet their demands. For one thing, there are no lies in the post; I stand behind it. For another, URG’s repeated rebuffs in PYM came well before it appeared, as did the turmoil and division that accompanied their efforts. The post may have echoed the questions of some others, for which I am not sorry; it was hardly their source. And I am not moved to become URG’s scapegoat. Continue reading Philadelphia YM’s Racial Turmoil Continues: Ambushed by URG→
We wrapped up the gathering on Sunday morning June 11, after fourteen lively presentations, with a brainstorming session on research we’d like to see about American Quakerism in the last century.
We had already accumulated two flip chart pages of suggestions. And in two more hours, we filled several more sheets. Only the fact that it was time to head home brought the intellectual jam session to a close.
This should not be surprising. Both the energy and the curiosity had been running high since . We had learned a lot in the fourteen formal presentations since Thursday evening. But there was so much more to explore.
Back home after this extraordinary long weekend, the ideas are still echoing, and calling.
There was a lot to like at the Quaker History Roundtable,, at least for me. Here are several things in particular:
The mix of elders and rising talent. Our lineup included some of the most distinguished senior Quaker historians still active, and several young researchers and archivists who are just entering the field.
In addition, we did pretty well elsewhere on the diversity front: there were participants of color, LGBTQ, close to parity male/female; various branches were represented, and at least one was a registered Republican.
This variety was not the result of a planning committee checking off boxes. Presenters stepped up, and brought papers as their ticket of admission. So active interest in what has happened among American Friends of late is found on numerous points of the spectrum.
There was a sense of immediacy and connection. Many events that presenters wrote about, some of us had lived through, or had personally felt the reverberations. And in some cases, though the “history” goes back many decades, it is far from over yet.
Willingness to open up tough questions: Does FUM have a future? Was there militant segregation, war fever & homophobia in a large southern yearly meeting? (And how much still lingers?) Communists working with AFSC?
Other socialist influence among Friends then?
Archives are exciting! Staff from four major collections (Lilly Library at Earlham, Haverford, Guilford College’s Quaker Historical Collection & Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library) showed that their stacks and vaults are not only rich treasure troves of insight and answers for seekers, but also arenas for some of today’s most contested questions, and magnets for talented younger Friends.
It was no accident that the Roundtable was opened by two very articulate archivists, focusing on such issues. They voiced plenty to ponder & work on here, both in and out of the stacks.
A supportive setting. Major kudos are due to to the Earlham School of Religion, from Dean Jay Marshall to its office staff, for unstinted support and active hospitality to the Roundtable project.
The facilities were comfortable and compact (no need to wander a sprawling campus, unless one wanted to). Meals were ready on time; and staff & volunteers were ready to help ease the many details; the video cameras ran quietly and continuously.
Media to share the event: by autumn, there will be a book of papers, which will include the Research Agenda notes as well.
And in the meantime, videos of the presentation have just been uploaded by ESR’s intrepid videographer, Ryan Frame, You can find them, in nine segments, by clicking here.
Watching is freeand no registration or other data sharing is required. (But comments are welcome!)
What can become of a venture like this? My hope is that it stimulates & encourages more research and reflective presentations on these and the many other remarkable events, personalities, troubles and accomplishments that marked Quakerism’s 20th century in the U. S. These can show up in many venues; keep an eye out.