Monday, December 10, 2007

Can Quakerism Speak To The Times?

John Hobart, born in England and active among Canadian Friends in the Thirties and Forties, served as the director of studies at Pendle Hill in the early Fifties. In Hobart we find both a birthright Friend and a Quaker by convincement who had been active in the Quaker movement for decades.

Given the admonition, "Oh, why don't Quakers preach what you practice?", John Hobart considers the content of Quakerism and, while recognizing that we have let the world know by our actions what Quakerism is, we have failed to tell our story.
"We recognize that Quakerism today lacks the force, power, and convincement, that carried it through its first century of oppressive and bitter persecution. What happened to the prophetic zeal and world vision of its founders?"
But Hobart does conclude that "a living Quakerism, expressed in modern concepts, can meet the almost universal need for a faith to fit the times." We cannot solely fall back on the accomplishments of the past:
"A Quakerism that is concerned only with the preservation of inherited testimonies and the recorded experiences of early Friends, is totally inadequate for the tasks which now confront our Society."
But the reinterpretation of Quakerism needs "earnest spiritual seeking for light, guidance, understanding, wisdom, and growth." Because of the experiential nature of Quakerism, words are insufficient: "Our task is not to rewrite their books in modern language, it is to relive their experience and, by so doing, make it our own. Let your lives speak, the words must come out of the life. There are grave perils in trying to modernize Quakerism by any other method."

While John Hobart's essay was written over fifty years ago it continues to be relevant to the questions we raise today. "Shall the Society restrict its activities or deepen its spiritual life? It may need to do both of these things."

View the complete Pendle Hill pamphlet number 78:
Can Quakerism Speak To The Times?

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