Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Quakers retreating from the world

A Friend in a comment of Rob's Blog ( Consider the Lillie's ) writes:

Finally, dear friend Lorcan, you write that "we are not a faith that builds monastery walls about our fields". That may well be true of liberal Friends, and I presume that you are living among such Friends. But it is not so true of evangelical or conservative Friends.

One tradition in the conservative and evangelical Quaker worlds has been to send one's children to private Quaker schools where they could have a "hedged" and "guarded" education. This was an act of building monastery walls around one's children, the most precious of one's fields. It paid off, too.

Evangelical Friends in particular have a long tradition of calling on one another to be separate from the world. That is one of the important reasons why they do not always respond to outreach from the liberal Quaker world, which they are somewhat inclined to regard as worldly and mired in sin. It is a logical extension of earlier Quaker testimonies against things like hanging out in taverns. I know it is rather different from the way in which many liberal Friends think, but it is as legitimately entitled to the name "Quaker" as the liberal fully-involved-in-the-world attitude is, and there is actually some good sense it in it which may be worth our while to ponder.

Well, I don't know that there has not been outreach to our community from Evangelical or conservative Friends, In 1963, our Hicksite Meeting joined with an Orthodox Meeting. So, as far as outreach, we became each other, as far as our meeting is concerned, though we are a community made up of Hicksites, Wiberites, and New Age Friends, perhaps even a non-Theist Friend or two. Back when we were a Hicksite meeting, English Evangelical Friends would visit with the intent of converting us, according to histories of our meeting.

I've met many conservative Friends who sojourn to our meeting today in fellowship, and thee is setting out on a wonderful walk for witness... this seems to me to be a reaching out, and one that is very welcome.

For us, here in New York, the tradition of Quaker schooling was not to keep our children from knowing about the world, but rather to provide excellent and Quakerly education. However, I am not sure our schools are in fact, completely Quaker these days. That is a whole question in and of itself! But, it seems to me, we have always sought to live IN the world while not being OF the world.

What is it to be mired in sin? There is a deep question. What is sin? Is it breaking rules or separation from God and one's fellow humans? In the world of Yeshua, it was the second. Many positive acts were sinful if not undertaken with a spirit of humility, atonement and forgiveness. As the Jewish Jesus movement was replaced in the three hundred years after Yeshua's death with a Gentile Christian movement, the concept of sin changed, was made more Roman and Greek, with the concept that Jesus was a sacrificial lamb who removed from the individual the need to atone for one's sins, those things one did which divided one from another or from God.
Now, it may be, that the pre-Nicean concept of sin is more the Hicksite tradition, but I think it is closely linked to the concept of that of God equally in all. Our presence to God in the other expects a fellowship, as described in the sermon on the mount. I don't think that feeling that sin is about obeying rules makes one less a Friend, any more than Sadducees were as Hebrew as Pharisees. If one looks at any religious or political system, one will find a rule bound expression, the Sadducee stance or the Quaker Conservative stance, and the Pharisee stance or the Hicksite stance ( or Bolsivik and Menchavik for another example). We showed the health of our movement by marrying the two back together after the divorce of the schism split us apart, though it took over one hundred years. We are still in marriage counseling however! But yes, we both are legitimately fine calling ourselves and each other Friend. I think it would be Christian of us to get together and labor together in a spirit of love as well.


At 11:20 AM, Blogger Dave Carl said...


I'm glad you wrote this. It is helpful to me in my search for a Quaker Christianity that I can understand and live by.

In Friendship,



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