Saturday, 13 September 2008

12 Quakers and....

No, it's not the start of a joke :) As I mentioned in an earlier post: when I was accepted as a member, and because I already had a copy of Quaker Faith and Practice, I was offered a set of Quaker Quest booklets called "12 Quakers and...".

These were written to be used not only in Quaker Quest, but also by attenders and new members. They are written very simply, by members of the Quaker Quest team in London, and each booklet has a different topic: God, Jesus, Worship, Equality, Pacifism, Simplicity and Evil.

(On a somewhat trivial note - my set has a lovely purple box cover, made by a local bookbinder, and, as each pamphlet is a different colour of the rainbow, they look extremely inviting!)

As the title suggests, there are 12 sections in each booklet, covering a wide spectrum of views. These are not simplistic, bland 'This is what Quakers believe...' booklets, but come from the deeply-held beliefs of individual members. They are all written anonymously.

I am thoroughly enjoying them. They are a perfect example of the aspect of Quaker literature that I appreciate most: that, rather than just offering abstruse theology, or prescriptions of how to think, we value and disseminate individual members' honest thoughts and beliefs. These in turn find readers who can relate to them.

Each section is quite short - anything from one paragraph to three or four pages - and so I can read and think about a new one every day. I also re-read the one I read the previous day, just to help fix it in my mind. Several passages have gone into my Commonplace Book already, not just entire paragraphs, but also simple sentences, like this from section 2 of '12 Quakers and Equality':

Equality does not mean I am not special. It means we all are.

If you would like to purchase any for yourself, or for your Meeting Library, they are all available at the Friends' Bookshop (scroll down, and go onto the next page also) in Friends' House, London. I can really recommend them, and I am very grateful to Judith, the Elder who suggested them to me.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


Elizabeth Sherrill, in All The Way To Heaven, writes:
Moments...when the small routines of living seem to flow without effort - when I experience what our friend David Manuel calls a 'graced day'. The news item I wanted to hear is on the radio as I tune in. The person I've been trying to contact phones me. A car pulls out of the parking place as I drive up. It's a day when the timing of many schedules seems to mesh like notes in a symphony. When in the humblest event I 'catch the universe in the act of rhyming'.
I have had two examples of serendipity lately that have made me laugh aloud. One involved tracking down a Bible verse, to find, when I eventually got to a Bible look-up site, that it was the example given for ways to look things up; and the other was the coming to light of a book I've been looking for.

I first read Ruth Barton's Invitation to Solitude and Silence when I was just beginning to investigate the idea of silent worship, well before I considered becoming a Quaker. It struck me then as an eminently down-to-earth, practical and sensible book that didn't assume (unlike some I have read) that you are Super-Christian. I gave up on that one a long time ago - and anyway, the cape would get tangled in my wheels :)

I lent it to a dear friend who was moving along a similar path to me, and she loved it too. She tried to find a copy for herself and failed, so when she gave it back to me, she suggested I keep it safe. A few months later I moved to my hew house, and purged my bookshelves - but I was sure I did not get rid of it.

That being said, I couldn't actually see it there either. The waist-height bookcases are behind the sofa, with about 18 inches of space between them and it, and it's pretty difficult for me to get all the way along them. I'd concluded it must be on a bottom shelf, out of my sight.

On a whim I asked Jacky, my regular carer, to look for it today. I described it to her - thin paperback, pale spine, called something about silence and solitude - and she started looking. 'Is it about this size?' she said, pulling a book out.

'Exactly that size,' I said. 'That's the book.'

It was on a top shelf, and yet I had never spotted it. We both just burst out laughing at the coincidence, and I heard Elizabeth Sherrill's words in my head again :)

I am no longer so arrogant as to believe that God micromanages my life. Why would She find a book I needed, but not give water and food to the inhabitants of Darfur? But, like Elizabeth Sherrill, I always enjoy hearing the rhyming.