Conversations With Remarkable Quakers

This proposal came to our meeting last fall. The proposers and the Committee on Ministry and Oversight felt ready to implement it this winter.  The first two group meetings are happening this week.

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Conversations With Remarkable Quakers

Feeling a hunger for deeper understanding of our Quaker forebears’ insights and ways of applying leadings to their whole life situation, we are proposing the start of a small group to commit to a structured relationship with these forebears through their writings, our contemplative responses, our group meetings, and our own willingness to change our lives to be more congruous with our Quaker testimonies.

We propose to select one remarkable Quaker at a time, to read their writings (journals, essays, letters, etc.), and to examine them in personal daily contemplative prayer and in small group discussion together.We want to examine how this relational process affects our own lives, and how to embody that resulting “leading”.

We propose using various processes of contemplative prayer, personal journaling, personal reading (individually) and commitment to meet together regularly to process the relationship as a group. We will search as a group for the expression of the testimonies that results, and for ways to embody that expression in real life.

When the group feels “finished” with one saintly relationship, we will proceed to another by common agreement.

Membership in this effort is conceived to be and open initially to anyone willing to make the commitment; it is not fruitful for “drop-ins”.

We are thinking of the following parameters for everyone in the group, by common agreement made in frequent review sessions together:

  • what I want to get out of this relationship with this person;
  • what kind of time and journaling and prayer time I expect to devote to it daily/weekly;
  • how I will prepare and carry out my daily relationship;
  • how I wish the group to help me hold to the details of my contract and how I wish to share with them my areas of concern or trouble.

Contracts may be reviewed, re-read every few months, individually and together.
This process will involve commitment—made primarily to oneself but with the group’s intention to help each person reach his/her own set goals and to examine what might be getting in the way. The process requires a high level of self-disclosure and the long development of trust in oneself, the group and the process. At the least, the journaling is likely to be in the form of a dialog or letter with the particular saint in the relationship. It is expected that issues of economics, community, environment, family life, and the queries will be dealt with in some depth.

Saints of interest include: John Woolman, George Fox, Margaret Fell, Isaac Penington. Others will appear and push for relationship and study.

We suggest that we approach this as a topic titled (for example) “Conversation with John Woolman”. Time and place of meeting as a group may vary, but a contact person will be named who will handle inquiries from others who may want to join us along the way.

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I’m planning on going to my first group (one of two our meeting has the interest for) on Sunday.  I started reading The Journal of John Woolman this morning and put some of my questions for John in a blog entry.

I found an online version of the Journal at Renascence Editions, which is kept by an old friend of mine.

If John Woolman reads this, I hope he’ll respond.  If you’d like to answer for him, or respond out of your own experience, please do.

I don’t know how many of my reflections will go up on this blog, but I’m looking forward to the group.