Get Thee to the (Meetinghouse) Library!

[Note: I wrote this for the newsletter of San Francisco Friends Meeting, so the audience includes many new attenders as well as experienced Friends.]

New books at San Francisco Meetinghouse, including
An Introduction to Quakerism
by “Ben” Pink Dandelion

Get thee to the library!

The Meetinghouse library, that is.

Thanks to our faithful library committee, we have several new titles available to borrow, including Ursula Jane O’Shea’s Living the Way: Quaker Spirituality and Community, a short book that is the recent reprint of the 1993 Backhouse Lecture she gave for Australia Yearly Meeting; Philip Gulley’s If the Church Were Christian (the title tells the story; with illustrative real-life anecdotes from Gulley’s experience as a Quaker pastor in Indiana); and Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, which I found generally compatible with my Quaker understanding of Christianity.

One of my favorite new books in the library is An Introduction to Quakerism by “Ben” Pink Dandelion. (Yes, he chose that name, during his pre-Quaker anarchist days.) Pink Dandelion is the director of the Quaker Studies Programme at Woodbroke, the Quaker study center in Birmingham, UK. He has written a number of books I’ve liked, including The Liturgies of Quakerism; Heaven on Earth: Quakers and the Second Coming, co-authored by Douglas Gwyn and Timothy Peat; The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction; and Celebrating the Quaker Way, a 28-page booklet with a very small trim size and a brilliantly concise style.

At 250 pages, An Introduction to Quakerism is more hefty than those last two brief books mentioned. While scholarly in approach, the book is mostly very readable. Each chapter is broken up into short sections covering many topics of interest.

The book has two parts: first, Quaker history from its beginnings in the late 1640s/early 1650s to the 20th Century; and second, worldwide Quakerism today. In part two, Pink Dandelion gives an overview of theology and worship; Quakers and “the world; and “the worldwide Quaker family.”

(Did you know that there are six branches of Friends today? Depending on how you count, anyway. They are: Liberal, unprogrammed Friends affiliated with Friends General Conference; “Beanites,” also liberal, unprogrammed Friends but not affiliated with FGC--named for Joel and Hannah Bean of San Jose, CA--that’s our branch; Pastoral, usually affiliated with Friends United Meeting; Evangelical, affiliated with Evangelical Friends International; Conservative; and unaffiliated Holiness Friends.)

I would put An Introduction to Quakerism up there with Thomas Hamm’s The Quakers in America and Wilmer Cooper’s A Living Faith: An Historical Study of Quaker Beliefs as important works of Quaker history, theology, and theological history. If you’ve read a basic work such as Howard Brinton’s Friends for 300 Years (or its updated edition Friends for 350 Years) and want something more, I would recommend you read any or all three. I recommend the two short books by Pink Dandelion as well. All of them have a different and valuable perspective; together they present a well-rounded picture of the multifaceted faith community known to the world as the Religious Society of Friends.


A Teaching Meeting

A former member of San Francisco Friends Meeting transferred his membership to his new meeting last year. In his letter requesting transfer, he wrote very movingly of the importance of the meeting to him, and how it served as a teaching meeting not only for him but for many other Friends.

This Friend had himself truly grown and deepened in the nearly 15 years he had worshiped with us. He had eventually quit his job as a management consultant for a very large corporation, made other work arrangements that reduced his hours substantially, and used the time freed up to make himself useful to Friends in all sorts of ways. He now consults part-time for Quaker organizations.

We miss him, but I'm glad our paths crossed and we became friends as well as Friends.

Because the cost of living in San Francisco is so high, our population is more transitory than in many cities. Add to that the appeal of its culture, its weather, its many startup companies, and its rich array of nonprofit community-based organizations and arts groups, we get a lot of young people cycling through, checking out Quaker meeting for the first time or -- if they grew up Quaker -- for the 1000th time.

Finally, because San Francisco is a popular destination for tourists and for conferences, our meeting also has a regular stream of visitors from other areas.

Suffice it to say, it's not always easy to keep track of any individual who starts attending. We do our best to be welcoming and talk to new people. (For a recent reflection on this topic by Robin M., see "Worship with My Eyes Open".) We also offer a session called "Frequently Asked Quaker Questions (FAQQs)" for 15 minutes after the end of meeting for worship, so that's a chance for people to plug in.

On 2/13, we had a visitor who introduced herself as someone who had attended our meeting for about six months in 1997. She then moved elsewhere, and stayed involved with Friends. She said she is someone who would gladly be involved with Quakerism every hour of the day, or words to that effect. She is now the clerk of Ministry and Counsel for another yearly meeting on the East Coast, as well as a member of their Faith & Practice revision committee. She was enthusiastic to be back where she had started with Quakers.

It was rewarding to know that her experience with us had stuck with her.

Dear God, thank you for the many blessings in my life, including San Francisco Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.


Clerk of the Eternal Meeting

Today at San Francisco Meeting, a Friend gave ministry about his sense of growing up spiritually. He has the sense that God the Father wants his children to move from simple obedience to being co-workers. The idea of being God's co-workers was from Wilmer Cooper, quoted by Wess Daniels at yesterday's Quaker Heritage Day (pdf) at Berkeley Friends Church.

Further, this Friend imagined God as the Clerk of the Eternal Meeting. We are in that Meeting, working to find unity together with God. Occasionally, God may even defer to us, to let us try something ourselves.

I love this image, this new office, for God.

Off and on for the rest of meeting, I meditated on a new wording of the prayer taught by Jesus that this sparked for me: "As it is in the eternal meeting, so may it be in the earthly meeting."


Qwitters or Qweeters?

I've been using Twitter for work for some time now (@hlc_sanmateo). However, I have not used it personally, and so I haven't followed many Quakers who Tweet.

(That phrase just begs the question: Are Quakers on Twitter "Qwitters" or "Qweeters"?

(Or just your "Qweeps"?)

Until now.

Sparked by the imminent arrival of Quaker Heritage Day with Wess Daniels (@cwdaniels) this Saturday, 2/12, I decided to start a personal Twitter account and follow other Quakers. I'm @chrismsf, naturally.

My first tweet was actually a retweet of Wess's suggestion to use the hashtag #QHD2011 to follow Quaker Heritage Day on Twitter.

Back in the old days, in 2007, I organized the QuakerQuaker Blog Carnival (remember blog carnivals? does anyone still have them any more?).

Now, given today's social media environment, I'm thinking we need a Qwestival -- a Twestival for Quakers, naturally. If you're not that ambitious, you could just have a QweetUp -- a Quaker meetup.

Until then, you can find Qwitters or Qweeters through the QuakerQuaker list at @quakerquaker/quakers.



Temptation takes many forms.

Here's one form it takes for me:

The latest issue of Friends Journal has a display ad saying you can get a PhD from Woodbrooke/University of Birmingham through online study with 'Ben,' Pink Dandelion.

Here's the link to the program:

Postgraduate: Quaker Studies.