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.

No comments: