Exploring the Living Quaker Tradition

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    The Roots of the Quaker Way

    What are the roots of the Quaker way? How were early Friends influenced by their religious context? This online course will consider the connections between Quakers and other radical groups, such as the Beguines, the Rhineland Mystics, the Anabaptists, the Family of Love, and the Radical Puritans. We will look at how late medieval movements, the radical wing of the Reformation, and the English Revolution helped shape the religious culture out of which the Quaker movement emerged.

    About every five days throughout the course, new material will be released which will include videos and reading, along with discussion forums to connect with the tutor and others on the course. Guide dates are given to work on each section of the material however you are free to work at your own pace. The tutor, Stuart Masters, will also probably arrange a live Q&A session towards the end of the course, if participants are interested. The expected time commitment for the course is two to three hours per week.

    Heaven on Earth

    This course is based on seven live webinars run every Thursday at 3.00pm (UK time) from 4 June to 16 July.

    The Quaker movement began with an extraordinary confidence that the kingdom of heaven was arriving on earth. The living word of Christ was sounding among his people and transformation was at hand for those who heard and responded. Ideas that had become part of Christian doctrine such as the second coming and the expectation that God’s righteousness would triumph in the affairs of the world were perceived as imminent realities. Friends felt they were living in the same Spirit as the early followers of Jesus and this brought vivid meaning to the teaching and stories of the New Testament. But just as change came for the first Christians, so Quakers had to adapt their thinking once the world did not transform in the 1650s.

    We will explore the new vision that animated both movements as well as how they responded when their expectations were not met. There will be plenty of input, a chance to hear the three course leaders in discussion each week as well as time to reflect on where this leaves the Quaker faith today. Is there meaning we can draw out of this central part of our faith tradition for the challenges of our lives today? What might heaven on earth mean for us now?

    The Life Stirring Within: a week-long online retreat with Isaac Penington

    Isaac Penington was one of the most creative spiritual writers among the early Friends, much of his writing being in the form of letters of encouragement and ‘spiritual counsel’ to fellow travellers in the Quaker community. Topics he focusses on include: the interior life; surrendering to the Divine presence within; understanding Christ and scripture; discernment and spiritual growth; suffering as a way to spiritual growth; witness and testimony. On each day of the retreat you will receive a section of his writing with specially written commentary, as well as other complementary spiritual writing. To help your own reflection you will receive a spiritual exercise and questions to focus on. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings between 6.30 and 7.30pm, you have the option of joining Timothy Ashworth and others on the retreat for a period of worship and listening and sharing together.

    The Meaning of the Cross: punishment, or healing and reconciliation?

    Many of us struggle with the Bible’s sacrificial imagery and are troubled by the idea that God punishes Jesus for our sins. In this course we will explore alternative understandings of the cross drawing on the early Church, peace traditions, theologies of liberation, and the work of Rene Girard. Can we move beyond violent punishment and embrace a faith based on healing and reconciliation?

    This course involves a time commitment of approximately two to three hours per week. Each week there will be a range of audio-visual and written materials for you to engage with, and a discussion forum where you can share reflections and ask questions.

    Expectant Waiting: reflections from the Bible and Quakers, from theology and poetry

    The silence of Quaker meeting is not an end in itself. It carries a sense of waiting. At any time, this can give rise to a depth that is collectively felt by those present. Or be the occasion of inspired words, heard by one individual or shared with the whole gathering.

    This online course is made of four weekly webinars in which we will explore this theme of waiting, bringing together the reflections of Quakers with words of scripture, theology and poetry. W. H. Vanstone’s The Stature of Waiting and T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets will help us identify the riches in this theme, both for Quakers and others who may well be preparing to mark Advent, the season characterized by hopeful expectation.