Woodbrooke Journals

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    A Matter of Pilgrimage

    Author: Chris Lawson

    Document Code:                WJ01

    Description:        Chris Lawson is no stranger to anyone who has been to Woodbrooke in the last three decades. He started work at Woodbrooke in 1969 and in his time here occupied the roles of FSC Tutor and Extra Mural Services Organiser (more recently called Short Courses Tutor) and from 1990 until his early retirement in 1996, Senior Tutor.

    Chris sat on numerous Woodbrooke committees and was active in the life of the Selly Oak Colleges. Within the Federation, his service included the Awards Committee, Senatus, the Worship Committee, the Advisory Committee for the Centre for Islam and Christian Muslim Relations, and as Vice President from 1985-87. His outstanding commitment to the Federation has recently been recognised by the invitation to become an Honorary Fellow of the Federation.

    At its meeting last Autumn, Woodbrooke Council minuted on the subject of his leaving the staff here: Chris’ knowledge and experience of Friends both in this country and across the world will be a great loss to Woodbrooke, it is almost as if an encyclopedia is being removed from us. His ability to connect with people and issues both speedily and enthusiastically is a gift he gave generously both to Woodbrooke and the Meetings and Friends he visited on its behalf. His persistently cheerful outlook and faith in the possibility of getting things done is infectious, and his total commitment to Woodbrooke never faltered over 27 years of service.

    Chris has certainly been an influential figure in my Quaker life. I first came to know him well as we worked together on the Bradford Summer Gathering for the two years leading up to the event in August 1991, Chris as co-Clerk, myself as Administrator. Again it was Chris I was working with, when I was appointed as Resources for Learning Adviser, working jointly for Woodbrooke under Chris’ guidance, and for Quaker Home Service. In 1996 I came to Woodbrooke to be part of the Tutorial team led by Chris. For me, that continued colleagueship has been a privilege and a mentorship. Chris has shown me so much in those few years and infused even the most difficult situations with such a great sense of possibility, of hope, and of care and caring. Chris has a magical combination of skills and gifts which, as the Council minute records, is a huge loss for Woodbrooke and for Woodbrookers. It is a combination we will not be able to replicate but it is an ideal we can strive towards.

    I am particularly happy then that this issue of the Journal has been written by Chris. It is an uncut version of a shorter article which appeared in Issue No.9. of The Journal of Woodbrooke College (Summer 1996). Some of the work was done whilst Chris and Christina Lawson were on sabbatical in India in 1995.

    They wrote in the report on their journey: We sought to discover the continuing legacy of Gandhi. Statues and pictures of him were very common, particularly in villages. Responses varied from ‘forgotten’ and ‘one more god in the village street’ to ‘Father of the Nation’ (a generally accepted accolade) and ‘one whose principles are still valid’. This would lead to comments on the differences in the situation today. . . For some Gandhi still provides a personal inspiration, not least for his concern for improving the conditions of the poor. Our fullest discussion of the relevance of Gandhi was with the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Krishna Kant. His alertness to contemporary problems was matched by a non-dogmatic Gandhian philosophy. Several times he challenged us as to what Quakers were doing today about Gandhi’s approaches on such global issues as the increasing size and ungovernability of cities.

    It was a talk to a Rotary Club in Vijayawade (at the invitation of Solomon Raj, a former William Paton Fellow in the Selly Oak Colleges) which prompted the research into Gandhi’s visit to Woodbrooke in 1931 which forms the basis of his article. It is a fascinating glimpse of 40 hours in the life of Woodbrooke as well as an inspiring account of part of Gandhi’s visit to England that year.

    Christina Lawson also retired in the autumn of 1996 after 20 years as Woodbrooke Librarian. Her responsibilities included the care of the strong room which contains some letters from Gandhi to Jack Hoyland. From time to time she enjoyed showing these, with other records of the links of Woodbrooke with Gandhi, to groups in the college or visitors.

    Chris - thanks for this, and thanks for all else you and Christina have given us.

    Ben Pink Dandelion

    An Encounter with Truth

    Author: Harvey Gillman

    Document Code: WJ02

    Description: After this edition, we may change direction and use the Journal for publishing the fruits of the new Eva Koch Research Fellowships, but in the meantime we are continuing to use the Journal to give an opportunity for a Friend associated with Woodbrooke to give extended attention to a topic of Quakerly interest.

    In this issue, Harvey Gillman, well-known Quaker writer and speaker, looks at models of mission and outreach and the theology of encounter. As I write this in January 1998, the Woodbrooke community is in the middle of the module Signposts and Legacies: inheriting the Quaker Tradition. This course is looking at the nature of Quaker faith and its transmission, taking its lead from Christine Trevett’s 1997 Swarthmore Lecture. What does Quaker faith consist of? How are we to talk of it to each other and to non-Friends? What is our good news? How have we come to learn our Quakerism and how do we pass it on?

    It has been a full three weeks. We have had talks by Christine herself, Alastair Heron, Janet Scott, and Harvey. With his typical energy and insight, Harvey has helped us see what the dilemmas are for Friends in talking about their own faith and the wider Quaker way and helped us understand the nature of current Quaker outreach in Britain. He performs a similar task in this piece, originally a talk given at the Quaker Studies Research Association conference ‘From Mission to Outreach?’ organised by The Centre for Quaker Studies, University of Sunderland in April 1997.

    I used to work in the office next to Harvey’s at Friends House and we would act as shoulders for each other’s tears of frustration at times. Whilst he had been a personal friend for many years prior, it was a particular privilege for me to have Harvey as such a close colleague over those years and one too for me to be able to introduce his work in this edition of the Journal. Over to you, Harvey!

    Ben Pink Dandelion

    Between Quietism and Radical Pietism: The German Quaker Settlement Friedensthal 1790 – 1814

    Author: Claus Bernet

    Document Code:                WJ14


    The Woodbrooke Journal is pleased to publish this article in which Claus Bernet has recorded the development of a Quaker settlement near the spa town of Bad Pyrmont in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He carefully places the growth of the settlement at Friedensthal in the context of Radical Pietism in Germany during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Friedensthal or the Peace Valley started out with one house on three acres of land in an uncultivated valley given to Ludwig Seebolm by Friedrich Carl August, Duke of Pyrment-Waldeck who was tolerant of Quakers and in 1791 offered them public protection.

    Ludwig and two other settlers were given permission to establish a settlement and manufacture goods. The knife factory was the main business although other goods were tried including paper, flax and soap but they were not always successfully marketed. At one point there was a printing press. Quakers from both Britain and America supported the settlement also providing funds for the buildings and in 1795 it became part of London Yearly Meeting. The settlement developed along strict moral, social and economic lines and strict rules were maintained. A ‘hedge’ was built to keep the ‘world’ out as they tried to create their own simple righteous community.

    As well as describing other Quaker events and developments that were happening in the surrounding area Bernet records in detail the relationships between those involved in Friedensthal and other Quaker groups growing in this part of Germany. The reader will discover it was not always plain sailing. There is a comprehensive list of Friends from America and Britain who visited the settlement during that period.

    This is a careful piece of research which gives a glimpse of the experiences of a small group of Friends in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Germany. Another small treasure to be added to our collection of Quaker history.

    Judith Jenner

    Tutor in Quaker Studies

    British Quakers and the Bible Today

    Author: Peggy Heeks

    Document Code:                WJ10


    I happily recommend this new study by Peggy Heeks. Her interviews and reflections bring into helpful focus impressions many of us have regarding changes in the role of the Bible in Britain Yearly Meeting over the past half-century. The voices quoted and summarised here give vital expression to many of the questions, concerns and discoveries circulating among Friends today. Peggy’s comments and reflections balance appropriately between concern and hope. She was finishing these interviews as her 2001 Eva Koch Fellowship year began. Her Fellowship project was to research British Quaker attitudes toward the Bible a century ago. As the interview research was more ‘seasoned’ for writing and publication, we agreed that it was apt for this issue of The Woodbrooke Journal. We look forward to reading, in whatever form they may take, the findings of her Eva Koch Fellowship research. Meanwhile, we also look forward to the findings of our other 2001 Eva Koch Fellow, David Rush, on non-theistic Friends in Britain and North America today, anticipated for our next issue. His and Peggy’s research will enlighten us about two key trends in liberal Quakerism today.

    Douglas Gwyn

    Quaker Studies Tutor

    British Quakers and the Bible: a Nineteenth Century Perspective

    Author: Peggy Heeks

    Document Code: WJ16


    Peggy Heeks was the Eva Koch Scholar at Woodbrooke four years ago when she began this project to research Quaker attitudes towards the Bible in the nineteenth century. At that time she was finishing a study of the role of the Bible in Britain Yearly Meeting at the end of the twentieth century. It was this essay that was published in the summer of 2002. Subsequently Peggy has finished her work on the Bible in the Victorian era and I am pleased that there is space in the calendar to publish this essay.

    The nineteenth century is a fascinating one socially, politically and scientifically. These changes all had an effect on the religious beliefs of the day as well as practices. The movement of people from the countryside to the towns and cities had already started but it continued throughout the century and the organisation of labour changed dramatically. This led to changes in relationships within society and to greater self awareness. These factors, together with scientific discoveries which included evolutionary theory, had their effect on the way the Bible was understood by some scholars. This in turn had an impact on church goers and church leaders alike. It was a time of questioning and challenges and the Quakers were no exception.

    This is an interesting read and I recommend it to those who want an introduction to this significant period of Quaker history. There are plenty of references for those who get ‘hooked’ and want to continue.

    Judith Jenner

    Tutor in Quaker Studies

    Creating Connections

    Author: Julia Ryberg

    Document Code: WJ25


    Julia Ryberg has been one of my colleagues at Woodbrooke for almost four years. During that time she has brought a strong and lively European connection to our programme. Since 2007 in a joint Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) Europe and Middle East Section (EMES) and Woodbrooke project she has pioneered the e-learning courses and has been enthusiastic in promoting the value of this 21st century approach to learning; reassuring Friends that the virtual community works. I am fortunate to belong to a Local Meeting in Birmingham where I regularly meet Friends in worship and chat over a cup of tea. Sweden Yearly Meeting has fewer members than my own meeting! So providing a meeting place on line where Friends can chat, share their deepest questions and searchings with someone geographically far away can only be a good thing. In this article Julia is able to share this and many of the ways that she is bringing people together and making many different connections.

    The article was originally an address given to Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering in 2009. The theme of the week together was Creating Community; Creating Connections and Julia was able to captivate the meeting of over twelve hundred people as she told her own stories. As well as her European travels she was able to include a very recent study visit she had made with a group to Israel and Palestine. This experience was still very raw and trying to assimilate the impressions of a country where connections are made difficult by road blocks, check points and a wall added to the poignancy of what she was saying.

    Julia’s use of images to focus on the different ways we make connections is also helpful for readers and as you read you will be able to reflect on the way you make your own connections. The familiarity of a journey, the intricacies of a net or web, or the majestic tree deeply rooted in the earth all provide a visual, almost tangible portrayal of the complexity and challenges of the way our connections are made. She encourages you to tell your own stories about the connections that you have made and the changes they make in your own life.

    I am pleased to bring the spoken word into a written form to share with those who were not able to attend Yearly Meeting Gathering.

    Judith Jenner

    Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre

    October 2009

    Divided Ideals: The Religious Society of Friends and the Irish Home Rule Controversy, 1885 to 1886

    Author: Philip Ashton

    Document Code: WJ06

    Description: This issue of the Woodbrooke Journal represents only a portion of the monumental and rigorous research carried out by Philip Ashton before, during, and after his Eva Koch Research Fellowship in 1998.

    Assiduously checked and re-checked, Philip’s work reflects his own dedication to enquiry and to accuracy. I often tell my students ‘follow your passion’ and this is exactly what Philip has done in his comprehensive study of the Irish Home Rule question between 1885 and 1923 and the reactions of Irish and British Friends to the political manoeuvrings of those years.

    It is a fascinating history, one that sadly still echoes in the 21st century, but one which gives us an historical perspective to better understand the ongoing debates.

    Ben Pink Dandelion

    April 2000

    Faith in Action: Quaker theology and protest

    Author: Cliff Marrs

    Document Code: WJ12

    Description: Cliff Marrs brings refreshing perspective as a new Friend to the current state of British Quakerism. Besides his fresh eyes and ears, he brings an impressive academic background in theology, church history, biblical studies and law to bear upon the subject matter of today’s Quaker faith and political protest. The work of Ben Pink Dandelion in sociological analysis of Quaker belief and behaviour in the 1990s has inspired a spate of smaller survey-based researches. Cliff Marrs’ study is the third Eva Koch Fellowship project to be done as a survey, and the third consecutive issue of The Woodbrooke Journal devoted to these projects (No. 10 was Peggy Heeks’ ‘British Quakers and the Bible Today’; No. 11 was David Rush’s ‘They Too Are Quakers: a survey of 199 nontheist Friends’.) Given the trend of liberal Quakerism to drift further and further from its traditional patterns, offering no definite boundaries to belief or personal behaviour, it may be that this shift from prescriptive to descriptive, from theological to sociological and empirical statements of Quaker faith and practice, is a logical outcome. These studies, including the present one, however, do not fail to raise probing questions and dilemmas for Friends in the early twenty-first century. I recommend this essay to anyone either comforted, afflicted or simply curious regarding the state of the Religious Society of Friends today.

    Douglas Gwyn

    Quaker Studies Tutor

    Finding the Prophetic Voice for our Time

    Author: Marion McNaughton and Lizz Roe

    Document Code: WJ21

    Description: Cliff There are two articles in this edition of the Woodbrooke Journal. This in itself is unusual as we usually publish one article from one writer and often an Eva Koch Scholar. This autumn I had to look elsewhere and it was fortunate that a current Woodbrooke tutor and one who moved on recently were both speaking at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) Triennial Meeting. It was held in Dublin in August and had as its theme Finding the Prophetic Voice for our Time. Both of these articles were written to be spoken, they are in an active voice and full of passion.

    Quakers gathered from all parts of the world to share the week together and get to know more about their various ways of being Friends. Recognising that there are differences Marion was asked to explain first the common basis and biblical heritage of what Quakers understand as prophecy, then to explore different ways that different parts of the Quaker world understand prophecy today. This can range from a liberal call to action for social justice to an evangelical understanding that prophecy means to expound the gospel. She sets the scene using the roots of prophecy in the Jewish tradition to help understand the heritage of Quakers and how to live it today.

    Lizz was asked to prepare ministry for an unprogrammed Meeting for Worship at the Triennial. Her contribution is a practical example, telling the story of her own experience which is grounded in the same historical roots. These accounts of the Old Testament prophets continue to inspire 21st century people of faith. She talks of holy obedience and being a countersign to the times. As well as giving insights into the history of prophets and the foundations of prophecy, both of these articles share an optimism about our capacity to be prophets ourselves in today’s society.

    Judith Jenner

    Haramisi and Jumaa: The Story of the Women’s Meetings in East Africa Yearly Meeting 1902-1979

    Author: Esther Mombo

    Document Code: WJ05

    Description: It is with great pleasure that I introduce this edition of The Woodbrooke Journal. I first met Esther Mombo briefly in 1997 at the joint FWCC/Woodbrooke Consultation on Identity, Authority and Community, but I have got to know her far better in these last six months as she came to Woodbrooke as one of the Eva Koch Fellows. It has been a pleasure and privilege to work with Esther and she has given enormously to the Woodbrooke community in her time here.

    Esther has been working these last years at the University of Edinburgh on her doctoral research on the position of Luyia women within Kenyan Quaker Christianity. In her thesis, now in the Woodbrooke Library, she shows how the good intentions of Arthur Chilson and the other Quaker missionaries often backfired, given their incomplete understanding of the local Luyia culture (into which they attempted to introduce their own ideas). Luyia women needed to survive within the tensions created between two patriarchal systems as the Missionaries tried to replace one with what they thought was a more egalitarian model.

    Esther’s thesis is a wonderful piece of work which I hope will find a wider audience. This journal is but a snapshot of some of the themes she develops more fully in the thesis, a story of women organising themselves and gradually finding a voice for themselves within Kenyan Quakerism.

    Ben Pink Dandelion