Woodbrooke Journals

Showing 17–28 of 28 results

    Let our lives speak

    Author: Natalie Fedorchenko

    Document Code: WJ20

    Description: This is the story of the transformation of a private school in Electrostal, a town on the outskirts of Moscow. Natalie Fedorchenko arrived at Woodbrooke as the Eva Koch Scholar following her dream; to build a school in Russia on Quaker principles and with the ethos of a Quaker school. She already had the school building but she wanted to create a community based on Quaker values in a place where she was one of a very few Quakers.

    With this vision she was able to read about Quaker education but also visit one of the Quaker schools and talk to both teachers and pupils and learn more from their experiences. She also made contact with people working in Peace Education as well as Religious Education and found their resource libraries overwhelming. There was too much to take in. She discovered very practical books on peer mediation and conflict resolution as well as those on the development of children’s spirituality. These treasures were an affirmation; other people shared her vision and provided ways and means of realising them in a variety of new ways.

    By the time of her second visit during her school’s summer holiday she had already begun to plan how to introduce additions to the RE syllabus as well as new ways of maintaining discipline within the school using Quaker principles. Thinking about school rules, a charter for teachers and pupils as well as how to recruit teachers willing to work in this way was helped by the many books available here, but not in Russia. She was able to plan how she would introduce her vision so that the whole school, as well as parents, shared it.

    The story has not ended as Natalie continues her work, but this article is an account of her action research project in her own school.

    Judith Jenner

    Living Upside Down

    Author: Judith Jenner

    Document Code: ISSN 1368-9614

    Description: The image of being turned upside down and inside out is one sometimes associated with the Kingdom of God. To enter this kingdom Jesus said his followers had to become like children, or to those who are rich, they had to give away their wealth. He was clear that the first in the world’s judgement would become the last in his kingdom. Living contrary to the way of the world today is often seen as being prophetic and standing aside from the majority view. It can feel out of reach for those ordinary followers of Jesus’ teaching. But reading the stories of Jesus in the gospels helps us to understand how simple it is to recognise the kingdom because the woman seeking the lost coin demonstrates in an everyday image the worth of each person.

    This article is a series of stories about everyday events where in some small way the world is being turned upside down. It may inspire you to take a different view of what happens around you, and find ways of realising the kingdom of God is amongst us today.

    Openings: A Poet’s Encounter with Elizabeth Fry

    Author: Julie C Robinson

    Document Code: ISSN 1368-9614

    Description: Elizabeth Gurney was born into a Quaker family in Norfolk towards the end of the eighteenth century. Her early life in this rural setting contrasted markedly with her life when she married Joseph Fry, a Quaker businessman, at the turn of the century and moved to London. In the city she missed the natural rhythm of life and welcomed visits to her family home. In her poems Julie Robinson encounters Elizabeth in many different places and stages of her life including being alongside the women in Newgate prison. She is drawn particularly to Elizabeth’s spiritual journey and the inner life, especially the experience of a power directing her life which is greater than herself.

    In the 21st century Julie is struggling to understand an early nineteenth centure woman, of a different class and living in a different culture. Both are Quakers, but there is not a shared theology and although there are some common beliefs the language used by Elizabeth creates much discomfort today. But in the conversations, opening herself to Elizabeth’s words and thoughts Julie was ready to be transformed by it. Taking the advice of Jane Hirshfield ‘to be transformed it is necessary first to stand in the open.’ Julie spent three months at Woodbrooke: a poet abandoning herself to her subject.

    This journal brings together a selection of the poems Julie wrote during her Eva Koch Scholarship alongside a reflective prose account of the experience of her encounter with Elizabeth Fry. I was privileged to be part of this journey here at Woodbrooke when a small group of women met with Julie and shared with us some of her struggles and questions. Julie read some of her poetry one evening in July; it was quite amazing as the rain poured down outside, thunder and lightening moved around the dark sky to recall that Elizabeth herself wrote of spectacular thunder storms racing across the Norfolk countryside.

    Judith Jenner

    Our Queries and Our Conduct: past, present and future

    Author: David Maxwell

    Document Code: WJ08

    Description: It has been a pleasure working with David Maxwell on the latter stages of his Eva Koch Fellowship project on the queries. I was glad for the opportunity to help bring the manuscript to publication. David’s work has combined good research and reflection on the queries in Quaker history with a clear and passionate concern for their renewal among Friends today. I believe many will be informed by his findings and rightly challenged by his conclusions. I find myself persuaded by his argument that a more serious engagement with our queries is a vital component to renewing the internal integrity and wider witness of the Religious Society of Friends. I am grateful to David for his courage and sustained effort to bring this project to fruition. I am also grateful to former Quaker Studies Tutor Ben Pink Dandelion for his work with David during the time of his residence and research at Woodbrooke. I hope these faithful efforts will be rewarded by a sincere response by Friends.

    Douglas Gwyn

    Quaker Studies Tutor

    Proud, Stubborn and Free: The earliest Quakers and their children

    Author: Helen Bayes

    Document Code: WJ13

    Description: As a child rights activist Helen has a concern for children and young people today, especially when their human rights are being violated. In this essay she turns her attention to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the first hundred years of Quakerism. During her diligent research she has discovered material in Epistles written to children and young people themselves as well as to adults in meetings and the heads of households. Helen has used these source documents and many others to present a vivid and lively picture of the young people and traced changes in the perspective of adults.

    One striking realisation is the youthfulness of many of the very early Quakers. Teenagers were travelling preachers, some going as far as Ireland to spread the word. George Fox himself was a young man in his early twenties when he left his family home to travel. Another realisation is the joined up thinking of early Quakers. How children should be reprimanded was a concern for some families. They were encouraged to treat other people with gentleness, meekness, patience and to care for each other.

    The Peace Testimony was emerging as a social concern for Friends. They were also convinced that each person was equal in the sight of God. How did this affect their attitudes to child rearing? Children also had the Light within them from birth; how was this to be respected by a parent who was angry? Adults are advised not to provoke children to anger as this will make them more stubborn.

    Although Helen is writing about the seventeenth century many of the questions she explores are ones that are real for many Friends today. I am pleased to be publishing this Woodbrooke Journal and recommend this thought provoking article.

    Judith Jenner

    Tutor in Quaker Studies

    Quaker Relief Work and the Brynmawr Experiment

    Author: Pamela Manasseh

    Document Code: WJ07

    Description: I am fascinated by Quaker history in the first thirty years of the twentieth century. Brian Philips has cast the period 1895-1910 as the Quaker renaissance, the period during which Friends saw themselves as ‘the nonconformists of the nonconformists’ and as ‘the civilising influence in the world’, alongside the British Empire. Such arrogant worldliness could only last a brief honeymoon following the marriage of full citizenship in 1870 and the victory of the Liberal theological project after 1895. Rocked first by the deaths of J.W. Rowntree in 1905 and then of ‘blessed Edward the peacemaker’ (Edward VII) in 1910, Friends had further to face anarcho-syndicalist union unrest, the possibility of Irish Home Rule, the Suffragette movement, and then the ‘Great War’. Each challenge brought an ambiguous response, with Friends both for and against. One third of eligible Quaker men joined up in the Great War; but the advent of conscription in 1916 brought about a less permissive attitude to the politics of the State. Quakers pushed for the right to conscientious objection.

    Thomas Kennedy reports that those who resisted the war effort the most were given the greatest weight within inter-war British Quakerism. But it was still a time of uncertainty within the movement. In 1918, London Yearly Meeting adopted the nine points of social order akin to a socialist manifesto; but in 1926, the Yearly Meeting looked to ameliorate the effects of the General Strike and the conditions that had led to it, instead of maintaining the clear line of 1918. Indeed, writers such as H.G. Wood declared in the Friends Quarterly Examiner that 1918’s nine points were perhaps over-hasty and ill-conceived. In general, leading Friends pushed for a softer line which gave them fewer personal difficulties.

    The story Pamela Manasseh tells here follows that moment exactly with Friends of different political persuasions joining together in their efforts at relief. Some of those political differences were to re-emerge over time. But unity was sustained for projects such as the Bryn Mawr experiment by a coterie of dedicated Friends, often serving together on different committees at the same time. This is part of larger research conducted by Pamela and feeds into her current work on the particular story of Paul Matt and the furniture-making in Wales. It is all worthy of our attention and I thoroughly enjoyed working with Pam when she was Eva Koch Fellow here in 1999, on a subject she had obviously researched so thoroughly.

    The Quakers and Gandhi – The Start of a Dialogue and an Uncompleted Journey

    Author: Vasant Kumar Bawa

    Document Code: WJ15

    Description: Vasant Bawa was an Eva Koch Scholar at Woodbrooke in 2003. He wanted to spend time in the Quaker library so that he could find out more about Quaker thinkers associated with India from the early twentieth century including Horace Alexander, Jack Hoyland and Marjorie Sykes. He was already working on a longer study of the relations between Gandhi and peace movements in Europe since the First World War.

    I am pleased that Vasant Bawa was able to spend some time here at Woodbrooke and research the particular contribution Quakers made to the events that led up to the independence of India in 1947. This part of his research can now be published in this edition of the Woodbrooke Journal and adds another chapter to the record of Gandhi’s links with Woodbrooke. It is the view of an Indian, non Quaker and therefore provides a different perspective.

    Vasant is looking for connections between Gandhians and Quakers in many areas including pacifism and spirituality. He examines the peace testimony of the Quakers as it developed after the First World War and considers the links with pacifism. At the same time he contrasts this with the approach of Gandhi’s movement with their non-violent protests and the question of a just war. Should pacifists oppose all wars or those which are unjust? With spirituality, however, he does find more similarities between George Fox’s search for the inner light and Gandhi’s search for truth. Gandhi held regular prayer meetings with people of different faiths and in this sharing of one another’s scriptures he shared in a common quest for the divine.

    In his conclusion Vasant is seeking to extend the teaching of Gandhi into the twenty first century and the world of South Asia. He points out that the issues addressed at the World Pacifist Conference in 1948 in Shantiniketan and Sevagram are still on the world’s agenda today.

    Judith Jenner

    Tutor in Quaker Studies

    The Economic Crisis – a Quaker response

    Author: Tony Weekes

    Document Code: ISSN 1368-9614

    Description: I am pleased to introduce Tony Weekes who has completed his work at Woodbrooke as the Ferguson Fellow. One of the results of his research is this short paper The economic crisis – a Quaker response which we are able to publish in the Spring issue of the Journal. In it he focuses on economics as the fundamental nut to crack when considering how we can create a convivial and sustainable society in our life time. He identifies change to the current economic order as core when he struggles with the relationship between faith and practice. For him it is this change that will bring social justice, sensitivity to others’ needs and reduce wasteful consumption of the world’s non-renewable resources.

    Before he describes the possibilities he begins by explaining the nineteenth century neo classical paradigm from which our understanding of economics has grown and shaped the way we view the way the world works today. He includes substantial sections exploring both money and work as the two key components of the current economic system and seeks alternative ways of viewing both. He introduces the notion of a citizens basic income for all that is distinct from selling their labour. This is one of many proposals Tony puts forward as he seeks a different approach to work arising out of the conservationist economy.

    The article covers a broad sweep responding to many questions that are raised when seeking this new paradigm. There are many useful references to current work on various websites that can be explored, depending on particular interests.

    Tony admits that his paper cannot offer a complete blueprint for how to proceed but recognises that it takes individual and community and government effort to work for a better world. He is seeking an alternative, evidence based paradigm for a better world. Towards the end of the article he is able to set out some of the requirements for an ecological economy which challenge our current western way of life.

    Judith Jenner

    Why making friends with God may not be the best idea

    Author: Ben Pink Dandelion

    Description: Preparing and delivering a lecture could be considered a very different exercise to writing an article to be published. The reception of the first will depend on the physical setting, the audience and maybe even the time of day. It is set within a specific time frame, and although carefully researched it is of a more temporary nature. What listeners take from it depends on the personality and skill of the presenter as much as the argument.

    I am, therefore, very pleased that Ben Pink Dandelion readily agreed to my request to publish the 2004 Ellen French Lecture. I was intrigued by the title and wondered why ‘making friends with God may not be the best idea’. Having introduced the notion of friendship being the most subversive form of relationship on the first page what follows is an account of how the idea of God has changed since Fox’s realisation in 1647 that ‘humanity can be spoken to, directly and without mediation of text and priest’. After setting out the early history and the significance of the direct experience and spiritual intimacy Ben is able to compare this with the twentieth century movement away from an interventionist God to one who did not act in the world and ‘who in humanised form was only equal to their own sense of potential, or no God at all.’

    It is uncomfortable reading and does bring into question for me personally what have the forty years since John Robinson’s Honest to God, and all that followed, resulted in? In the final section Ben addresses the question of what this has meant for the Religious Society of Friends in the twentieth century. A God who has become so humanised has severe limitations and can easily lead to the loss of hope within society, it also diminishes the mystery of God. This is a thought provoking article and I recommend it warmly.

    Judith Jenner

    Tutor in Quaker Studies

    Truth, Listening, Caring

    Author: Anne Hosking

    Document Code: ISSN 1368-9614

    Description: For over 2000 years what constitutes ‘truth’ has been a contested matter; Pontius Pilate, when Governor of Roman Palestine, is famously purported to have said ‘what is truth?’ when Jesus was brought before him. Today truth or Truth as an ideal remains an important part of Quaker testimony and witness. We are said as a religious community to be ‘Friends of the Truth’; but what does this mean, particularly as we live in an era when meaning is slippery and words can be provisional and partial?

    Anne Hosking’s work on truth as part of her Eva Koch scholarship points us in some useful directions for consideration. Truth may be a re-membering, a putting back together of our own self. It may be listening to and witnessing a story that needs telling even if we might only partially hear or understand. It may be an ongoing active process that integrates new occurrences and interpretations. ‘Truthing’ as Anne describes it requires something more than the traditional definition where we are exhorted to tell the whole truth and nothing but. It asks of us nothing less than that our whole being is engaged with and alive to possibility within and beyond ourselves.

    Tradition and Transition: opening to the Sacred yesterday and today

    Author: Alex Wildwood

    Document Code: WJ09

    Description: I am delighted to recommend to you this new essay by Alex Wildwood. Normally, our two issues of Woodbrooke Journal per year are devoted to the fresh research of our Eva Koch Fellows at Woodbrooke. But because of a gap in the ‘pipeline’, we were able to consider another submission. The work that Alex and Tim Peat are doing (see Alex’s ‘Acknowledgements’) with ‘Rooted in Christianity, Open to New Light’ has struck a chord with Friends around Britain Yearly Meeting in recent months. For those who have not had an opportunity to participate in one of their events, Alex’s essay here is a vital statement of the ‘Open to New Light’ side of that conversation — yet clearly engaged faithfully with the ‘Rooted in Christianity’ position that Tim upholds.

    In my own research into the beginnings of Quakerism among Seekers of the 1650s, I have learned that Friends have always been engaged in this conversation. Some seek to dig deeper into the richness of the existing Christian tradition (albeit in a particular, Spirit-led vein), while others see new ‘dispensations’, ‘paradigms’ or ‘ages’ beginning to unfold and changing everything radically. At its best, this is a fruitful dialogue of faith that continues to renew Quakerism. I happily pass on to you this most recent installment in that conversation.

    Doug Gwyn

    Quaker Studies Tutor

    They Too Are Quakers: A survery of 199 Nontheist Friends

    Author: David Rush

    Document Code: WJ11

    Description: Following Peggy Heeks issue last summer, ‘British Quakers and the Bible Today’ (Issue No. 10), we continue with fresh research of contemporary Quaker attitudes. Along with Peggy, David Rush was an Eva Koch Fellow here in 2001. His work on nontheism among Friends covers both Britain and the United States. It is an important piece of fresh research on a growing phenomenon in the liberal branch of Quakerism over the past several years. As with Peggy’s excellent work, the opportunity to hear Quaker voices speaking their experiences and convictions adds an important qualitative dimension to the quantitative sifting David has done from his survey. So, generous quotation, along with a number of helpful graphs, give us a helpful portrait. Certainly, this essay adds to the path-breaking research of Ben Pink Dandelion (cited by Rush) and hopefully will lead on to future work. I happily commend it to readers — nontheist and theist.

    Douglas Gwyn

    Quaker Studies Tutor