Swarthmore Lecture

The Swarthmore Lecture has two key purposes: to interpret to Quakers their message and mission and to make the wider public aware of the spirit, the aims, and fundamental principles of Friends.

The Swarthmore Lecture usually takes place each year during Britain Yearly Meeting. The lecture is funded for and organised by Woodbrooke and is an important part of Woodbrooke’s learning programme and has a key place in the life of Quakers in Britain.

If you have enjoyed this year’s lecture and would like to support Woodbrooke in providing future lectures then please consider making a donation to support this important part of our work. 

2020 lecture

'Openings to the Infinite Ocean: A Friendly Offering of Hope' by Tom Shakespeare

The 2020 lecture was live-streamed on Saturday 1 August at 19:30 (UK time) - it will be available to watch again on Sunday 2 August at 15:00 (UK time)

How do we face all the very real, terrible things that happen in our world and still have hope? How did Friends in the past have hope in dark times and how can we have it today? Tom will reflect on the nature of hope, our reasons to hope, and how we can preach hope through the way we live our lives.

Watch the 2020 Swarthmore Lecture via Woodbrooke's YouTube channel.

Lecture book

The book to accompany the lecture is available to buy from the Quaker Centre Bookshop website. There is an e-book option for those wanting to read it immediately, or you can pre-order print copies which will be sent out before the end of the month.

Click here to buy the Swarthmore Lecture Book

Exploring the Swarthmore Lecture: Openings to the Infinite Ocean

A series of four sessions exploring the Swarthmore Lecture with Tom Shakespeare and Mark Russ. Each session will explore one of the four main themes of the lecture. You can join us for one session, sign up for all four or pick those that interest you the most. The sessions are:

  • Letting your life preach: Quakerism and hope - Tuesday 22 September at 19:30-21:00 (UK time)
  • Faith, hope and love: Biblical sources for hope - Tuesday 29 September at 19:30-21:00 (UK time)
  • We have no time but this present time: finding stories of hope - Tuesday 6 October at 19:30-21:00 (UK time)
  • Optimism of the will: what is required of us? - Tuesday 13 October at 19:30-21:00 (UK time)

Book for 'Exploring the Swarthmore Lecture: Openings to the Infinite Ocean'

About the Swarthmore Lecture

Each year there is a spoken lecture and supporting publication, as well as usually audio and video recording and in recent years live streaming of the lecture. Those giving the lecture often lead courses at Woodbrooke to allow in-depth exploration of the subject explored in the lecture.

The Lecture is funded by Woodbrooke and overseen and supported by staff and the Swarthmore Lecture Committee. The committee is responsible for discerning lecturers and topics. It considers Friends who may have a message for the Yearly Meeting and issues of concern and interest to Friends or which bring Quaker witness, faith and practice to a wider audience. The committee considers names put forward by Friends, relevant themes and its own leadings.

If you would like to suggest a lecturer and/or theme, please download and complete the Swarthmore Lecture Proposal Form.

Past Lectures

The lecture series has been running for over a hundred years, having started in 1908. You can see details of past lecturers and access video and audio recordings here.

The publications relating to past lectures can found in local Quaker meeting libraries or be purchased from the Quaker Centre Bookshop.

Further Information

For more information about the Swarthmore Lecture contact Simon Best, Head of Learning, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, 1046 Bristol Road, Birmingham, B29 6LJ. Email: simon.best@woodbrooke.org.uk