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

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.

The book to accompany the lecture is available to buy from the Quaker Centre Bookshop website. 

2019 lecture

‘On Earth as it is in Heaven; The Kingdom of God and the yearning of Creation.’ by Eden Grace

Eden explored Quaker eco-theology, from early Friends to Quakers today. Through stories of Friends’ response to climate change, she shows how this witness arises from their Quaker faith and ask us to imagine and create a positive future. What are the obstacles to radical, prophetic, joy-filled, corporate action?

Eden Grace is a member of New England Yearly Meeting and Global Ministries Director for Friends United Meeting.

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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.

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

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