“Unprogrammed Quakerism – what is essential and what is cultural?”

  • June 10, 2015 at 1:59 pm #1446
    mwood
    Participant

    Philadelphia Quarter recently held a Program meeting hosted by CPMM titled “Unprogrammed Quakerism – what is essential and what is cultural?” a continuation of our work at our February program meeting on “Inclusion”. members of our Program Committee included the host meeting and members of the Learning Communities committee of the PYM “Undoing Racism” group.

    Other queries we asked were:

    “What is essential to Quakerism for you?” (Things that you feel Quakers can’t be without)

    “What do we practice that is cultural, but is not essential to Quakerism?”

    From there, we asked these queries:

    “What is there that is cultural that is affecting our core values?”
    “How do we shift that?”
    “What needs to be challenged to lift up our core values?”

    In light of what we learned we left asking:

    “How do I behave differently at PYM sessions this year, within meeting and in our daily lives?”
    “Are there obvious actions we need to take?”

    We are still compiling all the notes from the session and they will be posted on our PQM website when they are done… this may take some time as the fruits from the Program were many!

    How would you answer some of these queries?

  • June 30, 2015 at 10:30 pm #1448

    These are very pointed queries; leave it to Friends to sit together and come up with probing, illuminating questions like this.

    I have a few thoughts in response. First of all, in addition to the traditional testimonies (what are now sometimes given the acronym “SPICES”), and the notion that we don’t need intermediaries between ourselves and God (ie, Truth), I would say that the act of issuing queries is itself essential to Quaker thought and practice; that is, the Socratic method of arriving at truth through the posing and answering of questions.

    Silent worship and vocal ministry that arises out of it, as practiced by “unprogrammed” Friends, are also essential, to me. As far as I know, this is what 17th century Friends did.

    I question the premise that “what is essential” is any different than “what is cultural.” In my opinion, essential Friends’ practices are also cultural. By cultural, I mean that what became the Religious Society of Friends was a movement that sprung up among people whose ideas, including the Christianity they embraced, were deeply influenced by earlier Greek and Roman philosophies — and those philosophies also had their antecedents. I’m not that well-versed in these subjects, so it’s hard to articulate. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think you can separate the Friends philosophy and essential practices from the culture in which they originated.

    (And other, similar dissenting movements were also arising in England and elsewhere in Europe in roughly the same era as the early “Friends.” This also suggests to me an essential cultural factor.)

    Also, I shrink from the phrase “core values.” To me, this is language that arose from the milieu of U.S. corporations in the 1980s or probably 1990s. I fear that the adoption of such concepts may take our focus away from the path that Fox and the early Friends were treading. But I don’t expect that most people would agree with that.

    I appreciate that these queries were posted.

  • July 8, 2015 at 8:00 pm #1447
    mwood
    Participant

    Here are the DRAFT minutes from the Philadelphia Quarter June 7th meeting, please note the fruits from the meeting were many, and we have not discerned if the notes from the program would be better summarized and how. So treat this as “raw” but hopefully timely as we head into PYM sessions and as FGC is also in session now.

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