Seeking Faithfulness: History

Lectures, Seeking Faithfulness

The Seeking Faithfulness series is an annual event hosted by the Young Adult Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for the benefit of the whole yearly meeting community. Young Adult Friends invite a Friend to challenge us all to explore new ways to practice our Quaker faith. The Seeking Faithfulness series seeks to nourish our spiritual lives and call us to faithful witness in our communities and throughout the world.


The original William Penn Lectures Series was created and supported by the Young Friends Movement of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (in the beginning of the last century “Young Friends” was the community of young adults from both the Hicksite and the Orthodox Philadelphia Yearly Meetings). The Young Friends Movement began the lecture series “for the purpose of closer fellowship; for the strengthening by such association and the interchange of experience, of loyalty to the ideals of the Society of Friends; and for the preparation by such common ideals for more effective work through the Society of Friends for the growth of the Kingdom of God on Earth.”   The name of William Penn was chosen because the Young Friends Movement found Penn to be “a Great Adventurer, who in fellowship with his friends started in his youth on the holy experiment of endeavoring ‘To live out the laws of Christ in every thought, and word, and deed,’ that these might become the laws and habits of the State.”

The lectures were held annually through 1966 and are warmly remembered by Friends who attended them as occasions to look forward to for fellowship with our community, inspiration and a challenge to live into our faith.  Many of the forty-four lectures that were given in the 20th century can be seen at Quaker.org. This website includes an annotated list of the twenty of the lectures as well as their full text.

In the spring of 2010 Young Adult Friends sponsored a series of three lectures on the topic of individual and corporate discernment under the name of the William Penn Lecture. Friends Eileen Flanagan (Chestnut Hill MM), Mary Lord (Adelphi Friends Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting) Ernie Buscemi (Morningside MM in New York Yearly Meeting) spoke after Interim Meeting in April, May and June. Following each recorded lecture the speakers led a workshop specifically for Young Adult Friends. Sadie Forsythe, Young Adult Friends Coordinator, shared that young adult Friends enjoyed the multigenerational opportunity at the lectures and especially valued the intereactive experience of a small group workshop.

Following on the success of that spring series, the first Annual William Penn Lecture was given by George Lakey on March 26, 2011 at Arch Street Meeting House. The theme of the was a coming together of the theme of the 2011 Annual Sessions, Powerful Beyond Measure: Trusting the Call to Leadership, and the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the Peace Testimony, which was honored by the Peace & Concerns Standing Committee at an event at the Arch Street Meeting House on the same day as the Lecture. The title of this first William Penn Lecture of the 21st century was“Powerful Beyond Measure: The legacy of Quaker Leadership in the 21st Century”.  In honor of the history of young adult Friends’ support of this tradition, George met with young adult Friends for a Dessert & Discussion Night at Friends Center to discuss the lecture and attenders’ their thoughts about it.  Meeting with the Young Adult community has since become a part of the tradition of the modern William Penn Lecture.