Friends Journal, September 2011

The September 2011 issue of Friends Journal includes a couple of brief pieces I wanted to note.

Geoffrey Kaiser writes of “Three Kinds of Singing in Meeting.”  Kaiser tells of an old document he found when he was visiting Quaker meetings in New England in 1980.  This document was an official statement that a monthly meeting* issued in 1675.  It classified singing in meeting for worship** into three categories: “Serious Sighing,” “Sensible Groaning,” and “Reverent Singing.”

Erik Lehtinen, at the time of writing an Episcopalian deacon, explains in “True Confessions of a Closet Quaker” that he has for some time been sneaking out of his church to attend a Friends*** meeting, and that he has decided to leave the Episcopal church and to join the Quakers.  Lehtinen writes that “Many seekers probably start by reading and being inspired by The Journal of George Fox.****”  Seekers who are graduates of an Anglican seminary may start that way, but I very much doubt that Fox’s journals, written as they were in haste, in the seventeenth century, and by a man whose ideas are challenging to moderns in many ways, are in fact very attractive to a significant percentage of any other population.  Still, it is useful to read Lehtinen’s description of Fox as “a fellow Anglican.”  Fox spent his youth in the Church of England, and never quite admitted that he had left that communion.

*”Monthly meeting” is a Quakerese expression that other Christian traditions might translate as “parish” or “local church”

**”Meeting for worship” is also Quakerese; one might say, “worship service”

***”Friends” is Quakerese for “Quakers.”  It’s a term that Quakers themselves find confusing, or claim to find confusing; they sometimes make a show of saying “friends- big ‘F’ and little ‘f,'” to highlight the fact that Friends can have friends who aren’t Friends.

****George Fox was the founder of Quakerism.  There are people who think that lines like “Friends can have friends who aren’t Friends” are hilarious; such people have also been known to look for opportunities to make puns about foxes.  So if you are thinking of joining with the Quakers, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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