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The ministry of words

03 02 2011 | by Vanessa Julye and Harriet Hart | Read 2539 times
Vanessa Julye and Harriet Hart describe how Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) has influenced them
The organisation, Quakers Uniting in Publications, was informally begun in 1983 by a group of Friends with a concern for the ministry of the written word. The group, consisting originally of Quaker publishers and booksellers, now includes over a hundred members including authors, bloggers and editors from all over the world. Committed to the publishing of truth and to the distribution of Quaker publications, QUIP strives to provide a forum for the exchange of editorial concerns, to keep an updated list of current Quaker publications accessible to the public and to increase awareness of Quaker publications in the broader religious book market. Their annual meetings include business, education and sharing, grounded in faith and worship.

Vanessa Julye writes

In 2001, Donna McDaniel and I began researching and writing our book, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans and the Myth of Racial Justice. It was during that year a friend said to me: ‘You should join QUIP.’ ‘QUIP?’ I said, ‘What is that?’ She explained that QUIP (Quakers Uniting in Publishing) was a group of Quaker publishers, distributors, sellers and writers. I was intrigued, but was already travelling a lot because of my ministry, which had included the research and writing of our book. Also, despite the fact that I had several articles published and I was in the process of writing a book, I did not consider myself a writer. So I did not do anything with their suggestion.

Then, I was invited to give a presentation on ‘How Writing Furthers my Ministry’ at the 2007 QUIP meeting held at Glenthorne Quaker Conference Centre, in Grasmere, Cumbria. Half of the people who attended were from England, in addition to one person from Wales and one from France. The remainder were from the US. It was so enriching to be at the conference. Many of the participants were Quaker authors. The time I spent with them was invaluable.

Alex Wildwood gave a presentation titled ‘Authentic leadings: the making of a Quaker author’ (www.quaker.org/quip/2007/authlead). He talked about writing which is ministry needing to satisfy three basic criteria. He felt it needed to ‘be inspired, tested and “answering” to others’. He also emphasised the importance of being ‘spiritually receptive.’ I and many others at the conference agreed with so much of what he said. It was wonderful to know that I am not the only one who has the experiences he described. My presentation was well received. But more importantly that this was the first time that I began to feel I was a writer. I missed 2008 but was able to attend on the coast of Oregon in 2009 and in Indiana in 2010.

Over the past few years our group has been international, intergenerational and included Friends from across our theological spectrum. Young Adult, Programmed and Unprogrammed Friends have all been present. We have had rich conversations, informative workshops and I have received immense support as a writer. I am still living into my identity as a writer. Yes, I have written many articles, pamphlets and even a book. However, I still struggle with accepting that part of myself. At our QUIP meetings I get the opportunity to talk with other writers, share struggles and triumphs related to writing and live into the experience of being a writer. It enriches my spirit and ministry in several ways.




Harriet Hart writes

I arrived at the QUIP annual general meeting (AGM) at Glenthorne unsure about my role there and anxious about what was expected of me.

I had been sent as a nominal young person, to be present when the proposal for a youth anthology was brought before the meeting. I felt too young to be counted as part of this group of spirited profesionals. I was intimidated by the passion, dedication and skill that they demonstrated. By the end of that AGM, however, my sentiments had altered considerably. I left feeling valued as a writer and participant. I was uplifted by the care and concern, by the willingness to welcome and to listen, and by the gentle encouragement given to me. I came away enthused by the creativity of the group and challenged to grow as a writer. It was this positive experience that led me to apply to be on the editorial board of the youth anthology, Spirit Rising, young Quaker voices.

As I remember, the beginning was joyful, full of laughter and excitement. Ten of us gathered at the QUIP annual general meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, in April 2008 to map out a vision for the book that we were to create and edit, and to share that vision with members of QUIP. We were working with a concept. I had dreams of what it would include. I had hopes for the dialogue it would initiate. I saw it as an act of sharing that would build bridges between Friends far and near. Coming from Britain I was keen to hear stories shared, and faith vocalised in a way that seemed lacking in my Yearly Meeting. I was keen to bring a taste of QUIP’s fellowship to a younger, wider, audience.

As the editorial board’s work progressed, we learned about each other as individuals, we learned about the different cultures we came from and the different traditions that fall under the umbrella of Quakerism. I was challenged to listen deeply for sustained periods of time, to hear such different expressions of faith, to accept that not all Quakers dance the way I do. And as we worked through those struggles I had a growing fear. I became concerned that the book we were working to produce would not build the bridges I wanted to see among Friends but would make our differences more pronounced and our divisions deeper.

Now that we have a book in our hands, a wealth of voices, rich and diverse, I am excited once more. I am energised by the difficult conversations in which we have engaged. I am buoyed up by the voices that resonate with my experience. It is my intention now to invite people to participate, to begin sharing their own stories, to begin listening and to embody their own faith. This is not just a book, it is a project that requires interaction and conversation. It is a project that reflects a diverse and energetic organisation that was there, throughout the process, holding us, encouraging us, inspiring us, supporting us. It reflects a commitment to the publishing of truth from whichever form of Quakerism it springs.

QUIP’s 2011 conference, ‘No Friend is an island’, will be held at Woodbrooke in late April.

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