From Inreach and outreach to Misquotation
Inreach and outreach
I welcome the grants awarded to Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) for inreach. But the recent contributions from Terry Faull (5 August) and Geoffrey Durham (19 August) illustrate the need for funds to BYM for outreach as well. Even Quaker Week looks as if it is focused on inreach as much as outreach this year.
When there was a BYM outreach committee it encouraged Local Meetings to hold practice sessions so Friends could role play to be ready to answer the ‘What do Quakers believe?’ type questions. Your readers must be aware of the decline in numbers of Quakers, and our ageing membership, which make it difficult to do as much good as we could do in faith and practice.
The world needs more Quakers. So I hope the next tranche of funds to come to BYM will be for outreach.
A rich tradition
I read Jan Arriens recent article (26 August) very seriously. Jan writes in his article: ‘In my experience, Friends can have difficulty ministering at all on deeper matters’. This is a bit harsh, in my view. Surely, reducing – ‘killing off’ – a living vocabulary that is available (such as ‘God’, ‘worship’, and so on) does not help this problem, as Jan suggests. It removes a rich tradition of vocabulary, and therefore only makes discussion even thinner and one-dimensional. If one was cynical, one might even suggest this is what is required.
Secondly, Jan also uses the argument that we ‘cannot turn the clock back’. What exactly does this mean? In addition, what does it imply? Is the implication that theists are somehow old fogeys – or even rusty bicycles? Who is suggesting that and if so why? What those who speak of God are doing is describing their felt religious experience in the here and now, in this very present moment. Now. There is no ‘turning back of the clock’ going on here. It is not old-fashioned to them. This is a false, rhetorical, indeed derogatory, analogy. Rather, I think, we should want to listen to this present speech.
Finally, Jan elides and skates over the change from ‘inward light’ to ‘inner light’. This is, fundamentally, about the shift from the transcendent – a vital category in religion, to the immanent, alone. This has very significant consequences, which Jan might want to ponder more – as Charles Taylor does in A Secular Age, for example.
For these several reasons, despite my serious read, I think Jan’s analysis is wrong, and misguided.
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