Recently in Teaching resources Category

Teaching locations

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Locations of Previous Courses & Retreats 

(partial list)

Courses

Birmingham (PA) Mtg

Central Philadelphia Mtg

Concord (PA) Mtg

Haddonfield (NJ) Mtg

Haverford (PA) Mtg

Lansdowne (PA) Mtg

London Grove (PA) Mtg

Schuylkill (PA) Mtg

Springfield (PA) Mtg

Middletown (Delaware Co. PA) Mtg

Mullica Hill (NJ) Mtg

Providence Mtg (Media PA)

Radnor (PA) Mtg

Uwchlan Mtg (Downingtown PA)

Wilmington (DE) Mtg

Retreats

Ben Lomond Quaker Center

Bucks QM

Central Philadelphia Mtg

Friends Institute of Phiadelphia YM

Harrisburg (PA) Mtg

Virginia Friends Conference

Talks

Abington (PA) Mtg

Christchurch (NZ) Mtg

FGC Summer Gathering (Amherst 2005)

Greene Street Mtg (Phila.)

New England YM Bible half hours

New Zealand YM Summer Gathering (2000)

Ohio YM (2009)

Young Friends of North America

Music retreats & workshops

Ben Lomond Quaker Center

FGC Summer Gatherings

Pendle Hill

Powell House

Woodbrooke

Woolman Hill


For more information on Annie & Peter's music ministry go to www.quakersong.org

Middletown Minute on Teaching Ministry

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 Middletown Monthly Meeting of Friends

435 Middletown Road

Lima, Pennsylvania

 

Dear Friends,

This letter is written in support of our dear Friend, Peter Blood-Patterson who has worked for years bringing God's glory to many people, not only in our Yearly Meeting but in other parts of the world as well. He has done this most notably as a music maker and song leader, preparing hearts to rejoice in the spirit, in sessions led with his wife Annie. But Peter also brings God's word to others through his gifts as a teacher. For over 20 years Peter has exercised these gifts as retreat leader, workshop leader, and teacher of Quakerism 101 and 201.

Our Meeting knows that Peter has a special love for teaching. It seems to mean more to him than his singing, touching a place in his heart that is a reservoir of strength and peace.  We understand him when he says he feels used by God in these situations, happy to be sharing with his students in the class or workshop as a small but important part of God's journey with our people here on earth.

In his classes he allows participants to explore their own material, apprehending that meaning that suits them. But he also challenges that individual awareness with his own insights grounded in a thorough knowledge of Quaker theology and history, many times bringing a new clarity to the student's experience. In his teaching involving Meeting life Peter strives to bring participants to a deeper awareness of the spiritual quality of their shared Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Business, drawing upon the nourishment provided by Middletown's worshiping community.

Peter has been a caring presence in our Meeting for over ten years. We have heard God's voice through him in our Meeting for Worship and we have felt his strength and concern in our Meeting for Business. He and his family, Annie, Nate, and Ian, continue to play important roles in our Meeting community. We are pleased to support him in this ministry of teaching, knowing that God's presence guides him in loving faithfulness.


With thankfulness for God's grace,

 

Rich Ailes , Clerk

Middletown Monthly Meeting

Lima, PA

 

11th Month, 21, 2004

New Testament course

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New Testament Course
(Note: this course was taught at Westtown School in 2001-2)

NT Worksheet #1   INTRO TO NEW TESTAMENT

Homework:  Use your bibles to answer the following questions & to help familiarize you with the content & organization of the New Testament.  You should be able to answer these questions easily even if you are not using a study bible.  You can use the table of contents at
the beginning of your bible and brief looks at the books themselves.

How many books are in your NT? ____ (Unlike the OT, the NT canon is the same for all Christians)

How many books are in your Old Testament? ________

What were the 5 sections of the OT? (see back of Worksheet #7 or #20a)  

  

The New Testament also includes 5 sections. (If a section includes only one book, name it.)

I. Gospel.   How many books make up this section?  

What are they basically about?

Which is the shortest?  __________    Which 2 are the longest? ___________  & ___________

Given what apocryphal books in the OT were, what do think "apocryphal gospels" are?

 

II. History.  How many books make up this section?

What is the subject matter:

III. Letters (or "epistles") by the apostle, Paul.  How many of these are in the NT?

Which 2 are the longest?    Which is the shortest?

How are they arranged in the NT?

What section of the Old Testament was arranged in the same way?

IV. Letters by church leaders other than Paul.  How many of these are there? ______

1st Corinthians is written by _____     It is addressed  ________________________

1st Peter is written by ______     It is addressed to _______________________

Who wrote Hebrews? __________   Whom is it addressed to? ________________________

V. Apocalyptic prophecy.  How many books are in this section? _______________________

What is the content of this section? ________________________________________________

What book(s) in the OT had similar content? _________________________


(This side for class notes only.)      What does the word "Gospel" mean? ______________

The contents of 3 gospels overlap in so many places, that it is possible to lay out all the passages in these 3 books side by side to compare how they are arranged.  An example can be found on Page 1841-55 of the HarperCollins Study Bible.  These 3 gospels are called _____________ gospels (meaning to view side by side "at a glance").  These 3 gospels are:

_____________ , ______________ & _____________ .

The "synoptic question" involves theories as to why these 3 gospels are so similar.

Which gospel is shortest? _______ . Nearly all of it is included in  _________ & _________

The gospel of Mark includes primarily ________________________ & __________________

In addition, most of what is included in the 2 longer synoptic gospels but is missing from the shortest synoptic gospel is the same, although it is arranged differently.  This has led to the theory that the authors of the 2 longer gospels had access to another collection besides Mark which these scholars call _______ from the German word for "source". Note that no one has an actual copy of this collection-it's only a theory! (part of one answer to the "synoptic question".)

This additional shared material includes: 

For example, 2 sections we already learned are included in these 2 gospels but found nowhere else in the gospels are ________________________  & __________________________

Make a diagram that shows                2 early sources:
this theoretical answer to
the synoptic question:                      (
are used later by)

In this theory, which gospel              
2 gospel writers:
was written first? _________

Although the content of the synoptic gospels is very similar, there are important differences.  These include:

1.                                                   4.

2.                                                   5.

3.                                                   6.

Characteristics of the Gospel of John:          3.

1.                                                            4.

2.                                                                                                                         5.

Do scholars & believers agree on who actually wrote the books of the NT? _____ .         (But:

virtually everyone agrees that ___________ & ___________ were written by the same author.)

 


NT - Worksheet #2  BIRTH OF JESUS

Reading Assignment (for next class)

Matthew 1:18-2:12 (skim 1:1-17)

Isaiah 7:14 (this verse only)

Luke 1:1-2:20 - especially 1:5-45 and 2:1-20. 

John 1:1-14.   Also look briefly at opening of Mark's gospel.

Notes on reading:  Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14. Are they the same? If not, how do they differ?

 

What explanation would you suggest for the difference? (Hint: if you have a study Bible you can use footnotes.)

 

 

What two contrasting explanations of Jesus' origins is Matthew trying to establish in 1:1 and 1:18-20? (Note: Luke also uses both of these, though his geneology comes later in 3:23-38.)

1.

2.

Which gospel includes wise men? 

 

How do the wise men refer to Jesus? (i.e. with what title?)

 

Which gospel includes shepherds?

 

Who in Genesis had a birth story similar to Elizabeth's birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:7-13)?

 

What happened when Mary goes to see Elizabeth (Luke 1:44)?

 

What English word (translation of the Greek word "Logos") does John use to refer to Jesus in 1:1-14?

 

How is Jesus' birth described in the gospels of Mark and John?

 

Notes on Class Discussion:   Define the Jewish idea of Messiah:

 

Which is the earliest of the four gospels?

 

How does that gospel describe Jesus' birth?

 

Jesus was popularly known to have come from Nazareth.  Why is it considered so important for Luke to put his place of birth as being in Bethlehem?

 

Is there a certain inconsistency in Matthew and Luke's two different accounts for Jesus' origins (one of Jesus' geneology and one of his virgin birth)?

 

Are the geneologies in Matt 1: and Luke 3:23-38 the same? If not, how do they differ?

 

Why might Luke go to such lengths to describe the relationship between John and Jesus' mothers?

 

What name do Roman Catholics give to Mary's song in Luke 1:47-55? 

 

What role does it play in the faith practice of many Roman Catholics?

 

What are some of the positive and negative dimensions of the special role that Mary plays in the faith of many Roman Catholics?

 

Joseph Campbell urges people to re-interpret old religious principles of their tradition in a new light that is more meaningful for them in their own time and life experience.  How could this be done with the virgin birth?

 

What parts (if any) of the accounts of Jesus' birth strike an especially positive chord for you?

 

How does the account in John fit in with the general way in which John approaches his account of Jesus' life and role?

 


NT - Worksheet #3   Jesus' Childhood

Reading:  Read carefully Luke 2:21-52.
Read through lightly the marked passages from an apocryphal "infancy gospel".

What 2 actions does Luke report Jesus' parents did with the baby Jesus in 2:21-24?

What does 2:41 describe his parents doing each spring?

What does this suggest is Joseph & Mary's attitude towards the Jewish law codes we looked at in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy?  (Note this is being reported by Luke, a gospel-writer who is generally believed to have been a gentile, that is a non-Jewish, Christian.)

What 3 things does Luke say the Holy Spirit did to/with Simeon (2:25-7)?

1.

2.

3.

What did the Holy Spirit do earlier to Mary (in Lk 1:35 - cf. Matt 1:20)? 

To Elizabeth (in Lk 1:41)?

What is this Holy Spirit we are beginning to hear a lot about?

What is the key message Luke is trying to drive home by including the story of Simeon in his gospel?

Anna is included only in Luke's gospel.  She is described as a prophet.  Who is the only other woman referred to as being a prophet so far in the Bible?

Women play a more important role in Luke than in any of the other gospels.  Many scholars believe the gospel writer Luke lived in an area outside Judea.  How might this have impacted the way Luke described the role of women in his gospel?

What is the difference between a canonical and an apocryphal gospel?

Only one story about Jesus' youth is included in the canonical gospels (Lk 2:41-51).  What idea about Jesus does this try to communicate?

How does this contrast with the childhood stories in the apocryphal infancy gospel?

What do you think it would be like to have miraculous or supernatural powers as a child?

Some Christians believe that Jesus took on the role of messiah (i.e. to be the special instrument of God's redeeming role in the world) when he was baptized by John the Baptist as an adult (when the Holy Spirit descended upon him and a voice spoke from heaven saying "This is my son of whom I am well pleased") rather than at conception.  How does this effect one's view of Jesus' childhood and adolescence?


NT - Worksheet #4  John, the Baptist

Readings:  For the 1st class: Isaiah 40:1-9, Mark 1:1-20, Matthew 3:7-10 and Luke 3:15-22
     (Also: skim
John 1:6-9, 19ff.)

For the 2nd class read: Matthew 3: 13-15, Luke 7:18-34, Matthew 14:1-13

R = notes on reading (answer before class)   C = notes on class discussion (answer in class)

Class 1: Who Is John the Baptist and Jesus' Baptism BY JOHN

R: How many of the 4 gospels include the story of Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist?  ____

Which gospels start their account of Jesus' life with this story? ___________________________

What response does Mark report (in 1:5) that John is getting to his preaching?

 

What does Mark report (vs.6) John wears and eats?

How would you characterize John's message (content & "tone") as reported in Matthew 3:7-10?

 

All 4 gospels quote Isaiah 40 in describing John's ministry. What 2 words in 40: 1-2 seem to contrast with the tone or spirit of John's message? ________________ and _________________

Does John believe himself to be the messiah (Luke 3:15-18)? What does he say about this?

 

What does Jesus see when he is baptized by John (Mark 1:9-11)?

What does he hear?

C: What were the characteristics we listed of a prophet's message earlier (Wksheet #24 pg 3-4)? 

 

In terms of this definition, should we consider John the Baptist a prophet?

 

Which Hebrew Bible prophets we studied had a message with a tone similar to John's?

 

What was the meaning of water baptism by John?

What was its meaning to early Christians?

To Christians today?

How did the early church interpret the phrase to "baptize with the Holy Spirit"?

Why do Quakers reject water baptism?

How do Quakers interpret baptism with the Holy Spirit?

Extra credit: The film describes water batpism as an "ancient Hebrew rite". Can you find any record of its being used by Jews prior to John as reported in the gospels?


The Relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus

R: How does Mark (reread 1:14-15) describe the timing between John's and Jesus' ministries?

 

What phrase does Mark report Jesus begins his preaching with (1:15)?

 

C: According to the film, how would the Roman authorities have interpreted this phrase?

 

Matthew (in 3:2) begins his account with John proclaiming exactly this message.  What does this suggest about the relationship between John and Jesus?

 

In Mark's report in 1:15 of Jesus' first preaching has him using a phrase from Isaiah 40: 9 that is not in John's message.  How does this indicate a possible shift in Jesus' message from John's?

 

R:  Mark and Luke are silent on why Jesus comes to John to be baptized.  The biblical scholars in the film assert that it seems obvious that Jesus was (at least for a some period) a follower of John's.  How does Matthew (in 3: 13-15) describe John's response when Jesus comes to be baptized by him?

 

C: A biblical scholar in the film called this a "gloss" by the gospel writer.  What does this mean?

 

How does the gospel writer John (no relation! - in John 1:29-36 and 3:25-4:3) describe John the Baptist's view of Jesus?

R: Does Luke (see Lk 7:18-20) support this viewpoint on how John the Baptist views Jesus?

How does Jesus respond to the questions from John's followers?

 

What contrasting picture do we get of Jesus' and John's lifestyle from what Jesus says (in Luke 7:33-34) they were each being criticized for by strict Jews? 

 

C: Which lifestyle seems to you to be more "holy" - the one described for John or for Jesus?

 

R: What happens to John (see Matt 14:1-11)? 

 

How do Jesus & his followers respond to John's death (v.12-13)?


IN-CLASS WRITING (John the Baptist)

 

(Checking your notes on page 3 & 4 of Worksheet #24)

 

(  )  What is the Hebrew Bible prophets' role:

 

 

 

(  )  Who do they direct their message towards (i.e. who's their audience)?

 

 

(  )  What is their message?

 

(  )  What response do they get?

 

Check off on which of these John the Baptist seems to fit the definition?

 

Why do you think all four gospels begin Jesus' ministry with John's baptism?  Why do they consider him critical to their gospel about Jesus?


NT - Worksheet #5  Temptation in the Desert

Readings:  Luke 4: 1-13

What do you think Luke means in saying Jesus is "full of the Holy Spirit"? 

 

What just occurred in Chapter 3 that caused Jesus to be in this state?

 

When did we read about important things happening in the desert in the Hebrew Bible?

 

These three temptations have great symbolic meaning.  You do not have to believe in the devil to recognize these as real threats to the integrity and mission of great men and women.  These represent very real challenges that leaders, particularly powerful spiritual leaders, have to face successfully.

Define temptation:

What was the 1st temptation?

What do you think this symbolizes?

What was the 2nd  temptation?

What does it symbolize?

What is the 3rd temptation?

What does this symbolize?

Discussion questions in class:

1. What are some of the other temptations that leaders face?

2. What are the greatest temptations faced by prophets we've studied like St. Francis, Gandhi and Martin Luther King?

3. Which of these kinds of temptation do you think would be the most challenging for you?

NT - Worksheet #6  Jesus Begins His Ministry

Readings:  Luke 4:14-5:11 (We won't really study 4:31-44 now, but note what happens.)   John 1:35-51. 

R = notes on reading (answer before class)   C = notes on class discussion (answer in class)

R - What does Luke describe Jesus doing in the synagogue in Nazareth as the first act of his ministry?

Does this sound like a primarily religious or political announcement? (It's from Isaiah 61:1-2)

What kind of response does he get initially from the people there?

Why does the response of his listeners change?

What do they then try to do to him?

C - What is the "year of the Lord's favor" refer to? (see Leviticus 5:8-12)

Why is a prophet often not accepted in his or her own hometown?

Luke 5:1-11. Calling of the first disciples.

R - What does Luke say these men are doing just before they become disciples?

What convinces Peter to follow Jesus?

C - Do you think you would be willing to drop everything and follow a leader like Jesus if unexpectedly called to do so?

John 1:35-51.  A different story of the first two disciples

R - Where does John say the first two disciples are when they decide to follow Jesus?

What convinces them to follow Jesus?

C - How does this reflect the basic intent and message of John's gospel?

Readings:  Luke 4:14-5:11 (We won't really study 4:31-44 now, but note what happens.)   John 1:35-51. 

R = notes on reading (answer before class)   C = notes on class discussion (answer in class)

R - What does Luke describe Jesus doing in the synagogue in Nazareth as the first act of his ministry?

As a special guest or favorite son returning home he is invited to read from the Torah. He selects a passage in Isaiah that is a messianic prophesy (Isaiah 61:1-2). He says "This passage is fulfilled today in your hearing."

Does this sound like a primarily religious or political announcement? (It's from Isaiah 61:1-2)

It sounds fairly political - or at least economic

What kind of response does he get initially from the people there?

At first people are impressed - by his eloquence, his speaking "with authority" as Friends would say

Why does the response of his listeners change?

He suggests that a prophet (like himself) will not be accepted at home. He implies that favor may pass from Jews to others.

What do they then try to do to him?            Try to toss him over a cliff.

C - What is the "year of the Lord's favor" refer to? (see Leviticus 5:8-12)

"Jubilee Year" =every 50 years when slaves are freed, debts forgiven, land redistributed (given back to original family owners, etc. - a Mosaic law never really practiced.  A kind of "super Sabbath".

Why is a prophet often not accepted in his or her own hometown?

Too familiar. Can't let go of old limited stereotype of the person, too threatening, etc.

Luke 5:1-11. Calling of the first disciples.

R - What does Luke say these men are doing just before they become disciples?

Fishing (very ordinary, every day activity)

What convinces Peter to follow Jesus?

He does a miracle (although biblical scholars have suggested that this really isn't a miracle since casting net on other side will often lead to a better catch in Sea of Galilee!)

C - Do you think you would be willing to drop everything and follow a leader like Jesus if unexpectedly called to do so?   (general discussion - no right answer)

John 1:35-51.  A different story of the first two disciples

R - Where does John say the first two disciples are when they decide to follow Jesus?

They are present when Jesus is being baptized by John the Baptist.

What convinces them to follow Jesus?

Statement of John the Baptist that he is the messiah (and perhaps having seen heavens opening?)

C - How does this reflect the basic intent and message of John's gospel?

Focus on Jesus as son of God, divine - many people acknowledging this.


NEW TESTAMENT QUIZ #2 (homework check on Worksheet #6)

What does Luke say Jesus does in the synagogue in Nazareth?  Jesus:

a.    Calls the Pharisees a "brood of vipers"

b.    States that the Torah reading has just been "fulfilled in their hearing"

c.    Delivers the Sermon on the Mount

d.    Tells the people to repent

e.    Announces that the "Kingdom of God is at hand."

 

What response does he get initially?  The people:

a.    Ask him to read another Torah passage

b.    Try to stone him

c.    Ask him questions

d.    Are amazed by the gracious words that come from his mouth

e.    Call the Roman authorities for help.

 

At the end of his visit to the synagogue do those present:

a.    Try to throw him over a cliff

b.    Invite him to their home

c.    Call him "Rabbi" (teacher)

d.    Become his disciples

e.    Go tell John the Baptist about him.

 

Where does Simon Peter first encounter Jesus according to Luke 5:1-11:

a.    In the wilderness

b.    On the road to Damascus

c.    At a meeting of John's disciples down by the riverside

d.    Fishing

e.    In the temple in Jerusalem

 

In this story, why does Simon Peter decide to follow Jesus?

a.    Jesus speaks with gracious words

b.    He knows how to talk with the rabbis and wise men

c.    A fishing miracle

d.    Jesus cures the sick and gives sight to the blind

e.    On John's recommendation

 

According to John 1:35-51, where does Simon Peter first encounter Jesus?

a.    In the wilderness

b.    On the road to Damascus

c.    At a meeting of John's disciples down by the riverside

d.    Fishing

e.    In the temple in Jerusalem

 

Why do Andrew (Simon's brother) and Simon Peter decide to follow Jesus?

a.    Jesus speaks with gracious words

b.    He knows how to talk with the rabbis and wise men

c.    A fishing miracle

d.    Jesus cures the sick and gives sight to the blind

e.    On John's recommendation


NT - Worksheet #7  The Disciples of Jesus

Readings for Class #1:  Luke 6:12-16;  9:1-6;   10:1-12 and 16-24.

Readings for Class #2: (on the "Cost of Discipleship): Luke 8:19-21,  9:23-25,  14:25-33,  18:18-30

  Reverse is for 2nd day (homework & discussion)    Again, R=notes on reading  C=in-class discussion

Choosing the Twelve Apostles - Luke 6: 1-12

R - How does Jesus prepare himself for the important decision of choosing disciples?

C - What are other times Jesus (with or without his closest disciples) choose a similar way to pray?

Have you found Jesus' way of preparing for this decision a helpful way for you to feel close to the Spirit or get in touch with something important in your heart?

What are "Apostles"?

The Apostles' Mission - Luke 9: 1-6

R - What does Jesus give the apostles before he sends them out?

1.                                                            2.

What does he tell them to do?

1.                                                            2.

              What traveling instructions does he give them?

C - Why?

Sending Out the "Seventy Disciples" - Luke 10:1-12, 10:16-24

Why should disciples travel in pairs?  How did Quakers later utilize this same principle?

What kind of harvest is Jesus talking about?  Do you think there is a need for such a harvest today?  Why or why not?

How do you imagine the community of Jesus' closest followers related to each other? Worshipped?  Supported themselves?  Made decisions?

Who is your "true family"? - Luke 8:19-20

R - How does Jesus respond when his family tries to talk to him?

C - What is Jesus trying to get across here?  Does this mesh with the 5th Commandment (see Exodus 20:12, p. 116 in Study Bible)?  Do you agree with Jesus about this?

II.           What does it mean to "hear the will of God and do it?

Take up your cross & follow Christ - Luke 9:23-25

R - What are the 3 things Jesus says are required to be a follower of his?

1.                                          2.                                          3.

C - What do these actually mean in practical terms?

Can someone who wants to be a follower of Jesus (or the "Inward Christ") still do these today?

Is suffering for a cause foolish?  Do you think martyrs make the choices they do for personal glory?

Do you see "denying yourself" as a negative or a positive act?  Can it be a joyful act?

Weighing the cost of faithfulness - Luke 14: 25-33

Jesus suggests it is reasonable to estimate costs before one acts.  Is this a good idea before one chooses to be a follower of a great spiritual leader or of the Living Spirit?

Why does he end up this section by suggesting that people have to give up their possessions to become his disciple?

The Rich Ruler - Luke 18: 18-30

R - The young ruler asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. How does Jesus' reply first?

What was the "one thing still lacking" that Jesus felt this man needed to do?

C - Dietrich Bonhoffer was a Christian pastor who took part in a plot to kill Hitler. He who wrote a book in a German prison shortly before his death, called The Cost of Discipleship.  In the end, how do you feel about this whole idea of discipleship?


NT Handout

New Testament

Some useful definitions from the dictionary

dis·ci·ple

Etymology: from Latin, pupil
Date in English: before 12th century
1
: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: as a : one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts b : a convinced adherent of a school or individual
2
capitalized : a member of the Disciples of Christ founded in the U.S. in 1809 that holds the Bible alone to be the rule of faith and practice, usually baptizes by immersion, and has a congregational polity
synonym
see FOLLOWER

apos·tle
Etymology: from Greek apostolos,
from apostellein to send away, from apo- + stellein to send
Date in English: before 12th century
1
: one sent on a mission: as
  a
: one of an authoritative New Testament group sent out to preach the gospel and made up especially of Christ's 12 original disciples and Paul
  b
: the first prominent Christian missionary to a region or group
2 a
: a person who initiates a great moral reform or who first advocates an important belief or system b : an ardent supporter : ADHERENT
3
: the highest ecclesiastical official in some church organizations
4
: one of a Mormon administrative council of 12 men

T.Peter's definition: 

a.     group of 12 disciples appointed by Jesus to be his chief followers and leaders of his movement.

b.     after Jesus' death, became the leaders with the most authority in the new Christian church

c.     a new apostle was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot after Judas' betrayal of Jesus & death

d.     Paul called himself an apostle after his conversion. As such he is obviously in a different category since he did not know Jesus personally while Jesus was on earth, nor is there any record of him being selected officially by the other apostles.

 

blas·phe·my
Date: 13th century
1 a
: the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God
   b
: the act of claiming the attributes of deity
2
: irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable

 


NT - Worksheet #8  Miracles

Readings for Class #1 (on faith healing):.Luke 4: 31-44;  5: 12-26;  6: 17-19;  8: 40-56.

Readings for Class #2: (on other miracles) John 2: 1-11;  Matthew 8: 23-27;  Matt 14: 13-36.

  Reverse is for 2nd day (homework & discussion)    Again, R=notes on reading  C=in-class discussion

  We will study a variety of stories today of Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons.  Pay attention to his  
  methods.  Do you believe it is possible to cure mental or physical illness by spiritual means? 

Healings at Capernaum - Luke 4: 31-44  Capernaum was a village on the sea of Galilee that Jesus made the center of his ministry. See map in back of study bible.  These are the 1st  healings reported in Mark and Luke. 

R - What phrase does Jesus use in addressing the demon in v. 35?

What role does touch play in Jesus' healings? (v. 40)

C - What does it mean to speak with "authority and power"?

What do you think it means to "rebuke a fever"? (v. 39)

Is "laying on of hands" used today in churches?

Faith and the forgiveness of sins - Luke 5: 12-26

R - What do friends of the paralyzed man do that impresses Jesus (v. 19-20)?

What does Jesus do that the Pharisees consider blasphemous (v.20-21)?

C - Why does Jesus tell the leper to go to a priest after he's healed (v. 15)?

Is it harder to heal paralysis or forgive sins?  Who do you think can forgive sins?

The crowds following Jesus - Luke 6:17-19

R - What are the 2 reasons the crowds are coming to Jesus (v. 18)?

1.                                                                                                       2.

What happens when people in the crowd touch Jesus (v. 19)?

Feeling the power   &   Raising a dead girl to life - Luke 8:40-56 (end of chap.)

R - How does Jesus know he was touched by the woman with hemorrhages (v.46)?

Who does Jesus give the credit to for this healing (v. 48)? Why?

C -  What do the Mosaic laws say about being touched by someone hemorrhaging?

Who laughed in the Hebrew Bible because they doubted God's power to work a miracle?

Extra credit: Can you find a case where Jesus uses a paste as part of curing blindness


The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11

R - What miracle does Jesus do in this story?

 What motive does John seem to suggest that Jesus has for doing this miracle (v.11)

C - Is this a good reason to do a miracle?

How is this different from the miracles Satan asked Jesus to do in the desert and from the pinnacle of the temple (Luke 4:1-13)?

This is the 1st miracle of Jesus according to John. Why do you think John starts with this miracle?

Calming the waters - Matthew 8:23-7

R - What is Jesus doing while his disciples are petrified by the storm (v. 24)?

 

How does Jesus respond to his disciples fear (v.26)?


C
- Do you think Jesus was judging his disciples too harshly in this?

What does it mean to "rebuke" wind & sea?  What did Jesus rebuke earlier (see reverse of sheet)?

Do you think humans can control nature through command?

Feeding of the 5000 - Matthew 14:13-21

R - What is Jesus' motive or reason for curing the sick (v. 14)?

 

How did the disciples want the crowd to get fed?

 

C - Some people have suggested that this miracle can be explained because once Jesus showed his faith by starting the meal with little food, people began bringing out food they had been hiding.  Which explanation moves you more or has more power for you?

Walking on Water - Matthew 14:22-36

R - How do the disciples react when they see Jesus (v. 26)?

 

What happens to Peter when he becomes afraid?

 

What is the definition of to "worship" someone (as in v.33)? (check a dictionary)

 

C - Have you ever felt like you were sinking in deep water and needed someone to hold you up?

What do some Christians mean by the phrase "I took Jesus to be my Lord and personal savior"?



Name __________________________        Section _______

New Testament Quiz #3 - Discipleship and Miracles (Worksheets #7 & 8)

ON WORKSHEET #7 on Jesus' Disciples  Choosing the Twelve Apostles - Luke 6: 1-12

1. Which is the best definition of a "disciple"?

   a. Christian     b. follower     c. believer     d. spiritual person    e. one who obeys commandments

2. In comparing disciples & apostles:     Does a disciple have   a. more authority   b. less authority

   c. about the same authority as an apostle    or d. neither has authority - only Jesus does.

3. What did Jesus do to prepare himself for the selection of apostles?  He:                a. casts lots  

   b. consults with disciples    c. goes to the Temple    d. stays up all night on a mountain    e. fasts

The Apostles' Mission - Luke 9: 1-6

4. When he sends his Apostles out, what religious mission does he assign them **CHOOSE 2**:

   a. feed the poor           b. gather more disciples                    c. heal         d. gather more disciples

   e. proclaim the kingdom                f. interpret the commandments           g. be peacemakers

5. What traveling instructions does he give them? **CHOOSE 2**:

   a. no change of clothes                  b. pray to decide where they should go        c. honor the Sabbath

   d. only go to places where he told them    e. travel alone       f. stay in one house per town

(from back of worksheet)   Who is your "true family"? - Luke 8:19-20

6. How does Jesus respond when his family tries to talk to him?

  a. quotes 5th commandment (to "honor thy father & mother")          b. says he's too busy

  c. says his true family is those who hear God's will & do it    d. shares food with them

  e. tells them to follow the commandments

Take up your cross & follow Christ - Luke 9:23-25
7.
Jesus lists the 3 things that are required to be a follower of his. These include to take up your cross daily, to follow him, and (Name the 3rd requirement Jesus lists) CHOOSE ONE ONLY

a. to deny yourself      b. to give to the poor      c. to fast             

d. to read the scriptures            e. to pray constantly      

f. to believe he is the Messiah

The Rich Ruler - Luke 18: 18-30

8. The young ruler asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. What does Jesus 1st tell him to do?

a. pray        b. follow the 10 commandments        c. become Jesus' disciple

d. honor his father and mother           e. be baptized

9.    What was the "one thing still lacking" that Jesus tells this man he needs to do?

ON WORKSHEET #8 on Miracles      Healings at Capernaum - Luke 4: 31-44

10. Jesus is described here as using a specific method of touching people that is often today used in churches when people need healing. This method is: _________________________________

Faith and the forgiveness of sins - Luke 5: 12-26

11. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of blasphemy in this story.  This is because : 

   a. what he says is so unpopular       b. he heals on the Sabbath in violation of the Mosaic code

   c.  he claims to be the Messiah        d. he claims to do something only God can do.

The crowds following Jesus - Luke 6:17-19

12. What are 2 reasons crowds are coming to Jesus?**CHOOSE 2**:

a. Because he=the Messiah      b. to hear him                         

c. John the Baptist's recommendation     d. everyone else is coming  

  e. anger at Roman rule     f. be cured of their diseases   g. resentment at the scribes & Pharisees

Feeling the power   &   Raising a dead girl to life - Luke 8:40-56

13. How does Jesus know he was touched by the woman with hemorrhages?

         a. She was certified as healed by a priest      b. By the Holy Spirit      c. Peter tells him"

         d. She called out "Rabbi, heal me!"             e. He felt the power go out of him

14. Why does Jesus give her the credit for this healing ?  ________________________________

(FROM BACK OF WORKSHEET) The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11

15. What miracle does Jesus do in this story?

    a. cast out a demon              b. make a paralyzed man walk      c. refills the wine supply    d. keep the bridesmaids' lamps burning       e. provide food for the guests

16. What motive does John suggest that Jesus has for doing this miracle?

a. to reveal his glory                b. he's thirsty                c. compassion

         d. to obey the Holy Spirit                 e. to show his faith in God

Calming the waters - Matthew 8:23-7

17. What is Jesus doing while his disciples are petrified by the storm? He:

     a. prays           b. walks on water           c. fishes       d. sleeps      e. discusses the Torah

Feeding of the 5000 - Matthew 14:13-21

18. Wat reason or motive does it say here that Jesus has for curing the sick?

      a. compassion b. show God's power      c. test others' faith  d. prove he = Messiah

Walking on Water - Matthew 14:22-36

19. How do the disciples react when they see Jesus?  They:

   a. are relieved     b. pray     c. catch a lot of fish         d. fall off the boat         e. think he's a ghost

20. What happens to Peter when he becomes afraid?  He:

      a. prays     b. weeps    c. sinks     d. falls overboard     e. praises Jesus      f. wets his pants


NT - Worksheet #9  Teaching through Parables

Readings:  Luke 10: 29-37, 13:18-21, 14:15-24, and Chapter 15.  (also Matthew 13:10-17.)

We'll break up in class into 5 groups.  Each group will look at 1 or 2 parables in depth, read some commentary on the parable(s) and present it/them to the group.  I'd like you to try and skim through all the parables above, but focus mainly on the 1 or 2 you're assigned. You only have to answer before class the questions below for your own group's parable(s).  Divide up in your small group who will cover what. Assign someone in your group to:

·      read the handout from William Barclay's Daily Study Bible on your passage. 

·      read the footnotes in the HarperCollins study bible on your parable(s)

·      read the other groups' parables & compare them to your group's

·      read the parable out loud (if it's short) or summarize it for the class as part of your presentation and

·      read Matthew 13:10-17 (where Jesus explains why he teaches in parables) and consider whether you feel your parable works well for Jesus' purpose.

You are in Group #: ___  Define a parable: ______________________________________

Group #1 WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? (The Good Samaritan) Luke 10:25-37 (parable=v.30-5)

Why does Jesus tell this story? (what is it a response to)

 

Why do the first 2 people, who are Jews, refuse to help?

 

What was the relationship between Jews and Samaritans at that time?

 

If Jesus were telling this story in the US today, what group do you think he would choose instead of a Samaritan? 

How about in Serbia?  In Japan?  In India?  In Nazi Germany?

Given the context of attitudes & beliefs at the time, how radical is the message of this parable?

Group #2 - WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD LIKE? - Luke 13:18-21.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed. According to the film we saw ("From Jesus to Christ") at the beginning of this term, how would farmers at the time be likely to react to this parable?

What characteristics of the kingdom of God is Jesus trying to communicate in this parable?

V.           The Parable of Yeast. What characteristics of the kingdom are communicated by comparing it to yeast?

What do these 2 parables have to say about how people might work who are trying to build the "kingdom of God" today?


Group #3  THE GREAT BANQUET - Read Luke 14:1-24. (Actual parable is in v. 15-24)

Explain the context in which this parable is told:

 

What are people's motives for being generous?

How do the excuses given by the guests relate to the lifestyle of most Americans today?

What kinds of people did Jesus see his ministry as being directed towards?

Many have interpreted this parable as saying that God is moving on from the Jewish people being God's "chosen people" to others. Do you agree with this interpretation?

Group #4  THE PARABLES OF LOST SHEEP & OF THE LOST COIN - Luke 15: 1-10

What is the context or circumstance in which Jesus chose to tell these 2 parables?

What kind of God do these parables describe?  Is this different from the God we encountered in the story of the Flood? Or that in the story of Hosea and Gomor?

What kinds of people do the lost sheep and coin symbolize?

What does it mean to "repent" from your sins? What kind of behavior is required if repentance is real?

Group #5  THE LOVING FATHER ("The Prodigal Son")  - Luke 15:11-32

What is the central theme of this parable?


What are indications of the extravagance of the father's welcome of his younger son?

Who does the father symbolize in this parable?    the younger son?     the older son?

What does this parable say about the covenantal relationship between God & God's people?

 

NT - Worksheet #10   The World Turned Upside Down: The Beatitudes

Reading:  Matthew 5:1-11, Luke 6:17-26.  Extra credit: article on Male Spirituality

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chaps. 5 through 7) is one of the most important statements of religious teaching ever written.  It has had a major impact not only on the Christian church but on many non-Christians like Gandhi.  Few scholars believe that it is really a single sermon.  Instead it is a summary of all of Jesus' most important religious teachings that the gospel writer Matthew was familiar with.  About half of the "Sermon" is found in Luke, broken up into several smaller pieces. This material is almost entirely absent from Mark and John.

The Sermon begins with a section known as "The Beatitudes".  These are paradoxical, revolutionary statements that assert the idea that a number of groups who are considered by society in general to be the lowest or least fortunate in the world are in fact the most fortunate or lucky in God's kingdom or view of reality.  

A shorter list is given in Luke that contrasts rather sharply with Matthew's version.  What is the difference between the two lists?  Compare Matthew 1st beatitude with Luke's 1st  beatitude, Matthew's 2nd with Luke's 3rd, Matthew's 4th with Luke's 2nd , Matthew's 8th & 9th with Luke's 4th.  Which is list seems to you to be more"spiritual"? Which is more political? Which list speaks more powerfully to you?

Homework:  After you read through both passages, choose one of the beatitudes below.  Choose one that seems to speak especially powerfully to you - or that challenges you or perhaps even disturbs you.  Write one half page about what this beatitude seems to be saying to you. I will collect these. 

Note: You do not have to answer the questions below before class. These questions & comments are to help you gain insight into the readings and take notes on class discussion.

Blessed are the poor in spirit - Matthew 5:3. (cf. Luke 6:20 & 24)

This beatitude has been translated in many different ways.  One I especially like is "Happy are those who know their need of God."  If you are utterly destitute, then you are utterly dependent on others.  Dependency is usually considered a bad thing.  How could dependency be considered a blessing or a thing to work towards?

 

Blessed are those who mourn - Matthew 5:4.  (cf. Luke 6:21b & 25b)

This could also be translated loosely as "Happy are those who are vulnerable" - or "Happy are those who are willing to let themselves feel pain."  Does this mean regular mourning or grieving for losses? Some think it refers to mourning for one's shortcomings and wrong acts.  Or for being willing to take on the pain & suffering of the world.  How do most people wall themselves off against the suffering of the world? (on TV, in the papers)

 

Blessed are the meek - Matthew 5:5

Meek is not a word used much today.  If it is used it has a bad connotation - kind of like victim or wimp or a "loser".  One way to put it might be "Happy are those who have none of the world's kind of power." (political power, wealth, weapons, etc.)  It says these will inherit the earth: How revolutionary is this politically!


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness - Matt 5:6.  (cf. Luke: 5:21a & 25a) This certainly doesn't refer to the kind of temporary, mild hunger & thirst that we experience in a very wealthy part of the world.  When people suffered hunger or thirst in Judea in the 1st century CE, they really suffered! What does it mean to suffer deeply in longing for righteousness? What is righteousness?

 

Blessed are the merciful -  Matthew 5:7  The Catholic Worker talks about the "works of mercy" (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, healing the sick).  Being merciful involves compassion for those who are experiencing suffering and doing something about it.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart - Matthew 5:8  What does it mean to be "single-hearted"?  How hard is this to do?!  Why would those who do this be able to "see God"?


Blessed are the peacemakers - Matthew 5:9

Who are the real peacemakers?  In many periods the church preferred to think of this in terms of inner or spiritual peace.  Do you think this is what Jesus meant?

 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake - Matt 5:10-11. cf. Luke 6:22-3, 26 Again, what is your attitude towards martyrdom?  Some students were expelled from public schools in the past for wearing a button for peace or an armband for the war dead.  A man was run over by a train and lost his legs during the Vietnam War trying to block shipments of bombs to Vietnam.  Dietrich Bonhoffer was a Christian pastor executed by the Nazis for trying to assassinate Hitler.  Would you consider Martin Luther King a martyr?  Gandhi?  Do you think some people take on persecution joyfully?

 

Extra credit:  Read the article (by yours truly) on the Beatitudes as a new model for male spirituality.  Write ½ page on the article discussing whether you think it would apply to important spiritual issues facing young men - or women - in your generation.

New Testament - Worksheet #11  Jesus, Violence and the State

Reading:  Matthew 5:13-48 (espec. 38-48), 10:34-9, 21:12-13, 22:15-22, 26:51-2, Roman 13.

Was Jesus a pacifist?  Is it right for his followers to fight in wars?  Many people believe that service in the military was considered to be inconsistent with being a Christian in the early church.  If so, this changed radically when the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century CE. 

Extending the Law: Matthew 5:13-37  After the beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount proceeds to a series of lessons where Jesus compares his teaching with what was required in the Mosaic covenant.  In each case Jesus extends or fulfills the requirements of faithfulness under the Hebrew code.  How does the 1st "extension" (v. 21-2) address the roots of violence?


***Love Your Enemies:  Matthew 5:38-48 (cf. Deuteronomy 19:21)***  Many believe that the NT reaches its culmination in this passage.  Is this a realistic way to live personally? As a movement?  As a nation?  Can you see yourself living this way?

 

Peace on Earth or a Sword?  Matthew 10:34-9  Is this about war?  Personal violence?  Or the nature of discipleship?

 

Driving Out the Moneychangers:  Matthew 21:12-3 (cf. Mark 11:15-8, John 2:12-22)

Why is Jesus so upset about what is happening in the Temple?  Does this story justify the use of violence? Is anyone killed?  Is this as an example of "tough love"?

Render unto Caesar  Matthew 22:15-22 (cf. Luke 23:1-3)  This passage is often utilized to justify obedience to the state and its requirements, even though Jesus clearly recognized the question as a trap to get him in trouble with the Romans.  Luke 23:1-3 indicates Jesus was known for advocating tax refusal. What do we owe the state?  What do we owe God?

Government as the Agent of God - Romans 13  Are governments always God's agents working for your good? 

What does it mean to "throw off the deeds of darkness & put on our armor as soldiers of the light?"

In the end, do you think the Amish and other Christian pacifists are right in their reading of Jesus' message?


God Speaks Out!

In response to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other.

"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord, betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."

Worshipped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, God said His name has been invoked countless times over the centuries as a reason to kill in what He called "an unending cycle of violence."

"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time -- No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

The press conference came as a surprise to humankind, as God rarely intervenes in earthly affairs. As a matter of longstanding policy, He has traditionally left the task of interpreting His message and divine will to clerics, rabbis, priests, imams, and Biblical scholars. Theologians and laymen alike have been given the task of pondering His ineffable mysteries, deciding for themselves what to do as a matter of faith. His decision to manifest on the material plane was motivated by the deep sense of shock, outrage, and sorrow He felt over the Sept. 11 violence carried out in His name, and over its dire potential ramifications around the globe.

"I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you'd get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important," said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. "I guess I figured I'd left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?"

"But somehow, it all gets twisted around and, next thing you know, somebody's spouting off some nonsense about, 'God says I have to kill this guy, God wants me to kill that guy, it's God's will,'" God continued. "It's NOT God's will, all right?

"News flash !! -- 'God's will' = 'Don't murder people !!'

"Worse yet, many of the worst violators claim that their actions are justified by passages in the Bible, Torah, and Qur'an.

"To be honest, there's some contradictory stuff in there, okay?" God said. "So I can see how it could be pretty misleading. I admit it -- My mistake. I did My best to inspire them, but a lot of imperfect human beings have misinterpreted My message over the millennia. Frankly, much of the material that got in there is dogmatic, doctrinaire inerrantist bullshit. I turn My head for a second and, suddenly, all this stuff gets twisted around and added in, and everybody thinks it's God's will to kill as retribution for a harm done. It absolutely drives Me up the wall."

God praised the overwhelming majority of His Muslim followers as "wonderful, pious people," calling the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks rare and evil exceptions.


"This whole medieval concept of the jihad, or holy war, had all but vanished from the Muslim world in, like, the 10th century, and with good reason," God said. "There's no such thing as a holy war, only unholy ones. The vast majority of Muslims in this world reject the murderous actions of these radical extremists, just like the vast majority of Christians reject those two bigots on The 700 Club."

Continued God, "Read the book: 'Allah is kind, Allah is beautiful, Allah is merciful.' It goes on and on that way, page after page. But, no, some assholes have to come along and revive this stupid holy-war crap just to further their own hatefilled evil agenda. So now, some people are thinking all Muslims are murderous barbarians. They are not. Thanks, Taliban, 1,000 years of pan-Islamic cultural progress down the drain."

God stressed that His remarks were not directed exclusively at Islamic extremists, but rather at everyone whose ideological zealotry overrides their ability to comprehend the core message of all world religions.

"I don't care what faith you are, everybody's been making this same mistake since the dawn of time," God said. "The Muslims massacre the Hindus, the Hindus massacre the Muslims. The Buddhists, everybody massacres the Buddhists. The Jews, don't even get me started on the hardline, right-wing, Meir Kahane-loving Israeli nationalists, man. And the Christians? You people believe in a messianic prophet who says, 'Turn the other cheek', who gave you the two Great Commandments, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to it. Love thy neighbor as yourself', but you've been killing everybody you can get your hands on since the Crusades."

"Can't you people see? Can't you see that each and every one of you is a part of Me, and when you kill, you hurt Me? And I don't like getting hurt anymore than you do!!!"

God got quiet for a minute, then said, "You know, I set this thing up with Love, and gave you all My power to think and to create, so that you could learn the meaning of My Love. I could change it, you know, but then you would be no higher than the other animals, which you don't appear to be at present."

"There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. They call Me by all sorts of different names, and I don't really care by what name you call on Me, as long as you call on Me often. My basic message is always the same .... Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism .... in every truly spiritual belief system under the sun, they all say you're supposed to Love your neighbors, folks! It's not that hard a concept to grasp."

"Why would you think I'd want anything else? Humans don't need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other -- you've been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!" God said. "The whole point of believing in Me, the I AM of you, is to have a higher standard of behavior, to LEARN and KNOW and GIVE and RECEIVE LOVE. How obvious can I get?"

"I'm talking to all of you, everywhere!" continued God, His voice rising to a shout. "Do you hear Me? I don't want you to kill anybody. I'm against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don't kill each other anymore -- ever! I'm serious!"

Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God's shoulders began to shake, and He wept.

The above is from The Onion Site at http://www.theonion.com . © The Onion.


New Testament - Worksheet #12  JESUS & WOMEN

Reading:  Luke 7:36-50, 10:38-42, 18:15-17. John 4:1-34, 8:1-11

The role of women was very poor in Jewish society in the 1st c. CE.  Men were permitted to divorce their wives at will. Women were considered property of their fathers or husbands. One of the most revolutionary aspects of Jesus' life involved his relationship with women.
Homework: summarize stories and at least begin to fill in "interpretations" below.

Bathing Jesus' feet in oil  Luke 7:36-50    

Summarize briefly the story:

 

What does this story tell you about Jesus:

Mary & Martha  Luke 10:38-42  

This story occurs only in Luke. The gospel writer Luke is believed to have grown up outside of Judea in an area where the role of women was better.  This is reflected in a number of differences between his gospel and the other gospels in terms of women's role.

Summarize the story:


What does this story tell you about Jesus:

 

Unless you become like a child...  Luke 18:15-17  

Summarize the story:

 

What does this story tell you about Jesus:


The Woman at the Well   John 4:1-34

Summarize the story:

 

Give 3 reasons why this conversation is extraordinary (so much so that the disciples criticize him for having it):

1.

2.

3.

What do we learn about Jesus from this story?

 

What religious question does the woman pose to Jesus?

 

How does Jesus reply?

Who will cast the first stone...John 8:1-11

Summarize the story:

 

What does this story teach you about Jesus?

What do you think Jesus was writing in the dirt with his finger?

What picture do you gain overall of Jesus from this collection of stories?


New Testament - Worksheet #13  THE FINAL CONFLICT

Part I:  ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM through GETHSEMANE

The Kingdom of God is within you    Luke 17: 20-21

What kind of a Kingdom is this?  How does this contrast with a) a political or military view of the Kingdom of God and b) an Apocalyptic view of the Kingdom?


The entry into Jerusalem    Luke 19: 28-47  

This story is celebrated in Christian churches each year on "Palm Sunday".  What do the disciples & crowd say & do as Jesus passes through the streets?

 

What is the meaning of this cry & action? Why do the Pharisees ask Jesus to stop his disciples?

Do kings usually ride on donkeys?  Why do you think Jesus felt called to enter the city in this way?

The Last Supper     Luke 22: 1-34

What holiday are the disciples celebrating? 

How do different churches interpret Jesus' request to "do this in remembrance of me"?

In the Gospel of John Jesus washes the disciples' feet (see John 13: 1-15).  Why do you think Jesus did this & what does it say about a new kind of leadership?

The Garden of Gethsemane     Matthew 26: 36-46  and  Luke 22: 39-46

How is Jesus portrayed as feeling about his impending death? (note Luke 22:44!)

What reason does Matthew give for the disciples falling asleep? 

What reason does Luke give?

Part II: Who Killed Jesus & Why?

Reading: Matthew 26:3-5, 14-6, 47-68, 27:1-45.  Luke 22:66-23:25.  John 18:19-19:16

Read & compare these accounts of Jesus' trials and sentencing in Matthew, Luke & John.  How is the emphasis different? How do these reflect on the values and assumptions of each gospel writer?

How do these accounts relate to anti-Semitism?

Contrast the reason suggested for Jesus' arrest in the film "From Jesus to Christ":

Part III:  JESUS' EXECUTION

Reading: Matthew 27: 27-54.   Luke 23: 32-49.   John 19:17-30.

Is it likely that a crowd of Jews would be standing around as Jesus died?

What book of the Hebrew Bible do all three gospel writers draw on in their account of the crucifixion of Jesus?

Reflect on what each of the following statements that are attributed to Jesus on the cross imply to you about Jesus' feeling and understanding about what was happening to him.  How do they reflect the viewpoint of each gospel author?

1. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

2. "Father: into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

3. "It is finished." (John 19:30)


Worksheet #14:  The Resurrection of Jesus

Readings:  (you will be assigned one reading)

1) Mark 15: 40-16: 20 (Note: the oldest written versions of Mark omit 16:9-20)

2) Matthew 27: 55 thru end of book (28: 20)

3) Luke 23: 49 thru 24: 12 (the empty tomb)

4) Luke 24: 13-32 (the "Road to Emmaus")

5) Luke 24: 33-53 (appearance to the 11 remaining Apostles)

6) Acts 1: 1-11 (written by author of Luke - comes right after the gospel of John)

7) John 19:38-20:18 (the empty tomb)

8) John 20: 19-31 (appearance to the disciples)

9) John chapter 21 (appearance at the Sea of Tiberias)

(Fill in below from your reading where applicable - otherwise take notes on group discussion)

VII.      THE BURIAL & EMPTY TOMB

Where are most of the disciples after Jesus' arrest and crucifixion?

Who buries Jesus?

Who are the women who go to the tomb? What is their relationship with Jesus and the circle of his closest followers?

Why do the women go to the tomb?

Whom does the angel speak to first?

Who sees Jesus first?

Do you see any significance in the fact that Jesus first appears to his women followers?  Do you see any irony in the role women have traditionally played in the Christian church?

Are the women believed by the other apostles?

LATER APPEARANCES

How many times does Jesus appear according to the book your are reading?

Who else sees Jesus after the women at the tomb?

Where (which part of Palestine) do these other appearances occur?

What evidence is there that Jesus is not a ghost?

What indication is there that he is not a "regular human being"?

What does Jesus do during these meetings?  Does he give his disciples any instructions or orders?

THE ASCENSION

Does your story include an ascension? If so where does it occur and when?

THE MEANING OF THE RESURRECTION
    & ITS IMPACT ON THE NEW MOVEMENT OF HIS FOLLOWERS

Why, according to the film, were the disciples so devastated by Jesus' death?

We may not be able to tell for sure if the resurrection really "happened" historically, but there is no doubt that the early Christian movement believed that it did.  What impact did it have on people in the movement?

How might it be possible for someone to continue to lead a movement beyond death? 

The Pharisees and Sadducees were two competing religious "parties" or sects in 1st century Judaism.  Saul (later St. Paul) was a Pharisee.  Why would the Pharisees be more likely or open than the Sadducees to accept the idea of Jesus being resurrected?

Do you believe in Jesus' literal bodily resurrection from the dead?

If so, what role does it play in your faith?  If not, can you re-interpret (as Joseph Campbell suggested) the idea of the resurrection in some new way that is meaningful for you?

JESUS OF MONTREAL         

We will be watching this film all week in Quakerism.  It is difficult to follow because of the subtitles but you can learn a lot from this film if you give it a chance and follow it closely. 

It is about an actor who is invited to a rather unorthodox priest to develop an updated version of the Passion Play (the Easter story) for the cathedral in Montreal.  He collects a group of actors to join him in this project.  They develop their own script as a group, partly based on some radical ideas about Jesus given to them by the priest.

The film as allegory.  What is this film basically about?  i.e. What story is it trying to tell in a new way?

The troupe of actors. What jobs do the members have before they join this troupe?

What jobs did Jesus' disciples have before they left their work to join him?

What kind of life do the members of the troupe share together in the commune?

How are the individual members of the company changed by their experience of joining the troupe?

The lawyer.  Who does he represent in this allegory?

 

What does he propose to the troupe at the end of the film?  (What does this tell you about the writer's attitude towards the later church?)

The church hierarchy.  Who do they symbolize? 

 

Who do they get to arrest Danielle?

 

Who do you think the priest is in this allegory?

 

The media.  How does the popular view of the troupe shift and why?  Does this seem an accurate reflection on Jesus' shifting popularity with the people of Jerusalem?

 

Danielle.  What kind of person does the film portray Jesus as being?

 

Do you agree with this portrayal?  If not, where do you see it as inaccurate?

NT Worksheet #15   THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN

Assigned reading for class (all in John): 
Chap. 1, 4: 1-42, Chaps. 14-15, Chap. 21
(focus espec. on underlined chaps.)

The first three gospels are so similar that they share many passages that are identical word for word.  They can be laid out side by side for comparison, which is why they are called the "synoptic gospels".  How is John different in language or tone from Luke?  There are also major differences in content.

Although John is believed by many biblical scholars to have been put into its final form later than any of the other gospels, it is almost certainly based on much earlier writings, oral stories and traditions within the early Christian church. These differ almost entirely, however, from the sources used by the other three gospels.

John 1:1-18  The Prologue

This gospel starts off right away with a very different tone than Luke.  This first passage reads a bit like a mystical or philosophical essay.  Only at the end of this section do we realize that the writer is talking about Jesus. 

The synoptic gospels are very circumspect about Jesus' actual identity.  To the extent other people acknowledge him as Messiah, he urges them not to talk about him in this manner.  The author of John comes right out at the very start and declares Jesus' oneness with God, the Father and Creator of the world.  This foreshadows Jesus' striking statement later in this gospel that "Before Abraham was, I am."  How do you respond to these statements about Jesus?

John 1:18-39  John the Baptist

While in Luke, John the Baptist is reported as being unclear about Jesus' role (see Luke 7:18), there is no such ambiguity here.  Note that referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God or Chosen One is similar to declaring him to be the Messiah but is very different than declaring him to be God.

John 1:40-51  Calling of the first disciples

Notice again that Jesus does not mince any words about his own very special role. The term "Son of Man" is another expression used for Messiah.

 

*John 4:1-42  The Woman at the Well  (please read this story closely!)

This is one of the most extraordinary stories in the New Testament.  Like most of the stories in John, it is completely absent from the synoptic gospels.

Samaritans were regarded by Jews at the time as sort of "black sheep" cousins.  When Jesus was asked in Luke "Who is my (true) neighbor", it is no accident whom he chooses as the subject in the story of the Good Samaritan.  Parallels would be Blacks or homosexuals in this country, Communists or Jews in Nazi Germany, Untouchables in India or Koreans in Japan.  It would have been considered extraordinary to Jews at the time that a major religious leader would be speaking to either a woman or a Samaritan, much less discussing salvation with a Samaritan woman.  Who could "Samaritans" be at Westtown?

  What do you think Jesus means when he talks about "living water"?  Does the woman understand his meaning?  Why does she conclude that he is a prophet?

The passage concludes with Jesus and the woman having a theological disucssion! ("Where does salvation come from?")  How does he respond to her question?  Why do you think early Friends liked this passage so much?

John Chap. 14-15 The Farewell Discourses  (you can read through this lightly)

  How does this compare to the beatitudes or other sections in Luke describing Jesus teaching?  How does it compare to using parables to communicate religious ideas?

  Does the way the author of John describes Jesus' teaching appeal to you?  What sections particularly speak to you or give you trouble? 

Many Christians find these sections very comforting.  Do you respond this way?

John Chap. 21  A Meeting on the Beach (read / reflect more closely again)

The Gospel of John appears to come to a close at the end of Chap. 20.  John's writer/editor chose to append a very extraordinary resurrection story at the very end.  Why do you think he included this story?  Do you like this story?

  Why might the author of John have emphasized very ordinary daily activities like fishing and cooking a meal? 

  Why do you think Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him?  What kind of love is Jesus asking of Peter (and of us?)

  Have you ever felt "carried somewhere that you did not want to go"?  Do you like the idea of being carried by God or would it be repulsive or terrifying?


New Testament - Worksheet #16   THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

The Book of Acts is our best record of the life of the early Christian communities.  Virtually all biblical scholars agree that it was written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke.  Acts is essentially the second half of a single book in two parts, Part I being on the life of Jesus and Part II being his history the early church.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit  Acts 1:7-8, 2:1-21, 8:14-17

Before Jesus dies and again after his resurrection, he promises the disciples that they will be sent a comforter or guide after he is gone.  In Acts 1:7-8 just prior to his ascension he instructs them to wait in Jerusalem "a few days" for this event to occur. 

What does the term "Pentecost" refer to? _________________________

# days between Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem & his execution? _____

# days from Jesus' death to his resurrection?  ____

# days from the resurrection to the Ascension? _____

# days from Ascension to the Pentecost? _____

What happens?

 

The Holy Spirit has been referred to earlier in the gospels although this term does not appear in the Hebrew Bible.  The Pentecost story is the first account of "baptism by the Holy Spirit" and the speaking in tongues that is almost always associated with it in the early church.

What gifts does the Holy Spirit provide those who receive it in addition to the ability to speak in tongues?

1.

2.

3.

Requirements to be a Christian:  Acts 2:37-41, 8: 14-17

What were the two key elements required for entry into the Christian community?

1.

2.

What was the controversial 3rd step for Gentiles who wanted to become Christian which was eventually abandoned?

 

Communism  Acts 2: 42-7, 4: 32-7, 6: 1-7

These are 3 descriptions of what the life of the primitive Christian communities was like.  What groups that we studied have relied heavily on these passages?

 

What characteristics are ascribed to the early church in addition to the sharing of belongings among the believers?

Healings and miracles  Acts 3:1-10, 4:28-31, 5:12-6, 9:32-43, 20:7-12.  Do these descriptions sound similar to or different from the miraculous acts of healings we read about Jesus doing?

 

Has this kind of faith healing continued to be part of Christian practice to the present?

 

"We must obey God rather than men"  5:27-9  How was the early church treated by Jewish authorities? By Roman authorities?  What happened to Stephen? To Peter? To Paul?

 

"God doesn't live in houses"  7:44  How does this relate to the Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well, where he says that God wants to be worshiped "in spirit and in truth"?

 

George Fox was fond of saying the church is not a building but a group of people and that what most people called churches were simply "steeplehouses".

Conversion of Saul  9:1-31  What party was Saul part of before his conversion?

 

List other "calling" experiences we have read about and compare them to Saul's:

 

Is Paul accurate in referring to himself as an "Apostle" (see 1:21-22)?

 

Peter's Dream 10:1-11:18.  What central controversial question in the life of the early Church does this section deal with?

 

"Church government" How is Jesus reported as saying that people should handle conflict within the disciple community in Matthew 18: 15-18?

 

How is the replacement for Judas selected in Acts 1:21-26 (note also definition of Apostle)?

 

How do Amish select ministers?

 

Selection of elders   6:1-7

 

Council at Jerusalem 15:1-35


NT Worksheet #17   PAUL & HIS LETTERS

Paul

He was a Jew. He was born around 10 AD in Tarsus and known as Saul of Tarsus. (Saul is his Hebrew name - Paul is his Greek name.)  He studied as a Pharisee (the Jewish school of thought who believe in the resurrection of the body) in Jerusalem with Gamaliel, one of the most famous teachers of the day.  He was also a Roman citizen. 

During his early twenties he was actively involved in persecuting the early Christians.  Much of his life and work is described in the book called the Acts of the Apostles.  Acts chapter 9 describes his conversion on the road to Damascus (circa 34 AD). 

He was recognized, along with Barnabus, by the church fathers in Jerusalem, as one of the two apostles to the Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews).

The letters of Paul

Most are clearly written by Paul.  (Most scholars agree theLetter to the Hebrews is an exception.)

These are not treatises or tracts but letters. Similar style to other letters written around that time.

Most are written to churches he founded - are addressed to friends.  (Exception is the Letter to the Romans - he had never been to Rome at the time the letter was written.)

They are each written with a specific purpose in mind - usually to address a specific problem or issue being confronted by a given church.

Key issues addressed by Paul in his letters:

·      Relationship between Judaism and Christianity.  The "true Jew".

·      Encouraging unity within the faith community

·      Ethical issues

·      "Justification by faith"


Passages to read & reflect on today:

Romans 12:1-2  "True Worship" - Being utterly transformed in our very being (metamorphosis) by God.  Not being conformed to the world around us.

Have you ever had a life-transforming experience?

Are there ways in which you feel you are too "conformed to this world"?

1 Corinthians 12:4-31   Spiritual gifts. The faith community as one body.

Are there other spiritual gifts you would add to Paul's list? 

What are gifts you recognize in friends? Your parents? Members of your faith community?  In yourself?

Romans 8:14-39         Adoption into God's family. Liberation of creation. Unformed prayer.

Do you feel part of God's family? 

What signs do you see of the creation groaning? What would it mean for the created universe to be liberated - to come into a relationship with God equal to human children?

Do you ever feel inarticulate spiritually?  Do you feel God helps you with prayer?

Some other fine passages you may want to check out:

Romans 4-5  Faith of Abraham, God's grace & salvation

1 Corinthians 13  Love (often read at weddings...)

1 Corinthians 15  Resurrection & everlasting life      - Peter Blood-Patterson:  bloodpat@erols.com


New Testament Project

Faith into Practice

 

Assignment: Research how a group has tried to live out the New Testament vision of Christianity.  Include in your paper the ways in which you feel this group has or has not practiced in a way consistent with the message and life of Jesus and/or the early Christian community as we have studied it in the New Testament.

 

I have included on the back of this sheet a number of examples you could choose. You are not limited to this list. I am also open to alternative ways of presenting your material such as in an art project, short videotape, script of a play, etc.  Your topic needs to be approved by me.

 

You do not have to personally agree with the faith approach of the group you study.  However, I urge you to try and find a group that you are drawn to, genuinely interested in or as sympathetic with as possible. Please do not choose a group that you are particularly unhappy with and use the paper as an opportunity to describe how bad what they are doing is.

 

Length of written paper:  3-5 pages, typed, doublespaced, 12 point font with 1" margins.

 

You must include a bibliography citing sources. For print sources, utilize any standard bibliographical citation system. If you utilize web sources, citing the web address alone is not sufficient. Include as much of the following information that you can obtain from any website you utilize:

1.   The name of the article you utilized on the site

2.   The name of the author of the article

3.   The name of the website

4.   The name of the organization that sponsors or developed the site (e.g. a university, a church, etc.)

5.   The web address. 

 

Schedule for project:

·      Feb. 4th  or 5th:  present the topic you plan to write about (via email or a note)

·      Feb. 13th or 14th:  submit a one page outline for your paper

·      Feb. 24th or 25th:  written paper due

·      Sometime between Feb. 17th and end of term: schedule a 5 minute verbal presentation to class of your findings.

 


Here are examples of groups you could study:

1.   Unusual forms of church community that try to live out the New Testament message in a radical way.

·      The Amish

·      A cloistered monastery (devote themselves almost entirely to prayer)

·      The Bruderhoff (a 20th century communal Christian movement with communities in Pennsylvania and New York)

·      The Shakers (a 19th century American spinoff from Quakers that practiced celibacy and communal sharing of goods. They also did sacred dance and developed many innovative inventions used today)

·      radical Franciscan friars who try to live out St. Francis of Assisi's vision

·      Reba Place Fellowship (Christians bought many homes together in one urban neighborhood and share incomes, childcare, worship during the week)

·      Church of the Savior in Washington DC. Small church groups where people commit themselves to live out a mission of peace & justice or inner city work.

 

2.   A groups trying to carry their Christian beliefs into the social order

·      The Iona Community (an ecumenical community in Scotland I've visited where members commit themselves to peace & justice work based on the island where Christianity first reached Scotland)

·      The Catholic Worker movement

·      Pro Life movement

·      Liberation theology in Latin America (e.g. the film "Romero" about Salvadoran archbishop, archbishop Dom Helder Camara in Brazil)

·      Archbishop Desmond Tutu & other Christians active in overcoming apartheit in South Africa

·      Dietrich Bonhoffer and other Christians who resisted Hitler

·      Fellowship of Reconciliation - international pacifist organization that has been working for peace for many decades - Aminda Baird (the head's wife) grew up living on the grounds of their North American headquarters.

 

3.   Faith healing as it is practiced today

·      Christian Science

·      other approaches

 

4.   An innovative approach to worship or prayer

·      charismatic movement among Catholics and other churches

·      The Jesus prayer (a simple repeated prayer used in Eastern Europe for many years)

·      use of dance in worship (I have visited a monastery in Vermont that does this)

·      Taizé chants (repeated brief choruses sung over & over)

·      folk masses


 

 

Gospel Order course

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Gospel Order:

Strengthening God's Leadership of the Faith Community


An 8 week class exploring issues around what early Friends referred to as Gospel Order, that is ways the meeting functions as community under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. I have taught this class to meetings in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting as "Quakerism 301" - an advanced adult religious education course for meetings seeking to go further in exploring what Quakerism study can offer their meeting.

Week 1 - Cultivating Spirit-led Worship in the Meeting
Week 2 - Corporate Discernment: Hearing God's voice in Meeting for Business
Week 3 - Gospel Order: A vision of a faith community under God's leadership
Week 4 - Ways of Connecting within the Meeting Community
Week 5 - Members of One Another: Membership as a covenantal relationship
Week 6 - The Inward Christ: Understanding & using Quakerism's unique theology
Week 7 - Towards a Quaker Testimony on Sex: Is there/could there be anything we can say to each other - and the world - about right & wrong in this challenging area?
Week 8 - Hiding Our Light Under a Bushel: Exploring our barriers to outreach

Week 1 - Cultivating Spirit-led Worship in the Meeting
The Missing 2nd Query!

Meeting for worship in unprogrammed Friends Meetings offers a unique way for a group of people to be present with God. Such gatherings have the potential to be infused and guided by the Holy Spirit. A number of factors contribute to the power and depth of such worship.
1. The Meeting Culture. Do Meeting members have a living experiential sense of what a gathered meeting is? Of spirit-led vocal ministry? Does the Ministry & Worship committee feel empowered to take active responsibility for the quality of worship in the Meeting? What activities does the Meeting engage in (meeting retreats, Quakerism classes, guidance to new members, etc.) that may have an impact on the quality of worship?
2. Individual / family preparation during the week (Tabor's First Door, the "Door Before", in his Four Doors to Meeting for Worship.) Do meeting families/members engage in any spiritual practices (bible study, personal meditation or prayer, etc.) during the week?
3. How Friends move into worship (Tabor's "Door Inward"). How does what you do on Sunday morning and as you enter worship impact on your ability to enter into a deep sense of communion with God quickly in meeting? What does Radnor Meeting do which helps or hinders this process? (e.g. "greeters", handling of latecomers, timing of children being in meeting, physical layout, etc.)
4. "Gathered worship". This is the term Friends use for when a number of people feel spiritually knit together in closeness to God during meeting for worship. The term "covered" meeting is also used. It is a wonderful and sometimes an upsetting experience. I have heard a number of Friends say that they feel they have never experienced this in their meeting.
5. Vocal ministry. Being "led" to speak in meeting used to be an awesome even watershed event in the lives of many Friends in the past. Friends wrote about becoming seriously ill because of failing to respond to a call to speak or speaking when they were not led.
Many Friends are attracted to the theory that in some sense the "Spirit" guides the ministry but are very uncomfortable with the idea of "judging" whether specific speaking in meeting is or isn't "led". Different Friends often respond very differently to specific offerings - a given ministry may well "speak to the condition" of some present but not to others. Is there a way the Ministry and Worship committee can prayerfully reflect on the extent to which ministry in the meeting is directed by the spirit without becoming involved in judgmentalism towards individual offerings? How does the meeting address a persistent personal pattern of ministry that deviates from this goal?
6. The Door Beyond. How does meeting draw to a close? What is the impact of introductions, announcements, or forms of sharing such as reading and addressing queries, "twilight meeting" or "joys & sorrows" at the end of meeting? How does Meeting for Worship spill over into the life of the meeting and the lives of its members through out the week?

Reflection questions:
1. What practice of "centering" or moving from regular thoughts/concerns into deeper worship do you use?
2. Do you feel that you have experienced deeply "gathered worship"?
3. Have you experienced a similar sense of the tangible presence of God in settings other than Meeting for Worship such as during personal prayer, in nature, a cathedral, a concert, a wedding or funeral?
4. To what extent do you experience vocal ministry in the meetings you have attended as being spirit-led?
5. Have you ever felt "called by the Holy Spirit" to speak? How did you respond?

Reading:
"Faith & Practice:http://www.pym.org/publish/fnp/ pp. 17-21. Extracts # 45-93, 138-50 (on p. 100ff.), Query #1 (p. 206)
Excerpts from various YM disciplines on the subject of Spirit-led Vocal Ministry (on reverse)
Further reading: Bill Taber: Four Doors to Meeting for Worship (PH pamphlet #306)

Excerpts from YM disciplines on the subject of
SPIRIT-LED VOCAL MINISTRY

THE EARLY DISCIPLINES of American YM's (those written before the 1827 schism) have a great deal in common in structure and language. The issue of spirit-led ministry is addressed in sections specifically addressed to the meeting's ministers & elders, as these are considered the members with special responsibility for this area of meeting life.
Philadelphia YM: "Ministers and elders watch over one another for good, to help those who are exercised in the ministry in the right line, discouraging forward spirits that run into words without life and power, advising against affectation in tones and gestures."
Each of these early American disciplines had special queries that were to be answered by the committee of ministers and elders, such as these:
Baltimore YM & New England YM: "Are ministers, in the exercise of their gifts, careful to wait for divine ability and thereby preserved from being burthensome?" ["Divine ability" is a term frequently used to refer to the specific calling from God to speak during meeting.]
NYYM: [Do ministers & elders] "discourage forward persons whose communications do not proceed from the right authority?" [Are the mtg's ministers] "careful to minister in the ability which truth gives?"
Later, perhaps in response to the concerns generated by the Hicksite-Orthodox split, the emphasis seems to shift from divine ability or leading to asking whether ministry is "sound in word and doctrine".
I particularly like this version from Virginia YM's 1814 discipline: [Ministers and elders should exhort the meeting's ministers to] "earnestly seek the mind of the spirit of truth to open the mysteries thereof, that abiding in a simple and patient submission to the divine will, and keeping down to its opening of love and life in themselves, they may witness a gradual growth in their gifts, and be preserved from extending their declarations further than the power of truth shall be experienced to accompany them."

Here are three fine excerpts from MODERN DISCIPLINES
Pacific YM (1985) and North Pacific (1993) include the query: "Is the vocal ministry exercised under the divine leading of the Holy Spirit without pre-arrangement and in the simplicity and sincerity of truth?"
NYYM (1998) asks: "Are we careful that our ministry is under the leading of the Holy Spirit?" Direction is also offered: "Friends are advised to observe our Christian testimony for a faithful ministry of the gospel under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Members are reminded that all have a responsibility in ministry."
A very similar query was among the queries adopted jointly for use by the Hicksite and Orthodox YM's of Philadelphia in 1948 but was dropped from our most recent 1997 revision. This same query was strengthened in the most recent revision of New England's discipline. Britain YM does not appear to address the issue directly in its discipline.
Although Ohio YM still has committees of ministers & elders, its 1992 discipline no longer has specific queries for ministers & elders. Ohio' general queries do not really address the quality of vocal ministry directly. The following instruction is provided, however, in the section on Meeting for Worship: "Though the nearness to God may result in spoken ministry or vocal prayer, the distinctive excellence of heavenly favor consists in the direct communication with the Heavenly Father by the inward revelation of the Spirit of Christ." The same message is reinforced later: "Vocal service in such a meeting, whether prayer or exhortation or teaching, should be uttered under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit."

Week 2 - Corporate Discernment:
Hearing God's Voice in Meeting for Business

Quaker decision-making is a form of corporate discernment of God's will for the faith community. Most decision-making for religious groups has been done in one of two ways characteristic of human societies in general, namely:
1. Top down hierarchical decision-making (e.g. Pope over archbishop over bishop over priest/ over laity in the Catholic Church, military, most businesses) or
2. Some form of "majority rule" (e.g. in many Protestant denominations, the congregation votes on important questions, including selection of a new pastor.)

Quakers developed over the past 300 years a unique form of decision-making that is radically egalitarian not only in that each participant has an equal voice, but in that small minorities are honored and listened to and even given the power to stand in the way of decisions in many instances. It is not, however, the same as consensual decision-making which involves a horizontal attempt to find agreement among those that make up the group Instead it is an egalitarian & participatory method by which a group can discover or hear what God is saying to them.

This a fragile enterprise. It can deteriorate into gridlock, inefficiency, "tyranny of the articulate" and even schism. Some of the components necessary for success include:
1. A culture in the meeting in which members understand the purpose of the process
2. Careful preparation of items in advance of business meeting including sorting out which items really need to come to the meeting for decisions. This makes it possible to move more slowly and prayerfully through the really important issues before the meeting.
3. An atmosphere of expectant waiting upon God during the meeting for business. (It may be referred to as a "meeting for worship for the purpose of decision-making.")
4. A willingness of those present to share their own sense of what God is asking the group to do in a manner that allows and respects differing discernments of this from other members of the group.
5. A skilled and assertive clerk (facilitator of the meeting for business) able to discern the "sense of the meeting" (or what God appears to be asking the group to do) through the different expressions from the membership. This is a challenging and powerful form of spiritual leadership.
6. Patience and a sense of confidence that the process can work well as intended.

It is interesting that in some spiritual communities the "highest office" is that of priest (one who is permitted to carry out special religious rites or ceremonies. In others it is a person skilled at preaching. In nonpastoral Quaker meetings today, our highest "office" is a person charged with helping us to discover God's voice for the group in meeting for business.

Reflection questions:
1. To what extent have you experienced Quaker business or committee meetings as a form of worshipful waiting upon Divine Guidance in Radnor Meeting? In Philadelphia Yearly Meeting?
2. What do you see as some of the major roadblocks to this form of decision-making working as it is intended?
3. What do see as possible barriers in your self to your own fruitful and prayerful participation in this process?
4. Are good clerks born or made? If they are made, what do or could our meetings do to help nurture the skill of clerking as a key form of spiritual leadership?

Faith & Practice: pp. 21-28. Extracts # 1, 5, 126-37. Query #2 (p. 206)
Further reading: Michael Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless Decisions in the Religious Society of Friends (Part II, chaps 1, 2, 3, 5) - this was in depth study of Quaker business process by a Jesuit priest.

Week 3 - Gospel Order: The Quaker Vision of a Faith Community under God's Direct Leadership

"Gospel Order" is an old-fashioned Quaker term for the radical transformation and re-ordering of lives and relationships that results from the relationship between the Quaker community and the Living God.
"Order" refers to the many concrete changes that are made in lives and relationships. Not just an inward feeling but a way of life expressed in virtually every area of living.
"Gospel" refers not to a creed or dogma, but to a real living relationship with God. The central focus is not right beliefs or right actions but life and power in God. As Fox says: "Many have had the letter but lost the life, the notion but lost the possession, the profession but lost the substance, Christ Jesus." This is the "true sap" which Jesus describes so vividly in John 15 (which, significantly, is also the chapter from which "Friends" took their name for themselves.)

This radical re-ordering happens on four different levels:
1. Personal - the ongoing hearing & obeying relationship with Christ, our inward teacher. This is the heart of Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Church Government.
2. Communal / ecclesiastical - the transformed meeting community. Mutual spiritual nurture,, care & support. But also involves mutual accountability. "Eldering". Uncomfortable for many Friends today.
3. Societal - The "Testimonies" were originally seen as inextricably tied to transformed relationship with God. Fox: "Therefore take heed of the world's fashions, lest ye be moulded up into their spirit, and that will bring you to slight truth, and lift up the wrong eye, and wrong mind, and wrong spirit, and hurt and blind the pure eye, and pure mind, and quench the holy spirit."
4. Cosmic - the ways in which God is present in this world & universe.

Quaker theology of the Inward Christ ->

Gospel Order: Concrete ways a people live in direct relationship with the living "sap: ->

PERSONAL: listening to / heeding God's voice
via Mtg for Worship (ministry / sense of awe) & Mtg for Business (group decision-making)
COMMUNAL: spiritual nurture, pastoral care, mutual accountability
SOCIETAL: Testimonies express God's order for living

This is a convenental relationship between a community and God - it can't be done individually.
The "Offices of Christ" refers to the many specific ways in which God relates to people (eg. As teacher, shepherd, healer, parent). The two most important ones early Friends focus on are:

Christ as prophet:
Direct unmediated revelation in the believer's heart
Challenges spearation from God while also offering the promise of transformation/reconciliation
Challenges the way social order is separate from God's way

Christ as priestly king:
Leading / requiring obedience to righteousness
But a very different kind of King (cf. Isaiah's radically new kind of Messiah as suffering servant) Also based on humility, transformation through willingness to take on suffering
Cronk's account of two Chester County Quaker neighbors in 18th century (pp. 27-29)

The Meeting Community (the family is seen in same way)
• Helping one another out / care for material & emotional needs
• Spiritual nurture / support
• Mutual accountability
This is hard for Friends today to swallow! Why?
• Reaction to past abuses
• Sectarianism / history of schisms
• Individualism of our culture today

Matthew 18 must be looked at as a whole - not just the model for admonition
Humiliity - being as children
Parable involving forgiveness

Goal is not judgment or even (primarily) change in behavior but on mending relationships
• Between members of the community and between believers and God
• Emphasize helping each other to hear & respond to God's call
• Helping each other recognize our gifts and find courage to exercise them
• See and understand broken places in our lives
• Overcome fears
• Discern leadings
• Let go of any behaviors that are blocking a deeper relationship with God
• Courage to follow through on a ministry or service
• Outrunning or lagging behind our inner guide

Role of elders (later some of these roles passed over to overseers - or to a "pastor")
Overseeing quality of worship and encouraging vocal ministry
Spiritual nurture
Care of members
Admonition / accountability

Disownment
- avoids the trap of "cheap grace"
- having some boundaries to community

Main reading assignment: Sandra Cronk (founder of the "School of the Spirit"), Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of the Faithful Quaker Community, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #297, 1991.

Biblical readings: John Ch. 15, Matthew Ch. 18

Supplemental readings: Faith & Practice Readings # 9, 10, 13, 15, 114, 118-20.
Lloyd Lee Wilson, Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, Celo Valley Books, 1993.
Doug Gwyn, Apocalypse of the Word: The Life & Message of George Fox (1624-1691), pp. 73-5 & 109-12, FUM Press, 1986.
Lewis Benson, "The Quaker Conception of Christian Community & Church Order", in Catholic Quakerism: A Vision for All Men, pp. 43-59, PYM Book & Publications Comm., 1968.
John Punshon, Portrait in Grey: A Short History of the Quakers, pp. 53-79, Quaker Home Service, 1984.

Week 4 - The Meeting Community:
Ways of Connecting

In previous centuries, Quakers were sharply "set apart" from the surrounding community by clothing, language, celebration of holidays, recreational pursuits, etc. The meeting community actively intervened to maintain the distinctiveness and cohesion of the meeting family.

Today, we are far less set apart from our neighbors, at least in outward things. Many of us would be unwilling for the meeting to intervene in matter's which we consider our own private concerns. For better or for worse, Friends place a high value today on individualism. Nonetheless, the pendulum has swung back somewhat in recent years, with Friends more willing to engage with each other actively around critical issues of belief and lifestyle. Here are some examples.

Clearness committees. Many meetings take very seriously their role in testing the rightness of decisions for marriage or membership. Friends also have begun to ask that clearness committees be set up to assist them in hearing God's voice regarding other personal decisioins such as around education, jobs, or a leading to carry out a form of ministry.

Sexuality. Friends used to hold to traditional values that sex should be limited to traditional monogamous heterosexual marriage. There is significantly less consensus on this today, at least in liberal unprogrammed meetings. Many meetings have offered support to committed gay couples through holding weddings or "ceremonies of commitment". Others feel that Friends need to offer more active guidance towards our members regarding sexual ethics (premarital sex, fidelity to marriage, pornography, etc.)

Nurturance of gifts. In the past meeting elders had a special ability for recognizing and supporting individual members who had a gift for vocal ministry. Some meetings have gone through a process for identifying and supporting a variety of gifts in their members.

Spiritual formation. A variety of approaches are available for deepening the spiritual life of members. These include meeting retreats, ongoing spiritual formation groups, spiritual direction and developing one-to-one spiritual friendships with another Friend.

Membership. Membership does not seem to mean a great deal in many meetings. The Meeting may have a number of members on its rolls who have minimal involvement in the life of the meeting. On the other hand, there may be individuals who are extremely active in the life of the meeting who have never joined. What is the impact of parents enrolling their children as full members of the meeting - under a system where such members are never required to take an affirmative action of choosing to be members on their own when they reach maturity?

Accountability groups. This is a modern version of the old-fashioned Quaker meeting in which members took spiritual responsibility for each others' lives. This is often done in smaller groups than a whole meeting.

Reflection questions:
1. What are you looking for from the meeting?
2. Are there areas in which you would like the meeting to be more involved in your personal or family life? Less involved?
3. Do you feel that the meeting is doing everything it can to support and nurture the spiritual development of the membership? How could this go further?

Readings: Faith & Practice: on membership pp 34-43, clearness committees p 29, minutes of travel p 57
Queries # 3 & 4A (on p. 207ff.)
Further reading: Faith & Practice section of extracts on religious experience (#151-94 on pp. 129-44).
Patricia Loring, Spiritual Discernment: the context & goal of clearness committees (PH pamphlet #305)

Week 5 - Members of One Another:
Membership as a covenantal relationship

What does membership in a meeting or in Friends actually mean?

The term "member" refers literally to an arm or a leg. Relates to being "members of one body"
What does it mean when people refer to the "church as Christ's body"?
Being connected to each other via the vine of the Spirit (John 15)

Spiritual gifts. Paul's passage on gifts. Church of the Savior (a highly innovative approach to Christian community in Washington DC pioneered by Gordon Cosby, Elizabeth O'Connor & others) has a specific process for naming and nurturing the gifts of members. (See Elizabeth's book The Eighth Day of Creation.) This process has been used by quite a few Quaker meetings as well.

Membership is the equivalent form of commitment to marriage vows in relation to the faith community.
Quakers in theory make a lifetime vow to the faith community. Some groups (Church of the Savior, Iona Community in Scotland) take annual vows to each other.

Early practices in Quaker movement. Initial Impetus for identifying members was associated with:
• Whom to provide material support to in relation to sufferings
• Accountability in terms of rightly ordered behavior (Meeting oversight of witness. etc.)
Initially merely recorded who was seen by meeting as functioning as members - no real process (as today) or ritual (as in most of Christian church - i.e. water baptism)

*Paper membership *
In many of our meetings many active participants are not members and many members are not active. As a result the list of official members tells you little about who is actually sharing a life together in the Spirit.
• What are the costs of the official list and the "real" body of members being very different?
• Would it make a difference if the official membership was those really connected to "one body"?
• What would the meeting need to do to have a real (ie. reflecting active participation) list of members?

Membership is always in a local meeting. Standards are basically set by the monthly meeting.
Phila. YM discipline does not allow dual membership (in 2 faith traditions) tho some mtgs ignore this rule.

Joining the faith community
What is the difference betw "convincement" versus "conversion" (the term used by most faith communities)?
In each generation over the past 300 years, a larger % of Quakers have entered community via convincement rather than via birth as in most faith traditions.

The process:
• The letter of application
• The meeting for clearness. (Sometimes this is a superficial step - sometimes one of real discernment of God's intentions.)
• Review by Overseers
• Approval by monthly meeting

How high is the bar? - meeting expectations of new members in terms of
• theology (e.g. beliefs about God
• lifestyle choices
• Testimonies
• Familiarity with Quaker practice
"Expedited process": Meetings ordinarily bypass this process in two circumstances
1. Recording membership of the children of members
2. Transfers of membership from other meetings
3. Should a similar expedited process be used when a monthly meeting feels it would be right to record (i.e. officially acknowledge as being a member) an active attender of many years?

Child membership
Birthright membership vs. membership by parental request. The 1997 discipline abolished birthright membership (automatic recording into membership of the children of members) but continues to permit parents to record permanently their children under the age of 12 as members of the Meeting.
Adult baptism. Baptism is how one becomes a member in most Christian denominations. The Anabaptists broke with national churches by their central insistence on membership requiring adult choice to become part of the church community and all that that entails in terms of discipleship.
Confirmation is the process by which churches enrolling (ie. baptizing) children at infancy insure that adult members understand and choose to take on full participation in the church community.
The Quaker equivalent in our discipline is called "Associate membership". When parents choose to enroll their children as associate members, the child member is required to make a personal choice at time of reaching adulthood to remain a Quaker.
• What are the pros & cons of recording members as children versus associate membership requiring explicit decision to continue as a Quaker upon maturity?
• What are the causes of the chronic weakness in terms of "keeping" our children as Friends?

Discipline of members
The meeting used to enforce lifestyle standards via process called "eldering" Today it is usually limited to very disruptive role in worship and/or community life or other severe violations of community role (e.g. sexual abuse or harassment). This subject is discussed in some depth in Sondra Cronk's pamphlet.
Flip side: How do we support each other? (emotionally, financially, clearness, support for ministries, etc.)

Separation from membership
Three very different actions which the church community may choose to take when a member is separated from the community:
1. Roman Catholics practice excommunication (refusal of sacraments with wayward ex-member).
2. Anabaptists & Jehovah's Witnesses use shunning (barring of social contact with offending member).
3. Disownment is the meeting's action of clarifying for those outside the Quaker community that a given individual has been separated from membership to avoid public confusion about what it means to be a Quaker. The example of Richard Nixon.
Up until around 1900, the most common reason for "reading members out" was for "marrying out" (i.e. marrying a non-Friend who was not willing to become a Quaker.)

Requests to terminate membership today are in most meetings limited to near total inactivity including refusal to respond to letters and longstanding financial non-participation. In the past, at least, this action was often linked to meeting's financial obligation to YM (the "quota")
They are almost never related today to either theology, lifestyle, or disagreement with the Testimonies.

Inactive members
Nostalgic or familial membership
Should Friends establish a new category of "affiliate member" (to provide a sense of connection for those who are not led to be active in a local Friends community)?
In many cases the primary motivation for releasing inactive members if financial - i.e. inactive members are kept on the rolls as long as they contribute. Is there a price on spiritual connection?

Reading: Sondra Cronk, Gospel Order : A Quaker Understanding of the Faithful Church Community (PH Pamphlet # 297) - if you haven't already read it...
Further readings: Faith & Practice: on membership pp 34-43, clearness committees p 29, minutes of travel p 57, Queries # 3 & 4A (on p. 207ff.)
Patricia Loring, Spiritual Discernment: the context & goal of clearness committees (PH pamphlet #305)

Week 6 - "The Inward Christ":
Understanding Quakerism's unique theology & its importance in Quaker faith & practice

We are exploring this week special ways Quakers think about God & Christ. Central to Quaker practice is the idea that every human being has direct access to God in a living, intimate way. This direct ongoing connection is not dependent on special religious offices (i.e. a priesthood), rituals or creedal correctness.

Here are some terms used by Friends to talk about this experience of God:
The Inward Christ, The Inner Light, The Seed, Leadings / being led by God
"The Light of Christ that enlightens every one who comes into this world" (Fox's expression)
Christ who has come to teach His people Himself

Is this the same as Christian beliefs about the Holy Spirit, continuing revelation & spiritual discernment?
Some New Testament expressions:
The Word (John 1:1-18), Emmanuel (means "God-with-us"),
The Comforter that God will send after Jesus' death. "I shall always be w/ you, even to the end of time."
Living Water (John 4:10), "I am the Light of the World", Jesus as the True Vine (John 15).

The word Christ is the Greek word for the "messiah", or savior in Jewish messianic tradition, a human leader who is specially chosen by God and who may be seen as having supernatural qualities who will liberate the Jewish people from their oppressors and restore the Kingdom of Israel.

Early Quakers believed that The Christ was one with God from the beginning of time and still present in their midst in the present - teaching, healing, transforming, liberating, and leading the Quaker community (see Cronk pamphlet pp. 17-20, also Benson). They saw no distinction between the historical Jesus and the present moment inward Christ whom they encountered at the heart of their own religious experience.

Friends sometimes draw a distinction between: Spiritual vs. political, Inner life vs. outward action, Christ-centered vs. universalist, Historical vs. Inward Christ
Bill Tabor (among others) has suggested that a living present-day relationship with God or Christ breaks down these distinctions. Do you experience this as being true?

Reflection questions:
1. In your experience of other faith communities besides Friends, how do you feel this idea of the Inward Christ is similar to or different from the ideas about God at the heart of those other faiths?
2. When (if ever) have you experienced God touching you or speaking to you directly? Was this a comforting experience or a disturbing one?
3. Some have suggested that the Inward Christ is at the heart of all Quaker practice (e.g. Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, Testimonies). Do you see this as being true in your experience of Quaker practice in London Grove Meeting? Philadelphia YM?

Readings:
Sondra Cronk's Gospel Order pamphlet (espec the section on offices of Christ, pp. 17-20)
Faith & Practice pp. 16-17. Extracts # 3, 17-27 (on p. 87ff.). #94-125 if you have time.
Further reading: Lewis Benson: Catholic Quakerism: A Vision for All Men.
Lewis Benson, What Did George Fox Teach about Christ? (New Foundations publics #1, 1976.)
Eleanor Price Mather: Barclay in Brief (a condensation of Robert Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity (first published in 1676, a PH publication sadly out of print.
Samuel Caldwell, The Inward Light: How Quakerism Unites Universalism & Christianity. (PYM Relig Ed Comm, 1997.)
Thomas Kelly: A Testament of Devotion (section on Inward Light).
Patricia Loring, Spiritual Discernment: the context & goal of clearness committees (PH pamphlet #305)

Week 7 - Towards a Quaker Testimony on Sexuality

Is there/could there be anything we can say to each other - and the world - about right & wrong in this challenging area?
(This class has been devoted to an open-ended exploration of what Friends in the meeting believe in this area as a very small experiment in talking with each other about important spiritual issues.)

For some discussion ideas, see the website Quakers Integrating Spirituality & Sexuality

Week 8 - Hiding Our Lamps under a Bushel:
Exploring barriers to sharing our faith with others

First Generation Friends. The Quaker movement grew exponentially in the first generation or two. There was a realistic fear on the part of their opponents that all England would become Quaker. Certainly if the growth had continued very much longer, Quakerism would have become a major denomination. The first generation of Quakers never doubted:
1. That the faith they discovered was right for all people
2. The imperative laid upon them to communicate their own religious experience widely to others and to encourage others to join the Quaker movement.

Although Quaker theology acknowledged the possibility that there were hidden people of faith in other faith communities whom God was working through, they aggressively asserted Quaker theology and testimonies and aggressively argued against other non-Quaker viewpoints on these issues.

Quakers were deeply involved in spreading their message via:
• Preaching in other faith communities' religious services
• Preaching in the streets and other public places
• Using trials as opportunities for witness
• Writing tracts, epistles, books, etc. to communicate what they were experiencing to non-Friends
• Visiting and writing to judges, magistrates, and rulers
• Talking to people one to one.

The Quietist Period. Although rapid growth was replaced by gradual decline, Quakers continued to promote their ideas to non-Friends at least until the mid-19th century. Methods of sharing their ideas with others included:
• Holding public meetings for non-Friends when outstanding Quaker preachers came to the area
• Writing letters to newspapers
• Public criticism of other branches of Quakers as not being "true Friends"
• Distinctive dress and speech.

Liberal Friends today. Although many pastoral Friends continue to engage in evangelism, particularly in Third World countries, most unprogrammed Friends have become remarkably reluctant to share their beliefs with others during this century. Friends are often glad to share their beliefs about political and economic issues (e.g. our positions that derive from our Testimonies) but not the spiritual foundation from which those social concerns spring. Some of the reasons include:
1. Pluralism/universalism - the conviction that many paths are equally valid in the journey to God
2. Cultural emphases - secularism, individualism
3. Reactions against judgmental evangelical Christianity
4. Personal discomfort with being too "pushy" towards others

Reflection questions
• If you are a convinced Friends, how did you find out about Quakerism?
• Over your entire life, roughly how many non-Friends (other than relatives) have you talked about your faith to?
• Do you like to share things that have meant a lot to you (movies, ideas, places to visit) with others?
• Have you ever been moved/helped by someone sharing about their beliefs with you? What is helpful or unhelpful about the way in which others have shared about their beliefs with you?
• Do you think there are lots of people today he could benefit from Quakerism or only very few?
• What would happen if we had powerfully charismatic Quaker leaders of the caliber of Fox, Burroughs, Fell, the Penningtons, and Naylor today empowered to carry our message to the wider world?

Reading:
Faith & Practice: Query #9 (p. 212)
Please read or re-read some of the extracts from writings on Belief (p. 86 ff.) and on Experience (p. 129 ff.)

© 2001 Peter Blood  This course was originally taught at London Grove (PA) Meeting from Jan. 14-Mar. 18, 2001.  You upload an easily printable version of this curriculum below:


Gospel Order Course.pdf

Testimonies Course

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This Is Our Testimony to the World

A 7-week course on Quaker social testimonies (aka "Quakerism 201")


This Is Our Testimony to the World     Week 1:

What Is a Testimony?

A "Testimony" is what Friends refer to as how we believe people should be living their lives in a particular area as an expression of their faith.  It grows directly out of the idea of Gospel Order, or God's vision of how a faithful community should be shaped.  (See Sandra Cronk's Pendle Hill pamphlet of this title).  God's hope is that Friends will live in certain ways with each other as part of the beloved community.  This dream of a way of living with each other spills over into the way Friends live in the surrounding non-Quaker society.

The specific testimonies have gradually evolved over time.  There is no fixed or universally agreed-upon list of testimonies.  Different people like to use different terms.  Many overlap.

A testimony is a way of approaching a particular lifestyle issue that is widely agreed upon by Friends.  This consensus is reflected in its inclusion (in various forms) in many yearly meeting disciplines.  The evolution of testimonies can be traced by reading Yearly Meeting disciplines over time.  New "testimonies" get added.  Old ones become de-emphasized or may even be dropped entirely.

A testimony grows organically from an individual Friend's "concern" or religious leading about a particular issue.  This concern may (or may not!) by adopted or supported by the individual Friend's monthly and yearly meeting.  The individual may communicate her/his individual concern to other Friends through writing or (in theory at least with the approval of her or his meeting) through "travel in the ministry".  John Woolman is the best-known example of a Friend struggling to share widely his personal concerns with Friends around this country and in England.  His individual concern eventually led (after a very long period of disunity) to widespread agreement that Friends should not hold slaves.

Prior to the 20th century Meetings often wrestled with individual Friends who failed to live in keeping with the testimonies that the wider Quaker community agreed were essential.  A humorous example was illustrated in the film "Friendly Persuasion" when elders went to investigate rumors that a meeting member owned an organ. This type of "eldering" is very rare today.  If most Friends fail to live out a given testimony, it becomes hollow and is eventually dropped from our disciplines.

Reflection questions:

·      What testimonies do you think are most important to Haverford Friends today?

·      What testimonies are so obvious to non-Friends that many non-Friends identify these with Quaker membership?  (Would the list have been different a century ago?)

·      How does the Meeting communicate what it holds to be important about lifestyle to its children, its adult members, to prospective members & to the surrounding non-Quaker community?

·      Are there any activities that would be likely today to elicit some form of counsel or eldering from the meeting?  Are there any that could lead to disownment?

·      How actively does the meeting explore together its responses to the Yearly Meeting queries that address our testimonies?

·      How receptive do you feel the meeting is to new concerns that arise within the membership?

 

Faith & Practice: Extracts # 195-214, 247-8, 260 (pp. 145-64). Also: pp. 65-7, 74-5.  

Biblical passages relating to leadings and being called by God to a prophetic role.  1 Samuel 3, 1 Kings 19: 9-16, 1 Kings 19: 19-21, Isaiah 6:1-9, Jeremiah 1:1-10, Amos 3:1-8, 7:10-15, Joel 2:28.

 

This Is Our Testimony to the World    Week 2:

The Testimony on Integrity (truthspeaking, oaths, plain speech)

Early Friends considered it critical to live in a way that reflected their sense of integrity.  This meant speaking truth at all times.  It meant trying to find ways to keep scrupulously to an ethical way of life and to do nothing to hide one's convictions or status as a Friend even at great cost.

Early applications:

Refusal to take oaths ("But I say swear not at all, but let your yea by yea and your nay be nay" - Matt 5:23)

Plain speech 1) "plural address" (use of "thee" & "thou" to all persons), 2) names of days & months

Refusing to hold Quaker worship in secret even if this meant imprisonment

Speaking the truth to others even when it got one in trouble

"Wear thy sword as long as thou canst." (Fox's statement to Wm Penn)

Refusal to pay tithes to support a state church Friends did not agree with

Commercial honesty (e.g. refusal to haggle prices) led to commercial success

Other possible applications of this testimony:

Refusing to take "loyalty oaths" during McCarthy period

Cheating on income taxes

Software use without purchase

Honesty when given the wrong change at a store

"Affairs" -refusing deception in personal relationships, refusing to collude with others doing this.

Reflection Questions

·      Do you ever "cheat" on your income taxes?

·      Does the meeting discuss issues of personal ethics together?

·      Would you ever tell a friend that you disagree with something she or he has done that is dishonest or unethical?

·      Is being scrupulously honest as important today as it was in the 17th century?

·      Where might you not be strictly commited to truthtelling (e.g. hiding runaway slaves, Anne Frank)?

·      Do you think Friends still have a public reputation for honesty? 

 

Faith & Practice:   Extracts #270-97 (pp.167-74)  Query #12 on Integrity & Simplicity(p. 214)

Biblical passages:  Matt 5: 10-11 (8th beatitude), Luke 9:23-25 (Take up your cross & follow Christ), Matthew 5:33-37 & James 5:12 (on oaths)

This Is Our Testimony to the World  Week 3:

Simplicity (or "Purity")

This is probably the least understood of the Quaker testimonies.  It overlaps, to some extent, with virtually all the other testimonies (integrity, equality, peace, family life, community, unity with nature).

The heart of the testimony involves living one's life in a manner that enables one to stay focused on God -  to avoid activities which get in the way of a disciplined daily life of prayer and inward attentiveness to the motions of the Divine Spirit. 

This has been an important aspect of spiritual faithfulness in other religious traditions, e.g.

--St. Francis of Assisi - gave up wealth and his personal possessions to be closer to God

--Brother Lawrence was a monk who tried to pray without ceasing even while doing housework.

--Thich Nhat Nahn and other Zen Buddhists are keenly aware of how certain activities distract us from a spiritually grounded life.

Early applications:           

--Plain dress - taken up primarily to avoid ostentation and frivolity associated with "worldly fashions".  (Margaret Fell referred to opposition to bright clothing as a "silly testimony". See Extract #255.)

--Rejection (in common with the Puritans) of "world's" holidays / feast days.  Until the 20th century many Friends schools were open on Christmas Day!

--Along similar lines: rejection of musical instruments, choral singing, dancing, plays

--Sexual faithfulness (no sex outside of traditional marriage)

--Requirement to be married to a Friend

Later applications:           

--Gambling

--Drugs and alcohol use / abuse

Other possibilities           

--TV, internet abuse

--Wearing suit & ties.  (Jeans & T-shirt as "plain dress"?)

--Personal spiritual disciplines

--Fasting

Reflection Questions:

·      What kinds of activities (diet, clothing, place) help you to feel centered / grounded in God / to hear God's voice speaking to you?

·      What kinds of activities interfere with your ability to pray / to hear God's voice / to feel present with God?

·      What kinds of possessions seem to interfere with your ability to live in God?

·      What dangers do you see addictions playing in your spiritual life / the integrity of your relations with others?

·      Do you talk about these issues with your family?  Your friends?  The meeting?

Faith & Practice: Extracts #225-40, 255 (pp. 155ff). pp. 70-71. Query #12 (p. 214)

Biblical passages: Eccles. 5:1-7 (2b often quoted by early Friends), 6:11, 9:17.  Matt 6:25-34 (lilies of the field), Matt 5:8 (5th beatitude: pure in spirit), Luke 16:12-4  (on serving 2 masters cf. Matt 6:23)


This Is Our Testimony to the World   Week 4:

Equality (including antislavery, women's rights, social justice)

 

This testimony grows from the conviction that God is present in every life.  It is essential to make certain that no oppressive assumptions or social structure interfere with the ability of God to find expression through each precious person.  This means:

  1. Treating each person we meet equally.
  2. Allowing each person a voice in meeting life and (by extension) in the larger body politic.
  3. Ending social institutions that by their nature oppress or exploit others.
  4. Becoming sensitive to the ways in which our possessions and lifestyle result in harm to others.

 

Early applications:           

Hat honor (still enforced in courtrooms!)

            Honorifics in speech (e.g. plural address to superiors)

            Allowing women to take active role in church leadership (revolutionary at the time)

Later applications:             

Slavery

            Women's suffrage

Concern about how some possessions & lifestyles exploit / harm others (Woolman)

Prison reform (extended to prison visitors, meetings in prisons, Restorative Justice movement, AVP, opposition to capital punishment)

Recent extensions:           

Rights of disabled people

            Resistance against ageism: oppression & disenfranchisement of children & the elderly

            Sexual orientation (discrimination against gays)

Other possibilities:            

Socialism (there is a Quaker Socialists organization in the UK.)

            Use of titles, degrees, current honorifics (e.g. "Your Honor", "The Honorable...")

            Rights of children

 

Reflection Questions:

·      What differences in empowerment do you perceive as persisting within the life of the meeting? Of Yearly Meeting (the regional organization of Friends)?

·      What is the impact of being a relatively affluent faith community in a city and a world with so many who are severely disenfranchised by their poverty?

·      Do we live off the back of others?

·      Is living a simpler lifestyle a witness to the surrounding society that furthers change?  A personal ethical act regardless of effectiveness?  A deceptive luxury for those working to effect change?

Faith & Practice Extracts #243-6, 249-50, 254, 268-9 (on pp.159-67). p. 75-6, 80.   

Queries # 6 & 7 (on pp. 210-11).

Biblical roots: Eccles. 6:10-12, Amos 2:6-7 & 5:21-24, Isaiah 11:3-5, Luke 18: 18-30 (rich young ruler), Acts 2: 42-7, 4: 32-7 (on sharing of goods in the early church), Matt 5:6 (4th beatitude), Galatians 3:28, James 5:1-5.


This Is Our Testimony to the World    Week 5:

The Peace Testimony

Rationale for the peace testimony:

Initially "We do not fight with outward weapons." (cf.rejection of outward sacraments).  Separation from

    the world & its struggles.   "My kingdom is not of this world". "I'm not that kind of Messiah"

Fox also alludes to "James doctrine" (James 4) attributing "lust" (greed) as a cause of war. 

    Woolman extends this idea to focus on the seeds of war in possessions and lifestyles.

Later religious justifications:             

            Admonitions of Jesus ("Turn the other cheek... Love those who hate you.")

Killing violates "that of God in every one." (John Gallery suggests that the spiritual root of the

    peace testimony is God in ourselves rather than in the others.)

Political reasons

Wastefulness of military spending

Insidious effects of hatred begetting hatred & violence begetting violence

Importance of developing international understanding and institutions

 

Evolution of focus: Testimony was originally limited to personal non-participation in military & violence

First publicly articulated in 1660 to avoid confusion with the Fifth Monarchy Insurrection.

(How do you feel about Fox attributing the death or illness of some of those who persecuted him as being evidence of God's punishment?)

After Friends withdrew from public government (in Pennsylvania due to conflicts regarding the French & Indian War), Friends generally expressed neutrality toward governmental decisions, similar to Amish position today.

John Woolman: Extended Fox's ideas from James 4 on greed as a root of violence to the "seeds of war"

in personal possessions & lifestyle. 

He also questioned paying taxes for war (similar to refusing tithes)

20th century extensions of peace testimony: 

"Political peacemaking" - organizing opposition to government war policies (including conscription)

The movement to abolish capital punishment

Conflict resolution work in communities

Alternatives to Violence Project. Started by Quakers, especially in prisons - holistic personal change

Vegetarianism.   An extension of peace testimony, right sharing of world resources Unity with Nature, care for our bodies. (Much more common among Friends in England, New Zealand & Australia.)

Struggle against violence towards women

Ending Use of Physical Restraints (in care of the elderly) - Friends life-care communities & nursing homes have led the way in pioneering alternatives. 

Violence towards the environment (treating all creation with deep respect just as other people)

Reflection questions:

·      What approach do you think the Meeting should take to a member who is joining the military?

·      Should our children be playing with war toys? Violent games? Watching media with violent content?

·      What attitudes or institutions do you see as holding the seeds of war in our society? In our own lives?

·      Do the affluent (by world standards) lifestyles of U.S. Friends contradict our testimony against war?

·      Where did the peace movement go? What can Friends do to witness more actively to peace today?

Faith & Practice Extracts # 215-24 (pp. 151-5), 230.  Query #8.

Bible roots: Isaiah 11:6-9, Micah 4:2-4,  Matt 5:38-48, 26:51-2, Romans 12: 9-21, James 4: 1-3


This Is Our Testimony to the World    Week 6:

The Testimony on Earthcare (aka "Unity with Nature")

This is the youngest of the widely agreed-upon testimonies.  Many Yearly Meetings have passed statements in recent years on this issue.  Many have added queries and other passages their disciplines.  Many Friends around the country have in the past couple of decades felt "deeply exercised" about this issue.

This represents an extension of our testimonies on peace and equality to other creatures besides humans and to the natural world in general.  It arises from a far-reaching re-evaluation of traditional theological assumptions that saw humans as being superior to and dominant over the rest of creation.  Grows from seeing humans as a small part of and our own future intimately intertwined with the entire planet and natural order.  The term "stewardship" is a fine traditional Christian term (and we humans have certainly been poor stewards of the earth!)  Many of the Quaker pioneers in this area preferred the term "unity with nature" in order to move away from the old concept that humans are above the rest of creation.

This new "testimony" is seen as involving both profound inward shifts in consciousness and spirituality and radical changes in personal and political behaviors, such as:

 

--Cutting back significantly on levels of consumption & energy use below what is considered "normal" in the USA

--Environmentally sound practices (recycling, cutting water use)

--Eating lower on the food chain

--Personal limits to family size

--Environmentally aware investing and purchasing.

 

Also involves heavy involvement in environmental organizations and political advocacy to affect local and national policies in areas such as:

 

--World population growth

--Increased support for public transportation, heavier taxation on fossil fuels

--Laws that make strong economic incentives for recycling (common in Western Europe)

--Protection of undeveloped wilderness areas

--Protection of oceans and marine mammals

--Laws to protect endangered species.

 

Reflection Questions on Stewardship of Creation:

·      What steps has your family taken to live in ways that protect the future of this planet and all its creatures?

·      What has the meeting done to change its corporate practice (e.g. energy use, recycling, investing, etc.) in this area?

·      Has the meeting carried out witness on this testimony to the surrounding community? Could it?

·      Do you see this testimony conflicting with our testimony of equality (e.g. in terms of conflicting priorities regarding development and social justice for the poor?)

 

Faith & Practice Extracts #263 & 265 (pp.165-6)   pp. 81. Query #10 (on pg. 213)   Bible: Gen. 1-2, Lev. 25: 1-8 & 11-12; 26: 4-6 & 34-35, Psalms 24:1 & 104, Job 38-40, Matt. 5:5, Rom. 8:18-27.


This Is Our Testimony to the World   Week 7:

Continuing Revelation: How new testimonies are born...

Friends believe that God continues to speak to us today.  This may lead us to hear new divine promptings and requirements of us as a Quaker movement.  Testimonies begin as the concerns of individual Friends.  These concerns grow into full-blown testimonies as they are gradually accepted as "divinely-ordered" by wider and wider corporate bodies of Friends.  Here are 3 examples of testimonies that gradually grew into widespread acceptance by Friends:

1.    The application of the testimony on equality to the issue of slavery.

2.    The extension of the peace testimony from personal non-participation in war to public stands against warmaking by secular governments.

3.    The growing sense among Friends that the whole relationship between humanity and the natural world has deep spiritual implications.

If God continues to speak to us, people may also feel led away from positions that were once widely or even universally accepted among us.  Here are testimonies that were very important to early Friends but which are no longer widely supported:

  1. Plain Speech.  Became obsolete because "you" is now used in addressing everyone.  Still relevant perhaps in other languages (such as French) that continue to use plural versus singular 2nd person usage to reflect differences of status ("vous" vs. "tu").
  2. Plain Dress.
  3. Against Payment of Tithes.
  4. Names of Months & Days of the Week. 
  5. Times & Seasons - Friends objected to popular holidays like Christmas and Easter in part due to association with pre-Christian pagan traditions and partly to affirm the holiness of every day.  Quaker schools and businesses used to be open on Christmas day. 
  6. Instrumental Music & Choral Singing.  (Although many Friends are still ambivalent about choral singing during Meeting for Worship.)
  7. Dancing.  When I was a child, folk dancing had to be called "folk games" when Lake Erie Yearly Meeting held its annual session at the Friends Boarding School in Barnesville, Ohio.
  8. Plays - Associated by Puritans & early Friends with sexual promiscuity & "frivolity".

Possible "New" Testimonies

  1. Embodiment.  Is it possible for us to develop a new vision of "rightly ordered" sexuality beyond the traditional "it's only ok if it's inside heterosexual marriage"?  (See the books of James Nelson.)
  2. Vegetarianism
  3. TV & Video Games.  Some Quaker families refuse to have these in their homes. Others try to place sharp limits on amount of time and quality of use.
  4. Music - as being the birthright of all rather than just the "experts"

Reflection Questions:

  • Are there issues of deep importance to meeting members not yet included in a "testimony"? Are their issues that you sense Friends here would be very reluctant to look at?
  • How do you feel a person is received when they bring deeply held concerns to the meeting around which there is not yet any clear corporate agreement?
  • Are there other old assumptions & values that Friends are holding on to that God may be inviting us to let go of?

A free bonus: The Testimony on Community (Care for Others)

 

This testimony is closely related to the testimony on equality but focuses more on caring about and caring for those who are suffering or in need.  It is interesting that in English the word "care" refers both to an emotion (having tender feelings towards another) and an act of help towards another (as in taking care of someone, caretaker, or healthcare).  Some biblical scholars have suggested that the 2nd beatitude ("Blessed are those who mourn") focuses on the capacity to feel others' pain while the 5th beatitude ("Blessed are the merciful") focuses on those who are willing to take care in practical ways of others' needs (see Matt. 5: 4 & 7).

The first couple of generations of Friends did not have a formal membership.  They were well aware, however, of who was part of their spiritual family and were deeply committed to "taking care of their own".

It was not difficult for later generations to extend the idea of care for those within the faith community to others who were suffering in the surrounding society, including:

Slaves

The mentally ill

Prison inmates (including those facing execution or torture)

The poor and chronically economically disadvantaged

War refugees

Victims of genocide

People with AIDS, etc.

 

In previous centuries this concern led many Friends to individual efforts to provide relief to those in need.  During the past century Friends tended to focus increasingly on efforts to effect change in the social and economic systems that perpetuate suffering.  Groups like the Catholic Worker have emphasized the need to continue efforts to directly aid those who are suffering in our communities.

 

Reflection Questions:

·      How can we open our hearts more to others who are suffering?

·      When you see images of suffering on TV or in films, do you feel empowered to action or immobilized and overwhelmed by the pain you are watching and discouragement about the possibility of change?

·      Do you perceive your meeting as being a place where members feel accepted and cared about?

·      In the time of the early Church, it was said that non-Christians marveled at how Christians loved one another.  Do you think non-Friends perceive us this way?

·      Does the caring we experience within our faith community create a wall that interferes with caring towards those outside or does it spill over into love for those around our community?

Faith & Practice:  Extracts #241-2, 251-2, 256-9, 261-2 (pp. 159-65). 

Biblical roots: Matt 5:4, 7 (2nd & 5th beatitudes), 25: 31-46 (the "works of mercy"), Acts 2: 42-7, 4: 32-7, 6:1-7, 11:29-30, 1 John 4:7-21 (you can't love God without loving your brothers).

Additional readings:  Howard Brinton, Friends for 300 Years, pp.  126-9, 170-4.

Parker Palmer, A Place Called Community, PH Pamphlet #212, 1977 (online


READING LIST

Everyone should have a copy of Faith & Practice of Phila. YM for the class.  This will be our main "text".  If you read nothing else, try to read at least a few of the Extracts from Writings of Friends for each class and choose one that especially appeals, puzzles or bothers you to read out loud to the group.  Please bring your copy to class if possible.

The Bible:  These are readings that shed light on the biblical roots of each testimony we are studying.  Many of these were critical in shaping the views of early Friends on these issues. 

A great collection of writings on this subject (Leonard Kenworthy Friends Face the World) is, sadly, out-of-print. There may be a copy on your family bookshelf. Used copies areb available via Amazon.com.

There are many Pendle Hill pamphlets on this subject. I can order copies from the bookstore if participants would like to buy some of these. Here's 4 great ones. (Others are online at www.pendlehill.org/pendle_hill_pamphlets.htm.)
Sandra Cronk, Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of the Faithful Quaker Community
(#297, for Week 1)
Elaine Prevallet, Reflections on Simplicity
(#244, for Week 3)
David Morse, Testimony: John Woolman on Today's Global Economy (
#356, for Week 4)
Steve Smith, Living in Virtue, Declaring Against War: The Spiritual Roots of the Peace Testimony
(#378, for Week 5)

Week 1:  - What Is a Testimony?

Sandra Cronk, Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of the Faithful Quaker Community (PH Pamphlet #297).
pp. 9-13 describes her view on what testimonies are.  pp.21-31 is a wonderful story on mutual accountability.

Faith & Practice: Extracts # 195-214, 247-8, 260 (pp. 145-64). Also: pp. 65-7, 74-5.  

Biblical roots:  The following passages relate to leadings and a sense of being called by God to a prophetic role.  1 Samuel 3, 1 Kings 19: 9-16, 1 Kings 19: 19-21, Isaiah 6: 1-9, Jeremiah 1:1-10, Amos 3:1-8, 7:10-15, Joel 2:28.

Add'l reading:  Jack Kirk, "Creaturely Activities or Spiritually Based Concerns?", Ch.1 in Friends Face the World.

Paul Lacey. Leading and Being Led, PH Pamphlet #264, 1985. (available online at www.pendlehill.org).

Week 2:  - The Testimony on Integrity

Faith & Practice:   Extracts #270-97 (pp.167-74). Also: Query #12 (p. 215)

Biblical roots:  Matt 5: 10-11 (8th beatitude), Luke 9:23-25 (Take up your cross & follow Christ), Matthew 5:33-37 & James 5:12 (on oaths)

Additional reading:  Good Business Ethics at Work, The Quakers at Business Group, London, 2000.

Wilmer Cooper, The Testimony of Integrity, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #296, 1991.

Robert Barclay's Apology: Proposition XV, espec. Section III (titles) & X (oaths).

Week 3:  - Simplicity (or "Purity")

Faith & Practice: Extracts 225-40, 255 (pp. 155-63).  Also: pp. 70-71, pp. 73-4 (addictions). Query & #12 (p. 214)

Richard Gregg, The Value of Voluntary Simplicity, PH Pamphlet #3 (available online at www.pendlehill.org)

Biblical roots: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 (2b was often quoted by early Friends), 6:11, 9:17. , Matt 6:25-34 (the lilies of the field - cf. James 4:13-17), Matt 5:8 (5th beatitude: pure in spirit), Luke 16:12-4  (=Mt 6: 23-5 - serving 2 masters)

Additional reading:  Elaine Prevallet, Reflections on Simplicity, PH Pamphlet #244, 1982.

Thomas Kelly. "The Simplification of Life" in A Testament of Devotion.

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Fran Tabor, "Finding the Taproot of Simplicity: The Movement between Inner Knowledge & Outer Action", Chap. 5 in Friends Face the World.

James Neff MD, "Alcohol & Drugs: A Quaker Concern". Chap. 10 in Friends Face the World.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment; The Miracle of Mindfulness, and other books.


Week 4:  - Equality

Faith & Practice: Extracts # 243-6, 249-50, 254, 268-69 (on pp. 159-67).  Also: pp. 75-6, 80. Queries # 6 & 7.  We will also run off several Woolman passages for this class.

Biblical roots: Eccles. 6:10-12, Amos 2:6-7 & 5:21-24, Isaiah 11:3-5, Luke 18: 18-30 (rich young ruler), Acts 2: 42-7, 4: 32-7 (on sharing of goods in the early church), Matt 5:6 (4th beatitude), Galatians 3:28, James 5:1-5.

Additional reading:  David Morse, Testimony: John Woolman on Today's Global Economy (PH Pamphlet #356).

Mildred Binns Young, What Doth the Lord Require of Thee?, PH Pamphlet #145, 1966. (available online).

John Woolman, A Plea for the Poor.  (appended to most editions of his Journal & reissued as PH pamphlet #357.)

Severyn Bruyn, Testimonies & Economic Alternatives, PH Pamphlet # 231, 1980 (also online).

Margaret Hope Bacon, ed. Lucretia Mott Speaking: Excerpts from the Sermons & Speeches of a Famous Nineteenth Century Quaker Minister & Reformer, PH Pamplet #234 (available online)

Margaret Hope Bacon, "Beyond Equal Rights: The Quaker Concern for the Rights of Women", Chap. 9 in Friends Face the World.

Week 5:  - Peace

"A Perspective on the Peace Testimony", by John Andrew Gallery, in the Nov. 2002 issue of Friends Journal. Available online at: http://www.friendsjournal.org/contents/2002/11november/feature.html  (We will make some copies available for those who request it.)

Faith & Practice: Extracts # 215-24 (pp. 151-5) & 230. Also: pp. 76-9. Query #8 (pg. 211).

Bible roots: Isaiah 11:6-9 (peaceable kingdom), Micah 4:2-4 (swords into plowshares), Matt 5:38-48 (love your enemies), 26:51-2 (resisting Jesus' arrest), Romans 12: 9-21 (cited by Barclay), James 4: 1-3 (cited by Fox in 1651 & in Declaration of 1660).  See also: Matt. 10:34-9 (bringing a sword, not peace), 21:12-13 (cleansing the temple), 22:15-22 (paying taxes), Romans 13 (obeying authories).

Additional reading

Steve Smith, Living in Virtue, Declaring Against War: The Spiritual Roots of the Peace Testimony (PH pamphl. #378)
The Declaration of 1660 in the Journal of George Fox
(page 398-403 in the Nickalls edition)

Barclay's Apology Proposition XV, paragraph XIII.                            Woolman's Journal. Chapter 5.

Howard Brinton, Friends for 300 Years, pp.151-5 (on Quaker work to reform prisons and mental hospitals).

Wallace Collett, "Pay Thy Taxes as Long as Thou Canst".  Chap. 14 in Friends Face the World.

Friends & the Vietnam War: Papers & Presentations from a Gathering for Reconciliation, Reappraisal & Looking Ahead, ed. by Chuck Fager, Pendle Hill, 1998.

Many Pendle Hill Pamphlets including A.J.Muste, "Of Holy Obedience" PH pamphlet #64 (available online).

Robert Hillegass, Nonviolence on Trial, PH pamphlet #274.

John Andrew Gallery, Reflections from a Prayer Vigil for Peace, PH pamphlet #358.

Week 6:  - Earthcare

Faith & Practice:  pp. 81.   Query #10 (on pg. 213).

Biblical roots: Gen. 1-2, Lev. 25:1-8, 11-12; 26:4-6, 34-35 (sabbath rest for the land), Psalms 24:1 & 104, Job 38-40, Matt 5:5, Rom 8:18-27.

Additional reading:

George Fox, Journal (Nickalls edition), p. 27 and 206

Ruth Lofgren, "Sharing Stewardship of Our Planet Earth". Chap. 11 in Friends Face the World.

 

Week 7:  - Continuing Revelation:    How new testimonies are born

Faith & Practice:  Parts of Query #6 on clearness process.  See also readings for Week #1.

Bible: Matt. 5: 13-48, 9:17. Rev. 21:5.

Quakerism 101

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Quakerism 101
An Introductory Course in Quaker Faith & Practice



WEEK 1 - "The Beginnings of Quakerism"


Quakerism was born in the mid-17th century in England. This was a period of enormous political and religious turmoil. (This period has been compared to the late 1960's in the U.S.) It was the only period in which England was a republic, rather than a monarchy. A civil war was going on during much of this time.

There were many different small religious sects that sprang up at this time. A few of these survived (as Friends did) and grew larger like the Separatists, who later became our Congregationalists, and the Puritans, who later became our Presbyterians. Most, however, of these groups disappeared.

There was an informal movement in the late 1640's and early 1650's in Northern England known as The Seekers. They rejected many of the structures of the church at the time and was looking for a rebirth of a more vital spirituality. George Fox had been preaching for several years but had attracted few followers. In 1652, Fox had a vision on a hill called Pendle Hill of a "great people to be gathered and traveled to the area where the Seekers held their gatherings. He gave a sermon to about a thousand members of this group on an open field called Firbank Fell and many leaders of the Seekers responded to Fox's message and the Quaker movement was born.

Quakers sent out preachers (many of whom were women) through out the British Isles known as "The Valiant Sixty" as well as to the Continent and the American colonies. The movement experienced severe persecution, and a number of its most outstanding leaders died because of the terrible conditions in prison. Three were executed in Massachusetts Colony.

Characteristics of the early Quaker movement:
• Based on a radically direct living relationship with God
• Considered themselves to be returning to a form of primitive Christianity as practiced in the time of the apostles
• Rejected programmed worship, outward sacraments, and paid clergy
• Active role of women in church leadership from the outset (revolutioinary at the time)
• Rapid growth in spite of potential suffering from involvement
• Fox also set up a system of monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings (to provide coherence and corporate discipline to the new community of believers)

Reflection questions:
1. How would you respond if a charismatic spiritual leader such as George Fox spoke to you today?
2. Do you find the writings of early Friends exciting? Strange? Moving? Disturbing?
3. In what ways do you sense that Friends today are or are not practicing the same kind of religion as the first generation of Quakers?
4. Why do you think Friends grew so quickly and won so many adherents, even in spite of terrible persecution?
5. Why do you think established church leaders were so enraged by the Quaker message?

Extracts: # 2, 4, 6-14, 16, 39 (on p. 86ff.)

WEEK 2 - "The Inward Light"

This week we'll look at Quaker theology, or how Quakers think about God. Central to all Quaker practice is the idea that every human being has direct access to God in a living, intimate way. This direct ongoing connection does not require priests, ceremonies, or outward structures. Church hierarchy and programmed worship were both seen as interfering with this radical way of listening to God's voice in the present. Friends believed that this was the same kind of direct relationship with God experienced by Hebrew prophets and by the early Christian communities described in Acts.

Here are some terms or expressions that are used by Friends to talk about this experience of God:
• The Inward Christ
• The Inner Light
• "The Light of Christ that enlightens every one who comes into this world"
• The Seed
• "Leadings"
• "Being led" by God

This is similar to certain ideas from Christianity in general:
• The Holy Spirit
• Continuing revelation
• "I shall always be with you, even to the end of time."
• Emmanuel (means "God-with-us")

Friends sometimes today draw a distinction between:
• Spiritual vs. political (perhaps placing an emphasis on the "testimonies")
• Inner life vs. outward action
• Christ-centered vs. universalist
• Historical Jesus vs. Inward Christ
Some Friends have suggested that a living present-day relationship with God or Christ breaks down these distinctions. Do you experience this as being true?

Reflection questions:
1. In your experience of other faiths, how do you feel this idea of the Inner Light is similar to or different from the ideas at the heart of those other faiths?
2. Do you feel you have ever experienced God touching you or speaking to you directly? If so, when?
3. Was this a comforting experience or a disturbing one?
4. Some have suggested that the Inner Light undergirds all Quaker practice (e.g. Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, Testimonies). Do you see this as being true in your experience of Quaker practice in Schuylkill Meeting? Philadelphia YM?

Extracts: # 3, 17-27 (on p. 87ff.). Can also dip into #94-125 if you have time.

WEEK 3 - Meeting for Worship

Meeting for worship in unprogrammed Friends Meetings offers a unique way for a group of people to be present with God. Such gatherings have the potential to be infused and guided by the Holy Spirit. A number of factors contribute to the power and depth of such worship.
1. The Meeting Culture. Do Meeting members have a living experiential sense of what a gathered meeting is? Of spirit-led vocal ministry? Does the Ministry & Worship committee feel empowered to take active responsibility for the quality of worship in the Meeting? What activities does the Meeting engage in (meeting retreats, Quakerism classes, guidance to new members, etc.) that may have an impact on the quality of worship?
2. Individual / family preparation during the week (Tabor's First Door, the "Door Before", in his Four Doors to Meeting for Worship.) Do meeting families/members engage in any spiritual practices (bible study, personal meditation or prayer, etc.) during the week?
3. How Friends move into worship (Tabor's "Door Inward"). How does what you do on Sunday morning and as you enter worship impact on your ability to enter into a deep sense of communion with God quickly in meeting? What does Schuylkill Meeting do which helps or hinders this process? (e.g. "greeters", handling of latecomers, timing of children being in meeting, physical layout, etc.)
4. "Gathered worship". This is an expression Friends use to describe a meeting for worship in which many or all of those present people feel deeply and powerfully knit together in closeness to God. The term "covered" meeting is also used. It is a wonderful and sometimes an upsetting experience. I have heard a number of Friends say that they feel they have never experienced this in their meeting.
5. Vocal ministry. Being "led" to speak in meeting used to be an awesome even watershed event in the lives of many Friends in the past. Friends wrote about becoming seriously ill because of failing to respond to a call to speak or speaking when they were not led.
Many Friends are attracted to the idea that in some sense the "Spirit" guides the ministry but are often uncomfortable with the idea of "judging" whether specific speaking in meeting is or isn't so "led". Different Friends often respond very differently to specific offerings - a given ministry may well "speak to the condition" of some present but not others. Is there a way the Ministry and Worship committee can prayerfully reflect on the extent to which ministry in the meeting is directed by the spirit without becoming involved in judgmentalism towards individual offerings? How does the meeting address a persistent personal pattern of ministry that deviates from this goal?
6. The Door Beyond. How does meeting draw to a close? What is the impact of introductions, announcements, or forms of sharing such as reading and addressing queries, "twilight meeting" or "joys & sorrows" at the end of meeting? How does Meeting for Worship spill over into the life of the meeting and the lives of its members through out the week?

Reflection questions:
1. What practice of "centering" or moving from regular thoughts/concerns into deeper worship do you use?
2. Do you feel that you have experienced "gathered worship"?
3. Have you experienced a similar sense of the almost tangible presence of God in other settings, such as during personal prayer, in nature, a cathedral, a concert, a wedding or funeral?
4. To what extent do you experience vocal ministry in the meetings you have attended as being spirit-led?
5. Have you ever felt "called" to speak? How did you respond?
Extracts: # 45-93, 138-50 (on p. 100ff.), Query #1 (p. 206)

WEEK 4 - Meeting for Business

Quaker decision-making is a form of corporate discernment of God's will for the faith community. Most decision-making for religious groups has been done in one of two ways characteristic of human societies in general, namely:
1. Top down hierarchical decision-making (e.g. Pope over archbishop over bishop over priest/ over laity in the Catholic Church, military, most businesses) or
2. Some form of "majority rule" (e.g. in many Protestant denominations, the congregation votes on important questions, including selection of a new pastor.)

Quakers developed over the past 300 years a unique form of decision-making that is radically egalitarian not only in that each participant has an equal voice, but in that small minorities are honored and listened to and even given the power to stand in the way of decisions in many instances. It is not, however, the same as consensual decision-making which involves a horizontal attempt to find agreement among those that make up the group Instead it is an egalitarian & participatory method by which a group can discover or hear what God is saying to them.

This a fragile enterprise. It can deteriorate into gridlock, inefficiency, "tyranny of the articulate" and even schism. Some of the components necessary for success include:
1. A culture in the meeting in which members understand the purpose of the process
2. Careful preparation of items in advance of business meeting including sorting out which items really need to come to the meeting for decisions. This makes it possible to move more slowly and prayerfully through the really important issues before the meeting.
3. An atmosphere of expectant waiting upon God during the meeting for business. (It may be referred to as a "meeting for worship for the purpose of decision-making.")
4. A willingness of those present to share their own sense of what God is asking the group to do in a manner that allows and respects differing discernments of this from other members of the group.
5. A skilled and assertive clerk (facilitator of the meeting for business) able to discern the "sense of the meeting" (or what God appears to be asking the group to do) through the different expressions from the membership. This is a challenging and powerful form of spiritual leadership.
6. Patience and a sense of confidence that the process can work well as intended.

It is interesting that in some spiritual communities the "highest office" is that of priest (one who is permitted to carry out special religious rites or ceremonies. In others it is a person skilled at preaching. In non-pastoral Quaker meetings today, our highest "office" is a person charged with helping us to discover God's voice for the group in meeting for business.

Reflection questions:
1. To what extent have you experienced Quaker business or committee meetings as a form of worshipful waiting upon Divine Guidance in Schuylkill Meeting? In Philadelphia Yearly Meeting?
2. What do you see as some of the major roadblocks to this form of decision-making working as it is intended?
3. What do see as possible barriers in your self to your own fruitful and prayerful participation in this process?
4. Are good clerks born or made? If they are made, what do or could our meetings do to help nurture the skill of clerking as a key form of spiritual leadership?

Extracts: # 1, 5, 126-37. Query #2 (p. 206)

WEEK 5 - The Testimonies

The word "testimonies" is a special term used by Friends to refer both to standards to guide individual Friends behavior in specific areas and to our witness to the wider society in that particular area. These are not simply individual lifestyle decisions or witnesses but principles around which Quakers have developed a broad degree of agreement as a religious society. Because of the grassroots form of decision-making in the Religious Society of Friends, there is no definitive list of the testimonies, nor is there agreement on exactly what these testimonies require or mean in the detail. The list I like to use includes 5 testimonies:

Integrity - Although this testimony is on everyone's "list", the name for it varies. Friends have always had strong opposition to use of oaths as a form of double standard in truth speaking. Early Friends benefited economically from their reputation for scrupulous honesty. As a result, many major economic institutions in Pennsylvania trace Quaker roots. Consistent honesty in one's life and economic affairs is an endangered species today when most people accept it as being acceptable to cheat on taxes or with large corporations.

Simplicity - Until the end of the 19th century most Friends wore "plain" clothes (somewhat similar to the Amish today) as a testimony against the "world's" fashions. Margaret Fell loved to wear colorful clothes and was outspoken in her opposition to this interpretation of simplicity. Only a handful of Friends mainly in the "Conservative" yearly meetings follow this testimony today.
Nonetheless, the testimony remains an important one for Friends today. Some try to live simply as a way of avoiding distraction from a life attuned to God. Others do so out of concern for econ. justice & the violence that arises from affluent lifestyles. John Woolman wrote and lived a life that addressed both reasons for simplicity with great eloquence. Environmental concerns offer new reasons for practicing this testimony.

Equality - This has been a key issue for Friends from the beginning. Friends have played a leading role in allowing women to take leadership roles along with men. Support for women's suffrage and opposition to slavery were more controversial among Friends than is often remembered today. Concerns about discrimination based on age, economic class, disabilities and sexual orientation are also strong among many Friends today. Some include another testimony on "community" (or care for others' needs).

Peace - Early Christians generally refused to participate in military service. Quakers made their first public statements in opposition to participation in outward warfare in 1660. They are considered one of the "Historic Peace Churches" along with Amish, Mennonites, Brethren and several smaller denominations. Although participation in the military may have led to disownment in some meetings in previous centuries, many Friends participated in the two world wars with at least the passive acquiescence of their meetings. Meetings vary greatly how actively they wrestle with individual Friends on this issue.

Unity with Nature. Many Yearly Meetings have adopted sections of their discipline and queries in this area in recent years. The general thrust is that God wishes for human communities to live in harmony with the natural world and to stop living in a manner that does violence to the non-human parts of creation. Friends can live out this concern by spiritual changes in their human-centered way of looking at things, living more simply, and being involved in a wide range of environmentally-oriented actions both as individual families and as a faith community. There is a widespread sense that this is an important area of concern to Friends although little consensus among Friends on specifics.

Newer testimonies. The testimonies are always evolving. As a result individual Friends, Quaker committees, conferences, monthly meetings, etc. have suggested new testimonies from time to time. Examples include new testimonies on everything from sexual ethics to music.

Reflection questions:
Which of the testimonies listed "speak to you" deeply?
Which ones make you uncomfortable?
Are there others you feel should be added to the list?

Extracts #15, 35, 44, 195-297. Queries # 6-8, 10-12 (on p. 210ff.)

QUAKER TESTIMONIES NEW & OLD

Integrity (or Speaking truth)
Early applications:
Refusal of oaths
Plain speech
Commercial honesty (e.g. refusal to haggle prices)

Other possibilities:
Cheating on income taxes
Software theft

Simplicity (or "Purity")
Early applications:
Plain dress
Rejection of "world's" holidays / feast days
Rejection of musical instruments, choral singing, dancing, gambling
Traditional sexual values (no sex outside of traditional marriage)

Later appllications:
Drugs and alcohol use / abuse

Other possibilities
TV, internet abuse
Wearing suit & ties. Jeans
Personal spiritual disciplines
Fasting

Equality
Early application:
Hat honor (still enforced in courtrooms!)
Honorifics in speech (e.g. plural address to superiors)
Gender roles

Later applications:
Slavery
Women's suffrage
Prison reform

Recent extensions:
Rights of disabled people
Sexual orientation (discrimination against gays)

Other possibilities:
Socialism
Use of titles, degrees, current honorifics (e.g. "Your Honor", "The Honorable...")

Peace
Beginnings: Limited to personal non-participation
Early justification: "We do not fight with outward weapons." (cf. rejection of outward sacraments)

Later: Extended to "political peacemaking" (organizing opposiion to governmental policies"
The "seeds of war" in personal possessions & lifestyle (John Woolman)
Later justifications:
"That of God in everyone"
Turn the other cheek
Political rationale in terms of role in international relations, domestic priorities, etc.

Recent extension:
Refusing taxes that go to war (similar to earlier refusal of tithes)
Capital punishment

Other possibilities:
Vegetarianism
Violence towards women
Violence towards the environment

Unity with Nature
Overlap with simplicity
Extensions of peace and equality) to all of creation (beyond just to other humans)

WEEK 6 - The Meeting Community

In previous centuries, Quakers were sharply "set apart" from the surrounding community by clothing, language, celebration of holidays, recreational pursuits, etc. The meeting community actively intervened to maintain the distinctiveness and cohesion of the meeting family.

Today, we are far less set apart from our neighbors, at least in outward things. Many of us would be unwilling for the meeting to intervene in matter's which we consider our own private concerns. For better or for worse, Friends place a high value today on individualism. Nonetheless, the pendulum has swung back somewhat in recent years, with Friends more willing to engage with each other actively around critical issues of belief and lifestyle. Here are some examples.

Clearness committees. Many meetings take very seriously their role in testing the rightness of decisions for marriage or membership. Friends also have begun to ask that clearness committees be set up to assist them in hearing God's voice regarding other personal decisioins such as around education, jobs, or a leading to carry out a form of ministry.

Sexuality. Friends used to hold to traditional values that sex should be limited to traditional monogamous heterosexual marriage. There is significantly less consensus on this today, at least in liberal unprogrammed meetings. Many meetings have offered support to committed gay couples through holding weddings or "ceremonies of commitment". Others feel that Friends need to offer more active guidance towards our members regarding sexual ethics (premarital sex, fidelity to marriage, pornography, etc.)

Nurturance of gifts. In the past meeting elders had a special ability for recognizing and supporting individual members who had a gift for vocal ministry. Some meetings have gone through a process for identifying and supporting a variety of gifts in their members.

Spiritual formation. A variety of approaches are available for deepening the spiritual life of members. These include meeting retreats, ongoing spiritual formation groups, spiritual direction and developing one-to-one spiritual friendships with another Friend.

Membership. Membership does not seem to mean a great deal in many meetings. The Meeting may have a number of members on its rolls who have minimal involvement in the life of the meeting. On the other hand, there may be individuals who are extremely active in the life of the meeting who have never joined. What is the impact of parents enrolling their children as full members of the meeting - under a system where such members are never required to take an affirmative action of choosing to be members on their own when they reach maturity?

Accountability groups. This is a modern version of the old-fashioned Quaker meeting in which members took spiritual responsibility for each others' lives. This is often done in smaller groups than a whole meeting.

Reflection questions:
1. What are you looking for from the meeting?
2. Are there areas in which you would like the meeting to be more involved in your personal or family life? Less involved?
3. Do you feel that the meeting is doing everything it can to support and nurture the spiritual development of the membership? How could this go further?

Extracts #151-94 (on pp. 129-44). Queries # 3, 4, 9 (on p. 207ff.)

REFLECTIONS ON MEMBERSHIP

What does membership in a meeting or in Friends actually mean?

Being "members of one body (arms & legs)
Paul's passage on gifts
The church as "Christ's body"
The equivalent in terms of faith community of marriage vow?
Annual vs. lifetime vows

"Paper membership" (where many active participants are not members and many members are not active)
Membership is always in a local meeting
Philadelphia YM discipline does not allow dual membership (in 2 faith traditions) though some mtgs ignore this rule.

Joining
"Convincement" vs. "conversion" (the term used by most faith communities)
A large % of Quakers have come in by convincement in each generation

Letter of application
Meeting of clearness
How high is the bar - theology, lifestyle, Testimonies

Role of children
Birthright membership
Membership by parental request
Role of baptism in "Anabaptist" tradition (adult choice to join the church community)
Confirmation
Chronic weakness in terms of "keeping" our children as Friends???

Discipline
The meeting used to enforce lifestyle standards via process called "eldering"
Today it is usually limited to very disruptive role in worship and/or community life or other severe violations of community role (e.g. sexual abuse or harassment)

Flip side: How do we support each other? (emotionally, financially, clearness, support for ministries, etc.)

Separation
Disownment is a public distancing from a person separated from membership to avoid public confusion (example of Richard Nixon)
The most common reason was for "marrying out"
Other churches practice excommunication (refusal of sacraments), shunning (barring of social contact)

Requests to terminate membership are often limited to total inactivity including refusal to respond to letters and longstanding financial non-participation - often linked to meeting's financial obligation to YM!
Today they are unlikely to be related to either theology or lifestyle
Nostalgic membership - need for a new category of "affiliate" member?

Reading List for Quakerism 101 Class

Main text: Faith and Practice (the "book of discipline") of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1997
Pendle Hill pamphlets listed are available for purchase during class series.

Week 1 - The Beginnings of Quakerism
F&P pp. 1-4 (can read the rest of history to p. 15 if you like, though we'll focus on 17th c.)
Extracts # 2, 4, 6-14, 16, 39 (on p. 86ff.)
Further reading: Glossary in F & P (pp. 215-21 - espec. for those fairly new to Friends)
John Punshon, Portrait in Gray, chaps. 2-4 - or just Chap. 3.

Week 2 - "The Inward Light"
F&P pp. 16-17. Extracts # 3, 17-27 (on p. 87ff.). Can also dip into #94-125 if you have time.
Further reading: Thomas Kelly: A Testament of Devotion (section on Inward Light).

Week 3 - Meeting for Worship
F&P pp. 17-21. Extracts # 45-93, 138-50 (on p. 100ff.), Query #1 (p. 206)
Further reading: Bill Taber: Four Doors to Meeting for Worship (PH pamphlet #306)
Handout: Excerpts from various YM disciplines

Week 4 - Meeting for Business
F&P p. 21-28, Extracts # 1, 5, 126-37. Query #2 (p. 206)
Further reading:
Barry Morley, Beyond Consensus: Salvaging Sense of the Meeting (PH pamphlet #307)
Michael Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless Decisions in the Religious Society of Friends (Part II, chaps 1, 2, 3, 5) Written by a Jesuit priest who studied extensively Philadelphia YM's decision-making process.

Week 5 - The Testimonies
F & P pp. 65-7, 74-81, Extracts #15, 35, 44, 195-297, Queries # 6-8, 10-12 (on p. 210ff.)
Further reading:
"A Perspective on the Peace Testimony", by John Andrew Gallery, in the Nov. 2002 issue of Friends Journal. Available online at: http://www.friendsjournal.org/contents/2002/11november/feature.html
David Morse, Testimony: John Woolman on Today's Global Economy (PH Pamphlet #356).
John Woolman, A Plea for the Poor (appended to most editions of his Journal)
Elaine Prevallet, Reflections on Simplicity (PH Pamphlet #244)
Sandra Cronk, Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of the Faithful Church Community (PH pamph #297), pp. 9-13

Week 6 - The Meeting Community
F & P section of extracts on religious experience (Extracts #151-94 on pp. 129-44).
On membership pp 34-43, clearness committees p 29, minutes of travel p 57
pp. 68-74 on marriage, sexuality & addictions
Queries # 3, 4, 9 (on p. 207ff.)
Further reading:
Tom Gates, Members One of Another: The Dynamics of Membership in Quaker Meeting (PH Pamphlet #371)
Patricia Loring, Spiritual Discernment: the context & goal of clearness committees (PH pamphlet #305)
Sandra Cronk, Gospel Order: Quaker Understanding of Faithful Church Community (PH pamphlet #297) pp. 21-31.

© 2004 Peter Blood

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Quote that speaks to me

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies

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They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.  
Death cannot kill what never dies.  
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.  
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this Divine Glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
 - William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude, 1702.

Note: This passage was quoted by J.K.Rowling as the epigraph of her novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Braithwaite on Outreach

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Men & Women with a Message of Power

It is as a "religion of life" that Quakerism will be presented in the future and is being presented now.

Its distinguishing note will be its resolve to bring all this human life of ours under the transforming power of spiritual life.  It will stand out against all divisions and compartments that separate the sacred from the secular, the sanctuary from the outward world of nature, the sacrament from the days' common work, the clergy from the laity. 

It will tell of a Christian experience that makes all life sacred and all days holy, all nature a sanctuary, all work a sacrament, and gives to every man and woman in the body fit place and service.  Its concern will be to multiply men and women who will have a message of power because they are themselves the children of light.  It will claim the whole of man's life, and the whole of life, individual, social, national international, for the dominion of the will of God.

William C. Braithwaite and Henry T. Hodgkin, The Message and Mission of Quakerism (Philadelphia, Winston, 1912), 25-26.