Exploring and Experimenting Beyond Quakerism

October 26, 2021 | Nils Klinkenberg

Sarah Gant delivering the 2021 Weed Memorial Lecture to a hybrid audience
Sarah Gant delivering the 2021 Weed Memorial Lecture

Dear Friends,

Some of the public programs of the Friends House — such as last Sunday’s annual Weed Memorial Lecture, movingly delivered by Sarah Gant (here’s the video recording!) — offer a “deep dive” into Quaker spirituality, study, history, or theology.

However, many more of our events fall near (to extend the metaphor) the other end of the pool: providing approachable and accessible ways to explore elements of Quaker thought, faith, and practice, regardless of one’s religious identity or background. You may notice that many of our programs are presented as “experiments” or “explorations.”

And this is also true of the largest and oldest program of the Friends House: our residential community, now 64 years strong. To my knowledge, it’s always been true that non-Quakers have outnumbered Quaker residents in the Friends House, but that’s part of how the instituion works — we don’t need to be Quaker to learn from Quakerism, and above all to learn from each other, in an atmosphere of curiosity and mutual support and respect. It’s been a joy to experience that in my time at BHFH and now to be part of bringing that spirit to a broader audience through our online programming.

In a time of shifting cultural norms, and as an increasing share of Americans — especially younger generations — don’t identify with any specific religious tradition (including those who left the religion of their upbringing and those who identify as “spiritual but not religious”), I’m proud that the Friends House is continuing to provide a place for coming together around questions of meaning and mattering in ways that both draw on Quaker traditions and hold plenty of space for difference.

I’m also excited to invite you to the upcoming events described below – and to those we haven’t planned yet. Thanks for being part of our community as we experiment and explore together.

-Nils Klinkenberg, BHFH Executive Director

P.S. Early next week I’ll be part of a public conversation that relates to some of the topics above — generational transitions and leadership development within, and outside of, the Religious Society of Friends — with Diane Randall, General Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), the Quaker lobby in Washington. I’m looking forward to discussing topics such as:

  • What leadership means in a Quaker context
  • How “generational transition” in Quakerism might look different than we think, and isn’t just about age
  • Is the Religious Society of Friends a garden or a forest?

The (free) event is Monday November 1 at 7:00PM on Zoom, hosted jointly by FCNL and New England Yearly Meeting. I’m excited to be a part of it – and if this topic interests you I’d love to see you there. You can register here.

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