Quaker Quicks - Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times
An invitation to learn from the Quakers about being “angelic troublemakers” in these difficult times!
An invitation to learn from the Quakers about being “angelic troublemakers” in these difficult times!
This book invites all people of faith to consider how our personal and communal faith practices in growing deeper spirituality should bring us to a fresh engagement with the needs of this world. This includes being active in promoting those values which align with our understanding of the gospel and standing against injustice, oppression, and evil inflicted on any of God’s children. Such activism, rooted in deep spirituality, may include being what Quaker civil rights activist Bayard Rustin called “angelic troublemakers.”
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Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times: Lessons from the Quakers on Blending Faith, Daily Life, and Activism J. Brent Bill (Christian Alternative) $10.95 OUR SALE PRICE = $8.76 This book is short, slim, fun, interesting, and, for somebody like me who is not a Quaker, very informative and helpful. For someone who has read a bit about the blending of a contemplative sort of spirituality and a journey outward towards public engagement and a bit of social activism, this, truly, is a delight. Quakers were sometimes called “angelic troublemakers” and this is a great invitation to learn about their serenity and hope. Even if they are pretty quiet about it. I love this author — we’ve carried more substantive books of his over the years (most recently, a lovely Paraclete title Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love: Four Essentials for the Abundant Life.) He has written about spiritual discernment (Sacred Compass) about the spirituality of wonder in everyday life (Awaken Your Senses) and one called Holy Silence. And who can forget his hilarious Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker? This little book, which is only 70 pages if you count the footnotes, is not exactly about peacemaking or even about conflict and civility in our polarized culture. But, yet. Yes, it sort of is. He tells us a bit about the Friends movement and he invites us to humble faith practices that just might help us provide some sort of fresh relationship with the world around us. He calls us to an activism that is rooted in a deep spirituality and a prophetic witness that is bold, but always respectful. As one chapter puts it, we can be involved in “Doing Good While Being Good.” He says, bluntly at one point, that genuinely spiritual activism “must go beyond partisanship.” Right on. He quotes his friend singer/songwriter (and Quaker) Carrie Newcomer from time to time. I hope you know the song that goes like this: The shadows of this world will say / There’s no hope, why try anyway? But every kindness large or slight / Shifts the balance toward the light. -by Byron Bolger ~ Hearts and Minds Books
Bill is a US Quaker firmly rooted in the ‘Christocentric’tradition. In this short book, he shows how action in the world can be a response to spiritual life. The author makes it clear that his faith base is not only 'that of God’ in all but being a ‘friend of Christ’. ‘As children of God, friends of Jesus, we are invited to work with God in the redemption of the world in ways that free our souls while caring for others. Progressive Voices Issue 40 - March '22 ~ Progressive Voices , Review
Prolific author and “public Friend” J. Brent Bill draws on his extensive experience among the different communities of the Religious Society of Friends in writing about “lessons from the Quakers on blending faith, daily life, and activism.” His book not only shares some of the timeless wisdom Quakers have to offer, but it is timely as well. Beginning with an observation on “thoughts and prayers” vs. “activism” in response to the latest tragedies, Bill offers the response of “It’s not either/or but both/and.” He goes on to cite William Penn’s familiar statement: “True godliness doesn’t turn us out of the world, but enables us to live better in it, and excites our endeavors to mend it.” Following his brief introduction to the origins of Quakerism during the English Civil War, Bill places Quaker social and religious concern in the context of a radical attempt at re-making society rather than mere “do-goodism.” Examples of “doing good” rooted in Quaker spiritual concern are shared, including the 1688 Germantown Petition against slavery; concern for Native American rights; the Quaker delegation’s visit to the Nazis in 1938 with a plan to enable Jews to leave Germany; and the current work of Friends Peace Teams, Quaker Voluntary Service, and Earth Quaker Action Team. This is no hagiography, however; Bill points out the failings of Friends regarding racism, colonialism, and supremacy. Quakers, too, have been products of their time. But how might we learn from that past and try to avoid those failings? Spiritual practices must be adopted: “our inner lives must be study halls for learning the way of personal peace.” We must practice discernment in spiritual community. Overwork must be avoided. In the words of Thomas Kelly, “We cannot die on every cross.” Our activism must emphasize what we are for, not just what we are against. Bill’s advice about grounding leadings in Quaker practice of discernment bears similarity to guidance about when to speak out of the silence in worship: Is this a leading from the Holy Spirit, or is this from my own desire to impress others? Is this consistent with Truth as experienced by my community of faith? Is this for now or for later? An interior “clearness committee” is helpful, as is an actual one. Addressing how Quaker work differs from other activism, the author links Friends social commitments to the traditional testimonies. Using the shorthand version of the SPICES, he describes the interconnectedness of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship of the earth. An integrated life of prayer, spiritual discernment, and action in the world that is grounded in the Quaker testimonies, Bill asserts, can give us hope “in this thick night of Darkness.” This brief book (I read it while waiting in the car during my wife’s medical appointment!) will serve as a helpful primer for those seeking hope in admittedly dark times. For Quakers familiar with these resources, it is a reminder of the riches of our tradition—not only of the “giants” of the past but also of the contemporaries among us and the Quaker organizations giving voice and example to our testimonies. It is not a comprehensive history of Quaker spiritual and social activism, nor does it intend to be. If a bit longer, it could helpfully include more than the SPICES interpretation of Friends testimonies. It would have been insightful to offer more of the complex history of Quaker antislavery work, work with Native Americans, and contemporary controversies about Quaker social activism. The book’s critique of Quaker “niceness” could also be helped with specific examples from the present in addition to those of the past. As a primer, though, Brent Bill’s offerings are helpful: not only in addressing how to find hope in difficult times but also in how to find a creative way forward in dealing with the toxic nature of our interpersonal relations in polarized times by seeking that of God in others, careful discernment, seeking clearness, prayer, and escaping our echo chambers. And often . . . silence! by Max L. Carter is a member of New Garden Meeting (North Carolina Fellowship of Friends) and a retired Quaker educator, most recently at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. His Palestine and Israel: A Personal Encounter was recently reviewed in Friends Journal. ~ Friends Journal, https://www.friendsjournal.org/book/hope-and-witness-in-dangerous-times-lessons-from-the-quakers-on-blending-faith-daily-life-and-activism/
In this instructive volume, Quaker minister and conservationist Bill (Holy Silence) lays out strategies for using prayer and direct action to create change. The hallmark of Quaker faith, Bill explains, is the belief that, after tragedy strikes, “thoughts and prayers” should work hand in hand with activism to accomplish meaningful change. After a brief introduction to the Quakers’ history of fighting injustices such as slavery and gender inequality, Bill presents methods for achieving social and political change. For example, one’s activism should be framed in terms of what one is for, as opposed to what one is against. Also, rather than trying to tackle all the world’s problems, it’s better to narrow one’s scope to a specific issue by considering the question, What am I called to do? Ultimately, the Quaker worldview teaches that, as people do good acts, they must maintain pure spiritual intention: “We are invited to work with God in the redemption of the world in ways that feed our souls while caring for others.” Bill’s short, practical lessons on incorporating spiritual wisdom with activism will inspire socially conscious spiritualists of any stripe. ~ Publishers Weekly, http://www.publishersweekly.com/9781789046199
In these troubling times it’s easy to feel “I’m too insignificant to make a difference”. Brent Bill draws deeply on age-old and modern Quaker insights to show how each of us how can find our own way forward from hopelessness, and move through contemplation and onward into action. He suggests that effective engagement in large and small issues needs to be based on faith, prayer and love of other people (yes, every one of them!) And he firmly calls us to do something. As he says, "After all, if faith matters, it has to matter now!”. ~ John Lampen, author of Quaker Roots and Branches.
Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times is at once simple, accessible and profound. It offers straightforward spiritual insights grounded in Quaker practice on how to live with integrity while seeking, in whatever way we are called, to help heal ourselves and the world around us. Brent Bill has shown once more why so many of us turn to his writings to ground our spiritual journey. Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times is a tonic for the weary and a reminder of how we can live a life of wholeness in a chaotic time. ~ Barry Crossno, General Secretary, Friends General Conference
In this little book full of interesting insights and practical stories we learn how, in Quaker experience, hope and witness take root in the life of the Spirit. As individuals and society we all have unique experiences and blind spots, so we are exhorted not to judge and to back the efforts of others. With love as the prime motivation, Quaker worship and business method are anchors for finding God's direction for each of us, helping us to be wholly integrated people. ~ Judith Baker, British Quaker Conciliator
Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times is very simple but powerful at the same time, just as love and faith are. This book reminds us of the integrality that Christianity and any spirituality must have. It will be a real light in the lives of many people and situations. ~ Miguel Costop, Director, PROGRESA: The Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program
J. Brent Bill draws us into the depths of the Quaker spiritual imperative for action in the world, by providing very useful Quaker history and consideration for how our actions are rooted in the life of the spirit, in community, in worship, in prayer, and in love. He provides a reminder that even while we feel called to address injustice, we must examine our own blindness - our humanness - and it is by tending to the inner life that we embody God’s spirit as the source of power. Brent challenges us to ask ourselves, “What is mine/ours to do?”, discerning Jesus’ example to be less critical and more invitational in how we live and act. Get ready to feel inspired! ~ Gretchen Castle, General Secretary, Friends World Committee for Consultation – World Office (Quakers)
Brent Bill's Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times, is an inspiring meld of Quaker history and day to day practices to deal with the challenges of today; a handbook, if you will, for facing the unknown with a surety and faith that truly transcends centuries. ~ Noel Paul Stookey, singer/songwriter/activist, “Paul” of Peter, Paul & Mary