The Call to Radical Faithfulness (review)

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The Call to Radical Faithfulness:
Covenant in Quaker Experience
Written by Douglas Gwyn
Reviewed by Liz Baker

In less than one hundred pages of concise, nuanced writing, Doug Gwyn brings us the best way to see ourselves as Quakers. He uses quotations from all ages of Friends to illustrate his points; and with skillful use of italics, he highlights the core of each message. Look for these italics! They count!!

Gwyn includes voices of fresh older Friends to help us see ourselves, as well as voices of newer and younger Friends who can speak to our condition. At the end of the book, he includes chapters on what it means to be in covenant with God and with each other. My favorite is the chapter on “hospitality as a covenant,” in which he describes how we can be hospitable in ways other than sharing bed and board, however important those may be.

Gwyn also describes meeting for worship and meeting for business as covenants, not only with the Divine Presence, but also with each other. Because he often uses the Bible to illustrate his points, Friends who read the Bible regularly will especially find Gwyn’s writing helpful and incisive.

The point that has stayed with me the most, I think, is presented early in the book, when Gwyn writes about early Friends’ responses to the crises of their time. He points out that most Christians have faith in Christ, but James Parnell, an early Quaker, had the faith of Christ. How do we as modern Quakers have the faith of Christ? Our testimonies attest to our response to that faith.

In his chapter on testimonies, Gwyn continues pointing out ways that our work in the world is our response to that faith. There is a covenant we make with God and the world when we act in the world to make it better. In this, Gwyn includes a nuanced way of looking at our natural world.

This is a great book for people who are new to Friends and also for those like me, who have been around a long time. ~~~

Liz Baker is a member of Sacramento Friends Meeting (PYM).