On October 26 I took part in an interesting phone workshop on Quaker history sponsored by the Western Friend. It was the first online workshop I have ever taken part in, and I want to commend Mary Klein for organizing it and for providing excellent background readings and good questions to ponder. It worked extremely well. I was able to hear and see everyone clearly.
Our discussion began with a Friend pointing out that our Quaker identity depends in great measure on knowledge of our history, and I agree. I once heard James Baldwin say, “To know where we are going, we need to know who we are. To know who we are, we have to know where we have been.” These words ring true. History helps us to know where we came from, who we are, and how we can chart our future. Several Friends spoke about how studying Quaker history was important for their spiritual formation as Friends. Knowing our history also helps us collectively to be a faith-based community sharing a common vision and goals.
For me, history has many uses, but the most important one for me personally is to help me to figure out my place in an ongoing saga that is sacred as well as secular. As a person of faith, I believe that history is not just a series of random or predetermined events (or as Toynbee said facetiously, “one damned thing after another”). To me, it is an unfolding story in which a Divine intention is being revealed through our human choices and actions, guided by the Spirit, and also through Divine interventions like the death and resurrection of Christ. I feel as if the work I do, modest as it is, contributes to the redemptive story that we see revealed in the Bible and in the lives of people like George Fox, John Woolman, Lucretia Mott, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. I hope to continue studying, writing (and making) Quaker history for as long as God sees fit to let me do so.
[This text was excerpted from a blog post that you can find at: westernfriend.org/library.]
– Anthony Manousos, Orange Grove Meeting, Pasadena, CA (PYM)