Friday, May 08, 2015
Britain Yearly Meeting this year was particularly inspiring and we wrote minutes that committed us to work for peace, justice and equality. It is easy to be cynical and think of these as just words but I am convinced that there is a spirit alive among us that will lead us on to action. I hope there is.
For me the decision to hope, while still acknowledging the despair around us and the obstacles that we will have to overcome, is one I can unite with. I found it best expressed in the concluding minute to Yearly Meeting.
"'I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that also I saw the infinite love of God.'
(George Fox, 1647)
We have set off once again from this Yearly Meeting on the long journey illumined by the Love of God, to challenge the principalities and powers of this world, and to work towards the establishment of the peaceable Kingdom. May we travel in hope, loving both our fellow travellers and those who will oppose us, and pray that in our travellings the light may break in upon us more and more."
Saturday, April 11, 2015
|Company At Play from The Comforts of Bath by Rowlandson 1798|
In 1775, when she was 18, Priscilla went on an extended visit to her Norfolk relations and while she was there refused a marriage proposal from a young Quaker. This visit also brought into focus the spiritual dilemmas she was facing. For several years afterwards she was torn between the influence of her Quaker relations and that of her worldly friends in Bath, one of whom was zealous in urging Priscilla to convert to the Church of England. Eventually Priscilla, wanting to please her friend, was baptized and attended church services but was still unsatisfied. Her Quaker relations talked and wrote to her and gave her Quaker books to read. She tried to blot out the inner voice she heard saying "I must be a Quaker" by going to balls, concerts and plays in Bath, but the mental anguish of her spiritual struggle made her ill.
|Barclay's Apology title-page|
When Priscilla was 27 she turned down another proposal from a young Quaker to whom she had at first been attracted. He refused to accept her rejection, trying to hold her to an 'understanding' which she did not feel they had, and harassing her both personally and through his family and friends. This emotional pressure made her ill and she took to her bed where she was visited by several weighty Friends. Among them was Mary Davis of Minehead, who befriended Priscilla, introduced her to Richard Reynolds and his wife Rebecca and took her to visit them at their home in Coalbrookdale.
|Dale House, Coalbrookdale|
Priscilla, described by a friend as 'small in person, beautiful in countenance, elegant in manner', was the ideal person for her young cousin Elizabeth Gurney (later Fry) to be sent to visit in 1798 when she too was going through a spiritual struggle. Priscilla acted as a calm and sympathetic influence and introduced Elizabeth to Deborah Darby, who prophesied her future service.
|Mary Ann Schmmelpenninck|
In spite of Priscilla's misgivings about publishing her spiritual autobiography Memoirs of the Life and Religious Experience of Priscilla Hannah Gurney edited by S. Allen was issued in 1834, only six years after her death. Much of its interest lies in what it tells us about the struggles of one brought up both among Friends and 'in the world'. Priscilla Hannah is referred to by both her names because there was a contemporary Priscilla Gurney who was also a minister.
Monday, March 30, 2015
|A drawing of Caroline Fox in 1846 by Samuel Lawrence|
Caroline and her brother and sister were educated at home - writing essays, reading, learning domestic skills and taking plenty of exercise.They were concerned with the welfare of the local people from an early age and conceived the idea for the foundation of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1832 when Anna Maria, Barclay and Caroline were 17, 16 and 13, respectively. This became more than an idea as their parents, uncles and aunts and their friends took up the proposal with enthusiasm and made it a reality.
|Anna Maria Fox in old age|
Until she was twenty-one Caroline's life was placid. Her time was spent at home, with occasional visits to London and Bristol. However in 1840 she made the acquaintance of John Sterling, a writer, radical and friend of Coleridge and Carlyle. The two became friends, even though he was twelve years older than Caroline, married and the father of five children. Then in 1843 Sterling's wife died after giving birth to their sixth child and he and Caroline grew closer.
The couple entered into an engagement but the match was strenuously opposed by Caroline's family, who disapproved of Sterling's lack of Christian belief. Caroline regretfully withdrew from the engagement and a further blow fell when, less than a year later, Sterling died of the consumption he had suffered from all his life.
From now on Caroline gave up all thought of personal happiness. At first she suffered from depression and then threw herself into good works. She found that her experience of suffering enabled her to enter into the feelings of the poor and the bereaved. She became much more serious in her approach to religion and was influenced by the writings of the Christian Socialist, Frederick Denison Maurice. She formulated a broader definition of Quakerism for herself and wrote in 1846
'I have assumed a name today for my religious principles - Quaker-Catholicism - having direct spiritual teaching for its distinctive dogma, yet recognising the high worth of all other forms of Faith: a system, in the sense of inclusion, not exclusion; an appreciation of the universal and the various teachings of the Spirit,, through the faculties given to us, or independent of them.'
More family sorrows afflicted Caroline. In 1855 her brother Barclay died of consumption in Egypt, in 1858 her mother died and in 1860 her sister-in law, Barclays widow, Jane Fox died, also of consumption, in France. This last loss brought Caroline and her sister Anna Maria an added responsibility in the shape of their nephews Robert, George, Henry and Gurney, then aged 14, 13, 11 and 9, whose guardians they became.
|Caroline and Anna Maria Fox's gravestone|