Friday, April 18, 2008

Fare forward voyager

I have been putting together a book of contacts - mostly Quakers - for my sons which I hope will be a help for them on their year-long jouney round the world. On Sunday I will give it to them and say goodbye. I know that we will be in touch through email, Facebook and even this blog, but of course I will miss them. I am glad that they are going on this adventure and I expect it will be the beginning of a new phase in their lives and perhaps in mine, but it is hard not to worry.

On Monday my husband and I are going on a journey too - to America for nearly 3 weeks. Our main reason for going is to attend the QUIP [Quakers Uniting in Publications] conference in North Carolina but we are having a holiday too and going to Chicago, Cleveland and New York. I have to admit that I am worrying about this too. Partly this is my usual anxiety about flying but there are also difficult issues to be addressed at the conference and as the recording clerk I feel partly responsible. The changing face of Quaker publications means that our organisation will have to change too and I know that change can be difficult. On the other hand of course it can be liberating and even exciting. I will report back here later!

One part of the conference I am really looking forward to is a panel on Quaker blogging with Robin M and Will Taber which I am moderating. It will be great to meet with some of the bloggers I have encountered through their writing face to face and to talk about all things blog. One of the questions I would like to explore is why it seems there are so many more American Quaker bloggers than British and European ones. It is such a pity that I could not persuade another British blogger to attend.

Yesterday I was copying out more of Mary Waterhouse's diary when I came upon this passage -

"I have frequently thought lately that I must make mention of the mercy shewn me in being, as I trust, less anxious than I used to be. When a careful thought comes over me – anxiety about any one or anything, it is often turned into a prayer, before it resolves itself into a care. For this surely I may say 'Bless the Lord O my soul! & forget not all His benefits'."

Yet again this voice from the past speaks to my present condition and I will try to emulate her if I can.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Words from the past

One of the things I am doing in my retirement is transcribing four volumes of manuscript journals written between 1825 and 1880 by the Quaker Mary Bevan Waterhouse (1805-1880), mother of eight children including the architect Alfred Waterhouse. They are mainly concerned with her spiritual life as an evangelical Quaker and recorded minister in 19th century Britain but also give insights into her family and social life.

I came upon this manuscript while working in the Special Collections of Reading University Library and was really excited to find that it still existed. I had read the extracts that had been privately published by her son Edwin in 1907 but in his preface he said that he intended to destroy the original as it was no longer needed! I am so glad he had not done that and that Mary's handwritten exercise books, bound later into 4 volumes, had been presented to Reading in 1968.

I am working through the manuscript slowly, going to the reading room about one day a week, and transcribing in chronological order. So far I have got to 1847. I expected to find the task interesting, to find out more about 19th century Quakers and Quakerism. I expected that what I read would fit in with my long-standing interest in spiritual autobiography. What I didn't expect was that Mary would speak to me personally.

Mary has a lot to say about being thankful for God's mercies and often rejoices in the loving-kindness of the Lord. I know that I too have much to be thankful for and that I need to be more mindful of this loving-kindness in my life. The last time I was working on her diary Mary was anxious about the safety of her children when they were away from her and reminded herself to leave them with confidence in the care of God. My two sons, aged 29 and 25, are about to go travelling round the world for a year and I needed Mary's words myself.