Thursday, January 12, 2017

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - T for Truth

In these days of post-truth and bare-faced lies in public discourse I am convinced that it is more than ever important for Friends to stand firm in their testimony for the truth in whatever form that manifests itself.

When I went to work in Friends House Library in London and first consciously encountered Quakers, one of the things which most impressed me was the carefulness with which my questions were answered. I was often required to wait while a sufficiently truthful answer was thought about and given and I learned to love that weighty pause.

I learned to be careful in my own speech, not always to say the first thing that came into my head and to be as accurate as I could be. Knowing that this carefulness and respect for the truth was a basic testimony of Quakerisn made it more attractive to me.

Another part of the testimony to truth and also to equality showed itself through not using titles, but calling oneself and others just by name. There were some problems with this at work and with banks etc. but I persevered. Respect can be shown in other ways than in using the 'vain titles of the world' for as Fox put it 'True civility stands in truth'.

We may have different views of the truth, especially when exploring our spiritual lives, and those different views deserve respect. Listening with an open mind and expecting to be listened to in the same way are both ways of finding truth and can bring us closer together in that true civility.

Telling the truth and being careful not to repeat lies that are maskerading as truth are both vitally important to me. That was true before I became a Friend but it is even more so now. Whatever the accepted norms of the wider society may become I know that Truth matters and I shall continue to try to speak truth to power as well as in my everyday life.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - S for Job Scott

Job Scott was born in 1751 at Providence, Rhode Island, the eldest child of Quakers John and Lydia Scott. His mother died when he was ten and from the age of fifteen he says that he got into loose company, learned to dance and delighted in playing cards. He later felt a need for religion but was more drawn to the Baptists than the Quakers. As he said, 'Friends meetings were oftener held in silence than suited my itching ear. I loved to hear words, began to grow inquisitive...and the Baptist preachers filled my ears with words and my head with arguments and distinctions, but my heart was little or not at all improved by them.'

Moses Brown
Eventually he returned to Friends, was convinced and appeared as a minister in 1774 at the age of twenty three. At this time he was employed as a school teacher and also worked as a tutor to the children of Moses Brown, whose wife had recently died. Moses came from a Baptist family but was impressed by Job's example and eventually became a Quaker. The two men worked together for the causes of abolition and peace.

In 1780 Job Scott married Eunice Anthony and the couple had six children. Job was often away from home travelling widely in the ministry and sometimes wrote encouraging poems for his wife to read while he was away. His early experience taught him to be wary of speaking too much in his ministry at home and he frequently felt himself required to give an example of silence when visiting elsewhere.

It is possible that Job also practised as a doctor, although this may have been more of an amateur interest. In a letter written at the end of his life he directs that neither of his sons should be encouraged to become physicians and that his medical books should be disposed of. He speaks with feeling of the dangers of going beyond a little general knowledge of medicine, getting out of one's depth and meddling in dangerous cases.

In 1791 his wife died and in 1792 Job felt called to travel in the ministry to Europe. At the end of that year he set sail from Boston and eventually landed in France at Dunkirk where he met with Robert Grubb, an Irish Friend. From there Job went to England, holding meetings in Kent before proceeding to London and then on to Welsh Yearly Meeting in Carmarthen. Next he went to Bristol and back to London for Yearly Meeting there.

Ballitore Meeting House
Job then travelled to Liverpool and took ship for Ireland, visiting many meetings in that country before attending the national Half Years Meeting in Dublin. He was taken ill with smallpox while staying at the house of Elizabeth Shackleton at Ballitore and in spite of all that doctors and nursing care could do he died in November 1793 at the age of forty-two and was laid to rest in the Quaker graveyard there.

A few years after his death Job Scott's edited journal of his travels in the ministry was published.  Later in the 19th century a fuller version and the rest of Job's writing was published by the Hicksites in an attempt to claim him posthumously as one of their own. The Evangelical faction certainly found Job's writing, with its emphasis on waiting in silence for the promptings of the Inward Light, unsound in doctrine. However the journal, with its reflections on the religious life and on the proper upbringing of children, was very influential and remained popular. Indeed, along with John Woolman, Job Scott is one of the few representatives of 18th century Quakerism to be found in Britain Yearly Meeting's Quaker Faith and Practice.