Thursday, February 16, 2006

The 100 things Quakers should know

I'm sick today with a sore throat, headache, fever & cough, so I've spent most of the day in bed with Doris Kearns Goodwin.

That's a joke I told Lovely Wife -- for Valentines Day she gave me and Only Son a copy of her new book Team of Rivals about Abraham Lincoln and his remarkable cabinet, and I spent much of the day delirously devouring it.

But I've also taken the time to catch up on some blog browsing, and once again found something interesting at Peggy Senger Parsons' Freedom Friends Church on the Forum page, under Quakerism 101 entitled "Sixteen Quaker Names you should know."

Reading the list reminded me of a project I've long wanted to undertake, which is to compile a list of things that I expect a Quaker child should know by the time he or she has completed 18 years of First Day School or so.

For example, I'd like to write down what 100 Bible stories a Quaker kid should know -- that is, know the basic characters & plot of the story, and its general religious meaning & context -- by the time he or she's 18. And then useful Biblical verses, phrases, and references. And then Quaker facts.

Here's an arbitrary (and purposefully incomplete) start to show you the idea:

100 Bible Stories every Quaker kid should know by age 18

1. The Creation in Genesis
2. The Fall of Adam & Eve
3. Noah & his ark
4. The Exodus
5. David & Goliath (or maybe David & Jonathan)
6. The Nativity of Jesus
7. The Parable of the Good Samaritan
8. The Prodigal Son
9. Saul's conversion
10. The first Pentacost

Then, a hundred Bible verses or phrases or terms:
1. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
2. Let my people go.
3. The Ten Commandments
4. Be still and know that I am God
5. The Lord is my shepherd
6. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them
7. Blessed be the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God (or the Beatitudes)
8. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to all.
9. Fear not
10. In the beginning was the Word. . . .

And then a similar list of things, people, and places Quaker, beginning with the 16 (or more) Quakers you should know, and also things like:
1. There is one even Christ Jesus who can speak to thy condition.
2. We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons. . .
3. There is a Principle which is pure, placed in the human Mind, which in different Places and Ages hath had different Names; it is, however, pure, and proceeds from God.
4. Speak Truth to Power
Pendle Hill (b0th of them)
6. Friends Journal
7. Friends United Meeting
8. The Richmond Declaration
9. Sense of the meeting
10. What canst thou say?

I think this would be a valuable activity for a Religious Education Committee to work on. It would help them to develop a long-term curriculum that would be more coherent from year-to-year than many of our meetings are able to do.

The exercise would be valuable regardless of what makes it on or off the list (sort of like it was in choosing songs for Worship in Song). Having some arbitrary maximum number gives just enough discipline that Friends will have to discuss & explain their choices; those involved would learn a lot, about each other, and what it means to be a Friend.

I'd be curious whether any other meetings have attempted such a project, and how it turned out. And whether I'll ever get around to doing it myself.


Liz Opp said...

Paul, I love this post! I'd love to see this topic as an Interest Group in a forthcoming FGC Gathering... I'd love to see a go-around among Quaker bloggers as to what other items to add to any of the lists you've started, and what other lists to add!

I'm intrigued by the stories from Scripture-- I've been wondering why it seems so few stories from the Hebrew texts are ever lifted up. Here are two I've been able to recall on my own, way past my bedtime:

1. The story of Esther
2. The story of the infant Moses being found in the river

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Paul L said...


I guess whether Hebrew-bible stories are "lifted up" enough depends on where you've been looking; being raised (an educated) as a Lutheran we certainly were well-versed in what we called the Old Testament -- it was considered essential to know the Old in order to understand the New, especially since so much of what Jesus said (or, as some will say, much of what he is said to have said) was direct references to the Scriptures familiar to his listeners, without knowledge of which you'd miss the point (e.g., Son of Man referring to Daniel's apocolyptic vision).

But it is true that the Old and New were treated as a whole, and we seldom if ever considered the stories of the Old out of the context of what followed, or vice versa.

(Esther, however, is one notable exception, since it is the only book in either the Old or New in which the name of G-d never appears.)

Your example of the rescue of Moses points out a practical problem with my proposal: Into how many parts do you divide "the story": Is his rescue a discrete story? Or is it chapter one (following the long Joseph story prologue) of the Exodus story? But solving that problem will be part of the fun.

Liz Opp said...

Your example of the rescue of Moses points out a practical problem with my proposal: Into how many parts do you divide "the story": Is his rescue a discrete story? Or is it chapter one (following the long Joseph story prologue) of the Exodus story? But solving that problem will be part of the fun.

Right, Paul, I thought of this too. For me, I think the way I'd "count" a story would depend on the lesson or Light I wanted to emphasize by its telling.

Thanks, too, for the added explanation of the relationship between Jesus' teachings and the Old Testament. I've still got so much to learn!

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Peggy Senger Parsons said...

I've been staring to play with a curriculum for a basic Bible Literacy class for FFC. Nobody gets this anymore in school. At Present we are having a series by Quaker scholar (and member) T.Vail Palmer on Early Friends and the Bible (you can read the text on our forum) It is great stuff but goes way over some of our heads. So I am going to try and plan a basic romp through the Bible class for later this year. I think practically 100 is both not enough and way to many. But it might be a good number for a Sunday School Curriculum. I am dreaming about that too. I have not yet seen a curriculm that I really like - usuallly this ends up with me writing.
peace to you all this sunday morning - I am off to meeting..

Robin M. said...

I am all for having a list like this. In fact, I started teaching Bible stories in my First Day school classes, because I actually said to our committee, "I don't want my children to go through 18 years of FDS and not know any more about the Bible than Who Built the Ark? (the Raffi version)." On the other hand, I think that First Day School as an alternative to meeting for worship should only last for about 12 years. At the same time, I think this list could be provided to adults as part of a Seekers' Class. Not saying that you have to literally believe in every one of these stories, but a spiritually literate Quaker should know these stories - and adults should probably have heard at least two interpretations of each.

I'd add the tower of Babel, Daniel in the lion's den, Samuel saying "Here I am Lord", the part of Revelations where he describes seeing the throne of heaven, and Jesus calling the fishermen.

Under Quakers, I'd add Thomas Kelly, Douglas Steere, Hannah and Joel Bean, and Howard and Anna Brinton. Plus a variety of local names for each Yearly or Monthly Meeting.

Maybe we will work on a list like this as part of my Quarterly Meeting CRE committee retreat in a few weeks. I'm the clerk, I get to set the agenda, I think this would be fun. Hmmm.

I think there should also be some statistics that folks should vaguely know: how many members and attenders in my Monthly Meeting, my Yearly Meeting, my country, the world.

Two charts people should have seen: a world map of Quaker meetings and the timeline/branches of Friends.

And this should be available to Friends, to CRE committees at all levels, with something like the advices from the elders at Balby - this we lay upon you not as a rule but as a guide - lest we set off too many anti-authoritarian bells amongst Friends.

Paul L said...

Robin -- you say: "Not saying that you have to literally believe in every one of these stories, but a spiritually literate Quaker should know these stories - and adults should probably have heard at least two interpretations of each."

Yes. My suggestion has nothing to do with believing anything. It is, as you say, that after X no of years in First Day School, our kids will know something about Quakers and Quakerism, and about God so should n't we think a little about what they should know? My fear is that a lot of our kids can tell you more about other people's religion than their own.

And I do think that creating the list could be a very useful exercise for adults, a way of initiating good discussion around a concrete task.

Regarding Peggy's astute recognition of the need for Quaker biblical literacy, I agree 100%. Though I have long ago left behind much of the Lutheran gloss on the Bible stories (or the Bible Story, if you will) I learned, those stories remain for me grist for the mill, the basic vocabulary with which I describe my spiritual life as a Friend. (Singing Sacred Harp played a big part in this reconciliation.) It disappoints me that so many of my friends are unfamilar with even the basic elements of thaat vocabulary.

A big part of the problem, of course, is exactly that the misuse of Scripture as children has alienated a great many adult Friends not only from their inept and false teachers but also from the source itself, which I believe is a great loss.

Another big part is that modern Friends (and other liberals) use Scripture to serve our own purposes, taking what we find useful and ignoring the rest, rather than approaching Scripture with the faith that it has something to teach us and letting it search us.

In this regard, I'd like to plug my friend Paul Buckley's new book (co-edited with Steve Angell) The Quaker Bible Reader available here I haven't read it today, but I'm confident it is a good one. Here's the blurb:

Thirteen very different Quakers look at portions of scripture, describe what they find, and how they found it. Their goal is to encourage every Friend to engage the Bible, "not passively accepting someone else's interpretation; not looking for 'the good parts' and skipping the rest; not contorting scripture to support pre-determined ideas - but entering into a dialog with this ancient book, exploring your own assumptions about God, and deepening your relationship with the divine." - Marty Paxson Grundy. Contributors include John Punshon, Howard Macy, Beckey Phipps, Esther Mombo, Anthony Prete, and Deborah Shaw.

I ordered my copy today.

克莱夫 said...

Since when was Quakerism a prescribed activity?

What you seem to be saying here is that to be a Quaker you must know a, b, c, etc - otherwise you are not part of the clan. I find this totally contrary to all I know in the Society of Friends.

I joined because there were no know-alls to tell you what to do and what to think. There were no creeds, no catechisms to learn and recite no hymns to sing or psalms to chant. No fixed rules, only conventions - and all of those were constantly open to question.

We don't live in the same world.