September Newsletter - A Sampling

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Quakers are where you find them
by Carol Ciscel

Often I come across Quakers unexpectedly, especially in books. This time the book was In Search of Stones by M. Scott Peck who also wrote The Road Less Traveled. The stones he was in search of were in the British Isles, so perhaps I should have expected to encounter Quakers, but when a chapter titled Religion came along I had no idea I was going to be treated to a capsule history of George Fox and an example of Fox’s continuing impact.

Scott Peck was raised by Quaker parents and attended a Friends School in New York. I learned quite a bit from him about Quakers. For example, he helped me sort out the significance of Firbank Fell – i.e. hill – near Sedburgh England. That is where George Fox first preached to the multitudes after his vision on Pendle Hill.

Peck’s abiding interest in community had led him to Sedburgh England. In 1984 he began the Foundation for Community Encouragement in Knoxville Tennessee and it might interest Friends to know that, although he mentions many sources for the methods FCE teaches, he says the deep source is the Quakers.

In every group FCE has taught, participants begin with a polite pretense of community which evolves into chaos as people began to voice their differences. Then comes the all-important middle stage; Scot calls it emptying – letting go of assumptions, rigid agendas, prejudices, the need to heal and convert, needs for certainty, control, and just looking good, etc. With sufficient emptiness – which takes time -- true community emerges.

This kind of decision-making through community-building, he says, can only be done by people who have learned “how to wait – how to not speak until moved, how to wait for the voice of their inner light, and ultimately how to wait on the Lord.” This is just what Quaker practice teaches and, as we know, it can be transforming.

In spite of Scott Peck’s admiration of George Fox and Quaker process, he never was a member of any Quaker Meeting. So why didn’t a man who wrote so much about an intentional spiritual life not stick with us Quakers who try to do just that? In another part of the book he tells us that Christianity without mystery didn’t speak to him. Maybe he never found enough mystery in our silent worship. The ancient standing stones of the British Isles, however, are different. They are nothing but mystery.