Adult Ed: Everyday Prophets

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Sunday, June 4, 2017 - 12:00pm
Santa Monica Friends Meeting House
United States

Everyday Prophets: The 2016 James Backhouse Lecture

Clerked by Stanford J. Searl, Jr. at the Adult Education Session

June 4, 2017 at noon, Santa Monica Meeting

Reading Together as Everyday Prophets


The quotations are from Margery Post Abbott’s Everyday Prophets, the 2016 James Backhouse Lecture, published by the Australia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. We will approach these passages in a modified worship sharing approach, praying to be open to the Spirit’s guidance and direction in our reflections about these passages. We encourage Friends to speak from their own experience, open to heart-directed responses, integrating head, heart and spirit together.


  1. Excerpts

    Everyday prophets are “… people who listen to the voice of all that is Holy and follow its guidance” (Abbott, p. 3).


    The author talked with a number of Quakers about the meanings of prophetic ministry and cites some of these conversations at times in the lecture. In this context, she cites Paul Buckley, an unprogrammed Friend from Ohio: “`Within our tradition, I believe true prophetic ministry is an attitude toward life that produces a renewed state of being. It is the belief we can act at all times under divine guidance. When we are in this condition, every aspect of our lives has the potential to be ministry and each act, however small, can be prophetic’” (Abbott, p.4).


    “It takes practice to develop the skill of listening with an inward ear and coming to recognize the taste and colour of all that it holy” (Abbott, p. 5).


    Abbott presents three aspects of the everyday prophet:

  1. “Above all, such a person is one who listens inwardly and has learned to distinguish the voice of the Spirit, the presence of Christ, from their own desires or self-will, the pressures of the surrounding culture and the need to win approval from those around them.

  2. Secondly, prophetic ministry requires obedience to that Inward Guide. Prophets are those who recognize what they are called of God to do and who act on this, living as closely as they can to the call expressed in Micah 6:8 to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

  3. Next, a person conscious of the Inward Teacher can see the world around them with eyes that penetrate beyond the surface meanings and cut through the distortions which too often govern life. This person might be able to see unarticulated personal need and a simple, quiet action which makes life better for someone. Or they recognize the consequences of events or words and issue warnings, urging timely change” (Abbott, pp. 5-6).

  1. Excerpts

    “The idea of `taking up the cross’ is sometimes used to claim a need for us to suffer as Christ did in order to become more like him. The early Quakers did not use suffering as their measure, but rather obedience. To take up the cross is to listen to the divine call, not our personal, immediate desires. When it means we have to give up whatever is most appealing to us at the moment, or let go of our personal comforts, there may be times of suffering. But that is not the point. As so many have attested, this place of obedience has not only meant greater freedom, compassion and equity, but also surprising joy and a sense of rightness deep within” (Abbott, pp. 12-13).


    “Part of our challenge is to feel the presence of God and the movement of Truth and Love. This not `feeling’ as in the modern usage, but a deep inward knowing that is more than intellect and emotion. It allows no space for manipulation of others or falsity. When we feel the inward motion that comes from God rise up in us, then we are rightly led to speak, be it in worship or in daily life” (Abbott, p. 27).


  2. Excerpts

    “Being a band of everyday prophets. Is this possible for Friends? Can our communities better be schools for listening and for encouraging faithfulness to the Spirit? I believe so, but it is not an easy task to take up. I believe this is at the core of what we are all about: a faithfulness to the divine Guide that breaks open hearts and remakes them with compassion. People who know the touch of the Light and are willing to follow where it leads, knit together our communities. As the same time, they help make visible when we, and when the world around us, fall short of what we might be even as they demonstrate  a different way of living in the world than what the consumer culture values.


    Everyday prophets are already part of our communities. We all might be such people. Everyday prophets are at once ordinary and radical, both humble and bold. They act out of a weave of mercy and justice, valuing each being on this earth. Might we cherish those among us who are faithful” (Abbott, p. 42).

Illustrations from Santa Monica Meeting:

  • Tim Vreeland’s leading and blog about Economic Inequality

  • Patrick Finn’s work about Economic Inequality and Schooling

  • Stan Searl’s research/writing about the meanings of Quaker silent worship and his Poetry as Ministry in this Meeting

  • Our Adult Education’s Reading Series and the creation of everyday prophecy

Stan Searl, Co-Clerk, Adult Education Committee