Quaker Faith: some suggested reading
This page is offered by Vernon White of Come-to-Good Meeting, Cornwall come-to-good@live.com   

Here are some suggestions of reading material:

Quaker Librarians bulletin board - 24 June 2008


Hello all,

I've recently taken over as librarian for my local meeting, and I'd like

to put together a few leaflets of recommended books to encourage people

to use the Meeting's library. I particularly want to put together a

list of good general introductions to Quakers for enquirers.

I wondered if anyone else had done this, or something similar like a

display or newsletter article? If so, it'd be a great help to me to

hear about your experience.

In friendship

Librarian of Bath Local Meeting).


One thing I have just tried is to have a "Book Reviews" evening. People are invited to come and talk for not more than five minutes about a Quaker book from the library they have found helpful. We had about ten people, which made a good session. I then wrote a paragraph on each review and included it in our Monthly Newsletter under the heading "A Good Read". It was very popular and I have been asked to repeat the event three or four times a year.

RT, Another local meeting Librarian


A good read .......


The Library Committee and other Friends met on March 26 to discuss books that they enjoyed reading from our Library. Here is a summary of the books we talked about on that night.

Sue Lee recommends:

Alex Wildwood: A Faith to Call our Own – Quaker traditions in the Light of Contemporary Movements of the Spirit. (Swarthmore Lecture 1999)

This describes a personal spiritual journey to find a Quaker faith in a “post-Christian” age. It is a personal journey from institutional Christianity into feminism, and ‘green’ spirituality. (QT105)

PL recommends:

Jo Farrow: The World in My Heart

Jo had been a Methodist before becoming a Quaker. She found it too proscriptive and was led to value Quaker spirituality and feminism, and to integrate them with what had been important for her in the Christian tradition and the insights of humanistic psychology as a way of coming home to herself. She was recommended a keyword of “Awareness” as a guide to her future development and this became a theme for her worship. Her resulting spiritual awakening gave her an uplifting happiness. (QT80)

JH recommends:

Samuel Bownas “A description of the qualifications necessary to a Gospel Minister.” (1750)

Samuel became a travelling minister and wrote this little book towards the end of his life as advice to Friends on giving Ministry wisely. (Coming soon to the Library)

KH recommends:

Jim Pym: Listening to the Light

This is an introduction to Quakerism. Jim was brought up as a Roman Catholic, moved to Buddhism, and was delighted to find that he could bring much of these traditions and belief systems with him to Meeting. He emphasised the importance of creative listening – it is important to listen before trying to frame a reply or judgement, and Ken finds this idea helpful. (QT107, QT107b)

CH recommends:

Jan Arriens: Journey into the Light

This is a book of short stories from Quaker history suitable for teenagers or adults relating stories of Quakers living faithfully from the seventeenth century to the present day. For example, it tells a story about John Woolman’s early years, and another about a group of young people going to hear George Fox preach Pendle Hill. Entertaining and informative.

JH recommends:

John Lampen: Mending Hurts (Swarthmore Lecture 1987)

John worked for 20 years in a school for disturbed boys, and afterwards worked in Northern Ireland. This Swarthmore Lecture described John’s way of dealing with personal pain without becoming distorted by it. Jackie has found this a helpful book through the years, returning to it again and again. (QT137, QT67(R))

VG recommends:

Barclay Fox’s Journal (1817-1855)

Barclay lived in Falmouth, born into a vast extended family which included the Gurneys, the Barclays and Fry families. The journal is a fascinating account of life in a Quaker family in the nineteenth century, with glimpses of his famous relations, such as Elizabeth Fry, and accounts of his visits to Yearly Meeting. (GQ47, GQ86)

RS recommends:

Every member of the Meeting represents a book for her, and each time she meets them she tries to read another page sympathetically. She feels she needs to understand what they are saying and to extend her sympathy. The books on her shelf become friends, that inspire her to write. The book she is reading at present is “Listening Hearts” by Farnham, Gill, McLean and Ward, a new book she has just bought at Woodbrooke.

RT recommends:

David Boulton: The Trouble with God.

David is a member of the Sea of Faith network, and a prominent member of the Quaker Universalist Group. He describes his journey from being a child member of the Plymouth Brethren to becoming a Religious Humanist. The middle section is a brief biography of God – easier to read than Karen Armstrong’s erudite history. Ros finds this book thought-provoking and eminently readable. (T117)

We enjoyed this meeting, and decided that we would like to hold a similar evening later in the year.


- -

Ann at Amersham

Greetings all,

The following titles are what I would pick out from our (Amersham) library stock for those wishing to gain a greater understanding of how and why Friends work as they do - not just for Enquirers:

ALLEN Richard: Silence and speech (1998)

BIRKEL Michael L: Silence and witness (2004)

GILLMAN Harvey: A light that is shining (1988)

HERON Alastair: Quakerspeak (1997)

HILKEN Richard: Reason, faith and experience (2006)

KENWORTHY L.S.: Quakerism: a study guide

PUNSHON John: Encounter with silence

RACK Philip: Quakerism in the 21st century

RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS. Ireland Yearly Meeting. Youth Committee: The Friendly guide to Quakerism (ca. 2002)

and, on the TESTIMONIES:

QUAKER PEACE & SOCIAL WITNESS. Testimonies Committee: Engaging with the Quaker Testimonies: a toolkit. (2007)

Hope this helps! Expect most are still in print as we've acquired them mostly in the last five years.


- -

Peter Daniels

North London Area Quaker Meeting Elders and Overseers in April. We wanted

to have five books to recommend as a "front row" - one of the five was

Light to Live By, which we then discovered was out of print (and our own

meeting's copy got lent to someone who disappeared). Familiar story...

These are for people who have been coming for a while and might consider

membership, so not particularly the introductory books, though a few of

those are in the Further Reading as people don't necessarily get the basics

first. Didn't bother to include publication details other than year, and

Swarthmore lecture or Pendle Hill Pamphlet. Hope this is useful to others,

though some of our choices would differ if we did it again, never mind

other people's choices!

Peter Daniels

Stoke Newington Meeting

Five books we particularly recommend:

*Quaker Faith & Practice. This is the 1995 version of the book which

combines collected Quaker thought on a wide range of subjects with the

guide to the workings of the Society in the same volume.

*Beth Allen Ground and Spring: Foundations of Quaker discipleship, 2007

Swarthmore Lecture. Starting with meeting for worship and the experience of

God, the author examines what we need as the basis of a Quaker life.

*Rex Ambler Light to Live By, 2002. Exploration of the early Quakers’

practice in worship, and how it can be a spiritual response to “the problem

of the ego” through the experience of conscience.

*John Punshon Portrait in Grey: A short history of the Quakers, 1984,

revised 2006. Very readable general history of Quakers, with the various

American and other traditions as well as British.

*Helen Steven No Extraordinary Power: Prayer, stillness and activism, 2005

Swarthmore Lecture. The author has spent much of her life as a peace

activist, and her book looks at what has made this possible.

Suggestions for further reading:

* Being in a Quaker meeting

Harvey Gillman A Light that is Shining: An Introduction to the Quakers,

1997 (2nd ed). This is written especially for newcomers to Quakers, but

useful for a good overview.

George Gorman The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship, 1973 repr 1988. Not

currently in print and maybe a little dated but a classic on what makes

Quakerism work. Meeting libraries should have copies.

Ursula Jane O’Shea - Living the Way: Quaker spirituality and community,

1993 repr 2003. A brief but thorough survey of how Quakerism came to be

what it is today, and what the current challenges are.

Quality and Depth of Worship and Ministry, 2001. Practical questions to

make sure meetings for worship are working well.

William Taber Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, 1992, Pendle Hill

Pamphlet 306. The thresholds to entering communion with the invisible.

Whispers of faith : Young Friends share their experiences of Quakerism,

2005. An international collection with a range of ages and backgrounds.

* Quaker thought and experience

Rex Ambler Truth of the Heart, 2001 revised 2007. Selection of writings by

George Fox placed in a logical order, with a version in modern English and

interpretation by the author.

Rex Ambler The End of Words: Issues in contemporary Quaker theology, 1994,

repr 2004.

Jo Farrow The World in my Heart, 1990, repr 2004. Relates her own

experience to the bewildering forms of spirituality among Quakers and other


Harvey Gillman Consider the Blackbird: Reflections on spirituality and

language, 2007. The author looks at how we express our search for meaning

in the world.

Richard Hilken Reason, Faith and Experience: An introduction to 21st

century Quakerism, 2006. A short pamphlet that discusses essential ideas.

Geoffrey Hubbard Quaker by Convincement, 1974 revised 1992. Out of print

but many people have found it helpful. Worth seeking out from a meeting


Thomas Kelly A Testament of Devotion 1941 repr 1979: has become a

spiritual classic. Other books by Thomas Kelly are Reality of the Spiritual

World 1948 and The Gathered Meeting 1944 (published in one volume, 1996)

Quaker Quest Twelve Quakers and… 2004-2007 series of pamphlets is

stimulating, with a range of Quaker outlooks on Worship, God, Jesus,

Equality, Pacifism, Evil, Simplicity.

Janet Scott What Canst Thou Say: Towards a Quaker theology, 1980

Swarthmore Lecture, repr 2007. Is it possible for Quakerism to be both

Christian and Universalist?

This We Can Say : Australian Quaker life, faith and thought, 2003. An

equivalent of Quaker Faith & Practice, expressing the living faith of

contemporary Australian Quakers.

* Quaker testimonies

Engaging with the Quaker Testimonies: A toolkit, 2006. The Quaker

testimonies embody the Quaker values in practices like peace work,

simplicity of life and the pursuit of integrity. This is a resource for

Quakers to engage with the implications for their own lives and work.

Jonathan Dale and others Faith in Action: Quaker social testimony, 2000,

repr 2007. Rediscovering our spiritual responsibility to examine the nature

of society, and act on what we find.

Simon Fisher Spirited Living: Waging conflict, building peace, 2004

Swarthmore Lecture. The author works in conflict transformation and

presents challenging ways to live out the Quaker peace testimony.

Tim Newell - Forgiving Justice: A Quaker vision for criminal justice, 2000

Swarthmore Lecture, revised 2007. The author is a retired prison governor

and much involved with methods of restorative justice.

Brian Phillips and John Lampen (eds) Endeavours to Mend: Perspectives on

British Quaker work in the world today, 2006. Various ways that Quakers

have turned their concerns into action.

Quaker Peace & Social Witness A Living Quaker Witness to the Earth.

Reflections on our responsibility and how to carry it out.

Catherine Whitmire (ed) Plain Living: A Quaker path to simplicity, 2001.

Selected writings on “plainness”.

Catherine Whitmire (ed) Practicing peace : a devotional walk through the

Quaker tradition, 2007

* History and biography

Ben Pink Dandelion An Introduction to Quakerism, 2007. Thorough academic

study of history and current Quakerism. He has also recently published The

Quakers: A very short introduction, 2008.

George Fox Journal edited by John Nickalls, 1952. The main source on how

his experience became the basis of a way of life.

Joseph Pickvance A Reader’s Companion to George Fox’s Journal, 1989. Very

helpful for understanding the background and meaning.

John Woolman Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman ed P Moulton, 1971.

Visionary who galvanised American Quakers into working against slavery.

June Rose Elizabeth Fry, 1980 The famous Quaker “saint” was very human in

her doubts and fears.

Malin Bergman Andrews Whirlwind of Life: The story of Emilia Fogelklou,

2004. Inspiring life of a Swedish Quaker.

Achim von Borries Quiet Helpers: Quaker service in postwar Germany, 2000.

How the peace testimony was put into practice in various ways in Germany

from 1920 to 1950.

Jan Arriens Journeys in the Light: Quaker stories, 2007. Some true

stories, some historical fiction, written to appeal to adults and younger


* Quaker organisation and business method

Margaret Heathfield Being Together. 1994 Swarthmore Lecture. Considers how

Quaker organisation has had to balance openness to the Spirit with coherent


Barry Morley Beyond Consensus: Salvaging sense of the meeting,1993, Pendle

Hill Pamphlet 303. By an American concerned with misunderstandings about

what Quaker business method involves.

Michael J Sheeran Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless decisions in the

Religious Society of Friends, 1983. Study of Quaker method by an American


* Where you can find these books

Your local meeting’s library will have some or even all of these books. If

not, ask the librarian about getting them added to the collection, or

borrowed from elsewhere.

Quaker Bookshop, Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ 020 7663

1030 bookshop@quaker.org.uk

The Library at Friends House is available for more detailed exploration if

you are able to visit on weekdays (mostly afternoons 1.00-5.00, Wed

10.00-5.00) 020 7663 1135 library@quaker.org.uk