Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The Spirit of the Quakers

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 7th October, 2010

In the second half of the 20th Century, Quakers — or Members of the Religious Society of Friends, to give them their formal name — tended to hide their light under a bushel. Proselytising was a no-no, though they were not an exclusive sect. One just had to stumble across them, as I did in Vietnam, in 1969, at the height of the War. It was in Saigon that I attended my first Meeting for Worship, in the living room of a Scottish paediatrician and his wife. It was only later, while studying at Oxford, that I took the plunge and became a Member, having in the meantime flirted with Buddhism — as is referred to in a short extract from an essay I wrote a few years ago, now published in a new Quaker anthology, edited and introduced by Geoffrey Durham (Yale University Press, £9.99). Last night, I went to the book launch at Friends House, Euston, at which Geoffrey presented The Spirit of the Quakers with all the vigour and flair of someone whose background is in the performing Arts. He has been a central figure in the relatively new enterprise of Quaker Outreach — an acceptance that for all our stillness, Quakers ought at least to make their beliefs and practices known. The book offers snippets — and several whole texts — from 350 years of writing by Friends, providing a kaleidoscopic image of an evolving community of seekers after Truth. But as Geoffrey says in his Introduction, Truth is but one of four cornerstones of the quest and the testimony, the others being Equality, Peace and Simplicity.


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