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Defining Eighteenth Century Quakerism:
The task in this section is to define the period Damiano is calling 18th c Quakerism. She gives a brief outline of how this is understood. Howard Brinton identified the ‘heroic or apostolic’ period of Quakerism from c1650-1700. This was an era of drama and passion, enthusiasm and persecution. In the 18thc, on the other hand, commentators at least agree that a unique culture and organisation developed. For Brinton 1700-1800; for others, from the Christian and Brotherly Advices, the first codification of rules and procedures on all aspects of life, of 1738. It is sometimes called the ‘Golden age’ or ‘flowering’ of Quakerism. There was migration to America, in search of a lifestyle and approach to government consistent with Quaker values. The Quakers became politically influential; notably the ‘Holy Experiment’ in Pennsylvania. But the French-Indian war became a watershed, in the tension between pacifism and participation in a government at war. Many Quakers resigned, the reform movement got the upper hand and enforced a discipline that would maintain Quakers as a ‘saving remnant’ defined against the secular world. By the end of this process three schools of thought had emerged, leading to the ‘great separation’ of 1827. Damiano focuses on the period before this controversy gets heated, ending around 1783. She observes similarities between English and American Quaker experience. Of the emerging schools of thought,Quietism is most associated with 18thc. This involved the emptying of the will, and openness to guidance of God. External authority was regarded as a distraction or secondary.
Rationalism, leading to deism, and evangelicalism are also significant influences in this period. Evangelicalism affected Quaker epistemology where there was a move to reliance on scripture as primary authority as opposed to waiting upon Christ’s guidance. This led to an emphasis on conversion experience instead of corporate guidance, and a more professional ministry and programmed worship. These movements exerted a conscious and unconscious influence on Quakerism, which in Damiano’s eyes should be a ‘balance of paradoxes’.
Eighteenth Century Quaker Culture:
A particular Quaker culture developed in this period: ‘a clearly defined way of life with a spiritual basis’ (Brinton). We have a thorough description by the abolitionist Clarkson: the ideal was that outward culture should reflect inward experience, the Spirit that creates virtuous character which can neither be inherited nor acquired by natural means. Customs intended to predispose an openness to God were passed on in families. Activities that, while not evil in themselves, could still disturb the passions and interfere with the subjecting of one’s will to God were frowned upon and corporate pressure used to discourage them. There was an ideal of living ‘at your own hands’, and a simplicity of dress and furnishing reflecting inner simplicity. These things were a sign of submission of life to God.
Eighteenth Century Quaker Meeting Life:
The issue of ‘birthright membership’ arose for second generation Quakers. Attendance was expected at ‘first day’ (Sunday) and midweek meetings, as well as meetings for business. The latter came to involve more select groups, and were conducted in an attitude of worship. A clerk tried to discern the sense of the meeting. There were ideals of submitting to corporate will, but also of prophetic dissent. There were women’s meetings, and an idea of feminine ministry, aimed at care for the poor as opposed to business or theology, as well as meetings to aid ‘sufferings’. Ministerial roles evolved, with elders as guardians of tradition, and overseers of the spiritual welfare of members. The meeting controlled travel and marrying out was discouraged (to maintain the Quaker discipline across generations). Guidelines produced were quite all-encompassing, about what was suitable and what not. Persistent offenders could be ‘disowned’.
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- On Earth as it is in Heaven
- Introduction to the Quaker understanding of ministerial vocation
- Early Quaker Christology
- Quaker women in South Africa during the apartheid era
- The Quaker experience in Kenya
- Introduction to the Quaker experience in Kenya
- Introduction to Early Quaker Christology
- Introduction to in Love and Life
- Quakerly Conflict
- Introduction to the temproal collage