Area meeting considered a gripping issue – should we revise Quaker Faith and Practice, “the Red Book”? We had a deep discussion which showed that people had a range of views and we are not sure, as a local or as an area, that the time to start the revision has come. My own feeling as someone thoroughly unconvinced of the need is that the desire to revise is broader than I first thought, so its probably going to happen, and that the ‘how’ will matter.
Quaker Faith and Practice is in one sense, the thing which loosely draws us together. It is both a deep and rewarding anthology of spiritual experience of Quakers since the 1650s and some practical nuts and bolts pieces like who owns the burial grounds and who handles membership. Although Quakers see their spiritual faith and their nuts and bolts of administration as linked, doing our business is a spiritual exercise, the majority of people feel joining them in one book in 1994 was a bad idea, not least because one has to revise the nuts and bolts much more frequently.
Last time, it took around nine years and for the first time, involved the whole Society of Friends – meetings met to discern which passages should stay and go, which fed into a national process. Meetings worked for years with a ‘Canary’ book, a draft. Redoing the book might be an opportunity to thresh out, discern, agree and move forward on what being a 21st century Quaker means: it could be an experience to learn together. Or, it might run into the sand, take a lot of time, and divert us from other things.
In finding a way forward, we need to think about the how as well as the whether.