Lighthouse Challenge 2016

This week­end was the annual Light­house Chal­lenge of New Jer­sey, a two-day cel­e­bra­tion of shore­line sen­tinels dur­ing which every work­ing light­house is open and staffed by vol­un­teers. The truly com­mit­ted drive hun­dreds of miles over the two days to visit the eleven light­houses open to the pub­lic. Because of a scout­ing week­end for Theo, we just hit one on Sat­ur­day and three on Sun­day. But these are the last four for our lighthouse-obsessed son Fran­cis, who has been to the oth­ers over the course of the sum­mer.

Francis declared the Twin Lights of Navesink to be his favorite of the weekend.
Fran­cis declared the Twin Lights of Navesink to be his favorite of the week­end.

Tinicum Rear Range Light

Sea Girt Lighthouse

Twin Lights of Navesink

Sandy Hook Light

Bring people to Christ / Leave them there

It’s one of those quotes we fre­quently hear: that George Fox said a minister’s job was “to bring peo­ple to Christ, and to leave them there.” But when I go to Google, I only find sec­ond­hand ref­er­ences, sand­wiched in quote marks but never sourced. It turns up most fre­quently in the works of British Friend William Pol­lard, who used it as kind of a catch phrase in his talks on “An Old Fash­ioned Quak­erism” from 1889. Sus­pi­ciously miss­ing is any search result from the jour­nal or epistles of Fox him­self. It’s pos­si­ble Pol­lard has para­phrased some­thing from Fox into a speech-friendly short­hand that Google misses, but it’s also pos­si­ble it’s one of those passed-down Fox myths like Penn’s sword.

London Yearly Meeting, 1865.
Lon­don Yearly Meet­ing, 1865.

So in mod­ern fash­ion, I posed the ques­tion to the Face­book hive mind. After great dis­cus­sions, I’m going to call this a half-truth. On the Face­book thread, Allis­tair Lomax shared a Fox epistle that con­vinces me the founder of Friends would have agreed with the basic con­cept:

I’m guess­ing it is para­phrase of a por­tion of Fox’s from epistle 308, 1674. Fox wrote “You know the man­ner of my life, the best part of thirty years since I went forth and for­sook all things. I sought not myself. I sought you and his glory that sent me. When I turned you to him that is able to save you, I left you to him.”

Mark Wutka shared quo­ta­tions from Stephen Grel­let and William Williams which have con­vince me that it describes the “two step dance” of con­vince­ment for early Friends:

From Stephen Grel­let: “I have endeav­oured to lead this peo­ple to the Lord and to his Spirit, and there is is safe to leave them.” And this from William Williams: “To per­suade peo­ple to seek the Lord, and to be faith­ful to his word, the inspo­ken words of the heart, is what we ought to do; and then leave them to be directed by the inward feel­ings of the mind;”

The two-step image comes from Angela York Crane’s com­ment:

So it’s a two step dance. First, that who we are and how we live and speak turns oth­ers to the Lord, and sec­ond, that we trust enough to leave them there.

But: as a pithy catch phrase directly attrib­uted to Fox it’s another myth. It per­haps bor­rowed some images from a mid-19th cen­tury talk by Charles Spur­geon on George Fox, but came together in the 1870s as a cen­tral catch phrase of British reformer Friend William Pol­lard. Pol­lard is a fas­ci­nat­ing fig­ure in his own right, an early pro­po­nent of mod­ern lib­er­al­ism in a Lon­don Yearly Meet­ing that was then largely evan­gel­i­cal and mis­sion­ary. Even his pam­phlet and book titles were telling, includ­ing Prim­i­tive Chris­tian­ity Revived and A Rea­son­able Faith. He had an agenda and this phrase was a key for­mu­la­tion of his argu­ment and vision.

He is hardly the first or last Friend to have lifted an inci­den­tal phrase or con­cept of George Fox’s and given it the weight of a mod­ern tenet (“That of God” springs to mind). More inter­est­ing to me is that Pollard’s work was fre­quently reprinted and ref­er­enced in Friends Intel­li­gencer, the Amer­i­can Hick­site pub­li­ca­tion (and pre­de­ces­sor of Friends Jour­nal), at a time when Lon­don Friends didn’t rec­og­nize Hick­sites as legit­i­mate Quak­ers. His vision of an “Old Fash­ioned Quak­erism” rein­cor­po­rated qui­etism and sought to bring British Friends back to a two-step con­vince­ment prac­tice. It paved the way for the trans­for­ma­tion of British Quak­erism fol­low­ing the trans­for­ma­tional 1895 Man­ches­ter Con­fer­ence and gave Amer­i­can Friends inter­ested in mod­ern lib­eral philo­soph­i­cal ide­als a blue­print for incor­po­rat­ing them into a Quaker frame­work.

The phrase “bring peo­ple to Christ/leave them there” is a com­pelling image that has lived on in the 130 or so odd years since its coinage. I sus­pect it is still used much as Pol­lard intended: as a qui­etist brak­ing sys­tem for top-down mis­sion­ary pro­grams. It’s a great con­cept. Only our tes­ti­mony in truth now requires that we intro­duce it, “As William Pol­lard said, a Quaker minister’s job is to…”

And for those won­der­ing, yes, I have just ordered Pollard’s Old Fash­ioned Quak­erism via Vin­tage Quaker Books. He seems like some­thing of a kin­dred spirit and I want to learn more.

Wheat planting at Howell’s Living History Farm

We’ve got­ten into the habit of vis­it­ing Howell’s Liv­ing His­tory Farm up in Mer­cer County, N.J., a few times a year as part of home­schooler group trips. In the past, we’ve cut ice, tapped trees for maple syrup, and seen the sheep shear­ing and card­ing. Today we saw the var­i­ous stages of wheat – from plant­ing, to har­vest­ing, thresh­ing, win­now­ing, grind­ing, and bak­ing. I love that there’s such a wide vocab­u­lary of speci­fic lan­guage for all this – words I barely know out­side of bib­li­cal para­bles (“Oh wheat from chaff!”) and that there’s great vin­tage machin­ery (Howell’s oper­a­tions are set around the turn of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury).