The Loss of a Faithful Servant

A hum­ble giant among mod­ern Friends passed away this week­end: Bill Taber. All of us doing the work of map­ping out a “con­ser­v­a­tive lib­er­al Quak­erism” owe a huge debt to Bill. Although oth­ers are more qual­i­fied to share his biog­ra­phy, I know he taught for many years at Ohio Year­ly Meet­ing (Conservative)‘s Olney Friends School and then for many more years at the Pen­dle Hill Cen­ter out­side Philadel­phia. He and his wife Fran were ins­tu­men­tal in the 1998 found­ing of the Friends Cen­ter retreat and con­fer­ence cen­ter on the cam­pus of Olney.
I had the hon­or of meet­ing Bill and Fran once, when they came to lead a meet­ing retreat. But like so many Friends, Bill’s strongest influ­ence has been his writ­ings. “Four Doors to Meet­ing for Worship”: – 87574-306 – 4 was his intro­duc­tion to wor­ship. I’ll quote from the “About the Author,” since it explains the root of much of his work:
bq. This pamphlet’s metaphor of the four doors grew out of his awar­ness of a need for a more con­tem­po­rary expla­na­tion of “what hap­pens” in a Quak­er meet­ing. He feels this lack of insturction in method has become an increas­ing prob­lem as mod­ern Friends move far­ther and far­ther away from the more per­va­sive Quak­er cul­ture which in ear­li­er gen­er­a­tions played such a pow­er­ful teach­ing role, allow­ing both birthright and con­vinced Friends to learn the nuances and spir­i­tu­al method­ol­o­gy of Quak­erism large­ly through osmo­sis. In shar­ing this essay Bill hopes to help nur­ture a trav­el­ing, teach­ing, and prophet­ic min­istry which could reach out and touch peo­ple into spir­i­tu­al growth just when they are ready to receive the teaching.
One of the spir­i­tu­al methodolgy’s Bill shared with his stu­dents at Pen­dle Hill was a col­lec­tion by a old Quak­er min­is­ter named Samuel Bow­nas – reg­u­lar read­ers of this site know how impor­tant Bownas’s “Descrip­tions of the Qualifications”: has been to me. But oth­er books of his have been inval­able too: his his­to­ry of Ohio Year­ly Meet­ing shared the old cul­ture of the year­ly meet­ing with great sto­ries and gen­tle insight.
Bill Taber might have passed from his earth­ly body Fri­day morn­ing but the work he did in the world will con­tin­ue. May we all have the grace to be as faith­ful to the Teacher as he was.

  • Robin Mohr

    One of the great open­ings in my Quak­er jour­ney was the offer of a ride to a Pen­dle Hill work­shop led by Eliz­a­beth Wat­son, about a month after I first attend­ed meet­ing for wor­ship. I couldn’t afford the work­shop fees, but PH let me work off my tuition by tran­scrib­ing one of their evening lec­tures, by Bill Taber.
    A true gift to me, many times over.