Monday, April 26, 2010

Quaker writers: a people to be gathered and sent

I spent last week participating in the annual meetings of Quakers United in Publishing (QUIP), concurrent with a writers’ conference. This was my first experience with this group. I had been invited to present a workshop on “Poetry as Ministry.”

QUIP is a networking organization of publishers, yearly meetings and writers from all branches of Quakerism. They come mostly from unprogrammed liberal Friends, but include evangelicals (like me) and conservative Friends. (Pardon the labels. They’re not always helpful but hard to avoid.) This mix of different Quakers is one thing that draws me to this type of gathering. I was not disappointed.

The meetings took place on the lovely campus of the Quaker Hill Conference Center in Richmond, Indiana (another first for me) and went from Wednesday evening to Sunday noon. The very full schedule included evening plenary sessions on fascinating topics, 10 different workshops to choose from, interest groups, QUIP business sessions, with times of unprogrammed worship binding it all together. This was all about words—the many ways and challenges of writing and publishing words—yet it was the interweaving silence that enriched our words and allowed meaning to deepen.

Some of the highlights for me include…

…the high level of participation by young people. About one third of the participants were young women and men in their 20s and 30s. Their contributions were encouraged and valued. This was partly due to the presentation of the book, Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices, a two year QUIP project (see photo). The enthusiasm, vitality and honest searching of these Friends energized the whole conference.

…the desire of those involved in QUIP to encourage new voices. I thought frequently of the Andean Friends among whom I’ve spent most of my life, and of developing writers in Africa and Asia. Yes. It’s their turn, and they have much to teach the rest of us.

…new friends and networks. I loved hiking down to the waterfall with Dody Waring, listening to the fascinating experiences of this New England Quaker lady in her eighties. We exchanged books, and I read Dody’s memoirs, Sacred Trust: A Quaker Family since 1816, on the plane home. I loved spending time with Bolivian Friend Emma Condori. It was a relief to both of us to be able to speak Spanish. I listened as she processed her experiences living in this culture. I interacted with other poets and bloggers and trust the relationships will be ongoing. This refreshes and encourages me more than anything else.

…the voice of Jesus and the rising of his Spirit among us—in the times of silence, in the hum of conversation at the dinner table, in the careful crafting of business minutes, in the tears and hugs as people left on Sunday afternoon.

There are differences between the branches of Quakerism, some hard issues the swim beneath the surface in any gathering. We need wisdom as we name and face these. But deeper than the tensions, I sense a new hope that God is still gathering a people, pouring out the Spirit, and sending us forth to publish truth.


  1. Thanks Nancy, this is a great write up. I was so glad to have another NWYM friend there as well.

  2. Nancy, it was really nice to meet you at QUIP. And yes, that new hope resonates regardless of the labels we pin to our theologies!

  3. Hi, Nancy--

    I saw your name on another blog and came right over! Did I know you blogged...?

    I'll be adding a link to your post on my own, since I find that linking from one blog post to another helps to weave together the family that we are as a Religious Society of Friends--at least for the segment of us who use the internet.

    I agree with you that the young Friends who were at QUIP, the beautiful grounds, and the rich conversations and worship all made for a wonderful conference.

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up