Strength in Weakness

It has been nearly a year since I first read Strength in Weakness, a collection of writings by nine Quaker women from the 18th century: Grace Hall Chamber, Lydia Rawlinson Lancaster, Ruth Alcock Follows, Catherine Payton Phillips, Sarah Tuke Grubb, Priscilla Hannah Gurney, Mary Alexander, Ann Crowley. Some of the pieces were published in their own time, mostly upon the death of the author; others are letters from one Friend to another. The spelling and punctuation have been modernized somewhat for a more readable text.

The editor is Gil Skidmore, who also writes the occasional blog, Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones. She has written a brief profile of each writer and a short introduction to the work. I really like the last paragraph of that, so I hope she will forgive me if I quote it here in its entirety:
“Many of the questions posed by these writings still speak to Quakers and to others engaged in a spiritual quest. How do we live without worrying too much about what the future holds, trusting to the Light within to direct us day by day? How do we find a balance between inward and outward, between the inner life and action in the world? How do we discern what it is we are called to do and how do we know whether we are qualified to do it? How do we gain a spiritual as well as, or instead of, an intellectual qualification? What should we commit ourselves to? Are we only following the motions of the faith we were born and brought up in, or can we find far more than just the form, and live in the power which our predecessors found for themselves?”(p.20-21)
It is a blessing to me to read that other women have struggled with the same questions I have today. They have answered these questions in different ways, and these are also good examples of the variety of faithful service that is possible. In re-reading portions of it now as I am writing this, I am reminded of how I will likely continue to read this at other times in my life, when I feel discouraged about my calling and my ability.

I want to particularly mention one section from Sarah Tuke Grubb (1756-1790), “Some observations on Christian discipline as it respects the education of youth” (pp.97-102). I think this ought to be required reading for everyone who undertakes the education of children, either as a parent or teacher in a school or First Day School. It is mostly about the Christian discipline of the teachers, the importance of being good models, of relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit, and being careful about the use of power. The grammar is convoluted and the sentences are very long, making it hard to quote from without reproducing the whole thing.

But here is one point that struck me. “If in our passage through life, we are often brought to acknowledge, that of ourselves, without divine assistance, we can do nothing, is it not abundantly obvious in the work of bestowing a religious education on youth?”(p.98) I think this has been made clearest to me in the context of trying to raise and educate children.

At the end there are brief biographies of many of the people who are mentioned in the writings, men and women, and this is another treasure of the book.

Strength in Weakness is available via Quaker Books. It would be a real gift for your own or a Quaker library near you.


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Blogger Gil S said...

Many thanks for this Robin. I'm so glad that you have found what these women have to say as helpful as I have done.

2/22/2010 4:50 AM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

The other day I found a letter of Sarah Tuke Grubb's republished in the middle of John Wilbur's journal and started underlining everything. I think I might need to read more of her.

2/22/2010 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Beth said...

Thanks for this - I love the quote - it so sums up paradoxs that so many of us find ourselves in.

3/19/2010 1:26 PM  
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