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Readings for Reflection: October 2007
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

John Woolman’s writings, currently being explored in Reading and Discussion, often address ways in which spirituality can be reflected in action, as in the two paragraphs excerpted below. The second—more recent—selection has a similar theme, yet also presents an illuminating lens for studying Woolman’s writings.

“Our gracious Creator cares and provides for all his creatures. His tender mercies are over all his works; and so far as his love influences our minds, so far we become interested in his workmanship and feel a desire to take hold of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted and increase the happiness of the creation. Here we have a prospect of one common interest from which our own is inseparable, that to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives….

Oppression in the extreme appears terrible: but oppression in more refined appearances remains to be oppression; and where the smallest degree of it is cherished it grows stronger and more extensive. To labour for a perfect redemption from this spirit of oppression is the great business of the whole family of Christ Jesus in this world.

-- Chapters 3 and 13 of “A Plea for the Poor”   John Woolman, 1763.


The language in which we express what we … say is of vital importance; it both shapes and reflects our values. One result of the emphasis on plain speech by early Friends was to challenge the class hierarchy of the day. The emphasis on non-sexist language by present-day feminists is likewise a challenge to hierarchy, in this case the sex hierarchy, which women have brought into the Light by naming it – patriarchy…. Our Quaker tradition enables us to recognize that our choice of language, and our reaction to the choice that others make, reveals values which may otherwise stay hidden.”

-- Quaker Womens Group, 1982
From Britain YM, Quaker Faith and Practice 23:44

All Readings for Reflection
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