The Way of Plain Friends

THE life of a Quaker child is unique in this: there are no scenic effects — no chiaroscuro, no Veronese color. Life is not a fresco: it is a mechanical drawing, with precision, symmetry, long perspective. It is a matter of regularity, not variant; of rule, not exception; of structure rather than decoration. Life is rhythmic but it is a rhythm got by repetition, the rhythm of the Psalms: —

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.

Life is highly ritualistic but the ritual is one of omission. It is highly sacramental but the sacrament is of silence. The raising of the Host is invisible. The Grail is bodiless. Antiphony there is but it is not verbal.


There is a long space in childhood when violent contrasts are unknown. Life is neat and orthodox, a matter of sums and Meeting — also, be it said, of shimmering double damask, of dryglazed porcelain carried long ago from Cathay, and of garments not needful of adornment for the fabric is of finest silk and of softest wool. There is synthesis, got in the little, everyday, familiar things. Does not the headmistress dress exactly as does mother? Dress is a continuum, never exactly old and certainly never new. I presume my mother had new bonnets but none ever knew of their advent. ‘Bring me my bonnet’ — there was but one. The green square box which was its repository decades ago is its repository to-day. The new occupant was never heralded: the old passed without requiem.

Even the phraseology of home and school and Meeting knew no variableness neither shadow of turning. It was always ‘thee’ and ‘me.’ On First Day morning my mother would throw back her little silver shawl, as if loosening the things of time and space, and would read in gentle singsong: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Later, at Meeting, clear A— W— would loosen another little silver shawl, remove a bonnet the replica of every other in that low room, and repeat in the same reverent singsong: I will say of the Lord He is my refuge and my strength. On chillsome First Day mornings my mother would say with decision: ‘This is a cold morning: thee will wear thy wool leggings.’ And under the shadow of the Meeting house porch S— E—, ruddy under the gray thatch of her bonnet, would greet us cheerily with: ‘It’s a cold morning. I’m glad to see thee has on thy wool leggings.’

There were minor dissonants in this antiphonal life. For instance, I knew my father’s hat, not only because it always hung on the fifth peg from the end on the meeting-house row, but also because the brim curled ever so slightly. Also, his coat had a conventional, worldly collar. By these tokens we thought him different — which indeed he was.

Of subtleties life was meagre; of devious ways there were few; the street usually was called Straight. And there was a modicum of magic. Hence such hours receive more than their rightful share of remembrance. Such an one was an hour, beginning gray but ending in dear enchantment, for within the sixty seconds of that hour I came first to know, and almost simultaneously, a Kentucky cardinal, a flaming impertinent poinsettia, and a new word — a profane word. So it must have been, on an insufferably drab day on Patmos when one became immortal because he raised his eyes and saw an enticing beast rise up out of the sea . . . upon his heads the name of blasphemy. There may have been sins as scarlet that day on the little island, but monotony there was none.

It was of a Seventh Day afternoon and I went with my father on our usual jaunt into the country. And, as usual, we turned into Chestnut Street to linger for a moment before Pennell’s florist shop. The window was fresh filled with poinsettias, then new in the land. We stood long before that voluptuous feast and as we stood my father sighed. And I knew that, without exactly desiring it, his thought was turning to something that was not.

We went on to Bartram’s Gardens. It was a dull day and before we were able to get as far as the Salisburia adiantifolia — which was the foolish boast of the old arboretum — the heavy fog that sometimes settles over the low Schuylkill Valley drove us home. As we found our way through the garden, picking our path with difficulty, there darted toward us out of the thick, cotton-y mist a brilliant red bird. ‘By Jove, that’s a cardinal!’ murmured my father and, dropping my hand in utter oblivion, he gave a soft call which I had never before heard. The bird did not respond and we walked on. ‘Father, what did thee say when thee saw the bird?’ I asked.

‘I said I thought it must be a cardinal.’

‘But I mean first — before that— when thee first saw the bird?’

‘I was surprised,’ he said guardedly. ‘I did n’t realize they came so far north.’

Next morning came a fine, cold, steady sleet. The old horse-cars were held safe in the barn. After a deal of masculine adult uncertainty, it was decided that we stay at home.

‘By Jove, we don’t go to Meeting,’I announced to my mother.

The effect of this pleasantry was electric. The gentle folds of the little silver shawl stiffened into the rigid cadence of the First Commandment. Oh, the relentless conflict of that hour! Self-preservation urged me to confess my source, and yet, and yet, he of the worldly coat must be shielded from the righteous wrath of the little silver shawl. And in the course of that day of sleet I was to learn that he of the worldly coat was a Friend — but with a difference. He had come late to the Fellowship, ‘because,’ they said, ‘of convincement.’ But I did not need to be told that it was because of an undying affection.

That night I said to my sister: ‘Did thee ever know that thee does n’t have to marry a Quaker?’

‘Yes,’ she said sleepily, ‘but who else is there?’

How expectations dupe us. The wicked promise of that exquisite hour of poinsettias and profanity was never fulfilled. Life again became sober and antiphonal, and yet, not just as before. I was conscious of a deepened relationship.


Pledges were abroad. Perhaps in thy family it was Burgundy: in mine it was bonbons.

Easily did I enter into a contract, to run for a term of months, not ‘to taste or touch.’ Physical details had been explained in my presence and, while they were not to me so crystal-clear as they seemed (were they?) to other juvenile auditors, I gathered that it was quite the same as being ‘eaten by worms,’ and, remembering Herod, I was led to swift decision. Thee perceives that my little contract was entered into mainly for physical advantages, but also there was a slight economic concession, for, later, I was to receive compensation as befitted the sacrifice, and both environment and inheritance had engendered respect for equitable monetary profit. Little did I dream that I was enlisting for Armageddon.

Like all contracts of childhood this represented an unfair advantage to the elders who constituted the ‘party of the second part’; for they knew, as I did not, of greetings from a gracious Friend whose ‘concern’ for us was annual and whose visitation was imminent. This ‘concern’ was ‘tenderly cherished’; for, along with the rewards of ‘sweet comfort’ and ‘solid peace’ which the Discipline bade her convey, she had a minor ‘concern.’ Her advent embraced not only those gifts of the spirit which were the natural fruit of her ministry but a dear attribute and rare— sticks of plaited peppermint.

Whether indifference on a former visit had suggested the law of diminishing returns, I know not; but this year the ancient attribute was transmuted into caramels.

And there was my contract — not yet a fortnight old!

And now if thee washes to know truly of the location of Armageddon I can assist thee. It is not in the heart of any vision. Be not deceived there. Nor is it in the valley of the little brook Kishon. It is in an old-fashioned ‘sitting-room,’ in an old-fashioned house in the City of Brotherly Love. And the battle was waged in the stillness of the midnight, and the stars in their courses did not fight for Deborah. That detail is a redactor’s gloss.

Down the dark stairs I padded, with the swift, sure tread of childhood. There in the moonlight gleamed the bright box: the little contract retired to the ‘suburbs of my regard.’ ‘“As for that threatening,” said the least worthy of Arthur’s Knights, “be that as it may, we will go to dinner. ” ‘

I recall without effort the mad license of that hour. One, two, three, four, five, six — and then a wide band of moonlight caught, simultaneously, the bottom of the box, my mother’s spotless cap, a substantially bound copy of Maxims and The Rules of Discipline and Advices. These were the bulwarks of my little world and I had betrayed them. Audibly spoke the Discipline:

We desire that our members may so realize the saving power of the grace of God that they will be enabled to deny all worldly allurements, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, that they may adorn the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things.

More swiftly than she had come, the offender fled, straight to her father’s room, where sound sleep was broken with the scorching words: ‘Oh, I ‘ve lied to thee: — I ‘ve lied — I ‘ve lied — I ‘ve eaten caramels.’

Training under the Discipline and Advices had not been wasted.

Nevertheless, the help of the Society being by none so much needed as by the weak and the wayward, the caution is extended that no judgment be placed hastily, or in the spirit of condemnation, but all offenders should be labored with lovingly, patiently, and so long as a reasonable hope of benefit therefrom appears.

Thereafter there were no pledges but there is a little spot in that house which to this day, to the initiated, is known as Peniel.


Once, of a Fifth Day, at three P.M., it rained. And thereby, a philosopher records, the whole course of his life was changed. With what underlying content would one face a catastrophe so unmistakably of divine ordainment! Mine was not so: mine was of mortal mind.

It was a matter of a hat — a white hat, blue underneath, of the shade effected by Fra Angelico angels, and above, a wee, red rose. The subtle appeal of that ‘wee, crimson-tipped flower’ was to me irresistible and to this day I do not fathom its rejection. The hat represented not only grace but adventure for I came by it through pure strategy. Rightly do I say pure. Was it not a strategy suggested by the Inner Light, though perhaps not just such a manifestation as I had been taught to revere? The real test of a hat, as everyone knows, is time, and to this day, after a term of years which I would fain abridge, the lure of that hat is upon me. The grace of an Old Master it had, with no philistine possibilities for absurdity with the passing of time. At least so it dwells in my memory. On the ethics of its procurement it pleases me to be properly vague, for it represented not only a forbidden act of borrowing but a nice deception and a concession to Appearance which was a prostitution of that independence, pure and undefiled, which was mine by inheritance. I may say in its favor that the possession of it was by way of preparation for one —again my authority was the Inner Light — who I believed would speak ‘ honey-sweet words ‘ as we walked through the Crum Creek wood after Meeting, and I was tremulously expectant as to what those winged words would be. Not that I was altogether unfamiliar with amorous terms; but my meagre supply was assembled from Saints Legendes and from moments when Mme. Guyon, caught up into rapt flirtation with the Deity, became glowingly articulate. Though satisfactorily fervid, these were properly remote.

My narrative, in naked outline, runs thus: I was going on a week-end, not far, to the modest country home of an elder Friend. And quite well I knew what awaited me: ‘wheaten bread in a beautiful basket’; a long walk under the stars; rivalry in the placing of constellations; the next morning — Meeting; in the afternoon Friends would ‘drive over’ for that calm and comprehensive gossip which characterizes the Fellowship. The last was the item I planned to omit. At that moment I would be walking in the Crum Creek wood, under my rose, the coy rose which earlier had been smuggled into my hand by a fellow conspirator, one who dwelt in the fair land of Style, and whom, by some strange infidelity of the human heart, I have ever since hated.

Exhilaration carried my plan beyond the point of wisdom. First Day morning came, sunny, windless, warm

— a gracious day! And at ten o’clock a gracious voice: ‘Is thee ready? It’s time for fleeting.’ Ready indeed I was

— and, unwittingly, garlanded for the sacrifice, for in that little white upper room I had come upon a daring resolve, namely, to take the rose to Meeting.

Never was a little drama planned with more classic precision; never was one so abruptly wrecked because of the evil inherent in a bit of ‘property.’ For one brief moment I held ‘centre’ on the stage of my imaginings. None showed surprise nor was there shadow of rebuke, but again the gentle voice: ‘It’s a warm morning: thee will not need a hat for Meeting.’

I ask myself about those gentle voices and wonder at the unswerving obedience given them. None of them were without significance. Dignity, beauty, self-control — surrender came at their bidding.

Now, easily could I have adorned myself with wickedness in the afternoon and I shall not say that a little wicket gate at the end of a lane, generously conniving iniquity, did not murmur: ‘When the dial points to three, thee can pass, unseen, through me to the Crum Creek wood.’ But no! I could not. Let me pay belated tribute to the glory of that little house. Rebellion a-plenty it had seen, but not disguise.

Perhaps the little river, that First Day afternoon, ‘made glad the city of God.’ If so, at this distance, I am content. But glamour there was none. Not even ‘the honey sweet words’ could recapture it.

There came a day when I had occasion to be grateful for the gentle deterrent that sent me hatless to Meeting. It was on another First Day and at a Meeting of large attendance. A long line of well polished ‘germantowns’ were parked in the shed. Inside, the leaders’ seat had few empty places. The spotless white room, with its wooden benches, was almost full. Bands of sunlight entered through the slatted blinds and lay across the floor. The old creeper on the east wall was full of young leaves that cast quivering shadows on a line of gray silk bonnets — a blasphemous adornment, the only one they would ever know. Placid faces were all unconscious of this merry dance going on over their heads.

A little wager my sister and I once arranged on a windy morning that these dervishes would overtake the neat headdress of a particularly saintly ‘overseer.’ They did not. They crept as far as a gray-wool shoulder. A wayward victorious foot found mine under the wooden bench. I appeared to be rapidly losing. No broker at the races ever watched for the finish of his darling with more excitement than did I those nervous, progressive shadows. Though I had never heard of benefit of clergy, my faith was strong that the saints were inviolate. And they were: faith was vindicated. Just in time the woman of God removed her bonnet, unconsciously placing it beyond encroachments.

But on this particular morning it was not a shadow that engrossed us but a reality — an unspeakable reality. A worldly woman, doubtless a daughter of Zion — otherwise why in Meeting? — but such an one as we knew only through the pages of an ancient book,1 one who walked haughtily, attired with a pendant and bracelets, with a crescent and headtire, with a perfume box and a veil. And the Lord had not yet taken away the beauty of her anklets, for I could clearly see, through a break in the bench, mounted on ankles of exquisite slenderness, two chaste buckles of silver.

A wanton woman! And she walked with ‘outstretched neck,’ and, to our horror, she took her place on the men’s side.

Not in all the length and breadth of my early youth do I recall a moment of such inner intensity. No head turned in that quiet room: there was no perceptible movement, but the air became tense. Clearly this was no time to wait on the spirit. There was the slightest movement on the women’s side of the leaders’ seat. A bonnet was quietly laid aside, an outer shawl was folded, an inner shawl was loosened: an uncompromising figure rose, swayed for a moment with closed eyes, and then cut the air with the familiar words: ‘And even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.’ Quietly she resumed her place, still with closed eyes. Another rose and, with equal leisure and solemnity, cast another word into the void: ‘Thou mindest not the things of God but the things of man.’ The feminine marauder on the men’s side was impervious: her well-set head was unbowed. Then we knew that the thunderings of Sinai were due. An aged leader took up his big book, a book which was a landmark in that Meeting. Hands trembling with zeal found the place. The spirit was moving with terrible swiftness. With unmistakable clearness came the anathema: And it shall come to pass that instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness: and instead of a girdle, a rope: and instead of well-set hair, baldness: and instead of a robe, a girding of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty.

On the end of my bench, even the stranger forgot, I was giving thanks for the tender discipline of S— G—in the matter of the rose. And earnestly was I making my covenant. None made with patriarch under Syrian sky was more solemnly consummated: ‘O God, never, never will I wear a hat with a red rose.’

And ‘before God, I lie not’: I never have.


It is the first Second Day after the fourth First Day of the Third Month . . . and it is Yearly Meeting. ‘As for me,’ says the Dear Alien, ‘I take along with me a little heathen calendar that I may know “when’s when.” ‘ But they of the Fellowship know that as far back as 1691 it was advised that ‘Friends be exemplary in keeping to our ancient testimony against the superstitious observance of days: and to the simplicity of Truth in calling the days and months by the Scripture names and not by those of the heathen.’ For weeks now cordial words have been passing in the Delaware Valley, hospitable legends such as these: ‘We should like thee to have dinner with us on Third Day.’ ‘Plan to stop with us on Seventh Day.’ ‘We cannot come early but we shall see thee at meeting on Fourth Day morning.’ ‘Do the Presbyterians have a talk, too?’ once asked a bewildered playmate.

This particular Second Day dawns a dour morning. Never, indeed, in the memory of man has Yearly Meeting brought a run of fine weather. We remember this because annually we are defrauded of ‘wearing our best.’ For when it comes to Yearly Meeting, there is a tradition in favor of the beauty of holiness, even though a minute of 1682 is perpetuated to this day: ‘It is advised that all Friends both old and young, keep out of . . . vain and needless fashions . . . and all such kinds of stuffs, colors, and dress as are calculated more to please a vain and wanton mind than for real usefulness; and we tenderly warn our members against being accessory to these evils.’

Outside the high brick wall that guards the Meeting House is the ‘encumbering hurry of busy feet.’ Under the wall sits the ancient seller of lavender.

‘Lavender! Lavender! ‘
His songs were fair and sweet
He brought us harvests out of Heaven
Full sheaves of radiant wheat.
He brought us keys to Paradise
And hawked them through the street.

He knows that at Yearly Meeting week his basket will fetch a bit of a harvest.

‘I likes to sell to the old ones,’ he says; ‘the lavender just seems to suit ‘em. They all lookin’ alike and dry and sweet-smell in’,’ and he pats his plump little uniform bags with a sense of harmony. ‘They never hurries yeh. And they ‘ve always got the change,’ he adds, with the satisfaction of one who has sat long under the wall and finds pleasure in penury where motion is concerned.

The Meeting-House is of brick, with white shutters and doors. It is swept but not garnished, it being recorded of the house that was garnished that seven devils applied for tenantry; and in these matters one takes no risks. The spirit of the Meeting-House makes no adulterous alliance with æsthetics. Not a symbol, not a decorative line breaks the fine candor of the clear buff walls. Long ago one William Penn raised a standard which might well apply to the Meeting-House: ‘A sweet and natural retreat from noise and talk, allowing opportunity for reflection and giving the best opportunity for it.’

Under the shadow of the porch one will hear friendly greetings in subdued voices. There is the fine courtesy, the ‘great and gracious ways’ of those who, having fixed their hearts on things eternal have not failed also to attract much that is exquisitely temporal. Formality is subtly distinguished from intimacy by the use of the full name. One hears, by way of introduction: ‘John Evans, I want thee to know Thomas Gwynne, who has recently become one of us.’ Or, to an elder Friend: ‘Thee take my place and let me go upstairs; I am younger than thee.’ There are no disguises as to age in the Fellowship. Would that our names were written as legibly in the Book of Life as in the MonthlyMeeting Record. Or one hears, to visitors from a sister meeting: ‘Thee first, friends from North Carolina.’ Or, to one cumbrously bundled: ‘Does n’t thee want to take thee things off before Meeting?’ Whereby one knows that the charm of English speech is not captured by mere grammar.

I am guilty of a little uneasiness as I enter Meeting, for at my elbow is the Dear Alien, he to whom Gregorian chants and chamber music are as the breath of life. Does he know that ‘the use of music as a part of Divine worship is contrary to our conviction as to the right performance of this solemn and imperative duty, which must be in spirit and in truth directly between the soul and its creator?’ Does he know that ‘we fee! that music displaces the spiritual harmony which is the result of true communion with Jesus Christ, in which the mind is brought into accord with the Divine will and worships God as His Spirit moves and guides? The emotions flowing from pleasant sounds, whether of voice or instrument, are but physical as distinguished from spiritual and may be classed with other exciting agents.’ Does he know that ‘it is our desire to avoid distractions and in the stillness of all flesh to go deep into the very recesses of our hearts, there to listen to the voice of the Master?’

Little perhaps does Dear Alien realize how I have bled for his dear sake, for of a Seventh Day afternoon, under his guidance, we found our way to a spot — not a Meeting-House — where a master hand was laid on a deep-toned organ. And that night, at the board of a young Friend of the Old School, the Alien burst into exuberant account of a Bach fugue. In silence I agonized. Well I knew he would be ‘tenderly and seasonably admonished’; and so it was. ‘Thee knows we do not speak of such things,’ our hostess gently said, meanwhile alleviating rebuke with a ‘second helping’ of the fine products for which that house was noted. And yet it was she who that night, under the winter sky, tuned our ears to the music of the stars, each a familiar friend.

And I am remembering that when I left that pleasant ‘steading’ the Dear Alien, by way of ‘Farewell,’ pressed upon me current magazines which one by one found their way to the rubbish pile, but the ‘Strange Lady, to whom above all womankind the Olympians gave a heart that could not be softened,’ said shyly as I left: ‘T will give thee a book to read on thy journey.’ And she did and it was covered with brown silesia. But it turned my head ‘toward the splendor of the sun’ and sent me sailing ‘toward a wine-dark deep’ for it was no other than the Odyssey which I read unto this day — without the silesia cover. Each to his music and his romance in his own way!

‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ That was a great day, when the Era of the Pope was ended, and the Era of the Word of God was beginning to wane, when one George Fox arose and proclaimed again the Era of the Spirit. ‘Brethren,’ I hear one saying as I pass under the low lintel of the meeting-house, ‘let us not again be entangled in a yoke of bondage, for we are called to freedom.’

Quietly the Friends take their places, orderly as the stars in their orbits, and there falls a silence that surely is like none other in all the world. It is a silence of the group and hence of fellowship, a silence which ‘overarches the inner life as the sky does the outer,’ a silence which is definitely planned for, as dearly desired as the priceless jewel of the pearl merchant, because there the human soul comes into alignment with ‘the spirit that knoweth all things, even the deep things of God.’ Such silence is not lightly to be broken, never but by one upon whom has fallen, in insistent measure, the spirit of the Lord. ‘Waiting upon the Lord in stillness for the renewal of strength, keeps the mind at home in its proper place and duty, and out of all unprofitable association and converse. . . . We recommend a diligent waiting in true silence (which is much more than simply being quiet). . . . The anointing of the mental vision to behold the excellency of inward spiritual worship and the goodness of the Lord in giving us faith to sit down in silence, depending wholly upon the Shepherd of the sheep to feed his flock, are among the unspeakable favors for which we must give account.’

(We are led to believe that now and again this ‘unspeakable favor’ may be somewhat overpowering, for a minute of 1694, still retained in the Discipline, reads: ‘It is advised that such as come late to meeting, or, when there, fall asleep or otherwise demean themselves unbecoming our holy profession on these solemn occasions, be tenderly admonished.’ And there is a story —

I tell the tale as ‘t was told to me —

of such an one who, thrice in meeting, opened a watch of ancient design and closed the same with an audible click. And as audibly a voice murmured: ‘If thee cannot worship God without looking at thy watch perhaps thee had better retire.’)

It sometimes happens that the silence is broken by an articulate message. If not, no matter. ‘The solemn duty of performing divine worship rests upon us individually.’ And those who bear testimony after many years will say that it is in ‘silent meeting’ that ‘the divine tides’ find most readily their channel to the human heart.

And so I find it well to come,
For deeper rest to this still room
The world that time and sense have known
Falls off and leaves us God alone.
And very near about us lies
The realm of spiritual mysteries.

Presently two of the Friends will clasp hands,

The elder folk shook hands at last;
Down seat by seat the signal passed,

and by this simple token in the way of benediction we know that the devotional service for that day is over.

’But,’says Rufus Jones, ‘there is no inner life that has not also an outer life.’ There are ‘crealurely activities’ to be planned for at Yearly Meeting; there are ‘concerns to be considered’; there are the Queries to be presented; there are visiting Friends to be sent, if it is their ‘concern’ to go, to the outposts of Quakerdom, even to Africa, even to Cathay. ‘Care must be taken to see that such service is not impeded . . . for want of requisite means to defray the expenses of such a journey.

. . . And it is to be laid upon such Friends that they shall, when abroad on religious visits, humbly and steadily abide under the weight of the “concern” which drew them on such an important embassy.’ In short, there is business to be transacted.

And I venture a hazard, Dear Alien, that thee will not have seen business so conducted by any of the Grand Committees, large or small, on which thee may have served a partial or life sentence. Thee may recognize the Presiding Officer, formally known as the Clerk of the Meeting, he who is chosen under the guidance of the Spirit. But thee will see on his desk no gavel. And thee will not hear anyone speak to a motion, for the simple reason that there are no motions to speak to; hence there is no jungle of amendments; and thee will see no voting, for there is none. Thee will hear no discussion. Gavels and votes have no rightful place in a fellowship. Here are bankers and traders, public officials and college professors, folk from the countryside, folk from the city, several hundred in all, but here, within the four walls of Yearly Meeting, they are just members of the Society of Friends, and that bond is one not cemented by parliamentary rules. It is exactly like this: the Clerk announces one by one the items to be considered. ‘ If anyone has any thoughts on this subject, they will be acceptable,’ he says. There are suggestions from the floor. On the basis of these suggestions the Clerk interprets the will of the body — literally members of one body, where the eye doth not say, Because thou art. the foot, I have no need of thee. The interpretation of the clerk is recorded and, that there may be no misunderstanding, it is immediately read to the meeting.

Do none ever become garrulous? It has been known that they do. William Penn knew of such — ‘a common nuisance, a weir across the stream that stops the current, an obstruction.’ I myself have heard such an one ‘make harangue.’ On one occasion he was halted by a quiet voice which said: ‘When the vessels are filled the oil is stayed.’ It was enough: the subject was not reopened that day.

Thus has business been conducted for over two centuries now. They are dear ways — the ways of Meeting; and by some magic, though they are reputed to be the workings of the Spirit, they are known also to be efficient, though Heaven forfend that that word should ever wander like a mongrel into Meeting. Crushing was the rebuke it once invoked: ‘May we, members of a Fellowship, never come to regard ourselves as a machine: rather may we constantly and humbly strive to be organs of the Spirit.’

  1. See Isaiah iii.