AS a Quanglican since I was listed as an attender at the Cartmel Quaker Meeting on a monthly basis around 1960, when I felt that my Anglican loyalty was jeopardised by the inadequacy of the Church of England’s response then to the challenge of nuclear war (though not that of the local clergy), I was glad to read about Hebden Bridge Quakers’ 25th anniversary celebrations.
I must however question my friend Catherine Putz’s remark that “a lot of churches are declining”, which isn’t true of our upper valley, or of the world as a whole, though the ebb and flow of faith has weakened parts of England.
Furthermore, my book Christian Faith and Practice of the Quaker Society of Friends, also dated 1960, stresses that “historically our society stands in the Christian tradition...Friends everywhere should share in the life and fellowship of the wider Christian community and co-operate as fully as possible in its work.”
It follows that if Catherine is correct in saying that “people see that Hebden Bridge Quakers are completely different from other groups”, then they are outside their society’s 350-year-old tradition, like Blairism was outside the century-old principles of the Labour Party (but I don’t think they are!)
It follows that a public dialogue about the roles of Christian bodies should be constructive, in spite of much that is shameful within what should have been two millennia of a universal society of friends.
Thus the episcopal churches can learn the use of silence in worship; and the Quakers that of poetry, song and, yes, wise dogmatism, which provides for guidelines for times of trouble, just as a ship in storm needs guideropes on deck so that sailors can move safely till harbour is gained. “Will your anchor hold?”