First, a few footnotes

In the upcoming Quaker Daybook, I’m making a conscious choice of using the Plain-style dating in the headline field – beginning with First Month 1, for example. Some of you may see an incongruity in that, considering that the WordPress programming will automatically also date each posting with the more worldly January 1 and so on.

Oh, well. We’ll live with it and likely fare well.

Many of the passages are intended to offer a Biblical perspective on Friends’ worship and practice. Others I’ve selected at random. As for any commentary, remember, it’s my own and is not intended to represent any official understanding among Friends – ours is a faith without dogma or creed, and it comes in many flavors and colors. In addition, I now see there are major gaps in what could have been presented. The Bible is a vast work, after all, and one meaningful daybook could focus solely on the Psalms or the gospels of Matthew or John, among other options. All quotations are from the Authorized Version (King James), unless otherwise noted. Having been around Friends who used the singular thee and thou usage, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that the Authorized Version gives us the perspective of whether one person is being addressed or more than one. Sometimes it’s an important distinction. As we go, I hope you all pick up on that detail. Because other translations often provide more clarity in a passage or open fresh understandings, I do draw on them as well. Among them are the New International Version (NIV), New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), Revised Standard Version (RSV), and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

You may find one drawback of the blog format occurs when a particular passage is stretched out over multiple days. While the sequence will be proper for those of you following the entries daily, those arriving later and scrolling down will encounter them in reverse order. Oh, well – maybe that, too, will open fresh insights and inspiration.

Coming next month, a Quaker daybook

Revisiting my files of unfinished writing projects, I came across an assembly of scriptural passages I’d made for a proposed Quaker Daybook. At the time, I was a board member of the Tract Association of Friends, a Philadelphia-based organization founded in 1816 and best known for its annual “Plain Calendar,” which has no illustrations and presents the year in the old Quaker terminology; there, “First Month” appears instead of “January,” and “First Day” instead of “Sunday,” and so on, to avoid the pagan and often misleading names in general circulation. (For example, “September,” meaning “seventh month,” now falls as the ninth month; October, November, and December similarly fail to align with modern usage.)

Several board members had suggested we create a corresponding daybook, where each day’s page would contain a scriptural passage, a reflection or commentary, a quotation from an historic Friend, and maybe even a prayer. Initially, I was dubious about the undertaking but began collecting material anyway. Several months later, after reviewing the scope of the project, we tabled the effort – wisely, I’ll agree.

Now, however, I am returning to the manuscript and making it the focus of this blog through 2014. Rather than complete the format as originally envisioned, though, I’m largely augmenting the daily entries with other pieces I wrote during that period – nearly three decades ago. It was a time of both intense change and upheaval for me, one that was drawing me near to a circle of Plain Friends who preserved the usage of “thee” and “thou” in their personal conversations, as well as to more liberal Mennonites and Brethren. I’ve also found myself inviting a largely unknown but extraordinary early Quaker to accompany us through much of the year: Elizabeth Bathurst, who died around the age of 30 but left a powerful document of faith for us to draw from.

For me, then, this effort produces a curious dimension: even though it comes as daily contemplation throughout the coming year, it also has me reflecting on thoughts and aspirations from nearly half of my life ago – as well as the evolving pathway that has brought me to where I am now. In some ways, what emerges resembles the vocal ministry that arises during our so-called silent meetings for worship.

Here’s hoping for thy company on First Month 1st.