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.