Friends,

I'd like to hear your thoughts about plain speech, if you would be willing to write in about it. It has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and I think I am being asked to learn more about it and work to practice it. From reading a little of early Friends' writings and about them, I gather that originally there were several elements to it. One was to follow Jesus's command not to swear oaths, but rather to make everything that comes out of one's mouth conform to the truth: to speak with perfect honesty and to keep any promises one made. Another aspect was to give up using pronouns and other forms of speech which exalted some and demeaned others on the basis of class (which led to Friends' use of "thee," of course.) But it appears to have developed into a much larger practice, something that had an effect on every aspect of life and was highly distinctive of Quakers. I would like to learn more about what it was and how these practices developed if anyone feels led to write in about that or suggest good reading about it.

I'd also like to know how anyone who practices plain speech today thinks of it. When I first began attending my meeting, I noticed that a few elders there responded to conversation with me by appearing to think carefully before they spoke. This practice was so alien to me that I felt intimidated by it. I had the impression that they thought I was such a trial to talk to, they had to work hard at it. (Maybe they did!) I realized recently that I've come far enough now that I appreciate the practice of taking care over one's speech and would like to do more of it myself.

Thank you for your help,
Rosemary

Tags: conservative, equality, plain, speech, thee, thy

Views: 609

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

It is interesting indeed. One thing that has happened on this journey is that I can't answer posts, notes, and letters right away because I find that if I do, I don't say what's in my heart, I am more likely to say what I think ought to be said, or what is the polite thing to be said. It is not easy for me to tell the truth (this kind of truth). I struggle, and it takes time.

I think being aware of NOT speaking this kind of truth is real progress for those of us who have become adept at hiding.
I'd like to point out that in older Modern English, when Quakers were new,
"thou" and "thee" and "thy" were used for SECOND person singular, even
when addressing God, but not when addressing the King. "You" and "ye"
and "your" were used for second person plural. In those days, plain speech
was simply honesty, by not addressing gentlemen or other "betters" as if
they were kings.
In newer Modern English, general usage has also leveled this difference, but
in the opposite direction. We simply don't use "thou" any more. We use
"you" to everyone. Using "thou" or "thee" or "thy" is simply cliquish,
especially if one uses it only when speaking with other Friends. Thus
this so-called "plain speech" is the opposite of plain.
But I think Martin Kelley is right about the names of the days of the
week and the months. The old pagan names still have some of their
original meaning; I can remember learning these meanings in school.
I think Friends would do well to number the days of the week and
the months again, as many have never stopped doing.
Jeremy Mott
I would counsel thee, Jeremy Hardin Mott, to search thy heart, for as soon as thee starts to insist that God can't work this way or he can't work that way, thee is on weak ground, particularly when Friends are explaining how this way that God can't work is working for them--bringing them closer to God, helping them be faithful, helping them be more loving. Compassion for thy neighbor and their spiritual endeavors is not a trivial grace, and humility is not won through intellectual superiorities. Where is the love? Has thee read what Friends have witnessed to in the previous posts? Does thee deny their witness as false and their experience as deluded?

Thee does not know everyone else's condition in this case, the Lord does, and if he leads some into this witness for their own good (and perhaps the good of others) thee should humbly acknowledge the limits of thy insight. I am not talking about relativism here--the use of "thee" and "thou" style plain speech has lasted for centuries, used by at least some Friends of good savour and spiritual insight, so Friends who feel led that way, strengthened to that witness, are on pretty stable ground, at least in our tradition. Beware the temptation to use what is good and right for thee (logical and intellectually satisfying included) and use it to define and restrict what is good and right for everyone.

Myself, I feel led to use "thee" and "thy" and "thine" (never "thou") sometimes and sometimes not, there being no co-relation for me between use and whether or not that person is a friend or a Friend or a stranger. That is where, in verbal communications, the practice of thinking about what I am about to say, particularly when about to use "thee" or not, to address someone directly, seems like a good thing for me and my salvation. I use plain speech most often in online communications, and it does seem to buffer and comfort somehow in that environment, particularly when I am trying to communicate difficult things. I struggle whenever I try to use numbers for the days of the week or the months. It hurts my brain. I've purchased the plain calendar sold by the Tract Association for years, and yet I am always having to calculate what day it "really" is.

Particularly, for me, numbers for the days get in the way of clarity, not just in my own mind, but when communicating with non-Quakers, explaining what day I am really talking about. "Please join us for worship on Fourth Day (the day known as Wednesday) . . . " somehow doesn't feel all that . . . welcoming. To me, it feels even more cliquish than "thee" or "thy" or "thine" . . . but I do not and am not disparaging those led in a different direction, to a witness against these day/month words and their unthinking use in the world. I'm just not strengthened that way by the Lord.
Isabel, God bless you, I would never say you should not do as
you think the Lord instructs you. I meant only to make
clear my own thinking on this matter. I don't even claim
that this thinking comes from the Lord.
As for the days of the week, and the names of the months,
many people of all religions have learned to use, and are
using, numbers. It seems to be very difficult at first, but
after a while it somes naturally.
Someday, I suggest, you might attend a semi-programmed
meeting, and report on your blog what you think of it. The
new FWCC directory even shows one in Ohio Y.M. Conservative.
There are many others scattered here and there, often shown
in directories as programmed meetings, but sometimes not.
I am told that even Baltimore Y.M. has a semi-programmed
meeting, at West Branch in central Pennsylvania. Unusually,
this meeting is of FGC heritage. I think that sem-programmed
meetings are something Friends need to know about.
Jeremy Mott
The FWCC directory sounds very interesting. I am interested in knowing which meeting in Ohio Yearly Meeting is semi-programmed.
According t0 the FWCC direct0ry (which of course might be
mistaken). the Seekers' Haven Worship Group in Middlesburg Hts.,
Ohio, meets at 300PM Sundays and its worship style is "semi-
programmed. unprogrammed." The contact phone is Conrad
Lindes. 440-884-0338. The yearly meeting is listed as Ohio (C).
The website (which I have not looked up) is www.ohioyearlymeeting.
org/seekhavebase.htm.
West Branch meeting in Pennsylvania is omitted from the
FWCC directory, presumably in error, since it may be found
in the Baltimore Y.M. website. I am told by knowledgeable
Friends, members of nearby State College meeting. that it has been semi-programmed for a long time.
When I was a boy (Forties and Fifties), many united meetings
in New York Yearly Meeting were almost semi-programmed.
We generally had half an hour of hymn-singing every Sunday,
followed by unprogrammed worship. Much of the leadership
in some of these meetings came from Five Years Meeting and
evangelical yearly meetings "out west." Other meetings had
(and have) almost fully programmed worship on many Sundays,
and fully unprogrammed worship on other Sundays. Confer
the website of Poplar Ridge meeting in New York Y.M. (not
in North Carolina Y.M.) for an example of this practice.
Friends have developed many choices in "worship style".

Jeremy Mott
Why do you think that semi-programmed meetings are something Friends need to know about?

Paula
Hello Paula, I think semi-programmed meetings are interesting in and
of themselves. After all, I grew up in one, or one of a similar kind.
More important, I think that pastoral programmed meetings do
not, at least in the U.S.A., have a rosy future. Friends do not support pastors well at all. And many pastoral meetings are too small now
to continue much longer as they are. More and more, a Quaker
pastor will be likely to be holding a part-time job as a hospital
chaplain or a prison chaplain or a counselor, which may prevent
him or her from leading worship services every week. The members
of the congregation can lead their worship by themselves, of course;
and they may well do it in a semi-programmed form----at least
until they go all the way to an unprogrammed form.
I know that the Evanston (Ill.) meeting was originally a
pastoral, fully programmed meeting; then it became semi-programmed; finally it became non-pastoral and unprogrammed.
The same progression, I believe, was followed by the Poughkeepsie
meeting in New York Y.M. Several meetings in N.Y.Y.M. have
been fully programmed when they can find a pastor, and semi-programmed in the often long intermissions between pastors (when the members organized their own worship.)
Remember that at present there are far more pastoral, fully programmed Friends meetings and churches in the U.S.A. than there are unprogrammed meetings. But I think that this may well
have to change in the near future.
Jeremy Mott
I hadn't thought of that. Indeed it would difficult for pastoral programmed meetings to fully employ a pastor since Friends do not have clergy. I belong to an unprogrammed meeting myself, and love it very much.
Jeremy--

Somehow, Martin managed to sound like he was just reporting his own thinking and thee managed to sound like thee was reporting the facts . . .

I would happily attend a semi-programmed meeting, should the opportunity present itself. I am fairly positive there aren't any in Colorado, so it might be challenging for me to find one to attend . . .

I have tried to use the plain language for days/months "religiously" since 2004. Months have been easy, but days not so much. Before I became a Friend, I had rather assumed Sunday was the seventh day--it was often repeated in my childhood that on the seventh day God rested and that we should rest on Sunday. So, today, six years into my attempt to adopt numbers for days of the week, I still literally count on my fingers from First Day to figure out each day after. Seriously, I even have to pause to calculate what day Second Day would be. It was after five years of finger counting and translating that I started to accept it wasn't something the Lord was strengthening me to do.

Perhaps I am not the only person who finds it more difficult than thee may imagine to transpose days of the week into numbers. If I were a different sort of person, I might just feel that thee was saying I was dumb if it didn't come naturally . . . which it clearly is not going to do. "Being made" to feel dumb might be a barrier to the Truth to some, which for me is a more important test than the elevator test that Martin has felt led to use. Certainly I would be afraid that it would be a barrier to clear communication, since I am so unclear myself.

Interestingly, our little worship group advertizes itself as Fourth Fourth-Day Worship at the meetinghouse, but that is quickly followed by an invitation to join us on Wednesday.

Isabel Penraeth
I also have to admit to finger-counting once for the mid-week days! I should also admit that while in theory I think the numbered days are an relevant witness, in practice I don't use them with non-Friends, for many of the reasons you list above.
Hello Friends, I too do some counting when using numbers
for the days of the week. I would not bother to go through
this at all, except that in primary school I was taught in
considerable detail about the pagan meanings of these
days' names. Are these things still taught? Even in Quaker
schools? Somehow, I doubt it.
This discussion proves one thing, for sure: We Friends are,
altogether, a folk religion. Even where our membership
includes many college professors, they are not professors
(with rare exceptions) of religion. Most Friends in liberal
circles never open a Bible, and most Friends in most branches
probably never open a book of discipline. We depend on
tradition and on leadings that we believe come from the Lord.
All this is okay---except we might use the books as well as
well as tradition and leadings---but we should try to mind
the implications. One implication is that, since we have great
turnover in membership, with our young people usually
leaving and newcomers coming in, our "tradition" can
change easily and quickly. A good example of this, in
my memory, is what has happened with clearness committees,
which once existed only for membership and marriage. In
this case, the new tradition may be better.
Isabel, here is an idea: it probably won't work out, but
it just might. Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting is not only
an evangelical yearly meeting but a holiness yearly meeting.
Holiness Friends churches often have semi-programmed
worship or at least a long period of unprogrammed worship
along with the programmed worship. It's possible that,
especially in this yearly meeting's smaller churches up in
the Rockies, you might find some semi-programmed worship.
The yearly meeting office should be able to tell you about this.
Holiness Friends sometimes have, or used to have, some
similarities to Conservative Friends. Yes, they are often
very narrow-minded about some matters, but that is a
generalization that, I think, applies to almost all Friends.
Paula, I would guess that most of the Friends on this site
attend unprogrammed meetings. Will you tell us which one
you attend? I attend at Roanoke, Va. Though it is an
unprogrammed meeting, there are several programmed
meetings in the area as well. There are now almost no
areas in the U.S.A. without an unprogrammed meeting---
this was an achievement of the "united Friends" movement
of the period 1920-1970---but there are many areas of old
Friends settlements where the programmed meetings are
greatly in the majority. As with unprogrammed Friends
meetings, the programmed meetings have great variety,
but it's safe to say that practically all are Christian churches,
whether evangelical, even fundamentalist, or liberal
Christian. There are now far more Friends outside the
U.S.A. than inside the U.S.A.; and except in Britain and
Europe (also Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and
Japan), the overwhelming majority of Friends are in
programmed meetings. You might enjoy reading the
new book Spirit Rising, an anthology of pieces by hundred
of young Friends around the globe. You will find out what
a small part of the worldwide Religious Society of Friends
the unprogrammed (or for that matter, the programmed)
Friends in the U.S.A. have become.
Jeremy Mott

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? If you this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.


You can also make a one-time donation or get us something from our Amazon wishlist.

Latest Activity

Forrest Curo replied to Laura Scattergood's discussion 'Oh Errand Boy! Oh Errand Boy! Serve ME!'
"Whenever I could work out whatever Bob Dylan was mumbling, it was usually well worth working out.…"
9 hours ago
Forrest Curo replied to Clem Gerdelmann's discussion 'Quaker Scissorhands'
""Forces" just "force" one thing or another to do-as-driven. "Beings"…"
10 hours ago
Laura Scattergood posted a discussion

Oh Errand Boy! Oh Errand Boy! Serve ME!

Didn't Bob Dylan say something about like this, "Do you ever wonder, do you ever wonder just what…See More
13 hours ago
Jon Watts posted a video

Quakers and Sex: A Call to Embrace Sexual Diversity

What does the Quaker religion believe about sex? Su Penn offers one possible answer: "Quakers are uniquely qualified to transform how we deal with sex and se...
17 hours ago
David Nelson Seaman replied to Clem Gerdelmann's discussion 'Quaker Scissorhands'
"From my own Liberal perspective, when the word-name God is invoked, it conjures up for me the…"
17 hours ago
Keith Saylor posted a blog post

A Morning Pray. Watchful of the Perfect Day

On this day and in these moments:May the Life and Presence of Christ enlighten our consciousness…See More
19 hours ago
Kevin Camp posted a blog post

Good News for People Who Like Bad News

I was 13 years old. The combined forces of high estrogen and high testosterone had turned my…See More
19 hours ago
Patricia Dallmann liked Clem Gerdelmann's blog post The Case of Re-veil vs. Revelation
21 hours ago

© 2014   Created by QuakerQuaker.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service