Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Why do Primitive Quakers cling to tradition? Is it a comforting way to be with one another and speak and practice comforting, known, already practice methods of socializing? I do not know where Primitive Quakers feel that "tradition" leads them and would very much like to understand how what feels very much like a "retro" approach is helpful in one's spiritual life which, I always assumed, meant exploring spiritual insights which had not been achieved before.
The idea of returning to a previously achieved spiritual experience in order to re-experience it is new to me. Or, have I misunderstood?
-- Jean Yeager
Your question is a good one! Some traditionalists cling to "old ways" (at least their own version of "old ways") because they find a sense of authenticity by "retro-ing" to the past. This is especially true for those not reared in a traditionalist meeting. For those who were raised in a traditionalist group, there may be security in "doing it the way parents and grandparents did it." This may involve cherished memories and fond links to an old meetinghouse. At its best traditionalism is a search for the close contact with God and intimacy with like-minded believers that nourished the traditional Quaker community "through the ages." This is what anthropologist Victor Turner called "communitas". https://www.definitions.net/definition/communitas
I've never heard of "Primitive Quakers" before. Could you describe who you mean?
If you reference my papers on "Cyrus Cooper" and "Conservative Friends," they should explain briefly who the Primitive Friends were and what they stood for. I was absolutley astounded when we visited relatives of my wife Darlene near Lancaster County PA and found that they had never heard of Primitive Friends, even though they lived only a few miles from a Primitive meetinghouse and probably had deceased relatives who were Primitive Friends!! John Brady's brief history of Conservative Friends probably explains who the Primitive Friends were, also.
The last stronghold of Primitive Friends in the U.S. was in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, as far as I know. Quaker Jane's website includes pictures of some of them: http://www.quakerjane.com/index.php?fuseaction=plain_dress.plainqua...
William F Rushby said:
I was absolutley astounded when we visited relatives of my wife Darlene near Lancaster County PA and found that they had never heard of Primitive Friends, even though they lived only a few miles from a Primitive meetinghouse and probably had deceased relatives who were Primitive Friends!!
How could someone live only a few miles from a Primitive Friends' meetinghouse and not be aware of it? They knew this southern Lancaster County meetinghouse very well but identified it as Conservative rather than as Primitive. Right at the moment, the name of this meetinghouse escapes me.
Patricia Dallmann said:
Thank you for presenting these two quotations, Bill, and also for referring earlier to Benson's None Were So Clear. I would like to read your paper when it is ready. Would you announce its availability on QuakerQuaker when the time comes? Thanks.
William F Rushby said:
I am close to finishing revision of my paper on "Ann Branson and the Eclipse of Oracular Ministry in 19th Century Quakerism." I quoted, toward the end of that paper, J. William Frost and Ben P. Dandelion on ministry in liberal unprogrammed meetings.
Here's what they wrote:
. J. William Frost: “ministry is now less speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit than seeking for the truths discovered in thought, or study, or by meditating.”[i] Ben P. Dandelion: “Ministry comes from the or the head but from the person, not God. Quakers thank each other for their ministry, not each other for being faithful vessels. Thinking is the most popular activity in Meeting, not dying to the self.”[ii]
My paper on "Ann Branson and the Eclipse of Oracular Ministry in Nineteenth Century Quakerism" was published in*Quaker History*, Fall 2016, Vol.105 #2, 44-69. I regret that the paper was poorly edited. That issue was the last one edited by the party involved, and I was not given a chance to correct errors and mistakes. some of which were not my doing. I will say that the anonymous scholarly reviewer brought to my attention the manuscript version of the journal of Joseph S. Elkinton (1830-1905), which provided valuable information for the final draft of my paper.