I have read 381 of the Pendle Hill Pamphlets. It has taken me about 40 years or so, starting in my home meeting library (in Vermont, USA). Then when I came to Australia, I found a trove of them in the Canberra Meeting library, from the 1930s to the present, so I read through them. About 5 years ago, I decided to write reviews of them, to share my delight, since so many of them are utterly wonderful, rich and enlightening.
I have read other Quaker literature, but the PHPs have always been a favorite, and invaluable. Short as they are, they are so easy to read. And to reread. They address all kinds of things, covering all kinds of aspects of Quaker life and thought. They include most of the best Quaker authors. They range from wise basic Quakerism to great profundity and inspiration. Lots of them are the personal spiritual stories of Friends, fascinating and enlightening. For example, Steve Smith’s story of how he found Zen Buddhism at a dry and desperate time of his life, and how it led him back to Quakerism (#370, 2003). Or Michael Resman’s story of how teaching special education students has been a rich spiritual journey (#390, 2007). Or John Andrew Gallery’s experiences at a weekly prayer vigil for peace and how it deepened his spiritual life (#358, 2001).
Reading all these has had a great impact on me. They have provided me with a Quaker education – quite a thorough Quaker education. They have given me both guidance and language to formulate my experience. They have shown me to take note of the small stirrings in my heart during the silence, to look for them, recognize them, follow them and trust them. And they helped to find words to describe what I have come to know in my heart.
They have taught me, over the years, about the Quaker Way of “conversion,” of spiritual formation, of how to keep going deeper as a Quaker and what this does to you. This is the transformative Quaker process of a lifetime, of detaching gradually from the secular materialist individualistic competitive superficial culture we are swimming in, and learning gradually from the Inner Teacher, and each other, the Inward Way, the deep spiritual reality of the universe and our lives, and gradually giving myself over to it.
There has been a lot to learn. And a lot to unlearn. I have had to unlearn lots of expectations and learn how to feel my way by the Truth of the Heart, as Rex Ambler calls it. To sink into the deep silence where I can feel in my heart the spiritual reality. When I try to put words to it, it sounds like a thought, an intellectual statement, but really it’s a knowing, not a notion. I’ve been guided and inspired in doing this by the wisdom and stories I’ve found in so many of those pamphlets!
In my hope to make the Pendle Hill Pamphlets more accessible to Friends, I have put all my reviews online, at the site QuakerReviews in librarything.com. Each short review covers what the pamphlet is about and my assessment of the quality of its content, insight, and writing style. It also includes subject categories on each one, a rating from zero to five stars, and publication information. The reviews are searchable by subject category, author, title, date, or rating. You can find all this at www.librarything.com/catalog/QuakerReviews.
Jean is from Vermont, USA and spends 3 months every year in Canberra, Australia with her husband David. They have been doing this for many years and when in Canberra are valued members of Canberra Friends Meeting.