John Perkin

John Perkin (d. 2012) was a painter of acrylics on board. His work was focused on john perkinlandscapes and community scenes. Transparency, that is, one appeared to see objects in the background through those in the foreground, was featured prominently in his paintings. Color and pattern were also a hallmark. Perkin often painted subjects sparked by Newbury, his home, and by his travels. He also created prints and sculptures. He was especially interested in light, visually and scientifically. Solo and groups shows were held in Berkshire and London. He graduated from Hertfordshire College of Art and Design and previously had been a research physicist.

Perkin was a member of Newbury (BrYM) Meeting. During his last years he produced about a dozen paintings of Meeting for Worship (Charney Solar, Centring Down, Silent Meeting, Meeting in the Park, etc.) Many of them hang at sites like Friends House on Euston Road, Woodbrooke College, Swarthmore Hall and Charney Manor. An exhibition of them was staged at Friends House on Euston Road, and some pieces were included in the Quaker Arts Network calendar Inspired by Worship.

I found Perkin’s Quaker paintings to be extraordinary. They reflect the attentiveness of Meeting for Worship perfectly. His use of transparency suggests the mystical dimension in his work. Centring Down (above), in particular, is marvelous.

February 2016


Douglas Steere

Douglas Steere (1901-95) was a Professor of Philosophy at Haverford College. He Steere-Douglas-757x1024was a visiting Professor of Theology at Union Theological Seminary. He was also a member of the American Philosophical Association and President of the American Theological Society.  Steere was active in ecumenical affairs. He co-created the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality and served on committees for both the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. He set up meetings of Zen Buddhist and Christian scholars in Japan and Hindu and Christian scholars in India. As well, he corresponded with Thomas Merton.

Steere was a member of Radnor (Pa) Meeting. He was Chair of the Friends World Committee for Consultation from 1964 to 1970. He also worked with the American Friends Service Committee, organizing relief work in Finland and overseeing projects worldwide. In 1964 he represented Quakers as an observer at Vatican II. He belonged to the board of managers for Pendle Hill, an organization that he and Dorothy, his wife, helped found. Steere wrote widely on Quakerism. His books and pamphlets included On Beginning from Within, Doors into Life, Time to Spare, On Listening to Another, Work and Contemplation, Prayer and Worship, The Open Life, and Quaker Spirituality (with Elizabeth Grey Vining). He also translated Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart.

I read Douglas Steere’s pamphlet The Quaker Meeting for Worship when I first began attending Meeting in the early 1970’s. It greatly influenced my experience of Friends Meeting and continues to do so. It is an eloquent description of Quaker worship.

A quote:

“….there are times when a certain slowing-down takes place, a certain healing seems to go on, a certain tendering, a certain “dependence of the mind upon God.” This, however, may come in at any point in my own directed prayers and take precedence over them. Someone asked another how long he ought to pray, and received the answer, “Long enough to forget time.” One might say of one’s own prayers that they ought to be persisted in only long enough to be superseded by something that takes a person beyond them. It is so much more important that we be prayed than that we pray”.

January 2016

Cecily Wood

Cecily Wood is a painter of seascapes, landscapes, flowers and animals. She uses cecily-wood7pastels and, occasionally, watercolors. She speaks about the fear she feels when she sits down at the blank paper and later the awe and gratitude when she has color and image on the paper. Cecily has attended classes at Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina, under the auspices of Ringling’s School of Art and Design. Wanting to share her work, she has often given her paintings away as presents. She has created tapestries, pillows and quilts and designed dollhouses. She has knitted or crocheted many scarves, sweaters, blankets, etc.

Raised a Presbyterian, Cecily began worshiping at Richmond Meeting in 1981. She and Herb Beskar were later married in Richmond Meeting. She is now a longtime attender at Roanoke (VA) Meeting. Cecily was drawn to Friends because of her attraction to mysticism and a background in meditation. She also credits her mother with giving her a respect for spiritual values generally. Meeting for Worship allows her to recharge herself, in particular those that are silent or mostly-silent.

I loved Cecily’s brightly-colored pastels, especially those of flowers. I was struck by a series that she painted of an amaryllis at various stages. A good, solid painter.

(Above is a painting of a Coral Amaryllis from Cecily’s garden).

 December 2015

Josiah Coale

Josiah Coale (1632?-1668) was an early Friends minister. He journeyed coalethroughout England, America and Holland, converting many to Quakerism. For his efforts, he was reviled, beaten and imprisoned by English and Dutch authorities and by the Puritans. Native Americans, however, welcomed him. His visit to Pennsylvania in 1660 was to treat with the Susquehanna Indians to purchase land there for a colony. Coale wrote prolifically about Quakerism (“To the King and Both Houses….”; “The Whore Unvaled….”; “Invitation to Love….”; “England’s Sad Estate….”). He died young, greatly mourned by Friends. Margaret Fell wrote “A Few Lines Concerning Josiah Coale”, an elegy, for him.

Coale composed an early Quaker poem, “A Song of the Judgments and Mercies of the Lord”, in 1662. He said it was “written at the movings of the spirit of the Lord”. The piece concerned the new revelation brought by Christ as reported by John in the New Testament. An excerpt:

“Until Johns Ministry I came to see, which was the great’st of all,
The Prophets which had gone before: from the great’st unto the small,
For then the way was made so straight, the path was made so plain
That, th’ Coming of Gods Son I saw in his great power to raign;
Whose kingdom now is Come with power, the Lamb is sets on’s throne”.

(Pamphlet of Coale’s “A Song of the Judgments and Mercies of the Lord” above).

November 2015

Quaker Dream Writings

Quakers have a long history of recording their dreams.bruno-jimenez-wip

Friends wrote their dreams down in journals, minutes, letters, pamphlets and commonplace books. George Fox (“A People Rescued”) and John Woolman (“The Sunworm”) both included dreams in their journals. A variety of dreams were written down by other Friends: anti-slavery (Katherine Evans, Sarah Cheevers, Elizabeth Webb), ministry (William Edmundson, Isaac Jackson, Elizabeth Shipley), peace (Ann Emlen), anti-art (Ruth Ritter), gender roles (Elizabeth Wilkman), etc. “Remarkable Dream”, a dream about simplicity, was widely copied and distributed. Quakers also collected other Friends’ dreams in “vision books”.

Quakers used dreams for their spiritual growth. They felt that God guided them with dreams, just as He did with the Inner Light.

A process of discernment was employed. A powerful, spirit-led dream might be dreamed only once or twice in a lifetime. But if such a dream was dreamed, it was interpreted by the Friend. When necessary, it was shared with other Friends and given more interpretation. Sometimes it was brought to the Meeting as a whole for further interpretation. Then it might be acted on. (Some abolitionists, for example, began their work after a dream about the horrors of slavery). The last stage was rarely reached and mostly only by recorded ministers.

According to George Fox, dreams came from daily life, Satan or God. The last of these were the ones to which attention should be paid. Symbols like silence, patient waiting, plainness and light were often featured in the dreams. Some of the dreams were prophetic, prefiguring events. Dreams, lucid dreams and visions were felt to be the same.

In the 1600’s Quaker dreams were apocalyptic, reflecting the struggle through which Friends were going. In the 1700’s dreams were often dreamed by women, who challenged gender roles, and abolitionists, who opposed slavery. In the 1800’s, with Friends becoming more settled, dreams focused on simplicity, moderation, etc. In the 1900’s dreams mostly ceased to be used by Friends. The reason is unclear, though a belief in science and psychoanalysis probably caused it.

Quaker dream writings are unlike any other Friendly literature. They have an other-worldly feel to them, by their very nature. The best of them, like “John Woolman is dead….” are haunting.

(Image from Bruno Jimenez at

October 2015

Willem Sewel

Willem Sewel (1653-1720) was a translator, journalist, poet and editor. He was qa2multi-lingual (Dutch, English, Latin, Greek, French and German), translating A Large Dictionary of English-Dutch; A Compendious Guide to the Low Dutch Language; New Voyage Round the World; and Histoire du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament, among many other works. He wrote regularly for the Amsterdam Courant.

Sewel was a member of Amsterdam (Netherlands) Meeting. He was the first Quaker historian, his History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People called Quakers being published in 1717. Among other sources, the book was based on Quaker correspondence and Fox’s Journal. He translated several English Friend’s writings into Dutch, including William Penn’s No Cross, No Crown; Good Advice; and Further Account of… Pennsylvania; and Stephen Crisp’s Way to the Kingdom of Heaven. He also wrote Oratio in Luxum, a remonstrance against luxury. Sewel was a close friend of Penn, who invited him to head the Quaker school at Bristol. He translated for English Quakers when they visited the Netherlands. Unusually for early Friends, he allowed his portrait to be drawn by Gerhard Rademaker.

Dutch Friends began to gather in 1656 due to the missionary efforts of William Ames, William Caton and Stephen Crisp. Many were imprisoned, especially in Embden. Even so, several Quaker communities were founded and, with English Quakers, they spread Quakerism to Germany. By the mid-1700’s, because of persecution, most Dutch Friends had migrated to Pennsylvania. Friends gathered there again only in the 1920’s, with Netherlands Yearly Meeting now containing eight Meetings.

September 2015


Harold Loukes

Harold Loukes (1921-1980) was a teacher and writer. He taught at the University susan_loukes_on_the_right_largeof Delhi and administered Darjeeling’s New School. Later, he was Lecturer, then Reader-in-Education at Oxford University. He was also the editor of the magazine Living for Learning. His educational approach was nurturing and experiential, focusing especially on the reform of secondary schools. He wrote several works on education, including Teenage Morality and Secondary Modern. In addition, he was a Justice of the Peace and an Oxford City Education Committee member.

Loukes became a Friend while a student at Oxford University. After his return from India, he was active at Oxford Meeting. His particular concern was for Young Friends, by whom he was greatly loved. (He was Senior Member of the Oxford University Friends Society, that is, sponsor of the Young Friends group at the university). His ministry was eloquent, centering often on Meeting for Worship. As well, he served as Clerk of the Friends Home Service Committee from 1969 to 1973.

Loukes wrote extensively on Quakerism. His books included The Quaker Contribution, The Discovery of Quakerism, Friends and Their Children, and Seeking and Finding in the Society of Friends. He also delivered “The Castle and the Field”, the 1959 Swarthmore Lecture, and “Readiness for Religion”, the 1963 Rufus Jones Lecture. He contributed many articles to The Friend.

Harold Loukes brought me into Friends. I read The Quaker Contribution at Northern Illinois University in the early 1970’s. I was very moved by the book and began attending Meeting. (The Quaker Contribution remains the best short introduction to Friends I have ever encountered). Harold was known for bringing young people to Friends, as he did me. I am really sorry that I never met him.

A quote:

“(Meeting for Worship is)….a living moment, a loving silence, the sound of the sea, the light behind the hills”.

August 2015

Drunk History

The most bizarre Quaker art I have ever encountered appeared on Comedy drunkhistory_marydyerCentral’s Drunk History.

In the Drunk History episode “Mary Dyer”, a weeping, drunken woman told the story of Mary Dyer’s hanging in Boston in 1660. She recounted it in a slangy, obscenity-laced rant. The screen shifted back and forth between the woman and an actor playing Dyer. When the camera was focused on Dyer, she lip-synched the woman’s words. Her response to an on-looker horrified at her execution, for example: “That’s your problem, being a sick (blank)”.

Drunk History was created by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner. It first appeared as a web series. People who are actually intoxicated tell little-known stories from history. In “Mary Dyer” Jen Kirkman, a comedian, is the drunken narrator; Winona Ryder is Dyer.

Initially I was appalled by “Mary Dyer”. The narrator seemed to be acting drunk and making fun of Dyer. After I learned she really was inebriated, I was mystified. I felt oddly moved by Kirkman’s genuine emotion and pain at Dyer’s death, finally. A strange little film. Very dark humor.

July 2015

Mary Vaux Walcott

Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940) was a painter and photographer. As a young Vaux v653-ng-456woman, she fell in love with the mountains of western Canada. She became a remarkable figure: climbing glaciers; exploring caves; riding on top of boxcars through mountains.

Walcott focused on the Selkirk Mountains and the Canadian Rockies. She painted watercolors of their wild flowers and photographed their mountainscapes and glaciers. Four hundred of her watercolors were published in the five volume North American Wild Flowers. The books resulted in her being dubbed the “Audubon of Botany”. One of the first people to explore those mountains, she surveyed and photographed them extensively, and her research is still used to study climate change and land-shaping processes. (Mount Mary Vaux in Jasper National Park, near Alberta, was named for her). She was elected to the Academy of the Natural Sciences and belonged to the Photographic Society of Philadelphia and the Photo-Succession.

Walcott came from a wealthy Philadelphia family. Married to Charles Walcott, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, she became deeply involved in the Smithsonian and was also known as a prominent Washington DC hostess. She served on the Board of Indian Commissioners, which oversaw the Bureau of Indian Affairs, too. Because of her work in the mountains, she was called “the society woman in hobnailed boots”.

Walcott was descended from a long line of Philadelphia Quakers. She attended the Friends Select School and had planned to study at Bryn Mawr. She was a close friend of Lou Hoover, President Hoover’s wife. To provide the President and the First Lady with a place to worship, she helped found Florida Avenue Meeting and raised money to build the Meetinghouse. As well, she used the plain language throughout her life.

Walcott’s paintings of wild flowers were detailed and exquisite. Her photographs, especially of glaciers, were sometimes breathtaking.

June 2015


Emmy Lou Harris

Emmylou Harris (b. 1947) is a country musician known for her clear, poignant 7be421e0443c300c2a193c790bf5efc4_400x400soprano. She has ranged widely, however, also playing rock-and-roll, folk, gospel and blues. Among others, her albums include Elite Hotel, Blue Kentucky Girl, Trio and Wrecking Ball. She has collaborated with and interpreted the songs of many musicians, such as Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and, most notably, Gram Parsons. She has been the recipient of 13 Grammys, seven #1 singles and 14 Top Ten albums as well as membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Harris attends Nashville Friends Meeting, along with Eugenia, her mother. She is active in the campaigns for landmine removal and for animal rights. She was instrumental in helping save the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

I have always loved Emmylou Harris’ music, Live at the Ryman being a special favorite. It was delightful to discover her connection with Friends.

May 2015