Recently, we got a white packet in the Quaker meeting post office box. The label was addressed to our Inner Light Preacher and came from the Columbus Missionary Society in Ohio.

We do get some weird mass mailings.

One mailing list has us as the Religious Order of Friends, which sounds to me like a monastery. Officially, Quakers are the Religious Society of Friends, quite active in the wider world.

Pieces targeted to the Proprietor or the Chief Purchasing Agent always amuse me. Nobody owns us but God, for one thing, and even that can get unruly.

And then, like many other Quaker congregations, we have no paid staff, much less a pastor. Vocal messages arising during our hour of mostly silent worship each week are kept short and delivered without notes or, we hope, earlier intention.

Preaching? I’ve been accused of crossing the line, but we never have anything like what this is addressed to. Homiletics are out of the question.

Oh, yes, while many consider a doctrine of Inner Light to be a distinctly Quaker teaching, it was originally Inward Light, with a much different emphasis than is given today. To see my take on that, look at my pamphlet, Revolutionary Light.

So this envelope was a first.

Inside was a 53-page booklet titled Holiness (be filled with God) Or Hell (or spend eternity in Hell) by William Baxter Godbey, and inside that were three more. I decided to Google this guy, only to discover he was a Wesleyan evangelist who lived from 1833 to 1920. No wonder his text had such an old-fashioned ring!

One of the others was a 1741 sermon by Jonathan Edwards, and a third was by abolitionist and pioneering revivalist Charles G. Finney.

I can’t find anything about the missionary group online, but they did put some money into this mailing. What was their intent? The works simply don’t speak to us today, apart from some fundamentalist Christians. For the most part, Friends (to use the more formal name of Quakers, the Religious Society of Friends, based on John 15:14-15) have moved far beyond the confines of these arguments. I look at the writings as historical curiosities but am not moved by their legalistic thrust.

In short, I’m left baffled.

The cover letter, by the way, was signed merely, “Love, A Brother.” And since there was no return address, only a Zip code, I can’t exactly ask him, either.


  1. If I may be so bold, it sounds to me as if this group is wanting you to convert to their way of thinking or be condemned to hell. I’ve seen this type of thing many times. We had similar material literally left on our doorstep once by someone who differed with our religious views.

    1. Probably. A more charitable view is that these are some classic Protestant voices that particularly impress them and that they would simply like to see them more widely known today.

  2. I hear that Edwards is especially interesting for his command of the English language. Perhaps you could try his style out in your next novel? 😉

    1. Some of them were masters, indeed. Creating period voices, though, is a real challenge — the voices have to be understood now, when complex sentences and large vocabulary are a hurdle for many readers.

  3. I found your blog after doing a search for “Columbus Missionary Society,” since I just received the same mailing, addressed to “Holiness Preacher” c/o our church. That is certainly a new title for me to add to my resume. Did you find and read the “cover letter” packed in among the sermons. Mine includes this, “Now we are contacting you the nominal, liberal, worldly, Mennonites with bobbed hair, running around naked and flaunting their private parts, ….” Seriously, I could not even make this up. I am extremely curious about this and wonder how he knew? I thought we kept that bobbed-hair thing totally secret.

    1. No, we didn’t get that insider Mennonite epistle. We’re very liberal Quakers. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen any of my Mennonite buds naked. The closest I’ve come is skinny dipping at midnight in a mountain lake after a steamy New England contradance. There wasn’t even a moon, as I recall. No pun intended.
      And, for the record, my hair these days is longer than many of the women’s in our Meeting — not that I would call their hair bobbed … I think it’s shorter than that.
      While we’re at it, I won’t ask you about ice cream and pizza.

  4. I’m guessing he was referring to Münster re the Mennonites’ private parts, but that was a few years ago. You are likely not missing much by not having that view. You lost me on the ice cream and pizza.

  5. Our Moravian pastors received the same mailing. I never noticed the bobbed hair. Now I have been awakened to this peril. Is the solution to shave their heads or to grow them longer?

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