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.