A review by Larry Spears
These are the voices of Quaker youth, soon to be Quaker leaders. This book, Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices, offers a diversity of younger Quaker voices from all parts of the Quaker world. Importantly, the book helps bridge the adult continents of differing theological languages. If the reader views the larger Quaker picture, these messages are substantially parallel and cumulative even as they are expressed in different languages. There is a universal spirit here and a common thread evident in their experience and expressions of faith and practice.
The editorial team of ten young Quakers gathered from all the major theological branches of Friends and the major continents, except Australia. As a result, the book includes some Quaker voices in Africa, Central America or Europe.
These voices need additional books. It is odd, in the current context, that this book was not directly linked to an organized Internet mechanism for continuing the conversation developed in this book. This book is an obvious suggestion that other books of young voices would be welcoming and helpful. Young Quakers will read these selections differently from today’s adults and seniors. These voices need more room for development.
Some of the messages will be surprising for all Quakers, but they are Quaker voices. These are voices from which we will hear more in the future. Some pieces are in Spanish and are offered with English translations, but not vice versa. The larger group of selections in the book is in English. All are heart felt.
The age of the authors range from 18 to 35. This group spans more than a single generation. These are not teenage voices, but young voices already set in their life directions. The book does not address the emerging younger Quaker voices, which may have something different to share. Future books could divide the age ranges to rich depth. These are the voices of the next cohort of leaders for Meetings, Churches and Quaker organizations.
These voices deal with the same difficulties in finding language to express their spiritual experience that afflict their older adult Quaker members. They stumble on language, but the earnestness of their voices communicates. The reader feels the source of love from whence their words come.
This book was substantially a product of the gifts of the Internet. These writings were both commissioned and culled from other sources and categorized in themes developed by the editors. Some of the writings were commissioned from the authors on specified themes. The result is that some of the writings seem pressured into editorial categories, but the individual writings still shine.
The title, Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices, is not accurate, but the subtitle is accurate. There is little here to indicate a concerted Spirit rising, but perhaps a spirit present and at work. There is evidence here of a diversity of voices, reflective, determined, but not angry or clearly indicating the need for change in the culture. There is a good range of young Quaker voices. There are few surprises, but important reminders that there are new voices to be heard.
As you read this book through the eyes of young Quakers today, you will resonate with some of these voices and be opened to the reality experienced by others. The multiple editors produce a selection of uneven quality, but they have found a wider range of voices than would be otherwise known to a single editor.
The book runs to 340 pages. The scope includes poetry and prose. The selections are no more than three pages in length, so they lend themselves to multiple readings and transport with you, waiting for daily reading opportunities.
The book contains as well a selection of photographs and graphic art by young Quakers. The message implicit in the passages and graphics in this book, the traditional Quaker prejudice against the arts among Quakers is dead.
These young Quakers voice topics include ways of worship, callings, diversity among faith voices, engagement with the world’s problems and opportunities, dealing with suffering, transformation of lives and fellowship with others.
The pieces are short and diverse in quality, but are, to this reader, an accurate reflection of voices associated with Quaker meetings. These voices provide a mirror for other Quaker youth. This book can be a rich resource for meetings seeking to address the concerns of you in serious education.
These are not dismissible voices on the ground of immaturity. They are young, but not that young. If this is a representative sample, and it is the best we have to date, these are the future leaders and themes of the Quaker global community.