The Pursuit of Wisdom: John Woolman, The Epistle of James, and Ancient Desert Monastics

October 25th – 27th, 2019

with Michael Birkel

Register now

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to persuasion, full of mercy and good fruits, without any partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of justice is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~Epistle of James 3:17

What are the inward and outward dimensions of wisdom? To what interior transformation does wisdom invite us, and what are the consequences for our life with others? This program will be an invitation to listen to our elders from across the centuries as they reflect on the pursuit of wisdom. The first will be the Epistle of James, a radical ancient text that contains the roots of our Quaker testimonies. The second will be the Desert Fathers and Mothers, who withdrew from the rat race of the fourth century to look within and discover the states of the soul. Our final elder will be the eighteenth-century Quaker mystic and social reformer John Woolman, whose essay “A Plea for the Poor,” suggests that universal love is the business of our lives.

Participants are encouraged to read these short texts, which they will receive, in advance of our gathering. The leader will do some talking, but most of our time together will be in a Spirit-led consideration of these inspiring writings.

Michael Birkel is a member of Clear Creek Monthly Meeting (Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting) and teaches courses in spirituality and in interfaith studies at the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. He has written several books on Quakerism and spirituality and has traveled widely among Friends as a speaker and workshop leader. Michael loves old texts and a community of spirited readers with whom to explore them.