The Balby Epistle – today

April 19-21, 2024
an in-person Quaker Center program
with Paul Harris and Bob Runyan

IMPORTANT UPDATE: This program will not be held this coming weekend, and will be postponed until the winter or spring of 2025 - please stay tuned. We're still very interested in holding this exploration into the meaning of early Friends' advices, and seeing what they might look like if they were written by contemporary Quakers. 

The Elders at Balby – for Quakers in 2024? Almost 400 years later, the 1656 Epistle by the elders at Balby remains one of Friends’ most meaningful and consequential statements, offering guidance to Meetings and individuals in the form of a list of ‘Advices.’

Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by; but that all, with a measure of the light, which is pure and holy, may be guided: and so in the light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not in the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.

The Epistle, sent by Quakers at Balby to their ‘brethren in the north’ is comprised of a list of suggestions of ‘necessary things’ that they ‘shall do well’ to follow. The letter includes guidelines on holding Meeting for Worship, caring for community members that need help, eldering ‘disorderly’ members, public service, and more. You can read the entire Epistle here.

How much of the Balby Epistle is relevant today? What does it mean to us, and has its meaning changed? And what would a 21st century version of the Epistle look like? Come spend a weekend in worship, fellowship and reflection as we seek to examine this fundamental Quaker statement in the light of our shared present.

Childcare will be offered at this program during the program sessions.

There will be an option to arrive a day early, on Thursday, April 18, for those who wish.

Click here to register!

About the presenters

Paul Harris, above, is a member of Chico Friends Meeting, and lives in Santa Rosa, California. He has been a Quaker since joining while in college in 1972.

Bob Runyan , above, is also a member of Chico Friends Meeting, and a former co-director of Ben Lomond Quaker Center. He loves bringing people together to deepen our knowledge and experience of Quakerism.

This weekend will be a hands-on, lively interaction of finding and discovering a modern English equivalent of the power of the 17th century message that is the Epistle from the Elders at Balby. How much of the original is relevant today? Where, if any, has the meaning changed over the last 400 years?

Our goal will be to create a 2024 Epistle that speaks to Quakers today, and has the rich, soulful language of the original text. Or at least, learn a lot by trying.

We’ll work on specific sections in small groups, consult and compare, rewrite and erase; we may or may not come to agreement, and there may be surprises too.

Session 1 – Friday evening:
Orientation, Introductions, reading aloud “The Epistle from Balby, 1656”.
Session 2 – Saturday morning:
Small working groups assigned individual Advice(s) or section.
Session 3 – Saturday afternoon: Small groups sharing their work thus far.
Session 4 – Saturday evening:
Coming together with “Epistle from Friends at Quaker Center, 2024”
Session 5 – Sunday morning: Enjoying our accomplishment.

We’ll ask participants to read over the 1656 before coming, and we’ll send out a copy before the program. You can also read it online here.

Click here to register!