In May 2019, the annual Swarthmore Lecture was given by Eden Grace, a member of New England Yearly Meeting and Director of Global Ministries for Friends United Meeting (FUM). Eden’s lecture was entitled ‘On earth as it is in heaven: The Kingdom of God and the yearning of creation.’ This lecture set out a solid, thoroughly Quaker theological grounding for approaching the climate crisis. I watched it online as it was live streamed, and found it thrilling, inspiring and moving. It was an incredibly rich lecture that deserves to be wrestled with.
The reaction from other Friends was mixed, and although I can understand why some Friends might have struggled with Eden’s material, I found some Friends’ responses ungenerous and unkind. Eden delivered her lecture as spoken ministry, in a religious language that makes sense to those rooted in Christianity (which most Quakers in the world are). For Quakers in Britain, who perhaps collectively suffer from a religious illiteracy where Christianity is concerned, some translating work may be required. Eden goes to some lengths to explain the terminology she uses, and we need to at least meet her halfway.
Speaking to Eden before the lecture, I knew that she had so much more to say than could be fitted into 60 minutes, so I wanted to read the expanded book-form of the lecture before offering my reflections. Now, the book has been published, and I’m delighted to have got my hands on a copy! Over the next two or three months I shall be blogging my reflections on the lecture, chapter by chapter, attempting to do a bit more of the translating work for those Friends who found the language strange or difficult. There is a helpful study guide at the back of the book, and I shall be using those questions to structure my thoughts.
Please do read the lecture along with me. You can purchase it from the Quaker Bookshop for £10. If you’ve not seen it yet, you can watch the video of the original spoken lecture here: