In 2013, when I began the Jolly Quaker blog, I was a primary school music teacher and writing Quaker-shaped Christian theology was a hobby. As 2022 draws to a close, the seeds I planted a decade ago have bourn more fruit than I could ever anticipate. I started a PhD, my first book was published, and I branched out into broadcasting. I wouldn’t have gotten very far without the encouragement of people like you who’ve taken an interest in my work, so as a big ‘thank you’ for your support and the time you’ve given to reading my theologising, here’s my now customary reflection on my reading, writing and thinking over the last year.
Now that I’m a full-time PhD student I’m reading more theology than ever. Much of this is skim-reading, but there are a few books that stand out to me. I’ve continued to immerse myself in Black theology, with ‘After Whiteness’ by Willie James Jennings and ‘Being Human: Race, Culture, and Religion’ by Dwight N. Hopkins making a particular impression on me. Although not a theological work, I found Kehinde Andrews’ ‘The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World’ a very important and uncomfortable read, particularly the excoriating section on the colonial legacy, past and present, of Quaker-founded Bournville.
At the beginning of the year I made a commitment to read more feminist theology. I haven’t read nearly as much as I’d like, but I did read Karen O’Donnell’s recent excellent publication ‘The Dark Womb: Re-Conceiving Theology Through Reproductive Loss’ which was both new theological territory for me, and challenged some of my own positions.
2022 has been a year of significant change for me, prompting me to re-explore my spirituality and how I express it. I’ve read books on Quaker, Franciscan and Druid spirituality and incorporated the things that feel right into my spiritual practice. (I’ve got a blog post planned to say more about this.) Particular highlights include ‘The Quaker Spiritual Journey’ by Marcell Martin, ‘Franciscan Spirituality: Following St Francis Today’ by Brother Ramon, ‘The Shaken Path: A Christian Priest’s Exploration of Modern Pagan Belief and Practice’ by Paul Cudby, and ‘The Druid Way’ by Philip Carr-Gomm.
Of course, my biggest writing event of 2022 is the publication of my first book ‘Quaker Shaped Christianity’ in November, celebrated with an online book launch hosted by Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in early December. I’m excited to be doing a book signing at the Quaker Bookshop at Friends House, Euston in January, and host an online book group which is almost fully booked. I’ve received so many encouraging comments, and several very positive reviews. It’s such a joy to have created something that others find helpful. I submitted the manuscript to the publisher in the summer of 2021, so it’s been great to return to the text and remind myself that what I’ve written is pretty good stuff!
I’ve written six original posts for the blog this year. My favourites are ‘Why don’t Quakers campaign on x?’ and ‘Should Quakers drop “worship” to be more inclusive?’, both of which wrestle with questions of difference and similarity, inclusivity and diversity in the Quaker community in Britain, and an Easter reflection drawing on the work of James Baldwin: ‘”They know not what they do”: James Baldwin and the crime of innocence.’ Outside of Jolly Quaker, I published a well-received piece on ‘Exploring vocal ministry’ on the Woodbrooke learning blog.
Now for some stats. My most read post of 2022 is my perennially popular 2019 piece on ‘What is that of God in everyone?’ I went back to it again recently to be sure I was happy with it being so well read, and it’s better than I thought! The second most read post is my 2021 piece on ‘What does Qf&p say about sin and evil?’, and the third is my post from this year on James Baldwin. The blog ends the year with 262 followers (up from 245 in 2021) and 6671 visits (up from 6130 in 2021). All in all, I’m pretty chuffed!
Speaking and broadcasting
This was the year I appeared on the radio! I’ve presented three BBC Radio 4 Daily Services (22 April, 1 November, 7 December), offering short reflections on a theme that tie together hymns and a Bible reading. They’re really enjoyable to create and have been well received, so I really hope there’ll be similar opportunities in 2023. I also tried my hand at podcasting, producing a series of three short episodes with Ben Wood to promote our books. Ben’s book ‘‘The Living Fountain: Remembrances of Quaker Christianity’ is out in May 2023. Again, more of this sort of thing would be a lot of fun. In December I was delighted to be a guest reader at the Bible and Practical Theology symposium, reflecting on 2 Kings 5: 1-14; Matt 8: 5-13 & Mark 7: 24-30 from a Quaker context.
What a year! My cup really does overflow. My blog-related hopes for 2023 are to write more original posts for the blog. With all the PhD writing I’ll be doing, setting aside time regularly to write for a general audience will be even more important. I also think it’s time to write another book. With 10 years of blogging behind me there’s plenty of good material that could be collected as a kind of sequel to ‘Quaker Shaped Christianity.’ Watch this space.
The achievements of 2022 wouldn’t be possible without those who follow my work and give me encouragement. I’m so grateful for your time, engagement and comments.
Thank you dear readers! I wish you a joyful and justice-filled year ahead, rooted in the deep peace of Christ.