October 2022

The first question to ask “is there such a thing as Quaker humor”. Considering the serious pose
that Friends have often struck, it is perhaps better to write about Anecdotes or Mildly Humorous
Stories. The stories often highlight a Friends testimony. The following has echoes of thrift:

Stephen Spender in the period before World War II visited his Quaker aunt for tea. She
would bring out a plate of cookies from her cupboard. Spender attempted to take one of the
freshest; his aunt turned the plate and pointed to one saying “Take that one, its the oldest”.

And another story from England:

A rich Quaker, generous to local charities, was diffidently asked for a subscription
towards rebuilding the parish church. The Friend hesitated, but learning that that the project
included pulling down the old church, he asked how much this part of the scheme would cost.
After more thought he finally said: “Thee was right in supposing my principles would not allow
me to assist in building a church. But for pulling down a church thee may’st put me down for a
hundred pounds.”

Friends were known to be careful about their language:

The Trenton Trial was held to determine whether Arch Street or Race Street Friends could
legally claim what had previously been their joint property. Samuel Bettle, clerk of the Yearly
Meeting in 1827, was being cross-examined by the opposing counsel.

“Mr. Bettle,” he said, “in your testimony you made frequent use of the words also and
likewise. Would you be so obliging as to explain to the Court what is the difference between
these two terms?” Samuel Bettle replied, “Our counselor, George Wood, is a lawyer. Thou art
also a lawyer but not likewise.

Yet another lawyer:

Nicholas Waln (1742-1813) gave up a successful career at the bar and became a plain
Friend. An errand called him back into court. A fellow lawyer murmured, “Here comes
Nicholas; let’s jolly him.” Then aloud he said provocatively, “Mr. Waln, there is a great deal of
dignity and intelligence under that hat of yours.” Instantly Nicholas took off his hat and handed it
to the lawyer saying, “Take it—thee hast need of both.”

In an out of the meeting-house:

A Friend went to an old meeting-house. When the hour for gathering had passed and no
one else had come, he thought that he was going to have the meeting to himself. Presently the
latch clicked, however, and an old man shuffled up to where he was sitting and said, “Friend,
thee is sitting in my seat.”

It was a very warm day in Birmingham, Pennsylvania, and Nicholas Waln was in
attendance at the meeting for worship. Although in those days such gatherings were often two
hours long, Nicholas shook hands to close meeting in about half an hour. When criticized
afterwards for such an early closing, he said, “I desire mercy and not burnt offerings.”


At New England Yearly Meeting there was an aged Friend with a voice like a filing saw,
but a much concerned Friend. Rufus Jones, a Quaker historian and theologian, was one of the
Sunday morning speakers. After he had spoken, this elderly Friend, thinking what had been said
was over the heads of the audience, arose and said, “Jesus said Feed my sheep, not Feed my

Another practice of Friends:

Commonly Friends pause for a short period of silence before meals. A Friend brought a
Methodist minister home one day. His wife was embarrassed when their two little boys tittered
as the guest asked a blessing before they ate. Rebuked by their mother later, the boys said, “But,
mother, that man talked all through the silence.”

Plain seeing:

Herbert Hoover, who had a strict Quaker upbringing, was riding on a train looking out the
window. His companion remarked, “Those sheep have been sheared.” President Hoover replied,
“Well, on this side, certainly.”

September 2022

Lower Columbia Worship Group
of the Religious Society of Friends

Friends were recently asked what they would like to see in the Monthly Bulletin. The response was something about Quaker cooking and Quaker humor. In keeping with the general sense of the meeting, we have assembled a few notes on cooking for this month.

Elizabeth E. Lea (1793-1858) self-published her Domestic Cookery: Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers in 1845. Subsequently eighteen editions were published by Cushings and Bailey in Baltimore, Maryland. The edition in hand is A Quaker Woman’s Cookbook, The Domestic Cookery of Elizabeth Elliott Lea edited, with an introduction by William Boys Weaver, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1982. This edition reproduces the 1853 edition (the fifth) with an extensive introduction and detailed glossary.

William Weaver’s introduction notes “What is remarkable about Elizabeth Lea’s Domestic Cookery is that a Quaker woman in Maryland complied a collection of recipes that forms one of the most varied samplings of the rural American folk cookery of her era. If, by today’s standards, her recipes seem overly plain, then remember that rural eating habits before the Civil War were generally simple. But here we are dealing with a Quaker, and in Quaker terms, there is nothing so complex as simplicity.”

Since the point of a cookbook is the recipes we’ll record two, the first is:

A Baltimore Oyster Pie

Take eight pounds of scraps of pork, that will not do for sausage; boil it in four gallons of water; when tender, chop it fine, strain the liquor and pour it back into the pot; put in the meat, season it with sage, summer savory, salt and pepper to taste; stir in a quart of corn meal; after simmering a few minutes, thicken it with buckwheat flour very thick; it requires very little cooking after it is thickened, but must be stirred constantly.

A pie of this size will bake in three-quarters of an hour, if the oven is in good order; if the
heat is not quick allow it an hour. If in baking, the crust is likely to become too brown, put a piece of paper doubled over it, and the light color will be retained; when taken from the oven, if it should look dry, pour some of the liquor that was drained from the oysters in the dish, having previously strained and boiled it. As paste always looks more beautiful when just from the oven, arrange your dinner so that the pie may be placed on the table immediately it is done.

The second recipe is for a pot pudding, known as scrapple, currently available in the MidAtlantic States:


Take eight pounds of scraps of pork, that will not do for sausage; boil it in four gallons of
water; when tender, chop it fine, strain the liquor and pour it back into the pot; put in the meat, season it with sage, summer savory, salt and peppert to taste; stir in a quart of corn meal, after simmering a few minutes, thicken it with buckwheat flour very thick; it requires very little cooking after it is thickened, but must be stirred constantly.

Note: after the pudding “sets,” it is sliced and fried like sausage. Traditional scrapple contains buckwheat flour which Habbersett’s scrapple omits. Even so, Habbersett’s a good example of rural cookery from a firm founded in 1863 in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

August 2022

Lower Columbia Worship Group
of the Religious Society of Friends

Continuing a Series on Friends Testimonies

The testimonies are a summary of the actions and behaviors that Friends hold as a
public witness to Truth. They are a product of continuing discernment; there are
testimonies that Quakers hold in the 21st century that were yet to be formulated in
the earlier centuries of the Society of Friends. The list of testimonies varies over
time and among sectors of the Society. That list may include equality, marriage,
oaths, peace, plainness of dress and speech, simplicity, times and seasons, tithes,
and truth. North Pacific Yearly meeting records integrity, community, peace,
simplicity, equality, and stewardship in its current Faith and Practice from which
the quoted sections are being drawn.

Testimony of Simplicity

A life centered in God will be characterized by simplicity, sincerity, and integrity.
Integrity is being all of a piece. Sincerity is being without sham. Simplicity is
cutting away everything that is extraneous, so that our outward life fully reflects
our inward life.

A simple life need not be cloistered and may even be a busy life. Its activities and
expressions are correlated and directed toward the purpose of keeping our
communication with God open and unencumbered. Simplicity is a Spirit-led
ordering of our lives to this end.

In the past, Quakers could be readily identified by plain dress and plain speech.
Today, we have no recipe book for simplicity; all Friends find their own way.
Simplicity does mean avoiding self-indulgence, maintaining a spirit of humility,
and speaking clearly and directly without exaggeration. It also means keeping the
material surroundings of our lives serviceable to necessary ends. A simple life need
not be barren and without joy and beauty. Often the most simple lines, words, or
moments, when marked by grace, are the most beautiful.


It may surprise some of us to hear that the first generation did not have a testimony
for simplicity. They came upon a faith which cut to the root of the way they saw
life, radically reorienting it. They saw that all they did must flow directly from
what they experienced as true, and that if it did not, both the knowing and the
doing became false. In order to keep the knowledge clear and the doing true, they
stripped away anything which seemed to get in the way. They called those things
superfluities, and it is this radical process of stripping for clear-seeing which we
now term simplicity.
Frances Irene Taber, 2009


Do we center our lives in the awareness of God so that all things take their rightful
Do we clutter our lives with things and activities? What are the ways out? What
helps us avoid commitments beyond our strength and light?
How does our meeting help us simplify our lives? How do we order our individual
lives to nourish our spiritual growth?
Do we keep to simplicity, moderation, and honesty in our speech, our manner of
living, and our daily work?

July 2022

Lower Columbia Worship Group
of the Religious Society of Friends

Friends Testimonies

Quaker practice is upheld by the testimonies which may be used as an outline for a
consistent faith. Testimony is a rather formal word, first coming into use in the 16th century, thus identified as Middle English. We are most likely to hear of testimonies in a court of law or judicial hearings. In those instances, the person giving testimony is required to swear an oath that their statements are true. Quakers have often declined to swear an oath becaust that suggests whatever they might say under any circumstance is unreliable, in essence their conversation falls short of being true.

The contemporary list of testimonies is conveyed by the acronym “SPICES”. To spell that out they are: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Equality, Stewardship. For the July issue of the monthly bulletin we’ll focus on integrity.


Living with integrity presents the daily challenge of keeping our lives congruent with the Light – in essence, living in Truth. Our choices in how we use our time, spend our money, and form relationships are consistent with what we believe. Our conversation in public and private is a seamless whole. On those infrequent occasions when we are required to swear an oath, we can advance the cause of truth by simple affirmation. The greater discipline is to continually exercise care in speech, making statements that convey truth without exaggeration or omission of essential fact.