Quaker Profiles: Carole and Ray Treadway

Friends from birth, Ray and Carole Treadway each have a different Quaker family history. Carole looks back to many generations of Quaker ancestors, while Ray’s parents were first generation Quakers. However, they both grew up in the Conservative Friends tradition—Carole in Ohio Yearly Meeting and Ray in Iowa Yearly Meeting, two of the three Conservative yearly meetings. Currently, they belong to the third Conservative yearly meeting, North Carolina, and are active in Friendship Meeting in Greensboro, N.C., where they reside.

Conservative Friends? Not so well known nor as numerous as Liberal, Evangelical, and Orthodox Friends, Conservative Friends trace their roots to the Wilburite tradition, especially in Ohio Yearly Meeting, which is the oldest of the Conservative yearly meetings. The three yearly meetings include a total of about 24 monthly meetings and several small worship groups. In other words, the number of Conservative Friends is small.

Conservative Friends? Ray says, "I think people who don’t know Conservative Friends get hung up with the word ‘Conservative,’ which can get in the way of understanding who we are. The tendency is to think politically conservative. My explanation is that it tries to conserve the traditions."

Carole adds, "I feel that the Conservative contribution to Friends is precious and important—the strong maintenance of the unprogrammed tradition and the apophatic spirituality that goes with it." Apophatic? Carole continues, "Apophatic spirituality tends not to be fed as much by outward expressions such as words and rituals; it is more deeply inward, where there are no words that express the experience of God. Apophatic spirituality comes out of the Quietist period of Quakerism and has its roots in the origins of Quakerism, in common with many unprogrammed meetings. With Evangelical Friends we share the strong maintenance of the Christian identity. I like to think of Conservative Friends as a bridge—a role I long for."

Are there other distinctives about Conservative Friends with which many Friends may be unfamiliar? The "singsong" ministry, for example? Carole recounts that both she and Ray "experienced the ‘singsong’ ministry in our youth. But we have not had that style of ministry in our meeting for 20 or more years. You would likely find it in Ohio, although not by everyone who offers ministry. I think that, in a certain state, it’s natural—a gift of the Holy Spirit."

Carole talks further about the expression and experience of worship among Conservative Friends. She says it is "different," but a kind of difference that is difficult to put into words. She does affirm that "it goes very, very deep. But it’s not something that’s really obvious until you’re in it. I’ve been in other kinds of Friends worship that went very deep, too."

On another distinctive, Carole says there are a few people who still dress "plain." "As for ‘plain’ speech—for instance the use of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’—a number of us still use it. However, we’re not consistent the way our forebears were. Originally it was a statement about being equal in the sight of God, not making social or class distinctions, and speaking truthfully. Now it seems more like a way of saying we’re part of the same family, a form of affection, more than a statement of any principle. I grew up using it, and learned when I went to public school that I’d better learn how to say ‘you’!"

While both Ray and Carole grew up as Quakers, they were in different parts of the country. Ray’s parents moved to Des Moines, Iowa, from New York when he was five. There they found only a programmed Friends meeting. Rather than give up their Conservative tradition, they joined several others to help start the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting, which several years later joined Iowa Conservative Yearly Meeting. For Ray, it "was the beginning of experiencing yearly meeting sessions and participating in a Friends youth group."

Ray speaks of his parents with love and respect. He acknowledges that they were converts to Quakerism, joining after they married. His father "went to Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, around 1915, served in France with Friends Ambulance Service in World War I, and was a social worker. He taught at Southland Institute, a school supported by Indiana Yearly Meeting for black elementary and high school students in Arkansas. In Des Moines, he was very active with AFSC, was on the Board, and did some work to help establish a halfway house for prisoners. He was involved with NAACP and somewhere he developed this extreme social consciousness, and Quakerism was a way of expressing his pacifism." Ray is pleased that he and his three siblings have all remained part of the Religious Society of Friends.

On the other hand, Carole says, "I am the only one of my generation who remains active in Quakerism. My parents did not dress ‘plain,’ but they did continue to use the language, including the non-pagan names of days and months. Their lifestyle was, I believe, the essence of Quaker simplicity; I’m grateful to have grown up with their example—a very strong influence in my life."

Carole and Ray met as freshmen at Earlham College and married shortly after they graduated. In 1968, they moved to Greensboro, N.C., for Ray to accept a teaching position at Bennett College, a small, historically black United Methodist women’s college. There, as he describes his work, "I taught mathematics until I retired from full-time teaching. My doctorate is in Education because I realized that teaching well was far more important than proving math theorems! I wanted to make mathematics important and exciting to the students, helping them to do critical thinking and problem-solving. I enjoyed teaching them to use math intelligently and wisely, to seek out opportunities to be better informed as citizens, and to explore a broader range of career possibilities." Bennett, with 600 students, afforded Ray the opportunity to achieve this goal, "getting to know and work with the students both in and outside the classroom, making a real difference on an individual basis. I thoroughly enjoyed having small classes and never felt the need to work in a large university—a satisfying career."

Carole has had an equally distinguished and satisfying career, as an archivist and librarian with Friends Historical Collection at Guilford College, where she worked for 30 years. Describing her work, Carole says, "the collection includes archives, manuscripts, and published materials. It’s also the Guilford archives, yearly meeting archives, and archives for a number of organizations, individuals, and families. I loved being a resource person, connecting people with what they needed, whether books, manuscripts, information, or even nurturing. In retirement, I continue to volunteer one afternoon a week."

Carole and Ray raised two children, of whom they speak with deep love. Of their son, Eric, Carole says he "was born with hemophilia, and was dependent on blood products to control bleeding. It’s now known that many of the blood products were HIV-contaminated. Our son became infected and lived with that from the age of about 21 to 25. Faced with the possibility of a terminal illness, his spiritual development accelerated. I was with him in that, and I feel God’s grace was so present. It was a very, very difficult time, especially the last six months." Ray’s experience is one of some regret. "We knew he had HIV, but he was young, active, and quite independent. As he became sicker, I could not accept the fact that his condition was terminal. I’m now convinced that I kept my distance as a way to avoid the pain; I hoped and prayed that the medical staff would find a way to make him well. I regret that I didn’t take enough opportunities to say goodbye."

They adopted their daughter, Annemarie, when she was 18 months old, four and a half years younger than their son. Carole says, "She is biracial; at the time we were living in an all-white suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Then the opportunity came for Ray to teach at Bennett College. While I wasn’t sure it would be good for Annemarie to live in the south, we knew we didn’t want either of our children to grow up in an all-white environment. We made the move, and early on we lived in a mostly black neighborhood. It was the right move for us."

Ray reflects, "Looking back, I know that the decision to move to Greensboro and take the faculty position at Bennett was, for me, an opportunity to be in a community where our adopted mixed-race daughter could be part of an intellectual, academic black community. It seemed a good fit for both me and Annemarie, who, with her husband and baby son, now lives in Greensboro." Braeden Eric Doniak, born on April 28, 2008, is the Treadways’ first grandchild.

Yes, they are Conservative Friends. And yes, they do enjoy life. In Carole’s words, "We discovered early on, to our delight, that we have a similar range of interest in music and enjoy going to concerts. We enjoy hiking and do a lot of walking. We like to get out in the woods, which is so relaxing and exhilarating, and the exercise is good for us."

Then they have an exchange about politics. Ray says, "We also seem to have pretty much the same view toward political issues." To which Carole retorts, "You’re a lot more rigidly Democrat than I am!" Ray is quick to respond, "That’s probably true. But basically, we get along pretty well. Whether or not we came to our marriage that way, we’ve certainly grown in our marriage. We talk and we discuss; she’s moved me in some directions, and I’ve moved her in others. I even got her to watch a baseball game!"

Carole warms, "I suppose it has to do with being Quaker—he has given me tremendous support in everything I’ve felt led to do. Everything that needs to happen for that to be possible, he does. Without his support I couldn’t have done it. I’ve always been aware of how fortunate I am. And I think I’ve given him support in important ways, too."

Asked what makes them easier to get along with, Carole is clear; "It’s when I stay grounded and centered. When I lose that, I get irritable and impatient." And Ray admits, "I need two things—enough chocolate and enough sleep. It’s also true that being mostly retired means I’m doing a better job of pacing my life, which is good."

Their last comments are about their lives as Quakers. Carole admits, "For a time I distanced myself from Friends, exploring other paths. Then one day, unexpectedly, I knew that I was to remain a Quaker, and a Christian. However, while I am most familiar and at home with the unprogrammed tradition, I also like to participate in other expressions of Quakerism and other traditions, too. Sometimes I even long for something liturgical!" A major part of Carole’s life now is teaching in the School of the Spirit; she’s in her second two-year term. And Ray has been an active volunteer on several committees of Friends World Committee for Consultation and is now serving as clerk of the Section of the Americas.

Ray says, "The Friends community that Carole and I have had wherever we’ve lived has been very important to us. Social and spiritual concerns, and the sense of how you develop your spiritual life of integrity and concern for others, all emanates from that."

Kara Newell

Kara Newell, who contributes occasional "Quaker Profile" columns to Friends Journal, is a member and presiding clerk of Reedwood Friends Church in Portland, Oreg.