Barbara Birch Interview

A Quaker author chat. Barbara Birch’s “The True Last Supper” appears in the June/July 2024 issue of Friends Journal.

The discussion focuses on the Quaker interpretation of the “Last Supper” and the concept of “embodied spirituality.” Barbara Birch, a retired professor and Quaker, explains how Quakers view the Last Supper not as the meal Jesus shared with his disciples, but as the spiritual encounter described in Revelation 3:20, where Jesus says he will eat with those who open the door to him.

Birch discusses how this idea of an intimate, indwelling spiritual presence resonated with her, especially during the pandemic when she was struggling. She explores how Quakers such as Thomas Kelly and James Nayler expressed this notion of spiritual embodiment and describes her own journey of discovering this Quaker perspective.

The conversation highlights how this Quaker concept of an indwelling, intimate divine presence that shapes one’s whole being and actions is a central part of the Quaker spiritual tradition, in contrast to more sacramental understandings of the Last Supper in mainstream Christianity.

Previous Friends Journal articles by Barbara Birch include:

Quotes mentioned in the interview:

From James Nayler:

“….by supping continually with him, and he with you, will you come so to be filled with him, that all haste and impatience and distrust will be covered and overcome with him, and so your mortal [body] be swallowed up of the immortal, till it become your whole life and being; and all your thoughts, words and actions have their rise and being therein; so that self be seen no more.”[1]

Nayler, James, Milk for Babes and Meat for Strong Men A Feast of Fat  London, printed for Robert Wilson, at the sign of the Black-Spread-Eagle and Wind-Mill in Martins le Grand, 1661.

From George Fox:

be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.

Statement of 1656, from The Works of George Fox (1831).

Barbara Birch is a retired professor of applied linguistics, a member of Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley, Calif., and a board member at Ben Lomond Quaker Center. She is the author of Lectio Divina: Revelation and Prophecy, forthcoming in the Quaker Quicks series from Christian Alternative Books. Contact:

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