Be Patterns: Reflections on Words of George Fox

By John Andrew Gallery. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 473), 2022. 27 pages. $7.50/pamphlet or eBook.

George Fox did some of his best writing while in jail. In 1656, Fox wrote a letter to Friends traveling in the ministry that contained the frequently quoted phrase: “Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.” In this Pendle Hill pamphlet, John Andrew Gallery reflects on those and the surrounding words.

Sometimes, we Friends seem to treat the writings of historical Quakers as if they were sacred texts that need to be carefully analyzed and studied. Individual phrases are extracted to be parsed and to give special insight into the true meaning or unique guidance contained in a text written hundreds of years ago to a very different audience and possibly for a very different reason. No one is more meticulously examined than George Fox. The phrase above is a popular target of such analysis.

Gallery’s pamphlet is not a scholarly exegesis of a text but an antidote to that approach. He writes, “I am not a Quaker scholar or historian, nor am I an expert on George Fox. I’m just an ordinary person trying to lead a spiritually centered life in the Quaker tradition.” His purpose is not to determine precisely what Fox intended or what the readers of his letter—either then or now—might have understood. His goal is to model a way of reading that allows readers to let the words speak to them as if they were heard for the first time.

Gallery divides the one-hundred-word paragraph into seven phrases and reports his feelings and the products of meditating on each one. While reading, he also listens to the echoes of other writers that come into his mind, in particular, Neale Donald Walsch, Rex Ambler, and Edgar Cayce.

I didn’t always agree with Gallery, but that’s the point. These are his reflections. He is not writing to convince but to invite others to read and reflect on their own. Internally set your favorite thinkers—Quaker or otherwise—into dialogue with George Fox under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and see what you hear.

Paul Buckley worships with Clear Creek Meeting in Richmond, Ind. He has written numerous articles and books on Quaker history, faith, and practice, and travels in the ministry urging spiritual renewal among Friends. His most recent book is Primitive Quakerism Revived: Living as Friends in the Twenty-First Century.

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