Saturday, December 01, 2012

Documenting Problematic Personalities

Originally written specifically for a Quaker audience.

This e-mail comes from the main announcements listserve. Quaker unprogrammed Worship has often been described as an exercise in religious anarchy. We open the floor during Meeting for Worship for anyone to minister to others. From time to time, problematic, even offensive messages are voiced. It is a testament to the daring unconventionality of our founders that we open ourselves up to the possibility of the Holy Spirit taking form within anyone.

But this freedom provides a few with the license to be heard, and nothing more. Our Meeting historian, Hayden Wetzel, has combed through archives and determined that challenging personalities at FMW are nothing new to our Meeting and our Religious Society.


A monthly series of edited extracts from the historical material of the Friends Meeting of Washington.

26 May 1956

Dear Grace Yaukey [at FMW]:

A Mrs. HF will be turning up in Washington. She is a remarkable woman in the number of things she will attempt, her "ambition," and the activities in which she tires to share. I think she means well. But I hope she doesn't announce that she comes recommended by me or our Meeting.

There have been a number of incidents that have put us on our guard (like giving a check for a loan which bounces but is not made good by her, etc.). It may be unnecessary to warn you because I think that when you meet her you will see that she is to be suspected. But I just don't want you to believe her if she uses my name as a reference.

Sincerely Yours,

John Barrow
Austin, Texas


26 February 1963

Dear Hialeah FL Meeting,

Members of our Meeting have recently received communications from the person whose card I enclose, now residing in Miami, previously attending here. At that time his presence and frequent written communications were felt to be a difficulty for the Meeting and for specific individuals, briefly because he seems to combine an ardent belief in Communism [his notes to this meeting often begin "Glorious Komrads" -- HW] with an abnormal personality. Serious and lengthy consideration was given to the problem he posed which was relieved by his departure for Miami.

We feel that the use of the name of Friends should be brought to the attention of the Miami Friends Meetings.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Z. Forsythe, Meeting Secretary


Being the chief Friends Meeting in Washington, DC, our meeting probably has more quirky and unbalanced visitors than most. Our archives now include a series of files labelled "Troublesome Visitors" documenting some of these encounters and how our meeting handled them. It occurs to me that this might be a virtually unique documentation of this minor but interesting aspect of Quaker life.

Best to all,

Hayden Wetzel
Meeting Historian

1 comment:

RantWoman said...


The letters you cite are kind of a corollary of the practice of travelling minutes.

I believe my Meeting could cite a number of examples. I am morbidly curious enough to wonder about this with respect to other Meetings.