Book Study

What enabled many of the first Friends, as well as Quakers in our time, to live spiritually empowered, transforming lives? 

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes ten essential elements of the Quaker spiritual journey, as experienced by the first Quakers and by Friends today.  The book is intended to help Friends and other spiritual seekers explore our own experience and better understand how God, Christ, Spirit, the Light calls us into lives of faithfulness.  It’s designed for both individuals and study groups.  This book is the fruit of many years of prayer, research, teaching, and traveling among Friends.

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A Study Guide for Our Life is Love is available HERE.

An excerpt from Our Life is Love  is available HERE.

Many blog posts on A Whole Heart (between 2012 and 2014) were first drafts for some of the sections of the book.  The blog post The Fruit of Long Labor describes Marcelle’s process of learning, research, and writing.

Our Life is Love is available for purchase from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook.   If you are interested in ordering multiple copies of the paperback, with free shipping, Contact Us.

Our Life is Love can be used as a frequent reference or even a devotional book.  Opening the book to any page gives a wealth, a fullness of spiritual experience.    —Blair Seitz, Reading Meeting

Numerous meetings have organized study groups based on Our Life is Love, using a variety of different formats, some groups lasting a few weeks, others taking months to read and discuss the book together.

“Reading Friends Meeting’s book club opted to read and discuss Marcelle Martin’s Our Life is Love. The book is a tour de force of Quaker personalities in early Quakerism as well as present day who have traveled deep in their spiritual experiences. Martin introduced us to many Quakers who some of us didn’t know—especially lives of women. Names like Marjorie Sykes who spent much of her life in India and Linda Caldwell Lee who experienced a spacious “interior solitude” during six months of quiet recovery at a beach house. We used the book as a preparation for Marcelle’s plenary offering at our Caln Quarter retreat.

“In our group of six, each had characters from the book who we could identify with and who offered inspiration for a deeper spiritual life. I shared that Thomas Kelly’s life was meaningful became, like Kelly, I had pursued a life of professional excellence in ego boost mode, which probably deterred my spiritual growth. Kelly, I learned from Martin’s description, sacrificed a lot in pursuit of a position at elite Harvard or Yale. Personalities that Marcelle explores include those who have been called to social action as well as to ministries of word or meditation. Biblical references appear frequently in the ample quotes from the Quakers.

“Was the book life changing?” leader Chris asked. I said that it certainly welcomed me more fully into a life of contemplation. Others felt that Our Life is Love did not aim at dramatic conversion, but at quiet sharing of many experiences.”

There has been tremendous richness in the sharing we’ve experienced. — Friends Meeting at Cambridge, MA  “Many of us begin our Sundays at a gathering we call “Forum” which meets from 9:30 – 10:15 am before worship.  Forums are worship-centered discussions, usually led by an individual or small group about a particular topic.  They are designed to build community and to help those who attend prepare for meeting for worship.  Starting in September of this year, we have dedicated the fourth forum of each month to exploring the Quaker spiritual journey through Marcelle Martin’s book, Our Life is Love.  Each month, from September through June, we are exploring one of the ten elements of this journey that we’re on together by sharing our stories with one another and responding to the reflection questions that Marcelle raises up.  We see it as an opportunity to deepen our connections to one another and to our Quaker heritage.  Many Friends have copies of Marcelle’s book and prepare for each forum through reading and contemplation.  Others come without having read the book, and all are welcome.  The facilitator writes out the reflection questions so that everyone can easily see them.  We begin with about five minutes of worship during which the reflection questions are read aloud.  Then, we find a partner – ideally someone we don’t get to talk to very often.  We take turns, about five minutes for each person, sharing what came up for us as we reflected on the reading and the questions.  Afterward, we have a period of worship sharing.  Friends share their response to the reading, to the reflection questions, and their own stories of how they have experienced the element of the journey that we are considering together.  There has been tremendous richness in the sharing we’ve experienced so far.”

You can help this book to reach other people who could benefit from the wisdom of early Quakers and Friends in our time.  Please pass the link for this page on to your friends.  Organize a study group at your meeting or in your congregation.  Write about this book on your blog.  Write a review.   Ask your bookstore to stock copies.  Invite Marcelle to lead a workshop, do a book talk and signing, or speak at a forum.  Contact her HERE.

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Below are links to book reviews of Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.

Review by Marty Grundy in the August 2016 issue of Friends Journal.

A quote from Marty Grundy’s review:

Martin uses biblical language and metaphors that were very meaningful to early Friends and can become filled with meaning for Friends today who choose to travel this path. But the language is not the important thing. What is crucial is the experience. This is not “Quaker lite,” the idea that the highest value for Friends is tolerance, that one can believe anything or nothing. This book points to the real thing, a path that is narrow and difficult, requiring surrender and the Cross, while promising unimaginable joy, healing, and freedom within all-encompassing love. …

I wholeheartedly recommend this book for any Friend or meeting that yearns for the heart of Quaker faith and practice, summed up here by paraphrasing William Penn: that we must be changed ourselves before we can change the world.

Review by Ellen Michaud on March 2016 Quaker Books website.

A quote from Ellen Michaud’s review:

The brief but well-crafted stories of 33 early Quakers like Elizabeth Hooten and James Naylor evoke powerful, piercing images that offer concrete examples of spiritual journeys from which to extract valuable lessons, as do the 62 stories of more contemporary Quakers such as Richard Taylor, Eva Hermann, and Thomas Kelly.

What also makes Our Life Is Love far more accessible than many books on Quaker spirituality is that Marcelle does not write, as Carole Spencer, an associate professor at Earlham School of Religion, points out in the book’s foreword, “…as a detached historian, analytical theologian, or objective outside observer, but as an intuitive, empathetic fellow traveler [who] shares their spiritual DNA. She enters into their story with empathy, thus parting the veil for the modern reader to cross the threshold into the profound realm of [even] those early Quakers who lived a life of holiness and perfection.”

As a result, and particularly if one or another of its chapters is read in the meeting community and accompanied by reflection and discussion, Our Life is Love will help each of us recognize who we are as a people, where we’ve been, where we are, and—as Way opens—where we’re being led.

About the author:

Marcelle Martin has led workshops at retreat centers and Quaker meetings across the United States since 1996.  She was the resident Quaker Studies teacher at Pendle Hill for four years, and a core teacher in the School of the Spirit program, The Way of Ministry and the Nurturing Faithfulness program currently offered at Woolman Hill retreat center.  She is the author of the Pendle Hill pamphlets Invitation to a Deeper Communion and Holding One Another in the Light.  In 2013 she was the Mullen Writing Fellow at Earlham School of Religion while working on her book.  On her blog, A Whole Heart, she writes about spirituality today, taking inspiration from the past to help us find the courage to become all God has created us to be in our day.

Marcelle travels to lead workshops, retreats, and conver­sations about the Quaker spiritual journey and many aspects of the spiritual life She is following a leading of the Spirit to nurture the vitality of Friends meetings and other commun­ities by teaching practices that open people to the direct experience of God active within and among them.