Pittsburgh Friends Meeting Library

​A regular column by the Library Committee reviewing books in the Meetinghouse Library
“WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME” by Rhonda Watson. Reviewed by Nancy E. James
Everybody who has been at Pittsburgh Meeting in the past few months knows Rhonda Watson. She’s the young woman who chose our Friends Meeting as the subject of her ethnographic study for a graduate course in Field Methods. In the role of “participant observer,” she joined us in Meeting for Worship, sat in on Meeting for Business and a few committee meetings, attended Ministry Committee’s “Spiritual Strength Training” sessions, circulated a questionnaire, interviewed two Pittsburgh Friends, and sang in a karaoke birthday party. And now she has kindly donated a copy of the results of her research to our library.
Rhonda’s report is, in part, the story of her own journey as someone who previously visualized Quakers as “a strange, quiet group of people who kept to themselves . . . white people who dressed modestly and similarly to the Amish.” Because she is “not particularly religious,” she feared that she might feel out of place (p. 43). Instead, she found that PFM not only includes people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds, but also people from a variety of spiritual backgrounds. She was welcomed every week “with a smile, hug, and handshake” (p. 46), and she came to consider herself “a part of this group” (p. 18).
In the “Abstract” which opens her report, Rhonda explains that she developed two main research questions to guide her: “How is Quakerism lived at this Meeting?” and “What draws people to this Meeting?” (p. 3) She consulted our Queries as well as Brinton’s Friends for 350 Years. She was told by one F/friend, “Each new person you talk to will give you a new perspective”; and by another, “You’ve picked a tough group for your project!” (p. 15) And indeed, she discovered Quakerism to be highly “complex.”
But she found an answer to both questions in the “overarching cultural theme” of “that of God in every person” (p. 18). “The F/friends of PFM do indeed strive to live by this belief,” she concluded (p. 19).
Throughout her report, Rhonda refers to the Appendices comprising more than half of the printed document. Appendix B relates her first tentative visit to our meetinghouse (on a weekday); C and D tell more about herself and her own “subcultures” (she belongs to hula hoop, drumming, and Zumba groups); E shares field notes on how some of her assumptions about Quakers were altered; and F provides helpful information on “What is Ethnography?”
Other Appendices include the questionnaire which some of us completed, and the questions she used in two in‐depth interviews.
In addition, the report is illustrated with photographs that Rhonda took of various “artifacts” (the library’s Sunday morning book display, for one!)—and a photograph of Rhonda singing at karaoke.
We appreciate Rhonda’s sharing her ethnographic study with us. It is helpful for us to see ourselves through the eyes of a newcomer—especially when the view is so positive. Read Rhonda’s report and you’ll feel, Yes, we must be doing something right!
The holdings in our Meeting library can be checked from your computer at home at http://www.librarything.com/catalog/PittsburghFriendsMtg


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