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Beacon Hill Friends House Presents: 

Unknowing God: Undoing what we think we know and learning to rest in contemplation

Date/Time: Sunday, October 18 from 1 - 2:30 PM 

Cost: Pay-as-led 

**To attend the workshop for free, email [email protected].** We do not ask for proof of income.


Summary: In this interactive workshop, participants will engage with readings, queries, journaling, and discussion to engage deeply with what they believe about God, and give themselves permission to let it go (following the ancient practice of apophasis or the unsaying of God). 

Full Description:

"For the first time you [lift your heart to God with stirrings of love], you will find only a darkness, and as it were a cloud of unknowing ...

… And so I urge you, go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breed conceit, but love builds. Knowledge is full of labor, but love, full of rest."

- The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works, Anonymous 14th Century Christian Mystic

What do you think you know about God? What have you been told? What were you taught? What images come to your mind? 

What if you gave yourself time to name those things, and permission to let some, or even all of that go? 

In this workshop, we will explore these queries and more, and give ourselves permission to let go of our answers to them, by exploring the ancient mystical spiritual practice of “unknowing” God -- also known as apophatic or “negative” theology, or even unsaying God.

This workshop is for everyone -- no matter where you fall on the question of "God" (including theists and non-theists), or whether you have engaged in a practice like this before. In fact, most of us have already learned and likely let go of some concepts of God at some points in our life -- from understandings that we have added nuances to as we've aged and matured, to changing faith traditions.  

Things we will do with our time together: 

- We will begin with a brief explanation of the practice of apophasis. 

- We will engage with several short readings, including selections from The Cloud of Unknowing, and anonymous work by a 14th-century Christian Mystic, as well as more contemporary readings in apophatic theology.

- We will have time to journal in response to these readings. 

- We will engage with queries through journaling and discussion. 

- We will have time for silent, "waiting worship" in the manner of Quakers, as a group. 

- We will have a break! :) And lots of time off-camera. 

About the workshop leader: 

Jen Higgins-Newman, is a convinced Friend, theologian, feminist, and mystic. Jen came to Quakerism out of evangelical Christianity, after giving herself permission to no longer believe in a hyper-masculine God who made women to have secondary “complementary” gifts to men. She found solace in Feminist theology, which gave her new ways of redefining God, and apophatic theology, which reminds her that she does not have to define God at all in order to have faith and a spiritual practice. Jen holds a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and serves as the Program Manager at Beacon Hill Friends House where she plans programs to cultivate and nurture community and our spiritual lives. 

Beacon Hill Friends House is an independent Quaker not-for-profit organization that operates a 20-person community residence, overnight guest accommodations, meeting and event space, and public educational programming in a large historic house in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. The Friends House exists to provide opportunities for personal growth, spiritual deepening, and leadership development, drawing inspiration and guidance from the values, principles, and practices of the Religious Society of Friends.