From the beginning Friends believed that they could have direct and immediate communication with God which would enable them to discern right ethical choices. But they soon experienced certain common leadings of the Spirit which became formalized into testimonies. These testimonies served as common principles and standards of behavior and action which they believed the consistency of the Spirit’s leading required of them.
Wilmer Cooper, 1991
Testimonies are fruits of the Spirit marking directions for our lives. Historically, testimonies were matters about which unity had been reached and which sometimes resulted in codified behavior. On one level, testimonies can be seen as values or principles of morality. On a deeper level, what Friends call “testimonies” are the result of our being transformed from the worldly to the spiritual – our journey into Light. They are the direct consequence of an encounter with the Spirit and of ourresponse to that encounter.
Learning a moral code will not in itself make us good. Stories, histories, and journals can help us understand how to act rightly in the world. When we are drawn to Inward Truth and have made it part of us – as opposed to merely understanding it – we are able to act in unity with the Spirit.
Friends traditionally describe personal transformation as a gradual development over a lifetime. Convincement is the beginning of this process, the point at which we accept the Light and commit to following its guidance. As we are changed over time by acting in conformity with that guidance, we are increasingly drawn toward what Friends have traditionally called “perfection” – that is, living a life open to continuing revelation and aligned with divine Truth and Love.
As other Christians did, early Friends believed that they did not have the power, on their own, to make themselves over. For them, transformation could happen only through empowerment by the Light. Friends did, however, believe that people can choose to respond in ways that strengthen and increase their measure of the Light. Once Friends are convinced in this way, the means by which they open themselves to the Spirit are varied. Friends for centuries have been in unity about the outcome of that change, if not in the language they use to describe it.
There isn’t always a clear boundary between faithfully following a spiritual discipline (see Chapter 3) and living out a testimony. Nor are there clear boundaries between testimonies. Is truth- telling, for example, an aspect of simplicity in the sense that it leads away from deceptions that complicate our lives, or is it an aspect of integrity in that our yes should mean yes and our no mean no? Does social-justice activism arise from our concern for peace-making, or our concern for equality? In either instance, “both, and more” is the only honest answer. All the testimonies interconnect. How we talk and write about them is less important than whether or not they are actually alive in us.
Acknowledging that the lines between them are sometimes arbitrary, this chapter describes six testimonies that are widely accepted within NPYM: integrity, community, peace, simplicity, equality, and stewardship. These are words we use to help describe the indescribable results we discover in ourselves when we open to the Light. Regardless of the words used or the spiritual path followed, those who have begun to experience this transformation will recognize its signs in themselves and others.
Early Friends saw the purpose of religion as uniting humankind with the Divine. The nature of this unification is remarkably similar across spiritual traditions. Lists exist in many traditions similar to the list of “fruits of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Wherever we look in human spirituality we may find a similar description of salvation, enlightenment, maturation, or perfection. The outcome of a spiritual transformation, then, seems to be predictable. It has been reproduced throughout time all over the world.
Living with integrity presents the daily challenge of keeping our lives congruent with the Light – in essence, living in Truth. Our choices in how we use our time, spend our money, and form relationships are consistent with what we believe. Our conversation in public and private is a seamless whole. On those infrequent occasions when we are required to swear an oath, we can advance the cause of truth by simple affirmation. The greater discipline is to continually exercise care in speech, making statements that convey truth without exaggeration or omission of essential fact.
Conduct is integrity made visible. We cannot learn or think our way into faithfulness; requires that belief and action be aligned. We are called to perform our daily tasks with measured care so that our work is sound. We behave honestly with individuals and toward organizations. Willingness to bear the consequences of our convictions leads to taking our lives seriously. A capacity for self-examination enables us to work toward integrity. The words and witness of Friends provide encouragement towards a life lived whole.
The Light in our hearts leads us into ways we can meet the challenges of living a life of integrity.
At the first convincement, when Friends could not put off their hats to people, or say You to a single person, but Thou and Thee; when they could not bow, or use flattering words in salutations, or adopt the fashions and customs of the
world, many Friends, that were tradesmen of several sorts, lost their customers at the first; for the people were shy of them, and would not trade with them; so that for a time some Friends could hardly get money enough to buy bread. But afterwards, when people came to have experience of Friends’ honesty and truthfulness, and found that their Yea was yea, and their Nay was nay; that they kept to a word in their dealings, and that they would not cozen and cheat them; but that if they sent a child to their shops for anything, they were as well used as if they had come themselves; the lives and conversations of Friends did preach, and reached to the witness of God in the people.
George Fox, 1653
Truth is once and the same always, though ages and generations pass away, and one generation goes and another comes, yet the word and power and spirit of the Living God endures forever, and is the same and never changes.
Margaret Fell, 1660
I give myself this advice: Do not fear truth, let it be ever so contrary to inclination and feeling. Never give up the search after it; and let me take courage, and try from the bottom of my heart to do that which I believe truth dictates….
Elizabeth Fry, 1799
While seeking to interpret our Christian faith in the language of today, we must remember that there is one worse thing than failure to practice what we profess, and that is to water down our profession to match our practice.
Friends World Conference, 1952
Integrity is a condition in which a person’s response to a total situation can be trusted: the opposite of a condition in which he would be moved by opportunity or self-seeking impulses breaking up his unity as a whole being. This condition of trust is different from the recognition that he will always be kind or always tell the truth.
Kenneth Barnes, 1972
How do we walk with integrity, Friends to each other; Friends to the world? A while back I heard a Friend say there are three pieces to living faithfully or living with integrity. The first is that you have to have the desire to do it. The desire is planted in you. It doesn’t even come from us really. It is planted there. So we have to ask, “What is it that is being required of me at this moment, at this time, in this place?” The second piece, she said, was that you have to test
what you hear: We hear through ears that also hear a lot of other stuff. So we have to test what we believe. I believe Friends call that discernment. And then, once we have done that, she said the last step was the easy part. You have to act on it. But for me that is one of the hardest parts.
Deborah Fisch, 2006
It occurs to me that every person I’ve met who is committed to integrity is simultaneously committed to knowing themselves, facing the truth about themselves, and accepting responsibility for their moods, actions, and reactions. The search for truth begins within the seeker. It begins when we endeavor to understand our motives and priorities, accepting nothing less than the truth about ourselves, especially when the light of introspection is painful and we don’t like what we find. It requires little courage to believe the best about ourselves, but to acknowledge our need for growth is difficult. Facing squarely, scrutinizing ourselves instead of others, changing ourselves rather than insisting others change to suit us, is a solid first step in the life of integrity.
Philip Gulley, 2014
We strive to maintain integrity in word and deed. We recognize the temptations to grow rich at the expense of others, and how apparently harmless indulgence can lead to wrongdoing.
Avoid pretense in clothing, manners, and speech, realizing that false impressions may be conveyed by action and appearance, no less than by words.
In all the settings you find yourself, practice keeping a single and open manner of relating to others. Avoid using different characters in each role you fill.
We live our best lives as Friends when we focus on what Truth and Love require of us, not on our own comfort or contentment.
How do we use the resources and strength we are given to meet the challenges of living a whole and honest life?
How do we keep to a single standard of truth in daily life? Do we avoid taking judicial and other oaths?
How do we fulfill the promises we make?
Are we responsible about incurring and repaying debts? Are we just and honorable in all our dealings?
How do we take care that our spiritual growth is not sacrificed to busyness?
Quaker witness results from our practice of integrity. When we speak Truth through both our words and our lives, we provide an example, or witness, to the world about what we believe that Truth to be. For example, witness occurs when an individual acts to resolve an interpersonal conflict according to Quaker principles. It also occurs communally when a monthly meeting discerns and adopts a minute opposing a military action, promoting social and environmental justice, or addressing some other rising concern. On a broader level, Quaker witness is the guiding concern of organizations such as Friends Committee on National Legislation, which lobbies Congress to pass laws in concert with Quaker beliefs.
Throughout our history Friends have testified that our lives are not meant to conform to the ways of the world but that we are meant to contribute to the transformation of the world through the Light of Truth.
Let all nations hear the sound by word or writing. Spare no place, spare no tongue nor pen, but be obedient to the Lord God; go through the world and be valiant for the truth upon earth; tread and trample all that is contrary under…. Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.
George Fox, 1656
We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity; it is our desire that others’ feet may walk in the same, and do deny and bear our testimony against all strife and wars and contentions…. And our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual…. And so we desire, and also expect
to have liberty of our consciences and just rights and outward liberties, as other people of the nation, which we have promise of, from the word of a king…. Treason, treachery and false dealing we do utterly deny; false dealing, surmising or plotting against any creature on the face of the earth; and [we] speak the Truth in plainness and singleness of heart; and all our desire is your good and peace and love and unity.
Margaret Fell, 1660
True godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavours to mend it; not hide their candle under a bushel, but set it upon a table in a candlestick.
William Penn, 1682
Love was the first motion, and then a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of Truth amongst them….
Afterward, feeling my mind covered with the spirit of prayer, I told the interpreters that I found it in my heart to pray to God, and I believed, if I prayed right, he would hear me, and expressed my willingness for them to omit interpreting, so our meeting ended with a degree of Divine love. Before our people went out I observed Papunehang (the man who had been zealous in laboring for a reformation in that town, being then very tender) spoke to one of the interpreters, and I was afterward told that he said in substance as follows: “I love to feel where words come from.”
John Woolman, 1763
For Friends the most important consideration is not the right action in itself but a right inward state out of which right action will arise. Given the right inward state right action is inevitable. Inward state and outward action are component parts of a single whole.
Howard Brinton, 1943
We must be alert that the warm coziness which we find enveloping us at Yearly Meeting and in our Monthly Meetings does not snare us into imagining that this is all of Quakerism. A vital religion is one which goes from an encounter with the love of God to an encounter in service to that love, no matter how hopeless the situation may be.
Pacific Yearly Meeting, 1967
tart from the premise that to remain silent on crucial issues is to make a conscious decision. It is therefore pointless to remain silent in order to avoid accountability. We will be held responsible for our silence, as well as for our activities; just as the university teachers of the Germany of my childhood were held responsible – morally and fraternally – for their silence and their collaboration with an evil system. We need to think clearly and to speak out together with insights coming from the collective knowledge, experience, and conviction of our community.
Ursula Franklin, 2000
Reading Quaker literature, I am struck by how seriously we take our practical witness in our testimonies to peace with justice, equality, simplicity and community. I find it humbling and moving, and it’s one of the reasons I found my way to the Society in the first place. But it often leaves me with no sense of why Quakers work for peace, justice or equality; what it is, other than gritted- teeth duty, that motivates us.
I think that we do it because we enjoy it, but don’t often say so because deep down we suspect that’s an unworthy reason…the enjoyment I mean…is rejoicing in God’s re-creational presence – however we perceive it – in every moment of our existence. It is not a frivolous adjunct to the serious business of life. To me, it’s what we were created for; it’s both bedrock and our goal.
Jackie Leach Scully, 2002
Above all, the Light is visible in each person who is open to it. It is visible in people’s passion for justice as well as in their relationships with all around them. It is made manifest in the odd mix of fierceness and gentleness of heart they demonstrate as they go about their day.
Margery Post Abbott, 2009
We are glad to tell in words as well as deeds about the Truth and Faith that are in us. We seek fellowship with others of our own faith and with all people, realizing the oneness of humanity under God. Our witness is characterized by humility and a willingness to learn from others. We are constantly reminded that Truth is greater than the knowledge any one of us has of it. God did not put all the fruit on one branch.
We remain open to new leadings of Spirit, while taking care not to outrun our Guide.
Witness calls us into action.
We follow the witness that we are called to, with a whole heart, understanding that no one person can carry the weight of the whole world.
While we seek affinity with others who share the same concerns, we also seek opportunities to find common ground with those who have differing points of view.
Speak Truth to power with love.
How do our lives testify to our convictions as Friends? What are we doing to share our faith?
How do we speak Truth tenderly, so that others may hear it?
What ways do we find to cooperate with people and groups with whom we share beliefs and concerns? Do we listen with love and respect to those with whom we disagree?
How do we respect and encourage the witness that arises out of our meetings?
Are we faithful in witnessing to Truth in our community and to the world?
Friends’ responsibility toward civic authority requires integrity and discernment. When government acts as a coercive agency, especially when resorting to violence, it may violate Quaker principles. On the other hand, the state commands respect and cooperation when it acts to maintain an orderly society with justice under law for all and to meet human needs.
Friends participate in civic life in a variety of ways. Through the ballot, public witness, legislative advocacy, or holding public office, Friends may contribute to an enlightened and vigorous public life and help shape policies and institutions that are in keeping with Quaker testimonies. Participating in volunteer and non-profit
organizations can be other opportunities to bring Quaker values to bear in our local communities.
Friends do not avoid serving in public office but rather regard it as a form of Quaker witness, recognizing that some actions taken by public authority may conflict with Quaker beliefs. For example, from its earliest days, the Society has held that war is contrary to the will of God. In situations where a Friend is called to support war while in office, a prayerful search for divine guidance assists in determining how to proceed. There may be many other instances where Friends in public office find that their duties put them into conflict with their testimonies, their convictions, or their witness. As Friends have found in the past, it may become necessary to resign their positions rather than violate their principles.
When obedience to the state appears to be contrary to divine law, Friends take prayerful counsel to find the right way forward. This involves testing our resistance to the state through discernment in the meeting community, possibly through a clearness or support committee. When the decision is to refuse obedience, we act openly and make the reasons for our actions clear. If the decision involves incurring legal penalties, Friends generally have suffered willingly and fearlessly for the sake of their convictions. If we are not personally involved in an action of civil disobedience, we strengthen the meeting community by supporting our fellow members with spiritual encouragement and, when necessary, with material aid.
…That care be taken, that as any are called before outward powers of the nation, that in the light, obedience to the Lord be given.
…That if any be called to serve the commonwealth in any public service, this is for the public wealth and good, that with cheerfulness it be undertaken, and in faithfulness discharged unto God.
Epistle from the Elders at Balby, 1656
We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for this party nor against the other … but we are for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation….
Edward Burrough, 1659
We affirm our unchanging conviction that our first allegiance is to God, and if this conflicts with any compulsion of the State, we serve our countries best by remaining true to our higher loyalty.
Pacific Yearly Meeting, 1953
There is no one Quaker attitude toward politics. Historically, Quakers can be found practicing and preaching almost every possible position from full participation to complete withdrawal and abstention…. If a concerned Quaker (or any man or woman committed to an absolute religious ethic) decides to enter practical politics in order to translate his principles into actuality, he may achieve a relative success: he may be able to raise the level of political life in his time … or maintain a comparatively happy and just and peaceful society, as the Quaker legislators of Pennsylvania did. But he can apparently do it only at a price – the price of compromise, of the partial betrayal of his ideals. If, on the other hand, he decides to preserve his ideals intact, to maintain his religious testimonies unsullied and pure, he may be able to do that, but again at a price – the price of isolation, of withdrawal from the main stream of life in his time, of renouncing the opportunity directly and immediately to influence history.
Frederick Tolles, 1956
We must come from a spirit of love and compassion to help our leaders and many of our fellow citizens come to see that if we truly love God then we must make a drastic change of direction in the course of our country. The only way we will gain respect is by showing it to others, even those we disagree with. The only way we will gain love is by giving it to others, even those we disagree with. Love of country must always be subordinate to love of God. Love of country alone sets us on a course towards the disasters that have befallen other countries over the centuries. Charting a new course must begin now before it is too late.
Tom Fox, 2005
We value the part we have in shaping the laws of our country. It is our task to see that these laws speak to and answer that of God, which we believe is in every person. Our aim is the building of a social order that works toward the expression of divine love. Our first allegiance remains with God.
If, by divine leading, our attention is focused on a law contrary to divine law, we must proceed with care. Before making a decision to oppose a law, we pray for further divine guidance; we consult with others who might be affected by our decision. When we reach clearness, we act with conviction.
When our decision involves disobedience to the law, we make the grounds of our action clear to all concerned. If there are penalties, we suffer them without evasion.
We care for those who suffer for conscience’s sake.
What are we doing as individuals and as a meeting to carry our share of civic responsibility for our community, state, and nation?
How are we working for change in government when change is needed?
How do we discern between meeting our obligations to the state and society and opposing those contrary to Quaker principles?
What are we doing to uphold those acting under a concern aligned with Quaker belief ?
Do we share our convictions in a spirit of loving concern?
In what ways do we care for those who are vulnerable or are in poverty in our communities?
The meeting as community has been central to Friends since the earliest days, when members of the local Quaker community would take care of the families, farms, and businesses of Friends traveling in ministry or imprisoned for professing Truth. Community remains a spiritual as well as a practical safety net – a place for communal discernment and for testing leadings within the shared wisdom of the group.
There can be a holy relationship between individuals and their local Friends community. The meeting supports and strengthens
its members and attenders; the individuals support and strengthen each other, and thereby the community. Thus the worshipping community as a whole reflects what Jesus called “the kingdom of God” and what many Friends today call “the beloved community.” We feel it during worship and in our work and fellowship together.
The spirit of a Friends community might be described as “the testimonies made visible” through the interactions and mutual care of its members. Creating a community of love, trust, compassion, and forbearance, where differences are respected and every voice is valued, is important to our witness to the world. The Friends community inspires, nurtures, and supports our concerns for peace, social justice, and environmental action; it is the seedbed from which our actions grow.
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
…That no-one speak evil of another, neither judge one against another, but rather judge this, that none put a stumbling-block or occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Epistle from the Elders at Balby, 1656
Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.
Isaac Penington, 1667
… [W]hen I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart, and as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up, and so I became thus knit and united unto them, hungering more and more after the increase of this power and life, whereby I might feel myself perfectly redeemed.
Robert Barclay, 1678
There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath had different names. It is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion, nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever, they become brethren in the best sense of the expression.
John Woolman, 1774
A worshipful community is a healing community in which we reveal ourselves without fear, trusting our vulnerability to that Spirit which alone knows our hearts. There is the dialogue of soul with Spirit and the sharing of that with each other. In these ways we lift each other up tenderly.
Shirley Ruth Parks Tweed, 1982
It is often hard to accept that other people have their own valid relationship with God, their own specialness and insights. We are not just disciples – we are disciples together.
Our vision of the truth has to be big enough to include other people’s truth as well as our own. We have to learn to love difficult unlovable people. Accepting each other, and each other’s relationship with God, let us continue to hold together at our deepest level. We are a forgiven community. Part of the cost of discipleship is living with the other disciples.
Beth Allen, 1984
[Early] Quakerism was not an individualistic faith. Quakers trusted God’s Spirit to draw each person into her place in the community and expected her and her gifts to flourish in the context of being loved, loving, and serving in that body. The individual became fully herself only as she experienced her connection to the community. To be cut off from the body was to lose one’s source of life and to wither and die spiritually.
Margaret Benefiel, 1996
In the kindergarten of the School of Love that we attend with one another in community, we can lead one another by meeting love with love. With grace, we may even be able to meet unlove with love. …
Un-self-centered behavior is hard for humans. It’s especially hard today because popular modern psychology … encourages self-fulfillment and self- assertion as priorities that – without great care – can foster self-centeredness. These cultural priorities are one reason for the need for communities with
a commitment or covenant to aspire to self-transcendence rather than self- fulfillment, to mutuality as well as a personal relationship with the Divine. Spiritual communities are where we practice the counter-cultural behaviors of living love with others committed to the same struggle, where we encourage and admonish one another in tenderness.
Patricia Loring, 1999
Community is not just about those closest to us, or those with whom we feel the most comfortable. I believe that God calls us to break out of our comfort zones and build community across differences. This means promoting a multicultural and inclusive vision for our society.
Danielle Short, 2007
Many Friends describe the experience of their first visit to meeting as “coming home.” It is only with God’s Spirit that such a diverse group of individuals can realize and embody the kind of unity, belonging, and community that answers to that of God within us.
The Quaker meeting is meant to be a blessed community – a living testimony to a social order that embodies God’s peace, justice, love, compassion, and joy, and an example and invitation to a better way of life. Like our other testimonies, community can be a prophetic call to the rest of society.
Southeastern Yearly Meeting, 2007
Friends, we have had enough of “rugged individualism.” The kingdom of Heaven comes to us in the first-person plural, not the first-person singular.
Joe Snyder, 2016
“Let your life speak” is traditional advice for Friends. The life of a Quaker meeting also speaks: by giving practical support for members and attenders in need; cherishing the children and young people finding their spiritual paths; encouraging, guiding, and eldering Friends with love in discernment or in following leadings; welcoming new seekers; and stepping forth in Spirit-led witness in the wider world.
Being part of a community requires us to practice compassion and patience. As members of a community, we pay attention to each other and rely on each other; we consciously nurture our
interdependence. It’s not always easy. It’s nevertheless vital to our shared spiritual journey.
How do we foster love, truth, and harmony within our meeting community?
Is our community a shelter where we can grow in the Spirit? How can our community provide the best combination of safety and challenge to encourage spiritual growth?
How do we as individuals share our gifts with the meeting? How do we as a community help individual Friends find their own gifts and share them with others?
How do we as individuals support the spiritual health of the meeting? How do we as a community support the spiritual health of individual members and attenders?
How do we make our meeting a beloved community and a living testimony – for all members and attenders, wherever they are in their own spiritual journeys?
How do we create a radically inclusive culture in our Quaker community?
How does our meeting community reflect the Spirit and Truth at the center of our lives?
Unity arises within the gathered meeting. Knowledge of our historic witness and spiritual discipline and mutual love prepare us for our life together. Through unity, the sense of being gathered, we may feel assured of the authenticity of our experience. Different ways of understanding the divine life can arise among us. These differences are not to be ignored for the sake of superficial agreement. They are better recognized and understood, so that a deeper and more vital unity can be reached.
Convictions which might divide or disrupt us can, through divine grace, help to make the meeting creative and strong. Friends are encouraged to keep faith and fellowship with each other, waiting in the Light for that unity which draws us together in Truth and Love.
When new witness arises within a meeting, it may occasion a season of disquiet as we discern its nature and meaning. New light can be given to any one among us. We do well to remain open to what the Innermost Word calls forth among us. Revelation is ongoing, providing illumination and guidance to the individual and through individuals to the whole.
Through practical and ongoing devotion, we are drawn into an experience of being gathered as a beloved community. Frequent fellowship is vital to maintaining our life together. As we grow in love and knowledge of one another we are more able to dwell together in singleness, wholeness, and unity.
For unity in the context of Quaker decision making, see Chapter 5, “The Monthly Meeting.”
…That Christian moderation be used towards all men: that they who obey not the word, may be won [by] those that in the word dwell, to guide in an holy life and godly conversation.
Epistle from the Elders at Balby, 1656
Oh, how sweet and lovely it is to see brethren dwell together in unity, to see the true image of God raised in persons, and they knowing and loving one another in that image, and bearing with one another through love, and helping one another under their temptations and distresses of spirit, which every one must expect to meet with…. The way is one; and he that is in the faith, and in the obedience to that light which shines from the Spirit into the heart of every believer, hath a taste of the one heart and the one way, and knoweth that no variety of practices, which is of God, can make a breach in the true unity.
Isaac Penington, 1659
The Lord is with you my tender Friends. Yea, I say, Israel’s God is among you. He will give you wisdom and strength, as you wait upon him. Therefore be encouraged in the blessed work of the Lord, unto which you are called. Be bold and valiant for the truth, to withstand all the false pretenders to love and unity, and are in a dividing Spirit, and secretly endeavoring to disturb the Churches’ peace. Stand up on the strength of the Lord, and in the power of his might against all such which would destroy your comely Order (into which the Lord hath gathered you) and bring all into Confusion as they are. As your Hearts
are inclined to this good work, the Lord who is rich in mercy and goodness, he will fill your Quivers with polished Arrows, and cause your Bow to abide in strength and so furnish you with his heavenly virtues to enable you for his work and service that he calls you to that hard things will be made easy unto you.
Theophila Townsend, 1686
The unity of Christians never did nor ever will or can stand in uniformity of thought and opinion, but in Christian love only.
Thomas Story, 1737
The attainment of unity within the meeting is not the same as the attainment of uniformity. Unity is spiritual, uniformity mechanical. Friends have never required of the members assent to a religious or social creed, though not infrequently a body of Friends has issued a statement expressing their religious or social views at a particular time. There is, however, always the reservation that the Spirit of Truth may lead to further insight. Differences within the group on the particular application of general principles are tolerated, provided they are being actively explored in a spirit of friendship and a continued search for truth. Such differences are often of great value in helping new aspects of truth to emerge.
Howard Brinton, 1952
The purpose of our Meetings for Worship for Business is precisely this: we meet not to make decisions, but to build a community of witness: what have we found corporately? The sense of the meeting is not unanimity. I have had the experience of concurring in a sense of meeting with which I disagreed, knowing it was the sense of the meeting. I have wept, wishing the meeting could go further than it clearly was ready to go, but it clearly was not. But my concurring with the sense of the meeting meant that I accepted my faith community where it was, for it is only in affirming clearly where we are that we can add more on.
Jan Hoffman, 1988
Openness to the prospect that God works in multiple and unexpected ways is changing Quaker practice. It also gives hope and encouragement to those who seek to find a unity that reaches beyond words.
Margery Post Abbott, 1997
I believe that we continually deepen our spiritual roots. However, there is a challenge before us to further nurture these roots and enhance our lives with dignity and spirituality. I believe that each individual possesses gifts of the Spirit to help achieve this through opening out hearts to the Light from God so this Light flows through us.
This is where unity through diversity comes into focus as we move out across other barriers and communities to “answer that of God in each person” as a “vessel” for the Light to flow to others on our path.
Donald Laitin, 1997
Forgiveness is an important part of the unity process and we can’t overstate that. We need to be able to say “I’m sorry” and be open to hearing that and move on. Openness is central to the unity process.
Laura Magnani, 2008
Unity is found in God’s will. If we are divided, when we listen in the Spirit together the way forward will become clear.
Each of us has particular transcendent experiences, and each must find ways to be true to them. When an expression of that experience is strange or disturbing, we try to sense where it comes from and how it might nourish the lives of others.
People understand the Divine in many different ways.
Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid using hurtful criticism or language chosen to provoke anger or fear.
Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue.
Think it possible that you may be mistaken.
Cultivate affectionate regard and mutual care for each other. Look for times and occasions in addition to meeting on first days to gather together affirming a common life that leads to a deeper unity.
When problems and conflicts arise, how do we work to resolve them in a spirit of love and humility?
How do we let go of our individual desires and let the Holy Spirit lead us to unity?
How do we open ourselves to the diversity of culture, language, and expressions of faith in our yearly meeting and in the world community of Friends?
How do we respect the reputations of others? Do we avoid gossip? Do we protect necessary confidentiality?
How careful are we to avoid manipulating and exploiting one another?
We nurture personal relationships within our Quaker communities by engaging in social and recreational gatherings in addition to our involvement in meetings for worship, business, and committee work. Reading groups, spiritual sharing groups, and affinity groups deepen our lives together. When we learn about each other as individuals, we more readily share joys and sorrows, express our needs, and extend our care for each other in deeper ways. While recognizing our own limits and boundaries, we become mutually supportive, loving Friends in every sense of the word.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
…That none be busy bodies in others’ matters, but each one to bear another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ; that they be sincere and without offence, and that all things that are honest, be done without murmuring, and disputing, that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation amongst whom they may shine as lights in the world.
Epistle from the Elders at Balby, 1656
We know ourselves as individuals but only because we live in community. Love, trust, fellowship, selflessness are all mediated to us through our interdependence. Just as we could not live physically without each other, we
cannot live spiritually in isolation. We are individually free but also community bound. We cannot act without affecting others and others cannot act without affecting us. We know ourselves as we are reflected in the faces, action and attitudes of each other.
Janet Scott, 1980
Friends have always been especially sensitive to and questioning about the ways in which human beings relate to each other, in a continuing re-examination of their own inner and outer relationships. This consistent component of Quakerism has resulted in the equally consistent and insistent habit Friends have of looking upon and treating all human beings as persons, regardless of age, color, economic status, religion, occupation, [sexual orientation,] or gender.
Mary Calderone, 1989
It is vitally important for others to stand alongside the individual who is weighed down by burdens. In every community of Friends there will be those who carry burdens more lightly, sometimes with optimism and political passion, sometimes with mystical understanding and conviction, sometimes with intense realism and practical planning. There will also be those who are heavily burdened, more pessimistic, more daunted by political processes – those at a stage in life when less uplifted, with less enthusiasm or energy for long-term activity or campaigning, with less confidence in God. There will be those who are burned out or just plain ill. We need to recognize this and work practically within our strengths, reinforced by our faith.
We need to remember that we gain strength from being a worshipping community, part of a people of God. So what does it mean to be a people of God, living the life of faith and overflowing with hope?
Christine Davis, 2007
In the presence of others I become aware of motion and a great journey. In turning all my heart on the care of others I find clues to the Way, to this strange path which I am on. I learn in vivid clarity of moving through the darkness, of windows penetrating the walls of my existence and great openings giving space for inner refuse to pour out. As others care for me and in their concern I come to be aware of the brilliance of potential, of sparks of new life. We come to know God in our relationships with others. We learn new ways of being with others and loving them through the love that comes from God.
Margery Post Abbott, 2012
Our needs for love and care, and our response to these needs in others, make up a rich part of our lives. In an exchange truly grounded in love, each of us is both giver and receiver, ready to help and accept help. Neither pride nor fear keeps us from the unconditional love and care of God manifested through others. Let neither comfort nor self-centeredness blind us to our need for others.
We listen to one another with openness of heart and in good faith, aware that greater wisdom than our own is required to meet our human needs. We lift up our hearts to the Source of all wisdom and power.
In what ways do we bring together members and attenders, young and old, in love and community?
Are we sensitive to each other’s personal needs and difficulties? How do we assist in useful ways?
Do we visit one another in our homes and keep in touch with distant members?
How do we listen to one another, even beyond words?
How do we provide mutual care while acknowledging our own limitations?
How well are we able to love each other unconditionally?
Each of us creates home and all of us create family. In our homes we nurture fellowship, education, and community for the meeting. In our homes the realm of God can be made real. Ideally, family is an expression of deep emotional unity and shared history. This depth can provide a precious bonding of people and bring forth joy and spiritual growth. It may also bring forth anguish when family ties break down, or a loved one suffers.
Family life is strengthened by recognizing that all family members, and indeed all people, are God’s children, and that we are called to nurture and love each other as members of divine creation. In
the Light in the eyes of our children, in the loving expression of adults, we feel holy love at work in the life of our families.
We also recognize the sense of family and home that we find in the life of the meeting. For many single people or people without family, this is an important role of the meeting. We have concern for the well-being of the meeting, of the people it comprises, and of the wider world to which it belongs. Together we can participate in God’s work on earth.
Meetings have a responsibility to nurture families in all their variety. Meetings support marriages and committed relationships between adults. (See Chapter 10.) The meeting can support, yet does not replace, the family in the care of children. For example, we assist in time of crisis or need, offer religious education for children, and make time for parents of young children to “catch their breath.” Within the local Friends community, parents may be able to share the joys and challenges of parenting with others as we endeavor to make the homes we envision.
Any combination of adults and children or adults without children can make a family. Family is a place where it is safe to be one’s self and receive the encouragement of other family members to grow and expand. The family is a primary place to explore ways of living out Truth. Here the seed of God can be nurtured and cherished. Here is a place for love and commitment to be practiced – giving greater strength for the world beyond the home and meeting.
We are called, as we are able, to make home a place of hospitality
– a place to nurture fellowship, education, and community for the meeting. We value visiting in one another’s homes. In many worship groups, homes provide the space for meetings for worship and business.
A single person, too, can make a home, extend hospitality, nurture intimate friendships, and engage in passionate social action. There is also much to learn of the gift of solitude and stillness from those who either choose to live alone or find themselves alone.
In our homes the Realm of God can be made real.
Abuse in Families. In any close family relationship, the exercise of inappropriate power can result in physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. In the face of the social isolation often associated with an abusive home, those victimized may feel alone and desperate. Friends are advised to remain alert to the possibility of domestic abuse and sensitive to the signs of such situations. Meetings are encouraged to create communities of trust in which those suffering trauma can find support.
…That husbands and wives dwell together according to knowledge, as being heirs together of the grace of life; that children obey their parents in the Lord; and that parents provoke not their children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and fear of God, walking before them as good examples, in gravity and godliness; providing things honest in the sight of God and man.
Epistle from the Elders at Balby, 1656
A husband and a wife that love one another show their children … that they should do so too. Others visibly lose their authority in their families by their contempt of one another; and teach their children to be unnatural by their own examples.
William Penn, 1693
Home-making is a Quaker service in its own right. It should be recognized as such and a proper balance preserved, so that other activities – even the claims of Quaker service in other fields – should not be allowed to hinder its growth.
London Yearly Meeting, 1959
What makes any relationship, any action, right is caring – caring for the other person, for things, for the earth, and for oneself. George and I put words from Walt Whitman in our marriage ceremony to express what we wanted our marriage to be: ‘a union of equal comrades.’ … We have kept the goal of being a union of equal comrades, granting each other space to be ourselves and to grow towards wholeness.
Elizabeth Watson, 1977
There is little question that if as a parent we have not taken the time really to listen to children when they are young, listened not only to their words but to their feelings behind the words, they are unlikely to want to come with their
sharings in later life. Learning to listen to each other in families can help to make us better listeners to others and to the Inner Guide.
Dorothy Steere, 1984
Of course, parents will not get it right all the time. We are all going to mess up. But God loves us in spite of our weakness and contradictions. In spite of our shortcomings, there is hope for families to be places of belonging and trust, leading us to healing and freedom. The Gospel is full of stories where Jesus welcomes people, especially those who are outcasts, living at the edges of society. He meets them with unconditional love: acceptance, inclusion, and forgiveness. As a microcosm of God’s kingdom, the family is based on forgiveness…. Christ reaches out to the best in each of us and calls us to do the same with one another. And when we get it right at home, our whole family gets a glimpse of the eternal: God’s love and God’s kingdom.
Loves makes a family.
Mary Kay Rehard, 2002
Bonnie Tinker, 2002
Live in the assurance that all are children of God.
Hospitality in the home is a vital force for spiritual nurture; it helps all family members learn to respond to that of God in everyone.
Know that a family may be made of single adults, of differing combinations of adults, or of adults and children, sharing a bond of love. Meeting provides an essential sense of family for those without families, including those made single after years of marriage or other life commitment.
We give home and family priority in our lives.
The meeting can support, yet cannot replace, the family in the care of children. At the same time, every member of meeting is responsible in some measure for the care of families, including children.
Stay aware of the many ways the meeting can act as a family – and the ways it cannot.
Be both bold and tender in offering assistance to families that may be experiencing discord or domestic abuse.
How do we make our homes places of friendliness, peace, and renewal, where Spirit is real for those who live there and those who visit?
How do we maintain a climate of love and trust in our meeting which invites families to be open about their satisfactions and challenges?
How do we keep commitments outside the home from encroaching on the time and loving attention the family needs for its health and well-being?
Does our home life support our need for both a sense of personal identity and shared living?
What supports do we offer to the aging, the widowed, the separated or divorced, and members of families affected by disruption or trauma?
How does the meeting assist families to improve communication, family life, and the rearing of children in a context of love?
Every age group brings its own gifts – and its own challenges – to the meeting community. Children can enlighten adults with their questions; adults can be role models for children. Teenagers often struggle with reaching independence while elders often struggle with giving it up. Meetings may sponsor intergenerational activities, including worship-sharing, that can help Friends of all ages share their perspectives and respond lovingly. We take care to look for that of God in each person, no matter how young or old they are.
Children and Teenagers. Along with their parents and caretakers, others in the meeting help foster children’s emerging spiritual lives by recognizing and encouraging their individual gifts. A meeting community can become like an extended family for children, to the benefit of all.
Meetings foster Quaker values in children by providing religious education. Although small groups may not be able to offer a full “First-Day school,” every group takes care to nurture children’s growth in the Spirit and to include them in activities.
The meeting continues to offer trust, deep listening, and a steady sense of acceptance to teenagers as they seek greater independence and a new sense of self. Conversation with Friends of other generations may help adolescents explore their own values during this time of transition and vulnerability.
Meetings acknowledge the gifts of young people by including them in the work of meeting committees or projects, thereby encouraging them to take on some of the responsibilities of being a Friend.
Young people become aware of themselves as Friends through meeting for worship, religious education, their family lives, and friendships within their own age group. Meetings with few adolescent attenders can help make opportunities for their youth to gather in larger regional groups, which encourage participation and a lasting connection to the Religious Society of Friends.
Young Adults. Like adolescents, young adults who are balancing work, school, and social relationships often find a strong sense of community among others of a similar age and may prefer to focus on regional and national gatherings, such as the annual Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering. Some local communities also support informal gatherings of young adult Friends.
One challenge for meetings is to engage with all young adults, whether they grew up in the meeting or have come to Friends as new attenders. Possibilities include fostering spiritual fellowship, asking for service, offering clearness committees, and providing resources that encourage growth into the fullness of their gifts and lives. It is especially important to recognize that those once known as children and youth are now adults and to affirm them as valuable peers.
Adults in the Middle Years. Meetings can help adults in the middle years find balance when they become over-busy
at the expense of their spiritual lives. Meetings may be able to offer practical help to Friends with simultaneous responsibilities to children and aging parents. Friends can help each other find clearness regarding new enterprises, such as second careers or voluntary service.
Adults in the middle years may find themselves taking leadership in their meetings, while at the same time learning to lean gracefully upon the meeting’s spiritual and practical support as they themselves age. The meeting may depend heavily on Friends of middle years for committee work. This adds what for some might feel like a burden of expectation and for others an opportunity for discernment of their leadings.
Later Years. Friends in their later years strive to accept the diminishments of age with good grace, and meetings strive to accommodate older Friends’ needs as much as possible. Friends who no longer drive may need help with transportation to worship and meeting activities. Those with hearing impairments may benefit from sound systems, scribes, and printed materials to stay active in the life of the meeting. Some meetings may be able to offer clearness processes about living arrangements and other significant decisions, and some can provide ongoing help to aging adults through care and support committees.
The relationship of older Friends to the meeting does not end when they are no longer able to attend worship or other meeting events. Older Friends can make vital contributions through telephone calls, correspondence, visits, and prayer. The meeting may arrange for worship or committee meetings to be held in a housebound Friend’s residence. These measures encourage a mutual relationship in which younger Friends appreciate the presence and worth of older Friends, and older Friends know that they are remembered, valued, cared for, and loved.
End of Life. In ways both practical and spiritual, the meeting community helps Friends prepare for death, which we know can come at any time. We foster ever-present readiness of spirit for whatever life may bring. Love and support from the meeting community can help us deal with many losses: dreams and hopes,
mobility, sight or hearing, memory and mental acuity. At the same time, wise elders facing those losses have much to teach others by their example.
Spiritual preparation for death and loss is ongoing. We may find comfort in Scripture, literature, music, and art. The spiritual and practical support of caring Friends has great value; it matters more than eloquent words. We do not let our feelings of inadequacy keep us away from those who are seriously ill or dying.
For practical responsibilities concerning the end of life, including memorial meetings, see Chapter 11, “Death and Memorials.”
Bereavement. Grieving requires time. The meeting’s support to the bereaved may need to continue well beyond an initial period of loss. Bereaved children may need special attention and opportunities to express their grief. When others mourn, we seek to let our love embrace them.
[Children] are God’s Creatures, and given to Parents as a Gift from him, upon whom they are to improve their utmost Diligence, that they may grow up in the Fear of God. Parents should not overlook things in their Children through fond Affection which they know by the Light of Jesus to be evil and bad; [nor] speak to them in a slender Reproof…. Neither ought any one to be bitter to their Children, nor to require more of them than we know they are of Ability to perform; and when they fall short of their Duty, not to Correct them in our own Wills, nor in a Wrathful Angry Mind – for that Mind is itself for Correction….
Geertruyd Deriks Niesen, 1677
I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
attributed to Stephen Grellet , ca. 1850
Children have much to teach us. If we cultivated the habit of dialogue and mutual learning, our children could keep us growing, and in a measure could bring us into their future….
Elizabeth Watson, 1975
Perhaps the most neglected of all the advices is that we should live adventurously. If there is one wish I would pray the Spirit to put into our Christmas stockings, it is warmth, openness, passion, a bit of emotion that doesn’t mind making a fool of itself occasionally.
Gerald Priestland, 1977
For me only two things now seem sure. One is that time must have a stop, and the other is that whatever lies over and around mortal time is not to be feared.
With that, I shall have to be content.
Norma Jacob, 1981
If we can daily face loss as the growing edge in living, we begin to understand that all these small surrenders are a rehearsal for the physical death that each of us must ultimately face. And that physical death will become easier if we consciously accept all of life’s small deaths, repeatedly practicing letting go of our self-will. Therefore, to practice the labor of dying as growth towards new horizons, we must live in harmony with the eternal creative process.
Lucy McIver, 1998
I feel no need to live to a ripe old age. I already have. … I believe that we all need to reflect together how we might be able to make a difference, as we come to the final stages of our lives. We can use our imaginations, and create legacies while we are still alive and by how we die.
Peg Morton, 2013
The Meeting and Friends of All Ages
The meeting community is the seedbed of our spiritual lives.
Meetings heed the needs of their members and attenders as they move along their life journeys.
As Friends we place a high value on intergenerational activities to nurture life in the Spirit.
How do we recognize and cherish the contributions that Friends of all ages make to our Quaker community?
How does our meeting stay tender to those who may be discomforted by children?
How do we value each other as children of God without prejudgment based on age?
How does our meeting walk alongside members and attenders at all stages of their lives?
How does living in Quaker community nurture a meaningful life?
Our physical and spiritual selves are an integrated whole. Our sexuality shapes how we understand ourselves and how we understand and relate to others.
Our sexual nature can be both a blessing and a source of vulnerability. Understanding our own sexuality is a journey. Despite a growing appreciation of human sexuality and its role in our lives, there is lingering ignorance, misunderstanding, and fear. Sex education with open discussion and accurate, unbiased, readily available information is therefore important for everyone, children and adults alike. We are open to grace and we seek knowledge, understanding, and tenderness toward each other.
We recognize that sexual orientation is a full spectrum and that gender identity may be fluid. We affirm that all are children of God and valuable members of the beloved community, however they identify themselves.
Parents and the meeting can encourage children in exploring and understanding their sexuality by constructively supporting each child’s natural interest and answering questions honestly and lovingly. Parents teach their children primarily by the example of their lives. Ideally they demonstrate mutual love, affection, consideration, and trust in a lasting relationship that includes sexual joy.
The Spirit guides us to integrate our sexual behavior with Friends testimonies. In the context of a loving and committed relationship, sex is joyous and sacramental.
Friends are not immune from committing sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse, and violence. These acts reflect power
imbalance and anger, not healthy sexuality, and can do deep and lasting damage. Casual or careless sexual activity can also lead to emotional and physical suffering. In dealing with sexual matters, care and concern for others is no less important than care and concern for ourselves.
I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine….
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
Song of Solomon 6:3a; 8:6-7a
Sexuality, looked at dispassionately, is neither good nor evil – it is a fact of nature and a force of immeasurable power. But looking at it as Christians we have felt impelled to state without reservation that it is a glorious gift of God. Throughout the whole of living nature it makes possible an endless and fascinating variety of creatures, a lavishness, a beauty of form and colour surpassing all that could be imagined as necessary to survival.
“Towards a Quaker View of Sex,” revised edition, 1964
The mystery of sex continues to be greater than our capacity to comprehend it, no matter how much we learn about it. We engage in it, in often too frantic efforts to enjoy it but, more subtly, also to try to fathom its ever recurring power over us. Surely this power and its mystery relate to the mystery of God’s relationship to us. The mistake we have made throughout the ages has been to load onto sex the incubus of success or failure of marriage, to look upon sex as a resolution, an ending. In reality it offers us, if we could only see it, a fresh beginning every time in that relationship of which it is a part.
Mary Calderone, 1973
All our senses are given to us to enjoy and to praise God. The smell of the sea, of the blossom borne on the wind, of the soft flesh of a little baby; the taste of a ripe plum or bread fresh from the oven, the feel of warm cat’s fur, or the body of a lover – these are all forms of thanksgiving prayer. I am sure that it is as wrong to fail to delight in our bodies as it is to misuse them through excess. Not
to be a glutton does not mean that we may not delight in good food; not to be ruled by lust does not mean that we must not enjoy the exquisite pleasures of sex; not to be slothful does not mean that we must not lie in the sun, not doing, just being. When Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” I do not think He was speaking only of spiritual life – I think He meant us to have positive delight in all the good things in this wonderful world which His Father created.
Bella Bown, ca. 1980
Our sexuality is ultimately tied to who we are as spiritual persons. The spiritual life enhances our sexuality and gives it direction. Our sexuality gives an earthy wholeness to our spirituality. Our spirituality and our sexuality come into a working harmony in the life of the kingdom of God.
Richard Foster, 1985
We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life.
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer Concerns,
Our feelings get confused in a sexual relationship. Being “in love” is not a reliable feeling and not necessarily a leading from the Spirit. Before launching into a lifelong commitment and bringing children into the world, it makes sense to ask for guidance from the Spirit. We can ask Friends to help us reach clarity that we are being our true selves in this relationship.
Jenny Spinks, 2007
We have felt painfully the intense divisions among Friends over sexuality and sexual morality. Many of those present this week felt led to explore deeply together what God requires of us in this area. Tender intergenerational sharing took place about these issues. This was enriched by open discussion of the brokenness we have experienced when sexual behaviors are not consistent with God’s will. We have found a new degree of unity in the call to witness to the importance of mutual faithfulness and commitment in all sexual relationships.
Epistle from Quakercamp at Stillwater, 2007
We do well to look past the outward appearances of orientation and identity to see the quality of all individuals and relationships in our meetings. Just as there is that of God in every person, there is that of God in every relationship that calls upon God. We remain tender toward all relationships founded on integrity, mutual respect, commitment, and love.
When dealing with issues of sexuality and sexual behavior, we strive for an appropriate balance between open, honest discussion and protection of privacy and confidentiality for individual members and attenders.
We take care to avoid sexual behavior based on license, exploitation, oppression, and violence in our personal lives and to witness against such behavior in our meetings and communities.
Parents support their children’s healthy sexuality by providing good examples, constructively supporting each child’s natural interest, and answering questions lovingly.
Friends are encouraged to maintain accurate resources on issues of sexuality, sexual behavior, and gender identity and to answer questions, especially from children, honestly and appropriately.
While the meeting can and should be a source of abiding love and support to members and attenders, we acknowledge that some situations may require professional intervention and others may require notification of law-enforcement authorities.
Do we accept and appreciate our sexuality as part of our humanity and as a gift from God? How do we integrate our sexuality and our spirituality?
How can we help each other be faithful in expressing our sexuality? Do we support members and attenders with love and care relating to their sexuality and gender identity?
How safe is our meeting? How do we create an environment appropriate for discussion of deeply personal issues?
How willing are we to talk openly and listen carefully when others’ ideas and behavior are different from our own? How
do we respond to that of God in them while acknowledging our own discomfort or disagreement?
As individuals and as a meeting community, do we avoid stereotyping and judging people based on their relationships, sexual orientation, or gender identity?
How do we love and respond to those who have been harmed by sexual discrimination, abuse, or violence? How do we love and respond to those who have committed the discrimination, abuse, or violence?
Do we know how and when to refer members and attenders for professional help? Do we know how and when to contact legal authorities?
From early in our history, Quakers have taken a clear stand for peace and against military action. This is our most well known and widely accepted testimony, and one of our oldest. It came from the clear vision early Friends had of a world transformed by Love. They believed that using violence to deal with conflict was contrary to the Spirit of Christ. George Fox declared that he lived “in the virtue of that life and power that [takes] away the occasion of all war.” In a declaration to King Charles II in 1660, Fox and other Quaker leaders said, “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever.”
The testimony of peace doesn’t mean that Quakers are passive. Friends turn to the weapons of the spirit – love, honesty, good will, imagination, compassion, humor – which allow God to reach out through us to those with whom we are in conflict. Since we know there is that of God in every person, we know each person is worthy of infinite respect. Friends stand as a positive witness in a world still torn by strife and violence. When we open ourselves to the divine Presence, we can do no less than use this gift in and among ourselves, and we work to manifest it in the world.
Since our first allegiance is to the Spirit of Truth and Love, we must obey divine calling rather than human law when this allegiance is challenged by the demands of the state. We support conscientious objectors and those who resist any cooperation with the military. We recognize that many aspects of the military system are inconsistent with Jesus’ example of love. We hold in love those of our members who feel that they must enter the armed forces.
Our peace testimony begins with opposition to war and is a positive affirmation of the power of good to overcome evil. We seriously consider the implications of our employment, our investments, our payment of taxes, and our manner of living as they relate to violence at all levels. We remain sensitive to the covert as well as the overt violence inherent in some of our long- established social practices and institutions, including unfettered capitalism and the unjust distribution of wealth. We work to change those elements which violate our conviction that there is that of God in everyone.
Our historic peace testimony must be also a living testimony as we work to give concrete expression to our ideals. We seek to alleviate the suffering caused by war and injustice – and the suffering and injustice that cause war. We refrain from participating in all forms of violence and repression to the best of our understanding. We support efforts toward restorative justice and unbiased policing. We support efforts to secure international agreements for the control of armaments and to remove the domination of militarism in our society. We are involved in building national and transnational institutions to deal with conflict nonviolently. The threat of total nuclear war and annihilation remains with us in the twenty-first century and elimination of that threat is ever more urgent.
So the keeper of the House of Correction was commanded to bring me up before the Commissioners and soldiers in the market place; and there … asked me if I would not take up arms for the Commonwealth against the King. But I told them I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the
occasion of all wars, and I knew from whence all wars did rise, from the lust according to James’ doctrine [ James 4:1]…. But I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strifes were.
George Fox, 1651
We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world…. The Spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil, and again to move unto it; and we certainly know, and testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world…. Therefore, we cannot learn war any more.
A Declaration of the Harmless and Innocent People of God, Called Quakers,… Concerning Wars and Fightings, 1660
There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself….
James Nayler, 1660
A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it. … Let us then try what love will do.
William Penn, 1693
hose who propose to hold aloof from fighting and claim the privileges of peace must become devoted peace-makers. This is not to be construed to apply alone to those who bring wars to an end … nor does it mean [only] those who make public peace addresses or who sign petitions or who … attend peace conferences and conventions. It applies rather to a deeper and more continuous service of living an everyday life which is “in the covenant of peace.” It means a home life which exhibits the sway and dominion of love practised in the domain of the family life. It means a neighbourhood life which makes love prevail between man and man and between woman and woman. It means a business life which translates and interprets, as much at least as one individual can do it, the principles which underlie the sway and kingdom of God.
Rufus Jones, 1927
We must abide the slowness of the organic. An inanimate bomb reaches its goal swiftly, annihilating whatever is in its way. A living object is soft and pliant, slowly adjusting its environment to itself. It must always depend on small beginnings, germ cells which are perhaps invisible. The pacifist is not afraid of minute beginnings, aimed at the distant future. Violence works quickly, but in the realm of life results are never swift.
Howard Brinton, 1943
Friends’ peace testimony challenges us all to be peace educators. We may not all be teachers, but we are all communicators, and we all need to be learners. Peace education should be seen as an integral part of our peace testimony. But it is essentially something one does, and not something one talks about…. Learning, to be educated, means changing one’s behavior, and peace education therefore aims at changing our own individual behavior. We communicate our values by the manner of our lives, but how many of us negate the peaceful attitudes we fervently profess by our own aggressive behavior?
Eva Pinthus, 1982
If only we did delight to do no evil, to forgive rather than retaliate, to bring into God’s light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in ourselves which lie at the root of destructive conflict, so that we could acknowledge our need for forgiveness and grace. That’s how we would bring justice and peace to the world.
Anne-Marie Zilliacus, 2001
Peace begins in the human heart. Our Buddhist friends talk of “being peace.” Can we learn to speak truth and “be peace”? Can we speak truth and still walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone? Can we listen to others, without arrogance or pride? Can we love ourselves in healthy ways, so that we can love our neighbors? Fox asked that people live the model we espouse. Through faithful living, seeking God’s love and guidance, we are able to speak our message and still know the humanity of all we encounter. We learn to forgive, and learn to seek forgiveness, by the doing. We learn to reconcile by doing it.
Mary Lord, 2005
The peace testimony is not about hiding conflict, but about engaging it openly, creatively, and with love for the other.
Margery Post Abbott, 2009
We practice love and peace-making within our families, in our meetings, and in the greater Quaker community. This experience will support our testimony of peace as we are involved in the larger world.
Peace is the state in which we are in accord with the Divine, the earth, others, and ourselves. We know that true, lasting peace among us is attainable through unity in the life of the Spirit.
When a conflict is beginning, we take steps to resolve it quickly and reduce the damage it does. When a conflict has ended, we take steps toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. In this way we help break the cycles of violence.
We work to create the conditions of peace, such as freedom, justice, cooperation, and the right sharing of the world’s resources.
As we work for peace in the world, we search out the seeds of war in ourselves and in our way of life. We refuse to join in actions which lead to destruction and death. We seek ways to cooperate to save life and strengthen the bonds of unity among all people.
Do we live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all war?
Do we refrain from taking part in war as inconsistent with the Spirit of Christ? In what ways do we take part in war indirectly?
What are we doing to remove the causes of war and to bring about the conditions of peace? Where there is hatred, division, or strife, how are we instruments of reconciliation and love?
Do we recognize that we are capable of both violence and peace? How do we build bridges that lead us to face and resolve conflict?
How do we communicate to others an understanding of the basis of our peace testimony?
As we work for peace in the world, how are we nourished by peace within ourselves, our families, and our meetings?
“Be Not Afraid”
“Be not afraid” is a phrase that appears frequently in the Bible and still speaks to us today. When those in power use fear to manipulate and control, causing abuse, violence, and oppression, it can be challenging for us to live and act in accord with Quaker values. Living in a time of fear can corrode our ability to listen and respond to the Spirit.
Early Friends were persecuted for practicing their faith. They showed love and courage in the face of public ridicule, confiscation of property, arrest and imprisonment, and sometimes death. Although Friends today are blessed with the freedom to worship openly, examples of the courageous witness of early Friends are an inspiration for us facing oppressive social and political conditions.
Fear can be a healthy and useful response, for instance when it prompts Friends to pay attention and take precautions for the safety of themselves, their loved ones, and others. Fear is an instinctive reaction that can mean literal survival in some circumstances. Fear can also become problematic.
Fear – and the sense of vulnerability it often brings – can separate us from each other and from God. It can cloud our judgment and diminish our abilities to discern, learn, and grow. As each of us grows in the Spirit, we are called to let go of our fears: of making mistakes; of not being approved of; of needs going unmet; of conflict, illness, loneliness, and diminishment; and of not being perfect (or even good enough). We cannot avoid our fears by attempting to control people to make things turn out the way we want.
Living in the Spirit within a supportive, faithful fellowship gives us courage and guidance to let our lives speak, even when we are afraid, and helps us turn toward each other and toward the Light. When fear threatens our resolve, God’s love comforts and strengthens us. When we trust our Inner Guide, we can walk through our fears and come out in love.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me….
Psalm 23:4 (King James Version)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
The first ingredient of life is courage.
Ham Sok Hon, 1965
What Jesus was saying is that there is a difference between ordinary prudence and the fear that paralyzes and alienates one from his fellow men. Rufus Jones said about those very words of Jesus, “Christ’s major point in the Sermon on the Mount is to get rid of fears and anxieties.” It might also be said that the substance of His mission as a teacher was to set men free from the slavery of fears.
Dorothy Hutchinson, 1965
This is what the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus symbolizes for me: if you are willing to go into and through your fear, even though it feels like death, you will experience, miracle of miracles, life more fully and abundantly than ever.
Arthur Larrabee, 1998
We live in times when it is very important to distinguish between fear and courage. Fear is sending the world toward war. Maintaining peace takes courage. Fear drives people apart. It takes courage to come together with respect while recognizing our differences. This is what diversity and community and love are all about.
Bonnie Tinker, 2002
It may not be quite accurate to say that “perfect love had cast out my fear.” [1 John 4:18] I still experienced fear, and have again on subsequent occasions. But I learned that I swim in a river of love, that I can orient myself to it, and feel its power. When I do so, I know that I can survive the fear, and go beyond it, to a powerful place of peace. I learned that I cannot simply make this transition just once, and stay in that place of love, for the fear comes
back. So I need to make that journey again and again. I needed disciplines, familiar paths to tread, to re-connect with love again and again, and feel the fears subside. I understand this love as a manifestation of the Spirit, mediated through the ministry of my sisters and brothers, my wife and sons, my friends, and sometimes even strangers.
Bruce Birchard, 2003
When we encounter those times in our lives when the path is lost and the shadows loom, we must give preponderance to the darkness. We can take small steps, one by one, feeling only the empty space immediately before us, breathing in the dark. We can find a little courage, somewhere, in the midst of our discouragement, but we cannot truly anticipate the light.
Yet because of this dark passage, when the light does come at last, we will know that we have been changed. We have walked far enough. We are ready to welcome morning. Whatever work we have to do in the world, we will bring new brightness and clarity to it, new willingness. We will know that we are capable of courage, and capable of encouraging one another.
Kirsten Backstrom, 2006
The problem is that when we follow our fears, we never get clear and our fears confine us in a box made of worry and defensiveness. When we follow where the Light leads, the fears of self and for self drop away and we can act to make love manifest in the world. The Light always requires us to risk loving, and in risking love we find true peace.
Robert Griswold, 2010
Fear is at the heart of many things, and the seeds it plants bear bitter fruits: fear can grow to jealousy, fear can grow to greed, fear can grow to war. Fear also blinds us to key truths: fear keeps us from seeing the fear in the eyes of the Other, and indeed fear keeps us from seeing the Other as human at all. Fear keeps us from seeing the divine in the heart of the Other. There is more than one reason that the first words of the angels are always, “fear not!”
Paul Christiansen, 2014
Courage is a fundamental act of faith.
As Friends we examine our fears and have the courage to release those that prevent us from growing in the Spirit and following our
Guide. As we continue letting go of our fears and following the motions of love, we are led into a new, more abundant and joy- filled life. Although this life is not always free of pain, it is graced with a courage that will endure any adversity.
We ask those in authority to employ their power to reconcile and unify us, rather than to exploit fear to divide us.
It takes courage to reach out to those who are creating fear and to those who are controlled by fear. We work to restore harmony through peacemaking and reconciliation based in mutual love. Disharmony is a manifestation of fear; it results in separation from God, from ourselves, from our fellow human beings, and from all of creation.
How does fear influence our lives? Are our decisions based on fear, or do we trust the Spirit’s urging toward love and reconciliation? How do we let go of our fears, trusting the Spirit, so that we can restore peace in our meetings and communities?
Do we encourage each other through love to act in faithful witness? How do we identify and confront fears that deceive, enslave, and stop us from living faithfully?
In times of trial and terror how can we open our hearts, return to God’s love, and move forward with courage?
What would we do, as individuals and as a community, if we were not afraid?
A life centered in God will be characterized by simplicity, sincerity, and integrity. Integrity is being all of a piece. Sincerity is being without sham. Simplicity is cutting away everything that is extraneous, so that our outward life fully reflects our inward life.
A simple life need not be cloistered and may even be a busy life. Its activities and expressions are correlated and directed toward the purpose of keeping our communication with God open and unencumbered. Simplicity is a Spirit-led ordering of our lives to this end.
In the past, Quakers could be readily identified by plain dress and plain speech. Today, we have no recipe book for simplicity; all Friends find their own way. Simplicity does mean avoiding self-indulgence, maintaining a spirit of humility, and speaking clearly and directly without exaggeration. It also means keeping the material surroundings of our lives serviceable to necessary ends. A simple life need not be barren and without joy and beauty. Often the most simple lines, words, or moments, when marked by grace, are the most beautiful.
My mind through the power of Truth was in a good degree weaned from the desire of outward greatness, and I was learning to be content with real conveniences that were not costly; so that a way of life free from such Entanglements appeared best for me, tho’ the income was small. I had several offers of business that appeared profitable, but saw not my way clear to accept of them, as believing the business proposed would be attended with more outward care & cumber than was required of me to engage in. I saw that a humble man, with the Blessing of the Lord, might live on a little, and that where the heart was set on greatness, success in business did not satisfy the craving; but that commonly with an increase of wealth, the desire for wealth increased. There was a care on my mind so to pass my time, as to things outward, that nothing might hinder me from the most steady attention to the voice of the True Shepherd.
John Woolman, ca. 1744
The concern-oriented life is ordered and organized from within. And we learn to say No as well as Yes by attending to the guidance of inner responsibility. Quaker simplicity needs to be expressed not merely in dress and architecture and the height of tombstones but also in the structure of a relatively simplified and coordinated life-program of social responsibilities. And I am persuaded that concerns introduce that simplification, and along with it that intensification which we need in opposition to the hurried, superficial tendencies of our age.
Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center – a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time.
Thomas Kelly, 1941
What does it really mean to “live simply”? … Is it really a matter of our material possessions or, rather, a state of mind, heart, and spirit? …
True simplicity should connote not poverty but, rather, a richness of spirit, a joy in living, the nurturing of creativity, sensitivity to the natural world, and love for all its creatures. As an expression of this love, this true simplicity, we must then, too, commit ourselves to building a more equitable world – a world in which this simplicity may thrive and be enjoyed by everyone.
Ann Kriebel, 1984
Plain living is a form of inward simplicity that leads us to listen for the “still, small voice” of God’s claim upon our lives. It is both a spiritual lens and a discipline of holy obedience. This way of living simplifies our lives because when we focus our energies on what we discern by listening within, we are able to release the extraneous activities and possessions that clutter our path.
Catherine Whitmire, 2001
If we can attain it, how does simplicity shape our lives? Needing little, keeping away from extremes, excess, brings another kind of contentment, a simpler wealth. Simplicity is the essence of stillness, an untroubled way that keeps from grasping, hoarding. Simplicity lies at the heart of the Quaker way of life. Keeping to simplicity is to realize that it is the Light within that leads us, restrains us, inspires us. Knowing this Divine Light is within, we are all children of the Light, all equal. Keeping to the contentment of simplicity leads to peace. Following the plain truth leads to integrity. So all the testimonies are reflected in simplicity. Need little. Want less.
Anne-Marie Zilliacus, 2001
It may surprise some of us to hear that the first generation did not have a testimony for simplicity. They came upon a faith which cut to the root of the way they saw life, radically reorienting it. They saw that all they did must flow directly from what they experienced as true, and that if it did not, both the knowing and the doing became false. In order to keep the knowledge clear and the doing true, they stripped away anything which seemed to get in the way. They called those things superfluities, and it is this radical process of stripping for clear-seeing which we now term simplicity.
Frances Irene Taber, 2009
Simplicity is one of the fruits of a faithful life centered on a commitment to the Spirit of God.
Friends strive for simplicity in the use of our earnings and property, in our speech, and in our manner of living, choosing that which is clear and useful.
All that leads to fullness of life and aids in the service of Truth is to be accepted with thanksgiving. We each determine by the Light we are given what helps and what hinders our search for inner peace.
Do we center our lives in the awareness of God so that all things take their rightful place?
Do we clutter our lives with things and activities? What are the ways out? What helps us avoid commitments beyond our strength and light?
How does our meeting help us simplify our lives? How do we order our individual lives to nourish our spiritual growth?
Do we keep to simplicity, moderation, and honesty in our speech, our manner of living, and our daily work?
Every person has the capacity to experience the Inner Light. This common humanity transcends our differences. Equality does not mean having the same ability, economic resources, or social status but rather, treating every person with respect and love.
Equality was one of the earliest of the Quaker testimonies. Even before Quakers espoused pacifism, Quaker soldiers were dismissed from service because they refused to treat their officers as superiors. From the earliest days, men and women equally took on responsibilities for ministry and care of others in their meetings. Early Quakers practiced “plain speech.” They addressed superiors using the familiar “thou” instead of the formal “you” that was considered polite in the seventeenth century. Quakers refused to use honorifics and titles or to doff their hats to those
of a higher class – they offered the same respect and courtesy to everyone. Later, many Quakers worked vigorously to eliminate slavery. More recently, NPYM Friends have recognized the rights of lesbians and gays, and many meetings have taken marriages and commitment ceremonies of same-sex couples under their care. (See Chapter 1, “History,” and Chapter 10, “Marriage and Committed Relationships.”) In 2017 the yearly meeting declared itself an open and affirming religious community, welcoming all genders.
Yet the history of Friends practice of the testimony of equality is not without flaw: early Friends established separate men’s and women’s meetings and many Friends owned slaves and opposed those within the Society who worked for abolition. Some Quaker meetings relegated African Americans to separate benches and placed obstacles in the way of gaining membership.
In light of this history, we ask ourselves whether we are actively living out the testimony of equality in our personal lives, in our meetings, and in the world. We recognize that members of oppressed groups, especially those easily identifiable by their appearance, are subject to prejudice and discrimination. We know that the same is true of poor people and the working class. They face obstacles, both personal and institutional, that others do not, in gaining education or living wage employment. More subtly, they constantly face the unthinking assumptions of others and a lack of sensitivity to their social conditions. We acknowledge that members of the Religious Society of Friends who are white, or from other entitled groups, may benefit from privilege and may exhibit prejudice and discrimination, even unintentionally.
As Friends, we share a vision of a social order based on the testimony of equality – it embraces and seeks to transform all of human society. This vision, and the inner transformation that enables us to see it and live it, enhances our spiritual connectedness and can transcend our differences.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “stand there,” or, “sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among your selves and become judges with evil thoughts?
The Spirit of Grace … God poureth forth upon Daughters, Servants and Hand-maids, which have received as well as Sons, and are to improve their Talents and measure of the Gift of God, and not to grieve nor quench the holy Spirit, nor walk despitefully against the Spirit of Grace … whereby we are sealed to the day of Redemption.
London Women’s Meeting, 1685
As male and female are made one in Jesus Christ, so women receive an office in the Truth as well as men, and they have a stewardship and must give an account of their stewardship as well as the men.
Elizabeth Bathurst, 1695
And as you request to know particularly about Arch St. Meeting, I may say that the experience of years has made me wise in this fact, that there is a bench set apart at that meeting for our people, whether officially appointed or not I cannot say; but this I am free to say, that my Mother and myself were told to sit there, & that a friend sat at each end of the bench to prevent white persons from sitting there.
Sarah Mapps Douglas, 1837
Too long have wrongs and oppression existed without an acknowledged wrongdoer and oppressor. It was not until the slaveholder was told ‘Thou art the man’ that a healthy agitation was brought about. Woman is told the fault is in herself, in too willingly submitting to her inferior condition but like the slave, she is pressed down by laws in the making of which she has no voice,
and crushed by customs which have grown out of such laws. She cannot rise therefore, while thus trampled in the dust. The oppressor does not see himself in that light until the oppressed cry for deliverance.
Lucretia Mott, 1852
Love is a reciprocal relationship between independent personalities, each with rights and spheres of interest. So it is with groups – a proper loving relationship between groups must be based on their rights to co-exist and influence matters in their own spheres of interest. I do not see such group existence and group power as inconsistent with a loving relationship, but rather as the proper basis for such a relationship.
Our task then is not to oppose group differences or legitimate group power, i.e. power which does not place one group in a position of dominance or privilege with respect to another, but to welcome such diversity and reciprocity as the basis of creative dialogue in a spirit of love…
In order to be true to this goal, and to our own values as Quakers and Christians, we need to act in love, truth and responsibility, but also with frankness and radical strength of purpose.
A. Barrie Pittock, 1969
How healing to come into the Religious Society of Friends, whose founder saw clearly that the Light of God is not limited to the male half of the human race. Membership and participation have helped me grow toward wholeness, as I have followed my calling into a ministry that embraces all of life. Though I believe deeply in women’s liberation, I cannot put men down or join in consciousness-raising activities that foster hatred of everything masculine. I have loved the men in my life too deeply for that kind of betrayal.
As women gain rights and become whole human beings, men too can grow into wholeness, no longer having to carry the whole burden of responsibility for running the affairs of humankind, but in humility accepting the vast resources, as yet not very much drawn on, and the wisdom of women in solving the colossal problems of the world.
Elizabeth Watson, 1975
Until we as the Religious Society begin to question our assumptions, until we look at the prejudices, often very deeply hidden, within our own Society, how are we going to be able to confront the inequalities within the wider society? We are very good at feeling bad about injustice, we put a lot of energy into sticking- plaster activity (which obviously has to be done) but we are not having any
effect in challenging the causes of inequality and oppression. I do sometimes wonder if this is because we are not able to do this within and among ourselves.
Susan Rooke-Matthews, 1993
Jesus said, “As you have done unto the least… you have done unto me.” We are called to work for the peaceable Kingdom of God on the whole earth, in right sharing with all peoples. However few our numbers, we are called to be the salt that flavours and preserves, to be a light in the darkness of greed and destruction.
We have heard of the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro and glaciers of Bolivia, from which come life-giving waters. We have heard appeals from peoples of the Arctic, Asia and Pacific. We have heard of forests cut down, seasons disrupted, wildlife dying, of land hunger in Africa, of new diseases, droughts, floods, fires, famine and desperate migrations – this climatic chaos is now worsening. There are wars and rumors of war, job loss, inequality and violence. We fear our neighbors. We waste our children’s heritage.
All of these are driven by our dominant economic systems – by greed not need, by worship of the market, by Mammon and Caesar.
Is this how Jesus showed us to live?
Sixth World Conference of Friends, 2012
We treat every person with respect and love, based on our belief in the fundamental equality of all of humankind.
We examine ourselves as individuals and in our meeting communities to be sure that we are practicing the testimony of equality in reality and not just paying lip service to it.
We cherish those parts of the history of the Religious Society of Friends that show us opposing slavery and refusing to doff our hats to superiors. We also acknowledge that Friends are not perfect in treating all human beings with equal respect and that there is work yet to do, both among Friends and in the world, to achieve the vision of a social order based on the testimony of equality.
Do we regularly examine ourselves for evidence of privilege and prejudice?
What are we, as individuals and as a meeting community, doing to overcome the contemporary effects of past and present oppression?
How do we avoid being drawn into violent reactions against those who are destructive of human dignity? Do we reach out to the violator as well as the violated with courage and love?
How do we make our meeting open to all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and identity, or class?
Is our meeting place physically accessible and welcoming to all?
The testimony of stewardship is evolving, and new ways of understanding humankind’s role in the community of life are urgently necessary in our time. The word “stewardship” can imply dominion or control, and so many Friends instead speak of a testimony of “earth care.” This Faith and Practice uses “stewardship” and defines it more broadly than Friends have in earlier generations. It distinguishes stewardship in the sense of living in harmony with creation from stewardship in the sense of right use of gifts given to us – time, ability, money, and our physical selves. These aspects of stewardship are distinct and yet deeply linked. The natural world is not a “gift given to us for our use.” Our individual or communal talent is such a gift. When we fully understand that humans are only part of the natural world – not divinely appointed masters or managers of it – we are better able to make Spirit-led decisions that reflect our place in it.
We strive for balance, to use what we have wisely and with due care for other creatures, and to live as lightly on the earth as we can. We are answerable to the rest of creation and ultimately to God for how we understand and take our place in the community of life.
The mystery and beauty of the universe reveal their Source. Spiritually and physically nourished by our home, the Earth, we are filled with gratitude and wonder. Centered in divine Love, we are called to recognize and respect the sacredness and interdependence of the whole community of life, as well as the complex balance required to sustain it. Each of us is part of the whole of life. All of life is in each of us. We grieve over what has been lost through humankind’s continuing misuse of divine gifts, leading to extinction of species; pollution of earth, water, and air; and calamitous climate change.
As Friends we are led to live in right relationship to creation, to protect the Earth and all its inhabitants, to educate ourselves, and to witness both personally and as a Quaker community. This state of right relationship will be manifest in lives lived in equality, simplicity, community, integrity, and peace.
We can educate ourselves by learning about the far-reaching spiritual and environmental consequences of our daily activities: our habits and choices of energy usage, housing, travel, reproduction, diet, and consumption. We can witness personally by being “patterns and examples” of environmentally sustainable lifestyles. We can witness publicly by advocating for cultural changes that reflect the principle of harmony with creation. We celebrate the Earth’s bounty which provides for us, our fellow human beings, future generations, and all other living beings.
But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
Ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Job 12: 7-8
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.
What wages doth the Lord desire of you for his earth that he giveth to you… but that you give him the praise and honor, and the thanks, and the glory, and not that you should spend the creatures upon your lusts, but to do good with them, you that have much to them that have little, and to honor God with your substance…leave all creatures behind you as you found them, which God hath given to serve all nations and all generations.
George Fox, 1678
It would go a great way to caution and direct people in their use of the world, that they were better studied and knowing in the Creation of it. For how [could they] find the confidence to abuse it, while they should see the Great Creator stare them in the Face, in all and every part thereof ?
William Penn, 1693
[M]y love of beauty in nature helped very much to strengthen my faith in God. I felt his presence in my world rather than thought out how he could be there. When “I” was moved with wonder, awe, and mystery, I was always reaching out beyond what I saw and touched….
Rufus Jones, 1926
Healing of the Earth is central to all our Quaker concerns…. No peace without a planet…. No justice without a planet…. Those who care about the Earth must feel its woundedness as our own…. How can we look our children and grandchildren in the eye unless we do all we can to give them a future? They need to know that we care, and that we tried.
Elizabeth Watson, 1991
God calls Friends today … to look into our hearts and examine our relationship with the rest of Creation, and to recognize that our neighbor includes the entire Earth community. We, too, are being asked to give up habits and things which have made our lives seem easier, just as slaves appeared to make life easier for their owners.
Lisa Gould, 1994
The challenge faced at this time on the planet is not simply a crisis for human beings but for the entire realm of animals and plants, the total biotic community interacting with nonliving forces. The Earth is one ecosystem, one creation. As we become more aware of the abiotic and biotic community of the Earth, a just community includes other species and the Earth’s resources.
The vision of shalom is a vision of wholeness, encompassing the whole of creation. It is a vision of peace and well-being that will be realized only by relationships of justice and compassion. A viable historical future needs the shalom vision to become a historical reality, not a future dream.
Anne Thomas, 1995
We need to commit ourselves to radically changed lives, recognizing the costly implications, yet also knowing the joy, reverence, and deep love of God that inspires us. Spirit-filled lives that see every form of life as an expression of universal love enable us to move forward confidently, in faith and in hope. Yes, hope, in spite of all we know.
Doris Ferm, 2006
In past times God’s Creation restored itself. Now humanity dominates, our growing population consuming more resources than nature can replace. We must change, we must become careful stewards of all life. Earthcare unites traditional Quaker testimonies: peace, equality, simplicity, love, integrity, and justice. …
We dedicate ourselves to let the living waters flow through us – where we live, regionally, and in wider world fellowship. We dedicate ourselves to building the peace that passeth all understanding, to the repair of the world, opening our lives to the Light to guide us in each small step.
Sixth World Conference of Friends, 2012
Rejoice in the majesty of nature. Pray that the Presence will lead us to our rightful place in the creation.
We are each part of the intricate web of life; each choice to act or not to act can have profound consequences. We live in such
a complex world that we can do considerable damage without knowing it. Choices that are beneficial in one direction may be harmful in another.
We take care to conserve andprotectthewhole of life. Both scientific inquiry and spiritual reflection lead us to deeper understanding of the interconnected, constantly changing systems in which we live.
The essence of the Divine Light can be found in our connection to the natural world. Our collective experience of this deep interconnectedness with all nature helps us understand the connection between ecological and cultural diversity, know the Earth as teacher, and value inspiration from a range of faith traditions.
We face the difficult challenge to change our manner of living to come into harmony with creation. As we support each other’s efforts to use no more than our fair share, we guard against waste and resist the temptations of convenience and the inertia of the status quo. We help each other look for ways to counter attitudes of human arrogance, domination, and greed which threaten Earth’s equilibrium.
In what ways do we seek harmony with Creation? How does science help us live within It respectfully?
In what ways do we honor all living things? Do we seek the holiness inherent in the order of nature, the wildness of wilderness, and the richness of the world?
How do our daily habits and choices reflect our respect for the web of life?
What will the impact of our current choices be on the lives of future generations?
How do we educate ourselves and others about living in harmony with the earth?
What can we do to make the community of life whole?
John Woolman’s simple statement in A Word of Remembrance and Caution to the Rich (1793) may summarize all considerations of stewardship:
As Christians, all we possess is the gift of God, and in the distribution of it we act as his stewards; it becomes us therefore to act agreeably to that divine wisdom which he graciously gives to his servants.
The ways Friends think about and use money and all other resources are linked to our values of integrity, equality, social justice, and peace. We are responsible for how we acquire and use our financial resources, not as ends in themselves but as gifts temporarily entrusted to us. We seek to use them with humility and care and to share them with others.
We are stewards of many other gifts beyond money and material possessions – for example, we are also accountable to Truth for how we use our time, strength, and inherent talents and abilities. We hold these gifts in trust, and take care to use them in good order and in the Spirit of Love. Decisions we make about the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the ways we communicate, and the ways we travel from place to place have consequences for our physical and spiritual lives and for the environment. Using all our gifts with care brings us closer to the Center.
The community of early Friends was knit together by their recognition of a common good to which all contributed. In the crucible of religious oppression, early Friends were moved to support one another with all of their God-given gifts. Meetings offered material support to care for community members experiencing hardship. This ministry continues today: most monthly meetings have a committee for pastoral care that coordinates the community’s skills, talents, and funds to alleviate suffering in the meeting.
Many Friends have labored in the Spirit in regard to accumulated wealth and aspired to apply their financial resources to breathe life into Friends testimonies. In nineteenth-century England, Elizabeth Fry was led to bring her talents and the funds of family
and friends to her concern for prison conditions, thus pioneering Quaker involvement in prison reform. In the early twentieth century, Swiss Friend Pierre Ceresole was moved to apply his talent and wealth to create a service organization that served as a model for the Peace Corps in the US. Friends continue to work against exploitation and for fair and equitable wages, healthy working conditions, and honest employment practices for all. These and other examples show Friends commitment to improving the human condition with all available gifts.
Early Quakers lived in a culture dominated by hereditary rank and privilege. Modern Quakers live in cultures dominated by economic and social class divisions. We are often uncertain or uneasy about the role money plays in our lives. Wealth, or a perceived lack of it, has an effect on nearly every outward aspect of our lives: housing, clothing, transportation, education, health, recreation, etc. We know that too much time and attention to money can preempt more Spirit-led choices in our lives. We also know that money well-used can make needed changes possible. We are clear about the spiritual dangers of a culture built on unbridled capitalism and obsessed with economic status. We are aware that unequal distribution of wealth is one of the seeds of war.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourself treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 6: 19-21, 24
Ye have no time but this present time, therefore prize your time, for your soul’s sake.
George Fox, 1652
…That all Friends that have callings and trades, do labour in the thing that is good, in faithfulness and uprightness, and keep to their yea and nay in all their communications; and that all who are indebted to the world, endeavor
to discharge the same, that nothing they may owe to any man but love one to another.
Epistle from the Elders at Balby, 1656
Every degree of luxury of what kind so ever, and every demand for money inconsistent with divine order, hath some connection with unnecessary labor…. To labor too hard or cause others to do so, that we may live conformable to customs which Christ our Redeemer contradicted by his example in the days of his flesh, and which are contrary to divine order, is to manure a soil for propagating an evil seed in the earth.
May we look upon our treasure, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.
John Woolman, 1763
Poverty does not mean scorn for goods and property. It means the strict limitation of goods that are for personal use. It means the opposite of the reckless abuse and misuse of property that leaves our country spotted with the graveyards of broken and abandoned machinery. It means a horror of war, first because it ruins human life and health and the beauty of the earth, but second because it destroys goods that could be used to relieve misery and hardship and to give joy.
Mildred Binns Young, 1956
inancial stewardship in harmony with the testimonies is as much a part of our spiritual life and journey as prayer and meditation.
Our efforts to live simply and reject superfluous consumption of material goods should not be equated with a superficial belief that money is inherently “bad” or at best a necessary evil that should be ignored. By ignoring finances and not exercising thoughtful stewardship, we risk allowing money to have more control over our lives rather than less. …
What does our spending, especially our contributions to our monthly and yearly meetings, Friends organizations, or other charities, say about what is important to us?
Connie Brooks, 2009
For me, tithing is about a lot more than money. It is about faith, trust, and community. By giving ten percent of what I make, I have to have faith that God will provide what I need and that I will be able to survive on less than my entire paycheck. I have to trust that the people in my meeting will be good stewards of the money I give. Giving that much also means that I am invested in what the community does, which makes me more likely to attend business meeting and care about how the community spends its money.
Ashley Wilcox, 2010
Stewardship of Money and Other Resources
We seek a sound relationship to money and other resources, making decisions that reflect our testimonies of integrity, simplicity, equality, peace, and care for creation.
Our household and meeting spending plans are evidence of what is important in our lives.
We pay a fair wage to our employees and offer comparable pay for comparable work.
We refrain from hazardous speculation or participation in business matters that may be ethically suspect. We seek to invest our money and time in ventures that are planned to benefit the social or environmental good as well as to provide a fair rate of return.
Obsession with the things we have is a sickness. So also are envy and helplessness when we feel we haven’t enough. Whatever our state of economic affairs, gratitude for what we have helps to prevent worries over losing it or resentment of others who live differently.
We accept our gifts and recognize with profound gratitude any opportunities to share them generously. We embrace and uphold Friends commitment to improving the human condition with all available gifts.
As Friends, we examine our decisions about money and other assets, and look in them for the seeds of war, injustice, and environmental damage.
How do we use our time, talents, and material possessions to reflect that they are gifts from God?
As individuals and as a meeting community, how do we show that we are stewards and not just owners of the property and resources in our care?
How does the Spirit guide us in our relationship to money? How do our choices reflect the working of Truth and Love in our lives and in the world?
How do we avoid judging others, and ourselves, by worldly criteria of wealth or status? How do we answer to that of God in those who have less than we do? in those who have more than we do?
How do we use the gifts we are given in ways that build community and bring us closer to the Source and Center?
What is our “fair share”? How do our social and economic choices help or harm our vulnerable neighbors – human and non-human? Can we identify “the seeds of war” in our choices?
Taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional health, as we are able, is a form of stewardship. Living the most balanced and healthy life we can brings us wholeness and promotes our spiritual well-being. How we use and treat our bodies can help us to find a new self in partnership with the Creator. Just as we seek timely medical help for our physical bodies, we attend appropriately to our mental and emotional health needs.
Our testimonies of simplicity, integrity, and stewardship encourage us to choose ways of living that rest and strengthen the body, and that refresh and enrich the mind and spirit. We choose recreations in keeping with our values around the right use of money. We consider how we use the time and energy that have been given to us. We make considered choices about the food we eat. We also think about the effects that our choices have on the welfare of others and of the Earth as a whole as well as on our own lives.
Some activities can become obsessions, leading to lives inconsistent with integrity and simplicity and creating barriers between individuals and their families and communities. Although we are
now less concerned about mild forms of gambling such as raffles and door prizes, traditionally Friends have opposed all forms of gambling as distractions from our connection to God that could also lead to family ruin. As Friends we recognize that the incautious use of alcohol and drugs can be a spiritual danger as well as a threat to our physical, emotional, and social selves. Any activity taken to an extreme can divide us from God.
Physical Activity as a Spiritual Discipline. Many forms of recreation or physical activity can be used as spiritual disciplines. Intentional immersion in re-creative activity can enable us, as George Fox advised, to be still awhile from our own thoughts and to be stayed in the principle of God. We can find focus in rhythmic physical activity or in the regular activities of preparing food, washing dishes, or caring for each other. Changes in our physical ability need not shut us off from the opportunities to experience the Spirit through recreation. Our attitude matters more than proficiency or the nature of the activity performed.
Along the way to singleness of focus, the activities of play and rhythmic exertion offer pleasure. Social relationships in a class, play group, or team can ease the tasks of preparation and warm- up. Playing in a group is a way to follow Jesus’ instruction to become like children, in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven (see Matthew 18:3).
Therefore be still awhile from your own thoughts, searching, seeking, desires, and imaginations, and be stayed in the principle of God in you, that it may raise your mind up to God, and stay it upon God….
George Fox, 1658
True leisureliness is a beautiful thing and may not lightly be given away. Indeed, it is one of the outstanding and most wonderful features of the life of Christ that, with all his work in preaching and healing and planning for the Kingdom, he leaves behind this sense of leisure, of time in which to pray and meditate, to stand and stare at the cornfields and fishing boats, and to listen to the confidences of neighbours and passers-by….
Most of us need from time to time the experience of something spacious or space-making when Time ceases to be the enemy, goad-in-hand, and becomes
120 Friends Testimonies
our friend. To read good literature, gaze on natural beauty, to follow cultivated pursuits until our spirits are refreshed and expanded, will not unfit us for the up and doing of life, whether of personal or church affairs. Rather it will help us separate the essential from the unessential, to know where we are really needed and get a sense of proportion. We shall find ourselves giving the effect of leisure even in the midst of a full and busy life. People do not pour their joys or sorrows into the ears of those with an eye on the clock.
Caroline Graveson, 1937
Meeting has given me more balance in living. Over time, the urge to rescue others has lessened as I increasingly brought their troubles, as well as my own, to Meeting and silently asked the Meeting to hold these people in the light. This new way of rescuing works so much better. It has resulted in an increased sensitivity to the feelings of others and a higher capacity to listen without attempting to “fix” the situation or to reduce the person from her/his difficulties.
The increased balance allowed me to see that difficulties can be opportunities for an individual to reach new developmental milestones, to grow by solving the current crisis. It also helped me see that rescuing harms the people involved more often than it “saves” anyone.
Margaret Sanders, 1996
Family recreation should promote restoration, solidarity, and spiritual well- being; it should bring balance into life and contribute to wholeness of personality. Such recreation includes reading aloud, gardening, music and arts and crafts as well as games and sports. All such activities develop fellowship within the family. Both competitive and non-competitive games can teach lessons of fairness, sportsmanship, and self-esteem. Recreational activities should stress cooperation and inclusiveness, and should resist the materialism of our culture.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 2007
Our bodies have so much to teach us. When we listen, they are offering us a constant commentary on our thoughts and actions. …[T]he body has a mind of its own. It is not just the obedient servant of the mind. Too often we treat the sacred vessel of our lives like a support system for the head.
Jaya Karsemeyer, 2010
Friends can sometimes be too serious! Playing together joyfully strengthens family and community life.
We are mindful of the beneficial connections among physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. We also recognize that neither physical nor mental illness implies any spiritual weakness.
Healthful activity includes games, sports, and other physical exercise; gardening and the study and enjoyment of nature; travel; books; fellowship with friends and family; and arts and handicrafts which bring creative self-expression and appreciation of beauty.
Recreations in which we are participants rather than spectators can be particularly beneficial.
Do we choose recreations which strengthen our physical, mental, and spiritual lives and avoid those which may prove harmful to ourselves and others and to the world around us?
How do we make time in our lives for healthy play?
How do our food choices reflect our values as Friends?
Do we recognize all our own addictions and compulsive behaviors? How do our relationships with the Spirit and with our meeting communities help us deal with them?
Kathy Cope San Juan Worship Group