the friend online
02 October 2009

A testimony to Love
Newcomers to the Society are often attracted by our values and practices, like peace work, simplicity of life and the pursuit of integrity. They are soon told that these are ‘testimonies’. They then find that there is no authoritative statement of what the testimonies are, only hallowed examples of their implications in particular circumstances. They find that Friends debate the demands that the clearly recognised testimonies make on people, and also what new testimonies there ought to be. Thus they find that the testimonies are what Quakers stand for. They are religious, ethical, collective, demanding, developing – and vague.

These words by the Quaker John Punshon don’t shirk the enigma that is the Quaker faith. If you are looking for a firm direction, a fixed and unchanging path on which to travel, it is possible that you may be mistaken in considering the Religious Society of Friends. If, however, you are seeking a diverse spirituality, which asks you to listen to your own experience rather than follow a creed, the Quaker faith may be for you.

For those of you who have simply wandered into a Quaker Meeting house at the invitation of local Friends, the mysteries and certainties of this progressive faith group may need some explaining. You won’t find a hard sell, and in fact you may need to press your questions home. This all goes back to the Quaker’s founder George Fox, who famously said that he didn’t want to hear what this or that prophet laid down but ‘what canst thou say?’ If anything, you may find Quakers asking you to relate your own inner experience.

With no creed to follow, what guidelines are there for Quakers?

There are the testimonies. But, as John Punshon points out, these are not written down. So, in this issue of the Friend, Quaker writers explain how the concepts of peace, equality, simplicity, and truth are the guiding principles of a Quaker life. These concepts are not separate, they overlap and inform all facets of life. Fluid and flexible, they nevertheless form a spiritual compass and are a testimony to love.

Then there is Quaker worship, which is attractive to many in a world where religion has become more vocal and forceful. A Meeting for Worship can be experienced as a mystical communion, grounded in silence, developing timelessly. Not meditation, not liturgically led prayer, the Quaker Meeting is something else – defying definition.

If you are looking at the Quakers for the first time, may what you see give you hope.

Judy Kirby, Editor


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A testimony to Love
Judy Kirby, Editor
Circles of silence
Gerard Benson
A view of Quakers
David Wood
Testimony to peace
Helen Steven
Middle East witness
Ann Wright
Peace for all
Stephen Hanvey
Living the testimonies
Helen Drewery
Harvey Gillman
Testimony to Equality
Jonathan Dale
Committed relationships
Phil Lucas
Quaker thought in literature
Marina Lewycka
Quaker thought in poetry
Gerard Benson
Ros Smith
Marian Liebmann
Equality and social justice
Belinda Hopkins
Testimony to Simplicity
Jan Arriens and Marion McNaughton
Laurie Michaelis
Testimony to Truth
Linda Pegler
Integrity in public life
Tony Stoller

Things to do, where to stay, people to see etc...

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most recent comments:
Letters, Ala
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Some more equal than others?, anonymous poster
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Climate Camp experience, Frances Laing
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The top ten reasons (plus three) why bottled water is a blessing, Fee Berry
Letters, David Hitchin
Marriage and committed relationships, Fee Berry
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Report shows that all is not well in multicultural Britain, chrissie hinde
Johann Sebastian Bach and the Jews, Peter Arnold
Prisons: our growth industry, Peer Arnold

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