the friend online
02 October 2009

A view of Quakers

David Wood is a retired Church of England vicar who runs a weekly meditation group in a Quaker Meeting house in Cumbria. He explains how Quakers ‘do God’ from within

I ‘do God’. Well of course I do. I realise it is really unfashionable for most people these days to do God at all. God for them, it would appear, is folklore stuff, old hat, not in the real world, and there’s a lot of sniggering and laughing and scoffing and coughing when you mention ‘God’. You’re a nutter. But ‘doing God’ is nothing to be ashamed of and I want other people to ‘do God’ because I believe God is a good thing. I ‘do God’ because for me God is an inner compass: by constant reference to ‘God’ I swing back to the true North of my life. Indeed I would say of all Life. That true North for me is the big L, Love.

Of course it all depends on what you mean by ‘doing God’. So for me ‘doing God’ means God is within. Utterly within. The God who is without is for now almost totally discredited, just like the present power structures. And ‘within’ I find is hard work. It’s where we all began, though – our first sensations, feelings, imaginings, thoughts, they’re all ‘in’ there springing from the spark of life. And our present western civilisation does all it can to wrench us out and away from withinness – everything has to be ‘out there’.

The Quakers are a faith community who do and say one or two simple things around ‘within’. Note: simple does not mean easy. They talk about an inner light, a light to live by. Their best way to discover it and the way it can shine up into your life is by going below all the radar of spoken and sung worship, words and images. Which is why they meet week by week and sit mostly in stillness and silence for an hour. A silence that they know only too well is bursting with imperfections, personal and universal. Yet they rest together. ‘Wait in the light’, they say. There is strength in just being together as they wait for their inner light to switch in, never clear about what will come along, what illumination from within – if any. Maybe a reminder, or something unknown, beautiful, disturbing, comforting, deep, new; some peace perhaps. What they discover is that being still together helps to keep the inner light stronger in the huff and puff of daily life. This ‘within’, this inner light, increasingly stays on, and their personal climate as a human being can be transformed. Quakers lose their fear of the silence, of the within. They ‘do God’ without doing anything in that hour, and sometimes it takes a lot of courage just to be there – in silence – ‘doing God’.

If God was not within I wouldn’t bother. I ‘do God’ because God is within. Don’t look for God anywhere else. I’ve discovered three things about Love in the life I have been enabled to live. True love never lets me down – ever. True love never lets me off – ever. True love never lets me go – ever, and is the only thing that has ever made sense of it all, my life. Nothing else works. If that’s a definition of God, that’s fine. You can only discover true love by going within and listening to the voice of silence, there from your beginning. Oh yes, silence has a voice, your own authentic voice. If you care to stay long enough, you will not be disappointed. True love and God within, they are the same.

A conversation via the late Anthony de Mello, who was a Jesuit:

‘How does one seek union with God?’

‘The harder you seek, the more distance you create between Him and you.’

‘So what does one do about the distance?’

‘Understand that it isn’t there.’

‘Does that mean that God and I are one?’

‘Not one. Not two.’

‘How is that possible?’

‘The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song – not one. Not two.’

David Wood


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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

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