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INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 168 NO 40 1 OCTOBER 2010
3 Editorial Ian Kirk-Smith 4 Will Warren John Lampen 5 Practical mystics Jennifer Kavanagh 6 Living adventurously Craig Barnett 7 The priesthood of all believers Janet Scott 8-9 The Light shines Katharine Elwis 10 Cambodia Jane Pearn 11 Geneva Oliver Robertson 12-13 Faith in action 14-15 Interview with Adrian Cadbury 16 Quaker Social Action Judith Moran 18 Inner peace Terry 20 New web portal Ann Fletcher 22 Friends & Meetings
The word ‘testimony’ is used by Quakers to describe a witness to the living truth within the human heart as it is acted out in everyday life. It is not a form of words, but a mode of life based on the realisation that there is that of God in everybody, that all human beings are equal, that all life is interconnected. It is affirmative but may lead to action that runs counter to certain practices currently accepted in society at large. Hence a pro-peace stance may become an anti-war protest, and a witness to the sacredness of human life may lead to protests against capital punishment. These testimonies reflect the corporate beliefs of the Society, however much individual Quakers may interpret them differently according to their own light. They are not optional extras, but fruits that grow from the very tree of faith.
Harvey Gillman, 1988 Quaker faith & practice 23.12
Who are Quakers?
Quakers, also known as Friends, meet in almost 500 location around the country.
Officially named the Religious Society of Friends, Quakers were founded in seventeenth century England by George Fox as an attempt to form ‘primitive Christianity revived’ with an emphasis on personal experience of the divine. For ovr 350 years Quakers have had a distinctive style of silent worship and put their faith into practice.
Cover image: Norwich Testimonies Quilt: a group project of Norwich Quaker Quilters, designed by Frances Warns. The banner has been displayed in peaceful demonstrations at Mildenhall, Sizewell, Faslane, Aldermaston and Lakenheath and in Norwich. Photo: Deb Arrowsmith.
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the Friend: www.thefriend.org Editorial
Let your life speak
Love, not sin, is a defining word in Quaker history: with ‘truth’ and ‘light’ it dominates the writing of Friends through the centuries.
All Quaker beliefs are rooted in love. It has prompted all Quaker concerns, from the anti-slavery movement to prison reform, and continues to do so. Love is at the heart of the public work of Friends and of their personal encounters with the spirit. It is central to my own understanding of the Quaker message; now a conviction based on experience: that every human being has the capacity for love and that every human being has the capacity to receive love.
This I know not from ministers or books, but from my life; it is reinforced daily by witnessing endless examples of kindness and compassion and is validated in the stillness of silent worship. It is real.
In the late seventeenth century many words were produced in pamphlets attacking and defending the radical faith proclaimed by the early ‘Children of the Light.’ In one dialogue between a Baptist and a Quaker there is an interesting passage:
Baptist: And what is God? Quaker: A spirit. Baptist: A spirit of what? Quaker: A spirit of love.
This was written in England in the 1680s. Quakers had a clear and definite sense of their position. They knew that in rejecting the authority of bishops and ministers and the authority of the written word in the Bible, they had moved into radical territory. These early Friends looked within and to their own experience. In doing so they discerned and embraced the spirit of love. They tapped directly into the source. And they were people who thought for themselves.
Christ was not an abstract historical figure whose life was preached from a pulpit. As George Fox said: ‘Christ has come to teach his people himself ’. For many, though, the belief in the ‘Inner Light’ was meaningless unless it prompted action and a way of living. Fox put it in beautiful, tender, words: ‘And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: 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.’
Quakers are, as Jennifer Kavanagh reminds us, ‘practical mystics’. Our faith is rooted in a deep spiritual presence. It is a deep well from which we can draw endless nourishment and it has prompted, and continues to prompt, committed and convinced action in the world. It has prompted Quakers to believe in the essential goodness and kinship of mankind, to respect every individual regardless of rank or colour or creed, to oppose slavery, champion prison reform and seek peaceful ways of resolving conflict, to challenge social injustice and address poverty and inequality, to dislike pomp and pretension, and to cherish and practise truth, honesty and integrity.
Quakers are not perfect. They are certainly no better than other people; but they do have ideals and they do believe that these are worth trying to apply in the world, in our service to others, and especially in the way we live our lives. And belief is deeply linked to action. They are inseparable.
As a beloved Friend, Martin Lynn, once wrote: ‘Service, or good works, without the spiritual bedrock of the light, becomes like the house built on sand without foundations, destroyed when the storm comes.’
Ian Kirk-Smith, editor the Friend: faith in action