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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 170 NO 20
3 Thought for the Week:
Love in action David Correa-Hunt 4-5 News 6-7 Faith and clarity Stephen Petter 8-9 Letters 10-11 A sense of belonging Caddi Ranyard 12-13 Quaker Artists Network
June Buffery, Linda Murgatroyd and David Parlett 14 What is your favourite colour? Dorothy Searle 16 q-eye: a look at the Quaker world 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: The sun setting over Blackpool beach. Photo: Paolo Camera / flickr CC. See pages 10-11
An architect’s impression of a proposed design for the Large Meeting House in Friends House, London. See page 4.
If we really mean that there is that of God in everyone, then it behoves us to look with creative, loving imagination at the condition of every human being. This includes listening to what they say, and the words they choose to say it, and also listening for what they do not or cannot say.
It does not mean listening to what someone else says on their behalf.
Carol Gardiner, 1989 Quaker faith & practice, 23.38
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the Friend, 18 May 2012 Thought for the Week
Love in action
Are some Quakers today less committed to the Peace Testimony? A Friend suggested, in an article in the Friend (‘Peace 350’, 12 August 2011), that they are. I am dismayed. Morally, killing of our own kind is out. War is out. The elimination of human beings – whether by remote control or otherwise – is out.
As an avowed pacifist since 1943, I have identified with the Society of Friends for nearly seventy years. I do not pretend to share the world-view of our seventeenth century forebears. That is not possible for us in the twenty-first century.
George Fox did not know about evolution, the mystery of the advent of life on this planet, that many wonderful forms of life evolved only to become extinct or that the sun must inevitably perish some millions of years hence.
Ignorance cannot be willed. Nor can faith or belief. Today, we can scarcely imagine such un-knowing. Nevertheless, there is great truth and wisdom in George Fox’s call to his followers to ‘walk cheerfully over the Earth answering that of God in everyone’. This is, of course, couched in the language of the seventeenth century, the dawn of the Enlightenment, when thoughtful people were struggling to extricate themselves from the thrall of the established church and the all-pervading totalitarianism that had controlled all thought for so many centuries and even claimed influence on the ‘hereafter’.
Church-derived concepts were built into our very language. One could not but speak of ‘God’; of ‘Spirit and Soul’; of ‘Salvation’ and ‘Damnation’; of ‘Heaven and Hell’.
In the twenty-first century we have no cause to wallow in any superstition. Historically, Friends can claim to be the first ‘Children of the Enlightenment’ – that awakening of human awareness, enquiry and understanding. If Friends are to be true to our roots, we must see that enlightenment is an ongoing process. We must not look back.
Indeed, it is incumbent upon us that we not indulge in superstitious or archaic thought-forms at all. I feel, for instance, that our frequent use of the word ‘spirit’ (even worse ‘The Spirit’) is dishonest and unconstructive. It can mean anything and nothing and is thus potentially pretentious and very misleading. For Friends nowadays to purport to dwell in the consciousness of the seventeenth century is utterly absurd because it is fundamentally impossible.
Historically, the Society of Friends has been a yeast in the advancement of human sensitivity and compassion and in the vanguard of the concept of a compassionate society and of a reverence for life.
But, what is the point of laying claim to having been ‘right’ all along? Surely that hardly matters now? The point is – the need is – to be effective.
I count it as a blessing – together with my late wife – to have worked in many Friends’ projects. From November 1956 to May 1958 I was a member of the Friends Ambulance Unit, International Service, operating with ‘Quakerhilfe’ based in Vienna. The experience was life changing. The various teams of workers comprised people from many nationalities and of all faiths and none – unified by a humanitarian concern for refugees caught up in the exodus from occupied Hungary. The spirit among Quakerhilfe’s heterogeneous group was brilliant. It was love in action. So ‘down with’ organised religion. As Friends we should throw in our lot with all people of goodwill: secularists, humanists, Unitarians, etc.
The challenge is to be effective in the face of unprecedented human predicament and to become channels of humanitarian wisdom, concern and caring: Faith, Hope and Charity… ‘And the greatest of these is…’
David Correa-Hunt North Walsham Meeting the Friend, 18 May 2012