Quaker Testimonies


The following PYM Advises and Queries focus on Quaker Testimonies for each month:

First Month: Meeting For Worship

The heart of the Religious Society of Friends is the Meeting for Worship. In direct communion with God, we offer ourselves for God’s will. Our daily lives are linked with the Meeting for Worship, the Meeting for Worship with our daily lives.

Come regularly to Meeting for Worship, even when you are angry, tired, or spiritually cold. Bring your joys and your hurts, and the needs of other people. Accept and support each other in the community where God dwells among us. As you do so, you may find the grace of prayer.

At times the Spirit may prompt you to speak in the Meeting. Wait patiently to know that the sense and the time are right. When you are sure, have confidence that the words will be given to you. Listen to the ministry of others with an open spirit. If it is not God’s word for you, it may be for others. After a message has been given, allow time to ponder its meaning and to let the Meeting return to silent worship. In speech and in silence, each person contributes to the Meeting.

Do I come to Meeting with heart and mind prepared for worship?

In both silent and vocal ministry, do I respond to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, without pre-arrangement and in simplicity and truth?

Am I careful not to speak at undue length or beyond personal spiritual experience?

Do we meet in expectant waiting for the promptings of the Divine Spirit?

Are we drawn together in a living silence by the power of God in our midst?

 

Second Month: Spiritual Life

The life of the spirit gains depth and vigor through devotional practices, prayer, study and meditation. Take time regularly for individual and family worship, discussions, readings from sacred texts, and other spiritual refreshment in order to live a more centered life and to bring a deeper presence to the Meeting for Worship.

Friends believe that the spiritual path is best found in community. Create opportunities in your Meetings for people of all ages to explore and express their evolving relationship with the Divine, their spiritual highs and their doubts. If different metaphors and language interfere with communication, listen more deeply, honoring the Spirit in which the thought and words have their beginnings.

Do I live in thankful awareness of God’s constant presence in my life?

Am I sensitive and obedient to the leadings of the Holy Spirit?

When do I take time for contemplation and spiritual refreshment?

What steps am I taking to center my life and to stay open to continuing revelation?

Do we share our spiritual lives with others in the Meeting, seeking to know one another in that which is eternal?

Does the Meeting provide religious education including study of the Bible and Friends’ history and practices?

 

Third Month: Meeting For Worship For Business

Come to Meeting with hearts and minds prepared to be open and faithful to the leadings of the Spirit. Then the conduct of business will lead to truth, unity, and love.

When a matter is before the Meeting for Business, each person present contributes to the corporate search for a decision that accords with the will of God. Inaction is a form of action. Silent worship in the Meeting for Business contributes to the process of achieving unity.

Listen attentively to others’ words and use the silence between messages to reflect carefully on what you might contribute. When you are clear, speak simply what is in your heart, without repeating what has already been offered. While making your insights clear, lay aside personal opinions and attend to what God requires.

Do I attend Meeting for Business regularly?

Do I speak in Meeting for Business only when I am led to speak?

Is the Meeting for Business held as a Meeting for Worship in which we seek divine guidance for our actions?

Are we tender and considerate of different views, coming to a decision only when we have found unity?

Do we give prayerful support for our clerks that they may be sensitive to the movement of the Spirit among us?

 

Fourth Month: Stewardship and Vocation

John Woolman said, “As Christians all we possess are the gifts of God… To turn all treasures we possess into the channel of Universal Love becomes the business of our lives.” The principle of stewardship applies to all we have and are. As individuals, we are called to use our time, our various abilities, our strength, our money, and our material possessions with care, managing them wisely and sharing them generously.

From the indwelling Seed of God, we discover our particular gifts and discern the service to which we are called. In making choices about occupation or education, consider the way that offers the fullest opportunity to develop your individual abilities and contribute to the world community while providing for yourself and your family. In daily work, manifest a spirit of justice and understanding, and thus give a living witness to the truth.

Be ready to limit engagements, to withdraw for a time, or even to retire from an activity that inhibits your ability to follow a higher call. Try to discern the right moment to accept new responsibilities as well as to relinquish responsibility that can pass to others. Be open to your calling in different stages of life. Meetings need the strength and vigor of young people as well as the experience and wisdom of elders. Although they may not be able to contribute great financial support, their energy and insight invigorate the community. As people begin careers and families, they may need the spiritual and experienced help of the Meeting. Later, when families are growing up and careers are established, greater participation in the Meeting and greater financial support may become possible. Welcome the approach of old age, your own and others’, as an opportunity for wisdom and greater attachment to the Light. Meetings should be ready with material and spiritual support for those suffering from unemployment or facing difficult vocational decisions.

How have I been faithful to the leadings of the Spirit in choosing work or vocation?

What am I doing with my talents, time, money, and possessions? Am I sharing them according to the Light I am given?

Is my conduct at the workplace consistent with my life as a Friend?

How does my daily work enhance my spiritual life?

How does the Meeting help and support members who are in job transitions?

 

Fifth Month: Harmony With Creation

It would go a long 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, Some Fruits of Solitude, 1693

God is revealed in all Creation. We humans belong to the whole interdependent community of life on Earth. Rejoice in the beauty, complexity, and mystery of creation, with gratitude to be part of its unfolding. Take time to learn how this community of life is organized and how it interacts. Live according to principles of right relationship and right action within this larger whole.

Be aware of the influence humans have on the health and viability of life on Earth. Call attention to what fosters or harms Earth’s exquisite beauty, balances and interdependencies. Guided by Spirit, work to translate this understanding into ways of living that reflect our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

In what ways do I express gratitude for the wondrous expressions of life on Earth?

Do I consider the damage I might do to the Earth’s vulnerable systems in choices I make of what I do, what I buy, anbd how I spend my time?

In our witness for the global environment, are we careful to consider justice and the well-being of the world’s poorest people?

Does our way of life threaten the viability of life on Earth?

 

Sixth Month: Social and Civic Responsibility

In the words of William Penn, “True godliness don’t draw men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it.” Elsewhere he commented: “It is a reproach to religion and government to suffer so much poverty and excess.”

Poverty within a wealthy society is unjust, cruel, and often linked to skin color, gender, and language. We must examine our own privilege and role in the economic order that deepens this disparity. Friends should be alert to oppression and injustice, and persistent in working against them.

We value our part in shaping the laws of our country. Our task is to see that laws serve God’s purposes and build a just social order. Our first allegiance should be to God, and if this conflicts with any compulsion of the state, we serve our country best by remaining true to our higher loyalty.

If, by divine leading, our attention is focused on a law that is contrary to God’s law, we must proceed with care. Before acting, Friends should pray for further guidance and speak with the Meeting, family members, and all those who might be affected by the decision. If a decision involves disobedience to the law, we should make the grounds of our action clear to all concerned and be prepared to suffer any penalties without evasion. As a community, we must care for those who suffer for conscience’s sake.

What am I doing to carry my share of responsibility for the government of our community, nation, and world?

Am I persistent in my efforts to promote constructive change?

How do we attend to the suffering of others in our local community, in our state and nation, and in the world community?

Do we try to understand the causes of suffering, and do we address them as a Meeting?

How do we, individually and as a Meeting, support the organizations that work to bring the testimonies of Friends into reality in our society?

 

Seventh Month: Reaching Out

Friends fellowship begins and is nurtured within the home and Meeting. It reaches greater fulfillment as we carry our beliefs into the wider community.

Share your Quaker faith. Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light and, as you learn, give freely from what you have gained. Respect the experiences and opinions of others, but do not be afraid to say what you value. Welcome the diversity of culture, language, and expressions of faith in your Monthly Meeting, the Yearly Meeting, and the world community of Friends. Encourage discourse with Friends of pastoral and programmed traditions, and with members of other faiths.

Friends have a long history of involvement in public and private education, sharing our values with the world and nurturing future generations. Be mindful of the needs of children in your community and of avenues for deepening understanding between peoples.

How does my life reflect Friends’ beliefs and thus encourage others to be interested in the Religious Society of Friends?

Do I respond openly to inquiries about Quaker experience and belief?

What does our Meeting do to make others aware of Friends principles and practices?

What are we doing to help people of various races, cultures, and backgrounds feel at home among us and we among them?

How do we encourage newcomers to return and participate in activities of the Meeting?

In what ways do we participate in the life of the interfaith community and in the wider fellowship of Friends?

 

Eighth Month: Simplicity

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 R. Kelly, Testament of Devotion, 1941

A life centered in God will be directed toward keeping communication with God open and unencumbered. Simplicity is best achieved through a right ordering of priorities, maintaining humility of spirit, avoiding self-indulgence, resisting the accumulation of unnecessary possessions, and avoiding over-busy lives.

Elise Boulding writes in My Part in the Quaker Adventure, “Simplicity, beauty, and happiness go together if they are a by-product of a concern for something more important than ourselves.”

Do I center my life in an awareness of God’s presence so that all things take their rightful place?

Do I live simply, and promote the right sharing of the world’s bounty?

Do I keep my life uncluttered with things and activities, avoiding commitments beyond my strength and light?

How do I maintain simplicity, moderation, and honesty in my speech, my manner of living, and my daily work?

Do I recognize when I have enough?

Is the life our our Meeting so ordered that it helps us to simplify our lives?

 

Ninth Month: Integrity and Personal Conduct

Integrity has always been a goal of Friends. It is essential to trust, to all communication between people and between people and God. Integrity grounds our beliefs, thoughts, and actions in our spiritual center and makes us whole.

Friends believe that we are called speak the truth. A single standard of truth requires us to conduct ourselves in ways that are honest, direct, and plain, and to make our choices, both large and small, in accord with the urgings of the Spirit. It follows that we object to taking an oath, which presupposes a variable standard of truth. Be true to your word.

… let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.

 

-James 5:12, King James Version

From early days Friends have opposed gambling and practices based on chance. These activities profit from inevitable loss of others, promote greed, and conflict with good stewardship. Public lotteries have not furthered their purported benefit to the public good. All addictions are of concern. As the use of alcohol and tobacco all too often entail serious risks to self and others, Friends who serve alcohol at home should be diligent in offering alternatives. Alcohol should not be served at Meeting gatherings.

Find recreation that brings you joy and energy. Be aware of how your choices affect yourself and others.

How do I strive to maintain the integrity of my inner and outer lives?

Do I act on my principles even when this entails difficult consequences?

Am I honest and truthful in all that I say and do, even when a compromise might be easier or more popular?

Am I reflective about the ways I gain my wealth and income and sensitive to their impacts on others?

Is my life so filled with the Spirit that I am free from the misuse of alcohol and other drugs, and of excesses of any kind?

Do we, in our Meeting, hold ourselves accountable to one another as do members of a healthy family?

 

Tenth Month: Personal Relationships

In daily relationships with others, both inside and outside the home, our lives as Friends speak immediately and lastingly. In these relationships, our faith may also be severely tested. We are called to respond to that of God in everyone: we are all the children of God.

Friends celebrate any union that is dedicated to mutual love and respect, regardless of the unique make-up of the family. We strive to create homes where the Spirit of the Divine resides at the center and where the individual genius of each member is respected and nurtured.

Human sexuality is a divine gift, forming part of the complex union of body, mind and spirit that is our humanity. In a loving adult relationship in a context of mutual responsibility, sexuality brings delight, fulfillment and celebration.

The presence of children carries a special blessing as well as responsibility. Children bring unique spiritual gifts — wonder, resiliency, playfulness and more. Recognize and honor the Divine Light within children and treat them with dignity and respect that is due to all people. Listen to and learn from children; share with them those values and practices that are central to our own lives. Special care must be given to resolving problems between adults and children in a manner that gives equal weight to the feelings and needs of both children and adults. Tender parenting is one of the critically important peace vocations in our society. Make every effort to offer all parents the personal and institutional support that this challenging work requires.

Take a strong stand against any form of abuse, whether that abuse is minor or severe, and whether it is emotional, physical or sexual in nature. The terrible impact of abuse on the most vulnerable members of our families creates lifelong suffering for its victims and is a major source of violence in our society. Perpetrators are themselves usually victims of similar violence and should be approached with compassion as well as firmness.

Do I make my home a place of friendliness, joy, and peace, where residents and visitors feel God’s presence?

Are my sexual practices consistent with my spiritual beliefs and free of manipulation and exploitation?

What barriers keep me from responding openly and lovingly to each person?

Do we open our thoughts, beliefs, and deep understandings to our children and others who share our lives and our hospitality?

Do we provide our children and young adults with a framework for active, ongoing participation in the Meeting?

 

Eleventh Month: Peace

Friends oppose all war as inconsistent with God’s will. As every person is a child of God, we recognize God’s Light also in our adversaries. Violence and injustice deny this reality and violate the teachings of Jesus and other prophets.

Friends challenge their governments and take personal risks in the cause of peace. We urge one another to refuse to participate in war as soldiers, or as arms manufacturers. We seek ways to support those who refrain from paying taxes that support war. We work to end violence within our own borders, our homes, our streets, and our communities. We support international order, justice, and understanding.

Become an instrument of peace. At every opportunity, be peacemakers in your homes, workplaces and communities. Steep yourself in the power of the universal Spirit. Examine your actions for the seeds of violence, degradation and destructiveness. Overcome the emotions that lie at the root of violence and nurture instead a spirit of reconciliation and love. Come to know the oneness of all creation and oppose the destruction of the natural world.

Do I live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars?

How do I nourish peace within myself as I work for peace in the world?

Do I confront violence wherever it occurs, even when my personal relationships are involved?

Where there is distrust, injustice, or hatred, how am I an instrument of reconciliation and love?

What are we doing to remove the causes of war and destruction of the planet, and to bring about lasting peace?

Do we reach out to all parties in a conflict with courage and love?

 

Twelfth Month: The Meeting Community

Meetings for Worship and Business are the center of our spiritual community. There, as we come to know each other in the Spirit, we build the “beloved community”.

Mutual respect and care in the Meeting form the foundation from which we can test, support, and exercise leadings of the Spirit. At its best, the Meeting community provides a framework for us to learn and practice mutual care, which strengthens us as we act in the world.

All members of the Meeting community should share in the care of one another. While respecting privacy, we must be aware of and sensitive to each other’s needs. We must also be willing to ask for assistance when we are in need.

Do I strive to be inclusive in my relationships within the Meeting?

Do I care for the reputation of others, refraining from gossip or disparaging remarks?

Am I committed to the difficult work of forgiveness, and affirming God’s love for the whole community?

How are love and unity maintained among us?

Do we practice the art of listening, even beyond words?

How have we been sensitive to the personal needs and difficulties of members and attenders, young and old?

Do we visit one another in our homes and keep in touch with distant members?