So, who are the Quakers, then?
We are a society of people who seek to live authentic, fulfilled human lives by coming together and building community, using particular spiritual tools. What does “Spiritual” mean to you?
Not much, actually. It seems a lot of woo. I like to keep my feet on the ground.
OK. Well, you must have had things pop into your head. The word’s on the tip of your tongue, and an hour later you remember the word you wanted. Or you “sleep on” something, and in the morning know what you have to do. Or you have a conversation, and you say something you’ve never consciously thought before, and you see things in a new way.
We really value things popping into our head. Some of us say it is the Holy Spirit of God inspiring us. We value it, because it works. We sit in silence and speak when moved. We test the spirits, being moved is very different from sharing a good point, and the things we share can speak deeply to others present at the Meeting. We come together as a group in the Silence, and what we share brings us closer together.
We have a great amount of wisdom, thinking, stories, writing around when these things are most useful, when to share them, when to act upon them. We appoint people to help others share, or restrain inappropriate sharing. We learn these things by practice and experience.
We make decisions based on these shares. In the business meeting we set aside ego and seek the highest Good for those affected by the decision. This is easier said than done. But there can be more than two possible decisions, and people may reasonably disagree. I have seen there be two sides stated in a business meeting, then someone stands and gives a synthesis, stating a way uniting the two views. Then I have experienced the atmosphere of the room changing as we agree. Someone appointed to do so will check that we have agreed, and write a minute expressing that agreement. Then we check that the minute properly expresses our decision. That means that, unlike many business meetings, the minutes express what the group decides.
The “spiritual” practices are valuable in themselves. In silence, I can become clear about where I am, what I think and feel about a particular issue. I can get in touch with feelings which I have suppressed below consciousness. I enjoy being with my Quaker community. But in general, we are Quaker because it works for us.