A Quaker testimony to community

The American term SPICES lists six testimonies: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship. Four overlap with the list in Quaker Faith and Practice: Truth, Equality, Simplicity, Peace. The BYM website adds Justice, and many Quakers speak of a testimony to sustainability. Sustainability proceeds naturally from living from the Spirit in the love of God.

Rather than Truth, SPICES names Integrity. A mnemonic is useful as far as it goes. Truth goes beyond what we speak, to how we are in the world, being our true selves without pretence or self-delusion. That is, integrity. Even Quakers evade unpalatable truths, or we would not need counselled against that. Illusion seems comforting when reality is too hard to face. Truth is also about how we see the world, as far as possible as it is, which requires commitment and may require Love.

British Quakers have a testimony to Community though we do not name it. We practice Quaker spirituality, worship and life as part of a Quaker community. Those who do the work paid ministers do in other churches, and the work of organising, do it for a limited time. Many of us serve the wider community, building community, bringing people together, meeting need.

Leadership is a service. Decisions have to be taken, and it makes sense to delegate some to specific people. Sometimes leadership is a gift, absolving others of the need to make a decision, if not of responsibility. Anyone can offer leadership, by making a suggestion. Others will follow if they agree to.

We are a society of people with equal value but differing gifts.

We make decisions together, seeking God’s loving purposes. We seek to do what is right. Ideally, our business is conducted in a spirit of worship, and anything spoken is inspired ministry, though people can disagree. Sometimes, someone will propose a new approach and there is a feeling of the meeting coming together behind that.

Part of the discipline and practice of Quakerism is being in the meeting community, where there are the usual conflicts and stresses. Someone told me of feeling their local meeting was cliquey, so they stopped going. We can appear homogenous, almost as if people were not expressing their full variety, and those who could not fit simply left, or never came. Diversity of belief is welcomed, but other ways of being diverse may make people uncomfortable.

At our worst, we imagine that we are Peaceful so deny conflict until it explodes. The advice is to “make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome”.

Wholly Zoom meetings avoid much of the tension. We can have the discipline of sitting in silence, and I like to mutter to myself, sometimes, words, mantras or longer thoughts, while muted. I can switch my camera off, arrive late or leave early. There is no need to walk into a building where you know no-one. The spiritual practice of sitting in silence with others becomes open to far more people. And, we might know each other less well.

So Britain YM would benefit from specifically declaring we have a testimony to community, as it is so important to our religious life together.

3 thoughts on “A Quaker testimony to community

  1. I attend the Palmerston North Meeting for Worship (PNMW) via Zoom, and am often the only one doing so. Our meeting is relatively small with typically 5 to 12 attenders each Sunday. I have attended a number of Woodbrooke meetings via zoom over the past month or so, but the change to standard time here and daylight saving time in the UK has messed with my schedule.

    What I like about PNMW is that the meeting itself is not muted so that I can hear everything from the birds singing outside the meeting house to the ticking of the wall clock to the scraping of chairs. All things I miss with Woodbrooke. Somehow the absolute silence causes me longer to centre down. Not sure why.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I do try to attend both the Sunday morning and Thursday morning Meetings as they are an hour long. I don’t find the half hour Meetings beneficial. The Thu Meeting used to start at midnight (NZDT) but now starts at 10 pm (NZST) which clashes with another commitment. Likewise the Sun Meeting started at 11:30 pm but now starts at 9:30 pm, which happens to be a partial clash. It’s a matter of trying to reschedule these to other times, which hopefully I will be able to do soon.

        Liked by 2 people

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