‘God, words and us: Quakers in conversation about religious difference’ was recommended reading for BYM (Britain Yearly Meeting), principally because the main focus of BYM was to discern whether the time is right to start the process of revision of our book of discipline ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’.
Over and above that reason, we are all aware of the limitations of everyday speech for conveying our religious and spiritual experience. And yet sharing our experience and beliefs and hearing those of others can be profoundly moving. Even if our words, experiences and beliefs are different, respectful conversation connects us to one another, affirming our insights, challenging us to grow and weaving a strong fabric of community. Coventry Quakers had two sessions using the book ‘God, Words and Us’. Here is some of what was shared.
Two ‘word clouds’.
Pete Duckworth, who led the first session, fed the words that participants had mentioned into a computer programme. The size of the word indicates how many people used it.
Mig Kerr (who led the 2nd session with Barbara) summarised answers to the question: What do you consider to be the essentials of the Quaker way? (arranged below under several headings):
God / Light / Spirit
- There is something traditionally called God (something spiritual i.e. cannot be defined, and separate to our mundane existence; this may be within or outside us) which can speak to us /inspires us.
- Our experience of the Light or whatever ‘God’ is, is more important than any written creed or doctrine.
- Loving the light (whatever that is).
- [Acceptance of different ways of believing….] in what is impossible to name as an entity.
- We can be inspired/uplifted by many things eg. words, pictures, nature.
Worship / unprogrammed meeting • Silence/ contemplation.
- A shared silence enables us to share and listen to others and learn about ourselves and other’s experiences • Shared experience of being gathered.
- Openness & flexibility to the Light • Daily round, holy ground.
- Sharing, with others in community, an approach that there is ‘something of God in everyone’.
- Light within everyone / A recognition of the divine in everyone.
- There is something special in everyone / There is something special in or about every human being.
- We should seek to nurture and inspire people.
- Community of all people.
- Togetherness • Friendship • Love x2
- We are part of each other – there is something that links one to another – however difficult it might be to recognise/discern – and so we have a responsibility to each other.
- Loving your neighbour as yourself / humanity / kindness.
- Openness • Listening • Learning.
- Companions for the journey.
- Acceptance of different ways of believing [in what is impossible to name as an entity].
- Respect for others’ beliefs / acceptance of all from whatever background or environment.
- Living in the spirit – there is no secular, everything is part of the divine / Action based on spirit/ Daily round, holy ground.
- Religious intent – ‘I do this, think like this because I am a Quaker’
- Let your life speak.
- Truth, peace, equality, simplicity / having the testimonies in common.
- Peace / Peace testimony / pacifism / searching for and striving for peace in the world.
- Justice /social action & witness.
- Taking care of and treasuring the environment.