Quaker Faith and Practice – a digital response

For 103 days, we posted the whole of the ‘social responsibility’ section of Quaker Faith and Practice on social media, inviting you to like and comment. Now we’ve had chance to go through and compare, we can reveal the most popular ten quotes:

In 2018 it was decided that Quaker Faith and Practice – the anthology of Quaker spirituality – would be revised beginning in 2019. There’s a substantial section in the middle of the book on social responsibility in which Quaker Socialists take a special interest. So to start preparing our contribution to the process we tried posting a passage every day to the Quaker Socialist Society Facebook page along with a picture, to see what would happen.

Obviously there’s a difference between social media interactions and traditional Quaker discernment. Nevertheless, part of our politics is also based on participation. With around 1000 followers of the Quaker Socialist page, we were interested in what we’d learn by freely inviting people to ‘like’, comment or discuss in an open way.

To start us off – here are the Quaker Faith and Practice quotes that were most liked on the subject of social responsibility: –

1.

“I have never lost the enjoyment of sitting in silence at the beginning of meeting, knowing that everything can happen, knowing the joy of utmost surprise; feeling that nothing is pre-ordained, nothing is set, all is open. The light can come from all sides. The joy of experiencing the Light in a completely different way than one has thought it would come is one of the greatest gifts that Friends’ meeting for worship has brought me.

I believe that meeting for worship has brought the same awareness to all who have seen and understood the message that everyone is equal in the sight of God, that everybody has the capacity to be the vessel of God’s word. There is nothing that age, experience and status can do to prejudge where and how the Light will appear. This awareness – the religious equality of each and every one – is central to Friends. Early Friends understood this and at the same time they fully accepted the inseparable unity of life, and spoke against the setting apart of the secular and the sacred. It was thus inevitable that religious equality would be translated into the equality of everyday social behaviour. Friends’ testimony to plain speech and plain dress was both a testimony of religious equality and a testimony of the unacceptability of all other forms of inequality.” – Ursula Franklin, 1979

2.

“It is the sense of this meeting, that the importing of negroes from their native country and relations by Friends, is not a commendable nor allowed practice, and is therefore censured by this meeting.” – Yearly Meeting in London, 1727

3.

“Much depends on the spirit in which the visitor enters upon her work. It must be in the spirit, not of judgment, but of mercy. She must not say in her heart I am more holy than thou, but must rather keep in perpetual remembrance that ‘all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God’.” – Elizabeth Fry, 1827

4.

“The duty of the Society of Friends is to be the voice of the oppressed but [also] to be conscious that we ourselves are part of that oppression. Uncomfortably we stand with one foot in the kingdom of this world and with the other in the Eternal Kingdom.” –
Eva I Pinthus, 1987

5.

“Much of current philanthropical effort is directed to remedying the more superficial manifestations of weakness and evil, while little thought or effort is directed to search out their underlying causes. The soup kitchen in York never has difficulty in obtaining financial aid, but an enquiry into the extent and causes of poverty would enlist little support.” – Joseph Rowntree, 1904

6.
“Then I came to Waltham and established a school there for the teaching of boys, and ordered a women’s school to be set up at Shacklewell to instruct young lasses and maidens in whatsoever things were civil and useful in the creation.” – George Fox, 1668

7.

“True godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavours to mend it… Christians should keep the helm and guide the vessel to its port; not meanly steal out at the stern of the world and leave those that are in it without a pilot to be driven by the fury of evil times upon the rock or sand of ruin.” – William Penn, 1682

8.

“The word ‘testimony’ is used by Quakers to describe a witness to the living truth within the human heart as it is acted out in everyday life. It is not a form of words, but a mode of life based on the realisation that there is that of God in everybody, that all human beings are equal, that all life is interconnected.

It is affirmative but may lead to action that runs counter to certain practices currently accepted in society at large. Hence a pro-peace stance may become an anti-war protest, and a witness to the sacredness of human life may lead to protests against capital punishment.

These testimonies reflect the corporate beliefs of the Society, however much individual Quakers may interpret them differently according to their own light. They are not optional extras, but fruits that grow from the very tree of faith.” – Harvey Gillman 1988

9.

“I think I have wasted a great deal of my life waiting to be called to some great mission which would change the world. I have looked for important social movements. I have wanted to make a big and important contribution to the causes I believe in. I think I have been too ready to reject the genuine leadings I have been given as being matters of little consequence. It has taken me a long time to learn that obedience means doing what we are called to do even if it seems pointless or unimportant or even silly. The great social movements of our time may well be part of our calling. The ideals of peace and justice and equality which are part of our religious tradition are often the focus of debate. But we cannot simply immerse ourselves in these activities. We need to develop our own unique social witness, in obedience to God. We need to listen to the gentle whispers which will tell us how we can bring our lives into greater harmony with heaven.”
– Deborah Haines, 1978

10.

We are all the poorer for the crushing of one man, since the dimming of the Light anywhere darkens us all” – Michale Sorensen, 1986