Essentials of Quaker Practice?
- attendance at meeting for worship
- attendance at meeting for business
- serving on meeting committees
- making a financial contribution to the meeting
I have two further ideas about the essentials, both of which I learned from George Fox.
What stood out for me from Fox’s journal is how he talks about what this new movement is doing. He says (and I paraphrase) their work is to bring the people out of their “chaffy, light minds” (p.353, see Chapter XI), to lead them to the feet of their Inward Teacher, and leave them there. Notice there are three parts to that. The first is to help people leave behind the distractions to their souls, to separate the wheat from the chaff in their lives. The second is to help people to find and hear the voice of their Inward Teacher – which presupposes that we believe that every person has and can hear that inner voice and that we have learned a few things that can help us listen (like sitting in silence). The third is that we have to get out of the way. Like that other old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. We have to remember that we do not convince or convert anyone – God does that. For our part, it’s enough to model good listening and good living and to teach people how to listen.
The other essential idea from George Fox is that "There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition."(p. 82, see Chapter 1) We can hear God – Christ Jesus – the Holy Spirit – that Inward Teacher – speaking to us about our true condition and we can do something about it. In the 17th century, it was a radical idea that we were not predestined to a life of sin. The amazing thing about this concept, then or now, is not that God tells us we’re all basically fine and good, but that we can all change. We can hear and obey. Whether it’s a personal improvement or a social or political concern, we can hear those nudges from God, Quakers call them leadings, and we can follow. It takes practice and discipline to develop that ability to obey, but Quakers have learned a few things that can help with this too.
These I think are the essential Quaker practices in College Park Quarterly Meeting and beyond. As I have traveled more widely among Friends in the last few years, I have seen a variety of forms of worship, and I think those differences are less important than these essentials: that we all make time to listen to God, we rid ourselves of the things in our lives that impede our ability to follow, and we act on what we hear.
Page numbers are from The Journal of George Fox, edited by Rufus M. Jones, published by Friends United Press, 1976. Hyperlinks are to the relevant chapters of the Journal on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
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