If you ask three Quakers what they believe, you will get four answers.
This is one of those Quaker jokes. More than an element of truth (with a small t as opposed to Truth with a large T, but more on that later), in that joke, like all good jokes.
Quakers is the informal name for the Religious Society of Friends. The Wikki entry is a good overall view of Friends (another of our names), worldwide.
When I became a convinced member of Friends, I was attending the Dunedin Monthly Meeting of the Aotearoa New Zealand Yearly Meeting. So I am a member of an unprogrammed tradition. In New Zealand, we are privelaged as a community to have been gifted a Maori name for the Religious Society of Friends “Te Haahi Tuuhauwiri”, which translates as “A people who are moved by the winds of the Spirit”.
Now, living in England, I am a member of Ely Meeting, part of Cambridgeshire Area Meeting. We are a smallish, newly established Meeting for Worship. We have no premises of our own, having our Meeting for Worship at the Old Dispensary in Ely on Sunday morning at 10:30am. My home meeting is part of the Britian Yearly Meeting
So in just over 200 words I have given not a single clue about what I believe as a Quaker. I guess that is the great thing for me about being a member of the Society fo Friends – because I know that faith is so complex, it is so personal and individual, it can be hard to say exactly what I believe.
By being a member, I am saying I am prepared to participate in the life of the community to which I have chosen to become a member, and I have sympathy with the testimonies of Friends.
These testimonies are big picture stuff and include; Truth, Justice, Simplicity, Peace and our newest testimony to the Environment.
Again, this says little of what I believe and it can be very hard to explain that my faith community does not tell me HOW to believe these things. I must take an adult and rational decision about all my actions in life and consider whether or not they uphold the testimonies.
I suspect I will find lots of blog material on the theme of being Quaker and our testimonies and how they apply to my life – but for now I leave you with a favourite quote
“walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.”