All About Quakerism
Friends’ Beliefs and Testimonies
Friends believe that each person can experience direct contact with the Divine requiring no human intermediary, doctrine, or creed, that there is that of God in everyone, and that we can become instruments of God’s will if we allow ourselves to seek and follow the leadings of the Spirit in our daily lives.
Each of us discerns how to share our individual gifts for ministering to others. As Rufus M. Jones stated, “Our mission of service is (the means) by which we express ourselves to the world” (1937), Engaging ourselves in the exercise of God’s spirit is the “work” of worship and it is the way lives are transformed.
Five Quaker Testimonies
The Five fundamental Quaker principles or Testimonies are:
Quakers are perhaps most famous for the peace testimony, and the Nobel Peace Prize that was received for their work feeding starving German children in Europe after World War I. Believing that there is “that of God in everyone,” Friends are called to respect and care for all, and to “see what love can do” in response to violence. Although historically Quakers have refused to fight, they have not been passive. Quakers have actively worked in conflict resolution, mediation and reconciliation, disarmament, social and economic justice, and in giving aid to all sides of a conflict.
In trying to build God’s beloved community here on earth, Friends have sought the essential, knowing that excessive material possessions divide people from each other and from a spiritual life. A simple life is one that can focus on what is truly important. Some express it as “living simply so that others may simply live.”
Equality and Social Justice:
All are God’s beloved children. Despite the way each may be measured by human society, every person is valuable and has gifts that are meant to be used. Quakers have been active in civil rights, feeling that each person needs to be free of oppression to use their God-given gifts. Friends have stood against slavery, for voting rights for all, and continue to be active in movements designed to bring peace and justice.
Telling the truth to ourselves and to others is considered key to spiritual growth. In order to truly hear and follow the leadings of the spirit, we must be willing to hear and act on the truth as it is known to us. This also involves being who we really are, and stripping away those things that are artificial; making our actions consistent with inner values.
Community and Stewardship of the Earth:
Friends believe that “the spirit that takes away the occasion of war” is found in peace, love, and unity. Even in making business decisions, Quakers don’t vote. Voting, even when done politely, is taking sides. Quakers try to listen to everyone and, following the Light Within, find unity. But Quakers also believe that community extends beyond their own meetinghouses. It includes all the people in the world, as well as care for the earth itself.
Many yearly meetings publish their own Faith and Practice. The text here contains the testimonies but also includes queries for Friends to ask relevant to their own spiritual growth. Special thanks to Melissa Meyer for her help with this section. Lighting Candles in the Dark • Study Guide 3
Quaker Worship Meetings are Programmed or Unprogrammed. Watch the video below to find out the distinction between the two.
Amesbury Friends Meeting is an Unprogrammed Meeting.
The Quaker Practice of Discernment – it’s been called “the core technology” of Quakerism. It’s been called ‘the will of God.”
A leading? The deepest knowing? Watch the video above to hear a variety of explanations of this important Quaker process.
Background of the Quaker Faith
from Faith & Practice of New England Yearly Meeting, 1988\5, p. 53
George Fox, one of the early founders of the Society of Friends in seventeenth-century England, had as a youth suffered great anguish as he sought an answer to his spiritual quest. His answer came, after much reading of the Scriptures and visits to many ministers and counselors, when he heard a voice within him which said: “There is One, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.” “And when I heard it,” he later reported, “my heart did leap for joy.” He had found God directly without the aid of ritual or clergy, and henceforth his distinctive message was: Christ speaks directly to each human heart who seeks Him; listen to the teacher within; He placed His light within each of us, and as we follow the way He directs we shall be led into life and Truth.
The first names for the new movement were children of the Light and Friends of Truth. William Penn thought of it as “primitive Christianity revived.”
Since those early beginnings, Friends have continued to hold that their faith is one of first-hand experience of God in their lives. Spiritual life, they say, does not depend upon the acceptance of certain doctrines, nor the observance of certain rites, but comes as persons are obedient to the light of Christ within them. They feel free to reject much of the ecclesiastical structure of the times, including priests, church dogmas, outward sacraments, and external authority in religion because they feel that for them these do not serve the life of the spirit.
This has not been a solitary faith. From the beginning, the Quaker faith has flourished in a group, in a society, in a beloved fellowship. While God may be found in one’s inmost life, one is always conscious of being part of a larger group of persons who are likewise joyously following the inward way and seeking to be obedient to the light of Christ within. They seek to be obedient not only in the quiet gathering for worship together, or in their meeting for settling practical affairs, but also as they are led as a group to be concerned for those about them, particularly those suffering injustices or inequities. While Friends had great respect for the individual person, the real unit in the Society of Friends has always been the Meeting.
Friends traditionally allow great freedom in describing their own religious life and experience. They have no formal creed. They try to weave their faith into life. Are they seriously trying to follow their inward guide? Does the Sermon on the Mount come alive for them as setting standards for Christian action? Are they endeavoring to live by Quaker testimonies of integrity, simplicity, equality, peace, and community? In other words, one can often tell Quakers not so much by what they say as by the way they live.