During a recent meeting for worship, I found myself seated across from my least favorite Quaker T-shirt. Yes, there was a Friend in the T-shirt, but this is not about her. It’s about my increasing discomfort with the four words on the perimeter of the design: simplicity, integrity, peace and equality.

Lately I've heard members of my meeting tell newcomers, “we believe in simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and peace.” As the words pour rhythmically off the tongue, I hear echoes from the church liturgy of my childhood - “I believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints.”

When I first joined Friends, testimonies were described as “a life lived in the Spirit” and not a set of beliefs or ideals. They were the witness of our day to day actions, a testimony to how God was leading us. 

How did we start using testimonies like a creed?

I began struggling with when and why we've changed our focus to the pointing finger rather than the moon above.

What was given to me is pretty simple. By shrinking the richness of Quaker faith and practice down to SPICE, we can avoid the messiness of talking about the Spirit. No one gets uncomfortable. No controversies. No risk of conflict. Even a four star general will proclaim his desire for peace. SPICE is a nice, safe container that won't scare away or offend. 

In a word, it’s bland. Spiritual pablum. 

There’s just one problem. God is not bland. God overflows any notion that we build. Opening oneself up to the the work of the Spirit is frightening and exhilarating and changes us into someone else. We never have and never will control how God moves in and through us. 

The primary opening of George Fox was “there is even one Christ Jesus who can speak to thy condition.”  It’s time come to terms with being the Religious Society of Friends.

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Comment by Adria Gulizia on 2nd mo. 10, 2015 at 11:47am

If our "beliefs" aren't reflected in our actions, I would submit that we need to reflect on whether we actually believe what we think we do...

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 10, 2015 at 1:30pm

I think the problem is not differentiating between 1st hand knowledge and "hear say".  There's just too much "hear say" in the knowledge pipeline and to paraphrase  an old Paul Simon song "Where have you gone Walter Cronkite?"

Comment by Dave Chakoian on 2nd mo. 11, 2015 at 9:06pm

That Friend speaks my mind. The first generation of Friends were clear in their avoidance of form without power. But isn't that what SPICE becomes when we use it as a set list?

My understanding of Testimonies is that they are consistent patterns of thought and action that arise organically from our encounter with Spirit. To me they are just descriptions of part of that divine experience brought out into the world. Each of us encounters God differently, so why shouldn't we expect to have different Testimonies of our faith?


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