A Friendly Faith
A Friendly Faith: being a Witness to a simple and lively way of life and worship after the faith and practice of the Friends of Truth also known as the Quakers
A Friendly Faith
This testimony comes from the Holy Spirit through one who was a Jew and found himself called to follow Christ Jesus. It is not a creed, for a Friend of Truth faith, hope, and love of God are enough. May this testimony be a blessing to you and yours in seeking to love and serve our Father as Christ taught us. Amen.
The Light of Christ in All
George Fox, whose opening (enlightenment) in 17th Century England gave rise to the movement now known as The Religious Society of Friends also called Friends or Quakers, recognized that there was one who could answer his search for meaning, Christ Jesus. Over the centuries Quakers have come to recognize that the Indwelling Spirit, Inner Light, Light of Christ Within, and the Indwelling Christ – all Friendly names for that of the living God in all persons – is part of the enduring gospel with which Friends bless this world.
Friends place great emphasis on personal relationships: with God, with one’s family, neighbors, community, and nature. Relationships are immediate, covenantal, personal commitments binding one to others, and each to God. Friends are called to recognize and support honest, simple, loving relationships in families and communities, and between one another and their neighbors, as witness to their faith.
Unity in the Light
Friends seek to find unity (wholeness) within themselves and with their community before taking action. This requires individual and communal deliberation in the Light and a willingness to give an opening to the Holy Spirit to direct each Friend’s assent or dissent to matters laid before the community or in personal living.
Friends challenge themselves to make their yes, yes and their no, no. They seek to live lives of consistency in their faith, beliefs and acts, recognizing that even in failing there is learning and strengthening possible when one’s life is lived in the Light. Morality and ethics are Friendly tools for establishing and maintaining personal integrity in public and private life and living in the Light.
Friends seek, through God’s providence, to live lives sufficient to their needs and the needs of those in their care, leaving the world better for their having been in it.
Friends recognize that living in the Light requires honesty of self first and then in all relationships. Dishonesty is evil which crouches at the door seeking to smother a Friend’s Light and it is to be denied at every turn.
Advices and Queries
Advices and queries are a Friendly distinctive and foundation of the faith. As there is that of God in all persons, Friends are advised to listen quickly and deeply to the queries and advices of others, querying self and others before acting, and being thoughtfully deliberate and seeking the Light before advising another. Seeking advice does not absolve the seeker for choices made, nor for wrongs that arise by not testing one’s openings and leadings before acting.
While there are many hundreds of advices and queries available to Friends from Quaker Books of Discipline and Faith and Practice texts and hundreds of years of accumulated oral tradition within meetings and anecdotal Friendly practice, these simple queries may serve as initial openings to the Light.
1.Do I recognize the Light of Christ in all persons at all times and everywhere? Do my words and actions reflect that recognition? How might I improve my testimony by my actions?
2.Do I honor simple, honest relationships and their participants equally? Do I honor the covenant of the relationships I am in? How might I strengthen my relationships?
3.Do I seek unity within myself before acting? Do I wait in the Light for guidance from the Holy Spirit? Do I test openings and leadings seeking clearance? How might I better encourage unity within myself or with others?
4.Are my heart, head and hands in agreement in my personal and public living? Are my yes, yes and my no, no? How might I be more whole in my living?
5.Do I seek to meet my needs, and those of my dependents, in a sufficient and sustainable manner? When is my current manner of life no longer sufficient or sustainable for my needs or those for whom I care? Do I have faith in God’s providence? Do I confuse needs and desires? How might I live my life this day more simply than the day before?
6.Am I honest in thought, word and deed each moment of each day? Do I misuse honesty as a weapon against others? Does my honesty acknowledge doubt and error in myself and my thoughts? Does my honesty support my Christian witness or bring doubt upon it?
Rituals and Sacraments
It is the practice among Friends to set aside formal rituals that some use in imitation of Christ’s life. While ritual may draw a worshiper’s attention to weighty matters, it may also confuse a candle’s wick with its Light.
For Friends, baptism is through convincement, communion through gathered worship in the Light, all persons’ lives and livings are sacramental, and living the Friendly testimonies and adhering to Friendly practices to the best of one’s abilities are sufficient to mark a person a follower of Christ Jesus.
It is the practice among Friends to extend warm and genuine hospitality to all who present themselves to us whether by intention or happenstance, for we know not when we have hosted angels unawares.
Gathered Meeting for Worship
It is the practice among Friends to gather in meeting once each week on First Day to worship sitting in the Light waiting expectantly for the movement of the Holy Spirit among us. After a set time, an elder in the gathering will rise and shake hands with Friends and attenders to signal the rising (end) of worship. The day of Meeting for Worship is also a day of Sabbath, of rest and resouling, for Friends.
Open vocal ministry
It is the practice among Friends in gathered meeting to recognize open, unpracticed vocal ministry by any present as moved by the Holy Spirit, neither requiring nor hindering that ministry. The form of vocal ministry may include but not be limited to prophecy, a citation from the Bible, an utterance, a song, hymn, or prayer. Sermons, speeches, planned presentations, planned musical interludes, fixed prayers and other forms of practiced ministry are discouraged during gathered meetings for worship.
If a Friend’s unpracticed vocal ministry is repeatedly found to strengthen the faith, witness and practice of others in the meeting or in public, that Friend is to be encouraged by the Elders, minuted as a recorded minister of the meeting, and urged to travel in ministry under the meeting’s care.
Recorded ministers need not be or become an elder, clerk, or overseer. A recorded minister is not required or expected or paid to preach or teach inside or outside Meeting for Worship. A recorded minister does not exercise a pastoral function or represent the meeting in public, except by minute of the Meeting of Sufferings, as every Friend and attender is a minister of a gathered meeting.
Gathered Meeting for Sufferings
It is the practice among Friends to meet regularly at other dates and times than Gathered Meetings for Worship to support one another’s walk in the world, redress wrongs, extend care, consider openings, leadings and clearings, and support the suffering with prayer and practical work after the fashion of Christ and in the unity of the Light.
Openings, leadings, and clearings
It is the practice among Friends to recognize that the Inner Light, responding to the Holy Spirit, may open hearts and minds to individual or communal concerns. Likewise, Friends may feel led by the Holy Spirit to formulate a response to an existing or new concern and seek the support of the meeting to discern how to proceed. In those cases the elders and overseers engage Friends in the meeting to form a committee of clearing to listen, query and advise the Friend and report back to the meeting recommending a decision for unity of action, further consideration, or the laying down of the leading or the opening.
Prayer, meditation, reflection and learning
In Friends’ private lives the practices of prayer, meditation, reflection and learning regularly inform their Christian walk and strengthen their relationships with God and others. Prayers of thanksgiving and for the needs of others and self, meditation on walking with Christ in each moment, and reflection on personal strengths and weaknesses are all blessings to be accepted and regularly used.
Learning should be understood to include, but not be limited to, regular study of the Friendly witness over the centuries, the Bible, and the writings of Friends from varied places and times. Friends acknowledge the special place of the Bible in our lives, but do not place the Bible or any other written document as equal to, or above, the openings, leadings, and clearings of the Living Holy Spirit.
It is the practice among Friends to recognize that not everyone is called to be a Friend, but when a person of at least 16 years of age has become convinced of living in a Friendly way and is continually turning their hearts, minds and hands toward Friendly testimonies and practices, that person should be invited by the elders to be publicly welcomed into the meeting, enrolled as a Friend by the clerk of the meeting in the meeting records, and given equal responsibilities and obligations to the meeting along with all other Friends.
Friends who are members of other meetings may transfer their membership to a more convenient or new meeting after reviewing and discussing these Testimonies, Advices and Queries, and Practices with a committee of clearance, and agreeing to unite with the new meeting. The Meeting for Sufferings will minute this transfer of membership, sending copies to the transferred Friend and the Friend’s previous meeting.
Attenders, that is,persons not enrolled as Friends, or Friends from other meetings sojourning with a local meeting but not seeking to transfer membership, are warmly welcome to attend meetings for worship and sufferings and may choose to place themselves voluntarily under the care of the meeting to take part in the meeting’s worship and works. They may be heard in meetings for sufferings, but their testimonies are not to be counted in a clerk’s assessment of a meeting for suffering’s unity on a matter unless they are obligated to the meeting’s work.
At such time as a Friend cannot in good conscience uphold these Testimonies, Advices and Queries, and Practices, or demonstrates publicly or privately a refusal to adhere to these, the Elders will send Friends to meet with the Friend and seek reconciliation. A committee for clearance may be appointed to this end. If the Friend does not agree to be reconciled, or continues to act in a way that is injurious to the meeting, the Elders will ask a special meeting for Sufferings to deliberate. If in the Light the meeting comes to unity that the Friend is irreconcilable, a minute will be drafted to that effect and the clerk of the meeting will strike the Friend’s name from meeting records.
At any time a former Friend may seek to be reconciled and be reinstated as in the first paragraph, above.
Unions, Mediations, Dissolutions and Burials
It is the practice among Friends to recognize, uphold, strengthen, and lay down relationships in a holy and sensitive manner. Two persons of the local age of majority, not otherwise legally, morally, ethically, emotionally, or financially obligated to another, or under nullifying medical, legal, or financial impediments, may ask the meeting to take their union of partners under its care.
The elders and overseers will appoint a committee of clearance to explore the meaning of union with the potential partners, ensuring that the intended relationship will be a sacred covenant adhered to by both parties and that there are no unknown legal, medical, financial, ethical, or moral challenges to the proposed union.
If the committee is satisfied that the union will be honest and a covenant of integrity, the elders and overseers will publish their intent to accept the union of partners under their care and arrange for a simple public ceremony during a meeting for worship. The meeting will include a written and vocal covenant of the partners in the union under care, the written covenant to be attested by all present as witnesses and filed by the clerk of the meeting in the records of the county clerk, with copies to both partners and a copy for the meeting’s records.
If the parties to a union under care, or any two Friends in a meeting, have complaints against one another, the Elders shall appoint a committee of not less than three responsible and thoughtful Friends, to meet with the party or parties, individually or together, to mediate the dispute in a spirit of unity.
If after mediation one or both parties continue to feel aggrieved, or will not honor the mediation or the original covenant of union, or conform to the leadings and advices of the committee or Elders, the meeting may choose to lay down their care of the union, dissolving the union, by publishing a minute to this effect drawn up by a special gathering of the meeting for sufferings with a copy filed by the clerk of the meeting in the records of the county clerk, with copies to both partied previously united.
At the death of a Friend or attender, the overseers and elders, in consultation with surviving family and the requirements of law, will oversee the simple, speedy preparation and committal of remains following a special gathered meeting for worship. Following committal a celebration of the life of the Friend by the meeting is common. The meeting will extend special care to surviving family and friends for a period of a year through the Elders and Overseers.
Elders, overseers and clerks
It is the practice of Friends to appoint members in meeting to serve the community in various roles for the benefit of all. These roles are heavy responsibilities, not to be sought out, but to be filled by the call of the Holy Spirit upon those attending a Meeting for Suffering in which appointments are made.
Elders are responsible for the conduct of meetings for worship in good gospel order, encouraging vocal ministry as the Holy Spirit directs, appointing committees of clearance, extending pastoral care to the meetings, unions under the meeting’s care, and individuals as needs require.
Overseers are responsible for the physical resources of the meeting and its members, ensuring meeting needs are met in a simple, honest, and responsible fashion given God’s provision. Working in committees, they are responsible for receiving, securing, disbursing and accounting for meeting assets as directed by minutes of the meeting for sufferings. Accounts are to be published regularly and reviewed by auditors annually.
Clerks are responsible for chairing meetings for sufferings, drafting minutes based on their sense of the unity of the meeting, and accepting and publishing regular reports from appointed committees. Clerks record births, deaths, convincements, and appointments to offices, and prepare and sign letters, licenses, minutes, and records on behalf of the meeting as minutes by the meeting for sufferings.
Elders, overseers, and clerks are appointed in unity in the Light by an annual gathered Meeting for Sufferings.
Elders, overseers, and clerks are appointed in numbers sufficient to current needs of the meeting for staggered periods of not more than three years, taking up and laying down their duties as the meeting for sufferings may minute or as their personal circumstances and leadings of the Holy Spirit may require.
Elders, overseers, and clerks are not removed before the end of their appointment except for illegal, immoral or unethical behavior as minuted by a Meeting for Sufferings in the unity of the Light.
Customs and Traditions
Beyond these Testimonies, Advices, Queries and Practices, each meeting and each Friend may choose to follow such customs and traditions that bring meaning and beauty into their lives and remind us of God’s providence and the blessings of living in the Light. Friends and attenders are encouraged to study and discuss traditions and customs of other meetings present and past to grow in the Light and their personal walk of faith with God after the fashion of Christ Jesus.
Customs and traditions are not to be treated as laws, rules, tests, or measures of an individual’s growth in the Light, or used to assess a person’s fitness to become a Friend. While a particular tradition or custom may be beneficial to most, if not all, members of a meeting, given the testimony of unity they cannot be used to reject a transferring Friend or strike a Friend from a meeting.