Reading Quaker Faith & Practice Ch. 6

In the course of reflecting on his experience as secretary from 1940 to 1945 of Friends War Victims Relief Committee and Friends Relief Service, Roger Wilson wrote in 1949:

Yearly Meeting is not, in the last resort, made up of a body of experts. People who know a great deal about the matter in hand may do most of the talking, central committee members familiar with the complexities of translating convictions into practical terms may appear to be leading the meeting. But a few halting yet sincere hesitations, uttered by a Friend from a small meeting in a distant county may, in fact, be of more significance in revealing a matter in its true setting than all the sophistication of the committee worthies. Again and again on deep issues it is reality as known and experienced by the simple and single-minded meeting, that does not know too much to have lost its simple faith, that guides the Society; and the central committee or its administrator who knows that its service is, in the end, related to the life of the local meetings in the country, will have a deep respect for the weight of Yearly Meeting.

QFP 6.08

To me, this little passage opens the very heart of what Quaker process is supposed to be all about. To the extent that Friends feel that the future of the Society of Friends is in the hands of the “sophisticat[ed]… committee worthies” then we are in danger of losing our trust in the simple faith that guides us, and hence of losing our way. Quakerism is not a path that is decided for its members by a specialised, highly-educated elite; it is a path set firmly in the lived experience of ordinary Friends, often in small meetings in out of the way places. As long as we can remember that, as long as local Friends have enough trust in Britain Yearly Meeting, and enough commitment to it to travel there and to overcome the sometimes real difficulties in finding accommodation, and in getting their bookings in in time, and as long as BYM remains committed to listening to “halting yet sincere hesitations” with sufficient patience and sufficient trust that they themselves may be hearing the Spirit in those stumbling words, then we shall go on, faithful “to the promptings of love and truth in [our] hearts” and we shall “[t]rust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.” (Advices and Queries 1)

2 thoughts on “Reading Quaker Faith & Practice Ch. 6

  1. Richard Thompson

    Yes, daring to speak of the lived experience of God, of the source of our being, of higher spiritual energies is not easy. We are so often invaded by clever words in our culture of commercialism. So the “halting yet sincere hesitations” can be a sign of genuineness.


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