Quakerism in Brief
George Fox wandered north England restless with the established churches; he asked searching questions and did not agree with the simple answers he received. Fox had a life changing experience with Christ in 1652 and developed a following that organized into worship groups and later into meetings (churches). These early Friends identified with Fox's affirmation that "There is one, Christ Jesus, who can speak to my condition."
Fox sought to worship with the belief that Christ can speak to all, that all can have a personal relationship with the Spirit of Christ. Worshippers were often so strongly moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit that they moved/shook. People seeing this started to call the group Quakers. Fox wanted worship to be vital, personal and experiential through the Holy Spirit.
"Worship is the adoring response of the heart and mind to the influence of the Spirit of God. It stands neither in forms nor in the formal disuse of forms; it may be without words as well as with but it must be in spirit and truth." John 4:24
Worship draws us into an intimate relationship to God. Not whether God will speak but "will we listen?" Will we wait upon the Lord?
There is that of Christ in all. Worship is to celebrate God's love for us and then respond to the love by reaching out in love. Quaker belief is empty if there is no reaching out to others who also are children of God. Reaching out to others is expressed in Testimonies.
The Quaker Testimonies arise out of an awareness of God’s love for us, a love that leads us to love God in return. To love God in return means to love God’s creation, the world and the people of the world.
The testimonies are from worship and belief that there is God in all, accessible and present, active and guiding, creator of us all. The Holy Spirit of God/Christ is with us now.
The testimonies are from the belief that Christ is present now. The Kingdom of God is here but not all understand and so we are called to challenge ourselves and others to strive and work to have God’s will be done on earth. Defining God’s will is the challenge.
Testimonies of Peace, Stewardship, Simplicity and Truth.
"I told them I lived in the virtue of that life and power which took away the occasion of all wars." This is Fox response when asked to lead soldiers against the Royalist army as a way to get out of prison. He felt a strong allegiance to the Prince of Peace. It is not an idealist view that if we disarm ourselves so will others but a view that we must be true to the leading of Christ to be a peacemaker.
"As Christians, all we possess are the gifts of God. Now in distributing it to others we act as his steward, and it becomes our station to act agreeable to that divine wisdom which he graciously gives to his servants." John Woolman, 1763
"Simplicity does not mean that all conform to uniform standards. Each must determine in the light that is given him what promotes and what hinders his compelling search for the Kingdom. The call to each is to abandon those things that clutter his life and to press toward the goal unhampered. This is true simplicity." Faith and Practice of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (1955)
"This amazing simplification comes when we 'center down,' when life is lived with singleness of eye, from a holy Center where the breath and stillness of Eternity are heavy upon us and we are wholly yielded to Him." Thomas Kelly, Testament of Devotion
Seekers of Truth
As seekers of truth Quakers believed that we are not to stay in the status quo, not to always accept things as they are but to seek creative alternatives to the norm, to cut against the grain of society sometimes, to find new truths. The testimony of seeking the truth is the forerunner of most all other testimonies.
The following are inventions, new concepts created by Quakers who felt the need to make a change in their world, to make the world better.
- Mr. Graham — 1800 — London- invented a nutritional wafer for hungry children
- Joseph Lancaster — founded a school for all regardless of who could pay
- Cadbury Chocolate and root beer — invented as a reaction to needless drunkenness
- The underground railroad - helping slaves gain their freedom
- Honesty in trade - many Quakers promoted fixed prices versus bartering
- Honesty in word and deed - Quakers often refused to take oaths for when you have to declare you will be honest this once it implies that you are not honest other times.
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