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The Testimonies – Do I tell the truth?

While searching for a better explanation of the testimonies, I discovered this website, which gives a general introduction to Quakers (mostly in the US and UK). It’s maybe not the most scholarly introduction and I’m not sure about the accuracy of some of the information, but I thought it was well written and easy to understand.

Quakers – encyclopedia article – Citizendium

Testimonies

In the Quaker faith, the word “testimony” is used to describe a “living truth within the human heart as it is acted out in everyday life.”[4] A testimony differs from a creed in that they are spiritually, inwardly governed by the individual and are not imposed upon the membership. They serve as basic guidelines to live by, with the flexibility to be interpreted by the individual “under the Light.”

* Testimony of Peace – This is the testimony that Quakers are most known for. It stems from their belief in human equality and their conviction that love is at the heart of existence. Quakers live this testimony by being actively involved in peace activism.
* Testimony of Simplicity – The call for simple living and resisting the temptation of material dependencies in order to maintain spiritual responsiveness.
* Testimony of Truth and Integrity – The belief that truth should be spoken in all aspects of life.
* Testimony of Equality – The belief that all humans are of equal spiritual worth. It rejects the social class hierarchy and encourages equal treatment in all areas for all human beings.

[4]  http://quakersfp.live.poptech.coop/qfp/chap23/23.11.html

I like the suggestion that the testimonies need to be “acted out in everyday life”. Which made me think about my previous post “Do you tell people you have arthritis“. No, I don’t, clearly I’m not speaking the truth in all aspects of life. Then again, realistically we don’t all go round with billboards on proclaiming the minutiae of our daily life’s. This is something I will need to think about some more. See, this blog has been useful already!

I started this blog to help me think more deeply about how my Quaker faith affects my everyday life.  I see blogs as a modern version of keeping a journal. As Jim Pym points out in his book “Listening to the Light

Throughout their history Quakers have been great journal writers… Journal writing is not something from the past, and it is not just something that is recommended for a chosen talented few…Like the Quaker faith itself, it is there for anyone who feels attracted to it, as well as being a significant spiritual practice in its own right”.

So I am taking Mr Pym’s advice and starting a journal (of sorts).

I also think blogs are easy ways to jot down things you want to remember but are prone to forgetting.  It is easy to search a blog and find a phrase. I have a handwritten book of poems and quotes that are personal and meaningful to me, but can I find a specific poem or quote when I want it? No!  Hopefully the information I record here will be a bit easier to search (and I can always print it out, if I should feel the need).

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What do Quakers believe?

What do Quakers believe? Well it depends on the Quaker!  How you live your life is more important than a written set of rules, Quakers have (about) 4 testimonies that they try and act on in every day life.

Quaker Testimonies

Peace – the one most people have heard of e.g. many Quakers were conscientious objectors to WWII or the Vietnam war.

Equality -treating people equally, e.g. not discriminating on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation etc.  All very trendy now, but Quakers have been bearing witness to this for hundreds of years.

Simplicity – not using more than you need, this can be expanded to include the environment, i.e. not wasting the earths resources to support a materialistic lifestyle, again this viewpoint is becoming more trendy and mainstream.

Truth/Integrity – In 18th Century Britain Quakers were barred from entering University, so many become went into business. Several famous UK firms were started by Quakers including Cadburys, Rowantree’s and Clark’s. As employers these companies sought to treat their employees fairly, for example the creation of “Bournville” to house the factory workers at Cadbury’s in Birmingham.

That’s it, it’s not very complicated in theory, in practice it’s much harder. Some people focus their life’s on one particular aspect of the testimonies, e.g. campaigning for peace in Northern Ireland. Others find that at different points in their life’s the focus of their beliefs and actions changes. This is to be expected, there is no set rule for how you act out the testimonies in your own life. There is more information on the Quaker testimonies in wikipedia.

Do Quakers believe in the bible? Some (probably the majority) do, some don’t. Quakers are also encouraged to seek out the truth in other religious writings  (as well as the bible) which is something I like. It’s nice to learn about other peoples views, I’ve never really believed “I’m right, you’re all wrong and are going to burn in hell” view of religion. It’s not a very good basis for developing peaceful relationships, is it?