The Faith and Practice Of Intermountain Yearly Meeting: Advices and Queries
A few years after its founding, The Religious Society of
Friends realized that, to assess the health and progress of their Society,
certain information was needed. Focused questions were formulated to gather
that information. The first set of questions posed to each monthly meeting was
Which Friends in
service to the Society, in their respective regions, departed this life since
the last Yearly Meeting?
imprisoned on account of their testimony, died in prison since the last Yearly
Friends, did Truth advance since last Yearly Meeting and how do they
fare in relation to peace and unity?
By 1700, Friends had begun the practice of preparing
written responses to these questions. The focused questions, now called
queries, were expanded and designed to ensure consistency of conduct among
Friends as well as to obtain information about the state of the Society. The
first general advices were adopted in 1791; periodic revisions were made
thereafter by the various yearly meetings.
As Friends became more involved in the public and social
life of the times, queries and advices were developed regarding discipline,
evangelical soundness, moral and spiritual instruction, social responsibility,
and ministry. Advices and queries have represented a continuing exploration
of our common faith and practice and continue to serve as a reminder of the
insights of the Society.
Advices and queries help us see if we are living our
faith in Truth. We must be honest with ourselves. Do we actively seek to act
out that faith in our lives? At times, we may become disheartened when the
ideal of following the Light seems impossibly demanding. Advices, however, help
us stay the path, and the queries help us assess the rightness of our
direction. Spiritual knowledge serves as a framework for our lives; advices and
queries help with building that framework. Together, they remind us of the faith and principles held to be essential to the
life and witness of the Religious Society of Friends. As members of the
Religious Society of Friends, we commit ourselves not just to words but also to
a way of life.
Intended for use by individuals as well as by monthly
meetings, the advices and queries may serve the needs of Friends in several
ways. Many meetings read and consider one or several
of the queries, along with the related advices or other material, once a month
during business meetings or in other forums. Meeting committees may find
certain queries to be especially helpful in evaluating their activities.
Meetings often publish the queries regularly in their newsletters. The advices
and queries can also be the basis for a monthly meeting’s annual state of the
For convenience, the advices and queries are divided into
categories. Friends are reminded that each section is but a part of the whole.
It is for the comfort and discomfort of Friends that we offer these advices and
Watch how we live and you’ll know what we believe.
One powerful way revelation occurs is in silent waiting,
which can be described as the amazing fact of Quaker worship.
The heart of the Religious Society of Friends is the
meeting for worship. It calls us to offer ourselves, body, mind, and soul,
to wait in active anticipation for the revelation of the Spirit.
It is in silence that we still our hearts and minds
so that the Spirit of God may enter. This silencing, this waiting in
expectancy, this listening for that which is deepest within—this is what
Friends call worship. We seek a gathered stillness in our meetings for
worship so that all may feel the power of God’s love leading us and
drawing us together.
Worship is our response to an awareness of God.
We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting,
we discover a deeper sense of the Presence. When we worship together in
awareness that each of us is expecting communication with the Spirit, the
power of a meeting for worship is magnified.
When the meeting for worship has a central place in
our lives, regular and punctual attendance occurs. When we arrive at
meeting for worship on time, we help ourselves and others in the gathering
wait upon the Spirit. Seeking the Spirit together, we may become aware of
a willingness to give as well as to receive. Whether by speaking or by
listening, each person contributes to and shares responsibility for the
meeting’s sense of worship. We thereby strengthen one another and refresh
ourselves in the life of the Spirit.
It is in the rhythm of waiting and listening
throughout the meeting for worship that we are enabled to sense the Inward
Light and to discern its leadings. When we become preoccupied or
distracted in meeting, we need to let such restless thoughts give way to
our awareness of the Light among us. By so doing, we prepare ourselves to
tenderly receive vocal ministry. As we reach for the meaning deep within a
message, we need to recognize that even though it may not be God’s word
for us, it may be so for others.
Do not assume that vocal ministry is never to be your
gift. Faithfulness and sincerity in speaking, even briefly, may open
the way to fuller ministry from others. When prompted to speak, wait
patiently to know that the leading and the time are right, but do not let
a sense of your own unworthiness hold you back. Pray that your ministry
may arise from the Spirit, and trust that words will be given to you.
Speak clearly and simply, speaking neither predictably, at too great a
length, nor too often. When children are present, bear in mind their
understanding and experience. After a message has been given, Friends
allow time to ponder and absorb its meaning before another speaks. It is
important to maintain sensitivity to what is sacred.
We deepen our contribution to communal worship when
we open ourselves to the Light in our daily lives. Our spirits are
enriched when nourished by means of various spiritual practices, and we
inevitably bring those benefits with us to the corporate meeting for
the very beginning, a fundamental practice of Friends has been to assemble
publicly for the purpose of worship held in expectant waiting for divine
guidance. By worshiping together, we continue to demonstrate our belief in
and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is important, therefore, that we
attend meetings for worship seeking that Spirit that enables us to be
fully aware of the divine power of God within as we find our way through
the disillusionments and disturbances of the world. It may be helpful to
remember that the Religious Society of Friends originated during times of
great disturbances. Our belief is in the power of God to lead us out of
the confusions of outward violence, inner conflicts, and all forms of
How do I prepare myself for worship? Do I set aside
time during the week to strengthen my spirit? What is it that I bring to
the meeting for worship?
When in meeting for worship, do I clear my mind so
that the Spirit has a place to enter? Do I wait in great expectancy for
the Spirit to speak—through me or through another? Do I put my trust in
the still small voice that I may hear?
How do I discern the source of a leading? How do I
know when to speak? Do I hold myself back when moved to speak, or do I
trust in the Light to lead me? Am I careful not to speak at undue length
or beyond my light? Am I aware of a sense of “rightness” after I speak?
Does attendance at
meeting for worship strengthen my spirit for the week ahead? What
brings me back to center—back to my inner wisdom, home to myself—and how
can I make that a regular practice?
Are meetings for worship regularly held, and is each
one of us faithful and punctual in attendance? How do we encourage
attendance at meeting for worship? How do we greet newcomers so as to
encourage their continued attendance?
Do our meetings for worship give evidence that
Friends come with hearts and minds prepared and open to the experience of
God? How does the meeting help
individuals and the group become gathered?
Are we careful to ensure that we leave time between
spoken messages so that they may be absorbed by those for whom they are
intended? How do we encourage and foster the spiritual gifts of those who
attend our meeting?
our meetings for worship held in
expectant waiting for divine guidance and openness to the Inner Light? Is
there a living silence in which we feel drawn together by the power of God
in our midst? In what ways do our meetings for worship provide a source of
strength and guidance to those present?
I always go to monthly meetings because if I don’t,
they usually end up doing some darn thing or other.
Barney Aldrich, Mountain View Friends Meeting, as
remembered by Phyllis Hoge, 2002
For it is the corporate Truth or Light for which
Friends labor together, not the proof or justification of the rightness of any
Nancy Springer in North Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith
and Practice,1991, p.118
Friends’ way of conducting business is of central
importance to the very existence of the monthly meeting. It is the Quaker
way of living and working together; it is the way that creates and
preserves a sense of fellowship in the meeting community. Friends must be
mindful to conduct the business meeting as a meeting for worship with a
concern for business. Those present help the meeting by exercising a
spirit of wisdom, forbearance, and love. The right conduct of business
meetings, even in routine matters, is a vital part of the worship
experience. Individuals’ submitting themselves to the corporate revelation
of Truth forms the basis of Friends’ approach to unity.
All members are encouraged to attend meetings for
business and to be faithful in the service of the meeting’s affairs. Appointments of officers and committee
members are most successful when made with careful consideration of the
qualifications of the nominees and of the opportunities for growth that
may be afforded. This is especially important when considering young
Friends. In our meetings for business and in all the duties connected with
them, we are charged to make conscientious use of our gifts.
In meetings for business, work and worship together
with patience and warm affection for each other, aware of the peaceable
spirit of the light of Truth. A majority
decision or even consensus is not the goal. In waiting patiently for
divine guidance, Friends’ experience is that the way that leads to unity
Those who speak in meetings for business are advised
to feel free to express their views but to refrain from pressing them unduly, avoiding contentiousness,
obstinacy, and the urge to control. Seek the leadings of the Light and
admit the possibility of error. A “third way” may be needed in order for
Truth to emerge and a sense of the meeting to be reached.
and seeking silence can help reconcile seemingly opposing points of view.
Be willing to wait upon God as long as may be necessary. By holding
division and disruption in the Light, meetings may shift toward stronger
and more creative solutions.
Are our monthly meetings
held in the spirit of a meeting for worship in which we, in love and
mutual respect, seek divine guidance?
How well do our meetings
for business lead to a corporate search for and revelation of the Light?
How effectively do members of the meeting temper and
strengthen individuals’ leadings?
As difficult problems arise, are we careful to meet
them in a spirit of love and humility with minds receptive to creative solutions? Do we avoid pressure
of time, neither unnecessarily prolonging nor unduly curtailing full
Are we aware that
we speak through inaction as well as action?
Are we prepared to let go of our individual desires and let the
Holy Spirit lead us to unity? Do we accept with grace
a decision of the meeting with which we are not entirely in agreement?
Participation in the Life of the Meeting
are varieties of Gifts, but the same Spirit. There are varieties of service,
but the same Lord. There are many forms of work, but all of them, in all men,
are the work of the same God. In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one
particular way, for some useful purpose. One man, through the Spirit, has the
gift of wise speech, while another, by the power of the same Spirit, can put
the deepest knowledge into words. Another, by the same Spirit, is granted faith;
another, by the one Spirit, gifts of healing, and another miraculous powers;
another has the gift of prophecy, and another the ability to distinguish true
spirits from false; yet another has the gift of ecstatic utterance of different
kinds, and another the ability to interpret it. But all these gifts are the
work of one and the same Spirit, distributing them separately to each
individual at will.
1 Corinthians 12:4–11
We are the Monthly Meeting, the Regional Meeting, and
Intermountain Yearly Meeting. Each functions best when each of us contributes
what gifts we have…we cannot expect others to serve these to us.
Adapted from Ross Worley, 2003
Giving is not buying. God asks us to give because it is
good for us, not because it is good for the person or cause to whom we give it.
The vitality of our meetings depends upon the many
and varied gifts of those who take part in their activities. When each
member and attender participates actively, the whole meeting is enriched.
The Holy Spirit moves through us as we speak in meeting, care for one
another, teach First Day school, work on committees, and testify to our
lives in the Light. Each one of us has a responsibility for the financial
support of the monthly meeting as well as for participation in the
structure and function of its programs. When deciding whether to accept a
service to which one is nominated, Friends are advised to understand the
responsibilities required, to feel a leading to go forward, and to be
willing to grow into the task. A meeting functions best when its members
take their service to it seriously. Nominations are neither to be
accepted, nor to be refused, casually.
Our capabilities and possessions are not held as ends
in themselves but are God’s gifts entrusted to us. They are ours to share
with others and to be used with humility, courtesy, and affection.
In service to our meetings, we are to be careful to
guard against contentiousness and the allure of power, and to be alert to
the personalities and needs of others.
We encourage those who attend our meetings to become
acquainted with Friends’ ways. When it is evident that the meeting has
become a spiritual home for an individual, we encourage him or her to
apply for membership.
Those unable to attend meeting by reason of distance,
infirmity, imprisonment, or other stresses are to be remembered and held
in the Light. Visits to these Friends are encouraged.
show a loving consideration for all living things, cherishing the beauty
and wonder of God’s creation.
What are we doing to recognize the varied skills and
spiritual gifts of the members, attenders, and children among us? Are we tender and loving toward
those with gifts different from the commonplace?
Does each of us take our right share of
responsibility in work and service for the meeting? What gifts do we offer? What do we hold back from
offering? What do we have tied up that God has need of?
How welcoming is our meeting to newcomers? When attenders request
information about Quakerism, what resources do we share with them to
increase their knowledge?
Are younger Friends,
new members, and attenders encouraged to take part in committees and to
attend meetings for business? Do we encourage their participation in the
meeting’s activities? Do we encourage them to pursue membership when they
are we doing as individuals and as a
meeting to encourage the use of members’ and attenders’ gifts?
The spiritual welfare of a meeting is greatly helped if
its social life is vigorous and its members take a warm personal interest in
one another’s welfare. . . . It is our duty and privilege to share in one
another’s joys and sorrows.
The Religious Society of
Friends is a community of people that strive to care for one
another. Friends are advised to maintain love and unity, to avoid
tale-bearing and detraction, and to settle differences promptly in a
manner free from resentment and inward violence. Live affectionately as
friends, entering with sympathy into the joys and sorrows of one another’s
daily lives. Visit one another. Be ready to both give and receive help.
Bear the burdens of one another’s failings; delight in one another’s
strengths. Seek to know one another in the things that are eternal. Make
the meeting a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.
Cherished friendships grow in depth of understanding
and mutual respect. In close relationships there is a risk of finding pain
as well as joy. Open yourself to the workings of the Light within when
experiencing or witnessing great happiness or great hurt.
Each of us has a particular experience of God, and
each must find the way to be true to it. When another’s words are strange
or disturbing to you, seek to understand where they come from. Listen
patiently and seek the truth that other people’s thoughts may contain for
you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Be careful not to
be too firm in your position; allow for the possibility that you may be
ways of understanding the Divine are present in Intermountain Yearly
Meeting. It is important that these differences not be ignored for the
sake of superficial agreement. When they are recognized and understood, a
deeper and more vital unity can be reached. From the wide diversity among
us we can broaden our awareness of the spirit flowing through and among
us. We are reminded to refrain from applying our prejudices to the life
journeys of others. Our community is maintained through faith and
fellowship with each other as we wait in the Light for the unity that
draws us together.
Do we trust sufficiently the goodwill of our meeting
members and attenders to make our needs and concerns known? Do we love one
another as becomes the followers of the Light, even to the point of
sharing one another’s burdens? Do we care for one another so deeply that
each other’s needs are recognized and addressed? As members of a spiritual
community, do we actively work to maintain love and unity?
Is our meeting a loving, spirit-centered community in
which each person is accepted and nurtured and strangers are welcome? In
what ways do we incorporate people of different generations, members and
attenders, and married and single adults into our community? On what
occasions do we visit one another in our homes? How do we keep in touch
with distant members?
To what extent does our meeting ignore differences
merely to avoid possible conflicts? When conflicts exist, are they
discussed calmly and patiently in an attempt to arrive at a creative
resolution? Does our meeting, in appropriate ways, counsel any member
whose conduct or manner of living give cause for concern? Are we
charitable with each other, being careful not to sully the reputations of
well do we respect that of God in every person, even though the Spirit may
be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? In what ways
do we welcome diversity of culture, language, and expressions of faith in
our monthly meeting, yearly meeting, and the world community of Friends?
Do we seek to gain from the range of rich heritages and spiritual insights
that diversity presents?
bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in
each other's life.
Ideally, a family is held together by emotional and
spiritual ties. It is a precious and sometimes tenuous bonding of people
that may arouse anguish as well as joy. A family unit is usually thought
of as consisting of parents and children. But a family
may include aging parents in need of care or persons not related by blood
who are intimately connected with one’s household. Families also include
single parents and their children, couples without children, and couples
(heterosexual or homosexual) living in committed relationships. For
individuals living alone, including those who are single as a result of the
death of, or divorce or separation from, a partner, the meeting may
provide a sense of family.
In our homes, we have the opportunity to practice
living in a way that expresses the Quaker way of life. Irrespective of the
type of family unit, the same opportunity exists—to nurture and cherish
the seed of God. In the family setting, individuals can become aware of
the Spirit living in them and in the world. It is important that adults
and children share the experiences they find precious—of people, books, art,
music, drama, dance, poetry, and the Divine.
meeting can nurture, but cannot replace, the family unit. Every member of
a meeting is responsible in some measure for the care of families, both adults and children. In
this environment of common concern, our families may gain a sense of
belonging and commitment to the expanded family of Quakers and to our
Do we uphold Friends in their efforts to develop
stable, loving relationships? Do we acknowledge and support all
relationships that are based on love and commitment? Do we offer strength
and comfort to the aging, the widowed, the separated or divorced, and
others —including children—in families that have been affected by
disruption or sorrow?
Does our home life nourish the need both for a sense
of personal identity and for fully shared living? Are our homes places of
friendliness, peace, and renewal, where the Light is real for those who
live there and those who visit? Do we take care that our commitments
outside the home do not encroach upon the time and loving attention the
family needs for its health and well-being?
Is there a climate of trust in our meeting that
invites all members and attenders to be open about individual and family lifestyles, including their
satisfactions and problems? Does there exist in our meeting a sense of
spiritual kinship for those who participate in it?
Arereligious education offerings adequate to family
members’ needs? Do families support the First Day school through their
children’s regular attendance? Do adults in meeting help lead First Day
school classes so that parents may attend meeting for worship?
Aging, Death, and Bereavement
Life, then, is a gift of time. For each of us the
days are numbered. I am grateful for each day I have to walk this beautiful
earth. And I do not fear the return to the earth, for I know . . .
that it is part of myself.
Elizabeth Watson, Guests of My Life, Celo Press, 1979
New opportunities present themselves at every stage
of life. Approach the aging process with courage and hope. Honor that
which you have been, welcoming new possibilities for wisdom, objectivity,
and greater knowledge of the Spirit. Realize that as time passes, new ways
of receiving and reflecting God’s love will open.
Inspect your finances while you are in good health,making whatever provisions are needed for the settlement of your
affairs. Consider the value of a living will and other documents that
express your wishes for your end of life. Make sure that those dear to you
are well informed, so that you and they are freed to live more fully.
Friends are advised to review these documents annually.
Aging may bring increased disability and
loneliness, so care for yourself tenderly, being aware that exercise,
nutrition, and medical care are important. Determine who will help you
should a need arise, and make arrangements for your care such that undue
burdens do not fall on any one person.
Tragedies can occur at any time in our lives; death
does not always announce itself. Friends of any age can prepare themselves
for the loss of a dear one. It is as important to prepare for the end of
our life as it is to prepare for other important events. Bookstores are
filled with books that describe stages of life, death, and dying. It is
helpful to know what lies ahead and to be ready for it.
Children’s grief is frequently unseen. We need to be
mindful that their sorrow is as real as adults’ sorrow and needs to be
equally expressed and accepted. Other losses, such as that of a beloved
pet, impart sorrow as well. Friends must be careful not to minimize the
extent of heartache that such losses cause. The meeting can be especially
helpful to children when their parents are also grieving.
need to let members and attenders know whom to contact in time of serious
illness or death. It is useful for Meetings to have information available
on the laws of their state regarding burials and cremation as well as
which funeral homes and cemeteries are sympathetic to Friends’ wishes for
Are we aware of those in our meeting who endure
tragedy or loss? Do we seek to understand their needs and to comfort
them? Do we, in loving concern, extend assistance to those who require it?
Have I prepared for my own death and for the deaths
of those I love with the same care as for other events in my life? Have I
learned what I can about the aging and dying process? If not, what
prevents me from learning about these topics? Do I fully discuss and share
this information within my family?
Are my personal papers and finances up to date and in
good order? Have documents been prepared that will help those I love in
the event of my serious illness or death: a will, a living will, powers of
attorney, and a description of the type of care I desire in the case of a
serious, debilitating event or illness? Have I discussed these matters
with those close to me?
Should my vision, hearing, balance, or thought
processes deteriorate, what steps will I take to prevent having an
accident? When will I be willing to relinquish my car keys?
can the meeting help me find clearness about the difficult questions
surrounding aging and dying? Do I know whom to contact when I am in need
of spiritual support or material assistance? What am I willing to ask of
the meeting? Am I willing to accept what the meeting has to give?
When we find ourselves teaching . . . can we draw upon
that respect for one another and faith in one another’s potential that will
enable the other to feel taller and more capable? At Rufus Jones’s memorial
meeting, one of his students simply said: “He lit my candle.” That is a
high aimfor us all to aspire to in educating ourselves and our young people.
Barbara Windle, 1988 in Quaker Faith & Practice of
Britain Yearly Meeting, 1993
The Bible and other religious literature is the
rightful heritage of us all. The study of sacred books expands and deepens
our awareness of our own spiritual heritage and that of others. What we
read means little unless it helps us understand our own personal religious
experience, the work of the Spirit behind the words. It helps to know that
our search for truth can include a multitude of experiences.
It is essential that children be taught the meaning
of silence and vocal ministry in meeting, and the history of the Religious
Society of Friends. Knowledge of our testimonies and their evolution is
equally important to their religious education. Work camps, community
activities, and opportunities to serve others enhance their experience. We
must be gentle and respectful as our children seek their own spiritual
truths, appreciating whatever insights they bring to us.
adults in meeting can benefit from religious education in the form of
Quaker Studies programs, spiritual formation groups, prayer groups,
worship-sharing groups, or adult First Day school classes. Like a garden,
the spirit within must be tended and nurtured. The meeting is enriched
when all those participating care for their own spirits.
In what ways does our meeting help develop the
spiritual lives of our children and adult members and attenders? Do we
provide our children and young adults with a framework for active, ongoing
participation in meeting? Do we welcome their presence among us?
How does our meeting educate its members of all ages
about the Bible, other sacred writings, our Christian heritage, and the
history and principles of Friends?
Do we encourage our children to participate actively
in meetings for worship and meetings for business? Are they aware of the
meaning of membership in the meeting and the importance of service to the
do we share our deepest beliefs with our children and with one another?
What inspires us to develop our spiritual and religious life?
The Inner Light does not lead men to do that which
is right in their own eyes, but that which is right in God’s eyes.
Ellen S. Bosanquet, 1927, in Quaker Faith & Practice
of Britain Yearly Meeting, 1995
Our witness to the world comes from our perception of
the Divine Spirit moving through us. The reliability of our words,
essential to all communication between one person and another and between
one person and God, has always been important to Friends. Friends profess
a genuineness of life and speech that leaves no room for deceit or
artificiality. Throughout our history, therefore, we have borne witness
against judicial oaths as suggesting a double standard of truth. Devotion
to what is true and eternal requires openness, honesty, and careful speech
in social, business, and family relationships. As early Friends took care
to avoid flattering titles and phrases, modern Friends need to discourage
the insincerities and extravagances prevalent in our society. It is also
advisable to avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. With
courtesy and kindness, Friends are called to speak the truth, in love.
As Friends, we must not waver in making our faith
evident, in words or deeds. Recognizing the oneness of humanity in God, we
affirm fellowship with all people. The various
experiences of those whose circumstances differ from our own can
help us discover what is true in our lives and can lead us into a more
honest kinship. In our dealings with others, humility and a willingness to
learn help us transcend differences. When in discussion with others, we
must not allow the strength of our convictions to betray us into making
misleading or contentious statements.
Our witness is most effective when we are in touch
with the Spirit within. Each of us has a particular experience of God;
each must find the ways to be true to it. There are times when we may need
to remember that the truth is greater than the knowledge any one of us has
of it. God did not put all the fruit on one tree.
Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including
those who break society’s conventions or laws. Seek to understand the
causes of injustice, social unrest, and fear. As members of the Religious
Society of Friends, we commit ourselves not to words, but to a way of life.
keep to the simplicity of truth, discerning its manifestations through
prayer, reading, the arts, and all experiences of daily life. In accepting
guidance as to what is true and eternal, we are required to be open,
honest, and careful of speech and actions in all situations.
What are we doing individually and corporately to
share the experience of our faith? Do we let others know about the source
of our convictions? What are we doing to make the larger community aware
of our Friends meeting?
In what ways do we cooperate with persons and groups
who share our beliefs and concerns? What are we doing, individually and
corporately, to share the experiences of our faith? How does our
connection to the Spirit inspire and challenge us?
Do we search diligently
for ways to assure the right of every individual to be loved, cared for,
educated appropriately; to obtain useful employment; and to live in
When the meeting receives multiple requests for funds or action, how do we
determine which are most pressing?
are we prepared, both as individuals and as a meeting, to resist pressure
to lower our standard of integrity?
A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever
do evil, that good may come of it. . . . It is as great presumption to send our
passion upon God’s errands, as it is to palliate them with God’s name. . . . We
are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive, or gain by love and
information. And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us then
try what Love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon
find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that
forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn, 1693, in Quaker Faith & Practice of
Britain Yearly Meeting, 24.03
We affirm that our
first allegiance is to our experience of the Divine. If this conflicts
with any compulsion of the state, our country is served best when we
remain true to our higher loyalty. Over the centuries, Friends have valued
their part in shaping the laws of our country so as to achieve a more just
and evenly balanced social order. The peace testimony of the
Religious Society of Friends is a positive expression of goodwill in human
relationships, not just a negative
statement calling us to abstain from all that leads to war.
we are urged to identify the seeds of war within ourselves individually
and in our way of life. Any element of fear, restlessness, discontent,
unhappiness, and poverty of spirit can lead to violence and war. We are
cautioned not to bury these feelings, but to acknowledge their presence,
pinpoint their sources, and transform pain and anger into the power of
positive action. Thus, we heal ourselves and become free and able stewards
in the healing of others.
When working toward
peace in the broader community and wider world, we look to change the
conditions that spark violence in others—poverty, despair, fear,
hopelessness, dehumanization, and hunger, among others. We return to our
roots in the truth to establish secure conditions where cooperation,
equality, justice, and freedom can flourish. We work toward
improving the environment and toward right sharing of the world’s
We refuse to join in actions that denigrate others or
lead to their victimization. Friends are also advised not to join in
actions that lead to destruction and death. We actively seek ways to
strengthen the bonds of unity, refusing to participate in conduct that
makes for war. We teach our children that it is possible to overcome evil with
good, to love the persecutor, and to find alternative ways to resolve
Friends actively support movements that substitute
teamwork and justice for coercion and dishonesty, encouraging all efforts
to overcome prejudices based on race, nationality, class, and other
characteristics. Friends are encouraged to use and teach nonviolent
Our responsibilities to God and our neighbor may lead
us to take unpopular stands. In carrying out principled decisions and
actions, we may struggle against the desire to be sociable, the fear of
seeming different or peculiar, or the fear of possible consequences.
If, by divine leading, we focus on a law contrary to
our perception of divine law, we proceed with care. It is important to
seek clearness before taking action. Consultation with other Friends helps
us consider the views of those who might be affected by our decision and
see more clearly what actions are needed. When clarity is reached, we act
with conviction. If our decision involves disobedience of the law, we make
the grounds for our action clear to all concerned. If there are
penalties, we face them without evasion. When a meeting supports a
member’s leading to engage in civil disobedience, the meeting has an
obligation to assist the member in dealing with the consequences.
we are in accord with God and centered in ourselves, the earth, and all
others, we move toward peace. True peace is obtainable only through unity
in the life of the Spirit. Lasting peace requires determination, watchfulness,
and ongoing work on every level—as individuals and in our families,
society, nation, and world.
Do we live in the awareness of the presence of God? How do we center ourselves and practice living
in unity with the Spirit? Does our meeting help individuals find such
To what extent is our personal life in accord with
Friends’ principles? Do we “live in the virtue of that life and power that
takes away the occasion of all wars”? How would others recognize that?
Where there is animosity, division, and conflict, do we facilitate healing
and reconciliation? Do we care for our own health so that we are more able
to help others care for theirs? Does the meeting support us in this work?
those among us disclose opinions that differ greatly from our own, are we
able to listen to them without judgment or derision? Are we able to
support tenderly those whose views differ from our own, knowing that the
Light shines in them also? When unpopular or even illegal stands are taken
by Friends, are these held in the Light for discernment by the meeting?
Then that little man in black there, he says women
can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did
your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman!
Man had nothing to do with Him.
Until we as a Religious Society begin to question our
assumptions, until we look at the prejudices, often very deeply hidden, within
our own society, how are we going to be able to confront the inequalities
within the wider society?
Susan Rooke-Matthews, 1993, in Quaker Faith & Practice
of Britain Yearly Meeting, 1993
Since the time of George Fox, Friends have believed
that all people are spiritually equal before God. Believing that, it is important
that Friends everywhere question the prejudices (often deeply hidden)
within the Religious Society of Friends and challenge the assumptions we
make about others. In the past, Quakers helped foment vast societal
changes by challenging the oppression they saw. Today our voices do not
ring as loudly nor are they as unified when we confront oppression and
inequality. For example, we are deeply divided among ourselves regarding
Guided by the Light of God within us and recognizing that
of God in others, we can all learn to value our differences in age, gender,
physique, sexual orientation, race and culture. This enables mutual respect and
self-respect to develop, and it becomes possible for everyone to love one
another as God loves us. Throughout our lives, we see ourselves reflected in
the facial expressions, verbal comments and body-language of others. We have a
responsibility to protect each other’s self-respect.
Because of their commitment to social concerns, some
Quakers may find it inconceivable that they may lack understanding of issues
involving racism. Jesus stressed the unique nature and worth of each
individual. It is unreasonable to expect assimilation or to ignore difference,
claiming to treat everyone the same. This denies the value of variety, which
presents not a problem, but a creative challenge to live adventurously.
Personality, gender, race, culture and experience are God’s gifts. We need one
another, and differences shared become enrichments, not reasons to be afraid,
to dominate or condemn. The media have increased our knowledge of the world,
but we need greater self-awareness if our actions are to be changed in relation
to the information we receive. We need to consider our behavior carefully,
heeding the command of Jesus that we should love our neighbors as we love
Meg Maslin, 1990, in Quaker Faith & Practice of
Britain Yearly Meeting, 23.33
Do we believe that God speaks to us through others?
Do we look for and recognize “that of God” in all others? Do we love our
neighbor as ourselves? Do we value diversity and acknowledge the
enrichment that comes from sharing differences? How do we encourage those
we know to consider people as individuals rather than as stereotypes?
Do we work individually and as a meeting to bring
about a just and compassionate society that allows everyone to develop
their capacities and fosters their desire to serve? Are we alert to
practices in our own country and throughout the world that discriminate
against people on the basis of who or what they are or what they believe?
What are we doing as individuals and as a meeting to promote equal social
and economic opportunity for those who suffer discrimination for any
we take the risks that right action demands?
The rush and pressure of modern life are a form,
perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be
carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to commit oneself to too
many projects, to want to help everyone with everything is to succumb to
violence. More than that, it is cooperation with violence. The frenzy of the
activist neutralizes his or her work for peace. It destroys her or his capacity
for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of the work because it kills the root
of inner wisdom, which makes the work fruitful.
Ever-expanding knowledge, communication, and
technology have made the world far more complex than it was for early
Friends. What may be simple for one is problematic for another. We believe
in the wholeness of the Spirit, a Spirit that knows and comprehends all
things, simple and complex. As we wrestle with the demands of society, we
would do well to be aware that expressions of simplicity vary considerably
and not to judge those whose expressions differ from ours.
It is important to ensure that our lives are not so
full that we lose sight of the Light within. By consulting the Light, we
are able to discern whether to take up or turn down responsibilities
without indulging our pride or our guilt. We are advised to consider our
capabilities and possessions not as ends in themselves but as God’s gifts
entrusted to us. We are to share them with others, using them with
humility, courtesy, and affection.
Friends are advised to distinguish between ways to
happiness offered by society that are truly fulfilling and those that are
potentially corrupting and destructive. We are responsible for the manner
in which we acquire, use, and dispose of our possessions. This does not
mean our lives are to be poor and bare, destitute of joy and beauty. Do
not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. All
that promotes fullness of life and aids in service for God is to be
accepted with thanksgiving. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source
of strength. Each person must determine, based on the Light given to them,
what promotes and what hinders their search for truth.
From early days, Friends have deplored and avoided
the gambling spirit that permeates our society—in finance and commerce,
sports and recreation, for example. It is best to refrain from hazardous
speculation and from engaging in business that may be questionable. Such
indulgence has caused the material ruin of many, as well as dwarfing their
moral and spiritual lives. It is advised that our recreations not become
occasions for self-centeredness and that we avoid amusements that debase
the emotions by playing upon them.
We are advised to be aware of and to take a stand
against the great waste of human and economic resources resulting from all
forms of addiction, knowing that they lead to self-absorption and to
forgetfulness that each person’s humanity is shared by all persons. It is
the experience of Friends that engaging in additive behaviors such as
gambling and the abuse of drugs and intoxicants can lead to feelings of
emptiness and an inability of listen for the voice of God. In addition to
self-destructive behavior such as drunk driving, addiction is commonly
associated with outwardly destructive acts such as domestic violence and
child abuse. Friends are reminded that being a Quaker is no absolute
defense against having these problems. We must be ready as a community to
intervene when necessary. When our lives are filled with the Spirit, there
is no need to indulge in excessive and addictive use of tobacco, alcohol,
or other drugs, or to engage in gambling and other addictive behaviors.
Let us remember to live and work in the spirit of a true follower of the
our daily work, let us avoid involvements and entanglements that separate
us from each other and from God. In the context of our complex lives, let
us strive to maintain our ideals of sincerity and simplicity, to keep before
us the essential truths, and to measure our lives by those truths. Be
diligent in seeking the faith that is the foundation for the inner peace
that holds firm in the face of outward confusion.
Is the life of our meeting ordered so as to help us
simplify our personal lives? Does the meeting help us center ourselves in
the awareness of the presence of God so that all things take their
Do we structure our days so as to provide space to
nourish our spiritual growth? Do we center our lives in the awareness of
the presence of God so that all things take their rightful place? Does our
way of life nourish our spiritual growth and that of our families? In our
daily lives, are we aware of pressures that separate us from each other
and from the Divine?
Do we avoid commitments beyond our strength and Light
as well as a clutter of multiple activities? Are we careful how we choose
to use our time and energy?
Do we choose recreations that strengthen our
physical, mental, and spiritual lives and avoid those that may prove
harmful to ourselves and others?
In our relations with those who have problems with
addiction to a substance or a behavior, are we careful to be guided by
compassion for the individual rather than by others’ opinions or attitudes?
we keep to a single standard of truth, free from the use of judicial and
other oaths? Are we punctual in keeping promises, prompt in the payment of
debts, and just and honorable in all our dealings? Do we exercise
moderation and honesty in our speech, our manner of living, and our daily
Quakers often talk about being led…. We are all led.
The question is not whether we are led, but what leads us.
Robert Griswold, 2005
Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but
on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine
before men, that they may see your good works.
We must be grateful for all that we have, neither
reveling in our own gifts nor coveting those of others.
The principle of stewardship applies to all that we
are given and who we are as individuals, members of groups, and
inhabitants of the earth. We are each obliged to use our time, abilities,
strength, money, material possessions, and other resources in a spirit of
love, aware that we hold these gifts in trust and that we are responsible
for using them wisely. We need to be aware of pollution, overpopulation,
and all forms of wastefulness.
As Friends, and as members of other groups, we seek
to apply the same spirit to the use and contribution of our corporate
resources. We are obliged to cherish the earth and to walk gently upon it,
recognizing that it is not ours to own or to dispose of at will. We are to
protect all its resources in a spirit of humble stewardship, committed to
the right sharing of these resources among all peoples and creatures of
loving consideration for all creatures and seek to understand how all
living things depend upon one another; cherish the beauty and wonder of
Do we regard our time, talents, energy, money,
material possessions, and other resources as gifts from God, to be held in
trust and shared according to the Light we are given? How do we witness to
this conviction in our lives? Do we investigate the companies in which our
money is invested, avoiding investing in those whose practices undermine
Quaker testimonies and values?
we practice and encourage thoughtful family planning? What are we doing to
ensure adequate water, food, shelter, education, and respect for those who
do not have ready access to these blessings? Are we informed about the
effects of our lifestyle on the global economy and the environment?
Harmony with Nature (Environment)
The environmental crisis is at root a spiritual and religious
crisis; we are called to look again at the real purpose of being on this earth.
London Yearly Meeting, 1988, in Quaker Faith &
Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting, 1993, 25.02
concern for peace and the environment arises from the recognition of the
sacredness of all creation and the presence of the Divine in each person.
We are called to embrace, cherish, and protect all of creation.
Implicit in our testimony on simplicity is an
understanding that we will not take more than we need—particularly if it
means depriving others, including future generations, of their basic
needs. The earth is not in bondage to us nor are its riches ours to
dispose of at will. We recognize that we are part of the natural world.
Humankind is not a species to which all of creation is subservient.
Rather, it is one of many interrelated and interdependent facets of a
creation more vast than human understanding can grasp.
produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious creator to the inhabitants,
and to impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be
an injury to the succeeding age.
John Woolman, 1772, in Quaker Faith & Practice of
Britain Yearly Meeting, 25.01
Part of understanding one’s place in the world is
forming “right” relationships with things. Such relationships are as much
a consequence of observation as they are the product of activity. Let us
exercise our power over nature responsibly, with due reverence for life.
Let us strive to show loving consideration for all creation and seek to
enhance the beauty and variety that surrounds us.
revealed in diversity if we give way for its expression. Rejoice in the
splendor of the earth’s continuing creation, for it is that of God
How do we inform ourselves about how our style of
living affects the global economy and the environment?
How do we exercise our respect for the balance of
nature? Are we careful to avoid poisoning the earth, the air, and the
water? Do we use the world’s resources with care and consideration for
future generations and with respect for all life? Do we recycle all that
How do we encourage environmental responsibility
within our community?
How do we live in accord with our sense of God in all creation?
Is this not what I require of you as a fast:
to loose the fetters of injustice,
to untie the knots of the yoke,
to snap every yoke and set free those that have been crushed?
Is it not share your food with the hungry,
taking the homeless into your house,
clothing the naked when you meet them,
and never evading a duty to your kinfolk?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn
and soon you will grow healthy like a wound newly healed; your own
righteousness shall be your vanguard,
and the glory of the Lord your rear guard.
Then if you call, the Lord will answer.
If you call to him, he will say, “Here I am.”
Isaiah 58:6–9 (NEB)
We recognize a variety of ministries. In our worship
these include those who speak under the guidance of the Spirit and those who
receive and uphold the work of the Spirit in silence and prayer. We also
recognise as ministry service on our many committees, hospitality and childcare,
the care of finance and premises, and many other tasks. We value those whose
ministry is not in an appointed task but is in teaching, counseling, listening,
prayer, enabling the service of others, or other service in the meeting or the
world. The purpose of all our ministry is to lead us and other people into
closer communion with God and to enable us to carry out those tasks which the
Spirit lays upon us.
London Yearly Meeting, 1986, inFaith & Practice ofPhiladelphia
The Religious Society of Friends challenges each of
us to live a life reflective of our beliefs. We take our faith into the
broader community in many ways. Some are led to do acts in full view
of society; others are led to work where their service is less visible but
no less valuable. Each of us holds a part of the whole. None of us could
consistently do what we do, no matter how little, without drawing from the
well of our faith. Among us all, we make a greater impact than we may
realize as individuals.
Quaker service springs from our deepest convictions
and is the natural expression of our beliefs in justice, equality, and
community. Our service may lead us to practice a profession in which we
serve others; numerous opportunities exist for those of us whose
professions are not directly service related. We can work with integrity
on school boards and in community associations; we may influence our
families and friends to examine their consumption of natural resources and
to find various ways to recycle more fully; we may help rebuild devastated
homes or lives; we may soothe and comfort those with wounded souls. It is
important to discern whether our service is inspired and led by the Spirit
so that we do not take on tasks beyond our strength or capabilities. By
ever returning to the Light within, we can trust we will find ways in
which we can…
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places,
islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach
among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully
over the world, answering that of God in everyone.