David Evans, South Australia and Northern Territory Regional Meeting
Some Quakerly reminders have come my way in recent times, and I would like to think them over with you in a worship sharing way, i.e., not as a statement of belief. Unpredictable as the wind, spiritual experiences come and linger and fade, and leave you with a longing for more.
Actually I do have a credo. It is not very original and is like the Christmas message, Work for peace with a spirit of goodwill. My working definition of peace is Peace is the enjoyment of good relationships. Good relationships are great and attainable, and are built on a basis of goodwill. However, like climbing to the top of the slippery pole, we slide down again and have to start over.
In a further attempt to get belief out of the way in order to talk about spirituality, I would like to refer you to an article by Eric Palmieri in a recent issue of the Friends Journal. Referring to the tragedy of the deep divisions of the children of God worshipping within major religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Palmiere concludes,
The time has come for us to recognize the truth that we are all related by the Spirit, by that of God in everyone, and that no amount of dogmatic schism will ever change the deep-seeded need to love and be loved by one another. We are all Friends in the Spirit, and we are all siblings in the family of God.
This statement of belief gets my full applause.
Moving to expression of spirituality, Sue Wilson has done a wonderful job in her recent article in the December 2015 issue of the Australian Friend entitled The breathtaking breadth of Friends’ experience. (A plea to listen to each other’s spiritual experiences rather than debate our beliefs). Sue talks of her “Road to Damascus” experiences in a similar way as does Malcolm Whyte in his contribution to experiences of the spirit in This We Can Say; Sue says:
my preference for talking about experience rather than beliefs grows out of my own spiritual experience. Three or four times in my life, I have suddenly felt surrounded by a presence – Love and Goodness filling the space around me, like a huge balloon, bursting against the walls. The presence was all around me and yet it was in me as well. Each time, this overwhelming experience lasted about twenty minutes. It was beyond any words to describe it.
Malcolm relates how it happened for him one night in October 1960, saying,
I experience something very basic and important, personal, liberating, caring, practical…. an experience of what’s beyond the cloud of unknowing….. it was something I had read about and not understood….a Damascus road experience.
What we can say is that over-the-top experiences like this are not everyday fare, but milestones of your life experience – game changing milestones. Milestones that give you faith in the worthwhileness of our existence in spite of all the tragedy around.
We need more Quakerly spiritual stories. One of my own is that I was in trouble, and my wife Topsy hundreds of miles away knew at the time. Talking this way, other people will share stories of their own, anytime anywhere. Worship sharing is a great place for Quakerly storytelling. We express ourselves as we will. The moment is unrepeatable. In Meeting for worship, or in worship sharing, a deep silence may come. The feeling is of being at a deeper level of shared spirituality, a growing excitement related to a consciousness of a greater world; and you are there.
 Palmieri, E. Spiritual Kinship in the Family of God. Friends Journal, Feb 2016, 62, p5.
 Wilson, S. The breathtaking breadth of Friends’ experience. The Australian Friend. Dec 2015
 Whyte, M. Experiences of the spirit This We Can Say 10.1 p.9