Robin Sinclair, South Australian Regional Meeting.
In May a group of us at Silver Wattle spent six days looking at the Quaker Testimonies. What follows is not an account of what occurred. It is my response to our discussions
Integrity, Equality, Simplicity, Justice and Peace…
The testimonies represent values and aspirations that never go out of date. How we interpret them may vary according to the times or circumstances.
Integrity, honesty, plain dealing – Quakers are famous for them. The industrious and inventive Quakers of the 19th Century helped to transform the social and geographical landscape with their promotion of steel and steam and coal, thus allowing the expansion of industry, the creation of wealth and the ballooning of populations and cities with all of the accompanying benefits and social evils that go with those.
Now, in our century, and largely because of those things we have global warming. With the best of intentions things can run off the rails
Simplicity and plain living are always things to aspire to. But what was considered ‘plain’ dress in the early 19th century looks plain silly in the 21st. Simplicity, in dress as in life, is about being sensible, modest and frugal. Here is Rufus Jones on the subject, from The faith and practice of the Quakers:
“One of the most serious weaknesses in the entire period of Quaker history has been to get to simplicity by easy short- cut methods… assumed to be plainness and simplicity, though it was really the badge and sign of a peculiar people… lt reduced simplicity to a rule … and it tended to turn a religion of joy and faith into a drab system of rules and restraints.”
Peace: who can argue with that? Nobody.
Equality: we firmly believe that it has always been a lynchpin of Quakerism. But has it? Read Chuck Fager on the subject. http://www.afriendlyletter.com/?p=232
And what about the unwritten testimonies that add so much to life; creativity, beauty, humour? Think of your own list.
Let us never give up aspiring to the high ideals of the Testimonies; but let us not become so reverent about the past that we lose the ability to look both backwards and forwards with clear vision.