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The testimonies represent values and aspirations that never go out of date.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.
As another participant in the Testimonies workshop at Silver Wattle I’d like to add to what Robin has said. Robin was our Elder in Residence and took as our theme for the nightly Epiloque the Quaker testimony to Creativity. It was great fun. One night we read .Chuck Fagan’s “God is like a slippery bar of soap.” and a section from “Friendly Persuasion” about buying an organ. Oh my! Every day Robin had a new haiku that she wrote on her daily morning walk, her Spiritual/Corporeal practice. Robin shared with us Peter Bell’s music written for Friends and at Meeting for Worship a page from “The Quiet Eye” prepared years ago by a Quaker artist. Mark McLeod had sent to the library a wonderful children’s book (for children of all ages) “Peace” by Wendy Anderson Halperin Atheneum Books 2013.
We extended the Peace Testimony to incorporate our testimony to our mother, the Earth and to a deep understanding of interconnection. We came to Country at the Sacred Fire which young Friends had first developed and which had been deepened in significance by the First Nations workshop. Again this year there were some Bogong moths passing through. During the Silent Retreat which was to follow I came upon the Valley of the Xanthorreas up behind the summit and came to understand how “Weereewa’s” very unique Lake Bed is a source of great inspiration for Friends who walk regularly upon it.
We recognised that central to Quaker understanding is the recognition of the Sacredness of each Human being and of the whole of creation; the religious testimony as the AYM Committee, which considered the testimonies emphasised. In an earlier criteria for membership we understood ourselves as”Humble learners in the school of Christ”
We were all involved in helping to present the workshop and we were able to have flexibility in attendance so that certain Friends were able to leave and join us, so that we were the richer for their contribution.
We added a Sunrise meditation to our practice, which was a gift to us from the Zen Workshop, which preceeded our workshop.
I have found so much creativity, so much love, so much community in worshipping, praying, and working at Silver Wattle. Ruth Haig.