Letters - 12 April 2024

From Message and experience to Delight

Message and experience

I’m grateful for Gerard Bane’s questions about our Religious Society’s apparent decline (29 March). Of course, this decline is relatively local, and we might learn from that. In my experience, the lack of a clear Quaker message – one about God and our experience of being guided and gathered, rather than about our goodness or history – can make our Meetings less welcoming.

I hope our Meetings are broad places, with room for creation’s full variety. Yet we cannot include people without something to include them in. I wonder if we are willing to be open enough with each other about our faith, speaking vulnerably and personally about how the Spirit is moving in our lives.

I wonder if we feel we have good news to offer those who are not comfortable. When I need help from a power greater than myself, and from others attending to that power, ‘come to Meeting and we will question all your convictions’ does not provide much solace.

The early Friends yielded their own agendas and came to know a life and power that transformed them and gave shape to their communities. Their message was that Jesus, this transforming life, had come to teach us directly, bringing us into a unity that is not made by human hands. These Friends carried this message all over the world, and many found themselves changed and joined together. In this year of reflection on George Fox’s life, might that message and experience turn the world upside down again?

Matt Rosen

‘What canst thou say?’

There has been some discussion recently about what the Peace Testimony means and how best to understand it. Frankly, I don’t care about the ‘peace testimony’, let alone debates about its interpretation. Instead, I will make bold to rephrase George Fox and ask: ‘You will say the peace testimony saith this, and the interpreters say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and has thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?’
I am compelled to say the obvious. As a child of the Light, I cannot take ‘a side’ in the Gaza conflict if it is the side of Hamas; and I will confidently ‘attack’ the perspective of anyone who thinks they can excuse or justify Hamas and remain an advocate of peace.

I have listened to courageous and heartfelt peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine and have learned from them that taking sides only perpetuates this bloody conflict. We can passionately and actively oppose the devastation and injustices perpetrated by both Hamas and the Israeli state without choosing one over the other. Instead, we can choose life; we can pursue justice; we can seek peace.

Abby Press Adorney

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