Letters - 19 August 2022

From Beliefs and principles to Departure

Beliefs and principles

I am grateful to Terry Faull for his honest and thoughtful piece (5 August) about a dilemma we can all recognise: how do we respond helpfully when a newcomer asks a reasonable question about our corporate beliefs? What do you all believe? Are you Christians? Do you believe in life after death?

If it’s true that part of our role as Quakers is to be the priests then, like any priest, we must learn to speak about our faith with articulacy and understanding. It is worth giving up a little time to contemplate and develop our individual responses to the questions people often ask us.

A few years ago, as part of the preparation for a book I was writing, I compiled a list of beliefs and principles that I felt most Quakers would stand by. I started with two from our Advices & queries (‘A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength’ and ‘Each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God’).

Then I wrote some myself and kept going until there were thirty-five. At that point I thought I should stop. It was a useful personal exercise. I recommend it. It taught me a lot – not least that talking about our beliefs to newcomers is possible and necessary.

My list is unlikely to be the same as yours. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we equip ourselves with the means and confidence to answer a reasonable query in a reasonable way, without turning the question back onto the questioner with our familiar ‘Well, it depends what you mean by belief’.

Geoffrey Durham

Meeting for Worship

With reference to our Friend Deak Kirkham’s proposal that Quakers should abandon the term ‘Meeting for Worship’ (8 July), those of us recently involved in planning a new noticeboard for Ilkley Meeting decided, this time, not to include the wording, on the grounds that it might indeed put off potential enquirers. ‘Ilkley Quakers/Friends Meeting House’ seemed enough, along with day and time, ‘All welcome’, and our website’s URL.

To the uninitiated, ‘Meeting for Worship’ is very likely to imply worship of a deity, making it probable that some of those potentially attracted to Quakerism, having rejected traditional Christianity, would instead pass on by. It does not follow that Quakers themselves should cease referring to ‘Meeting for Worship’.

Oliver Pickering

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