Letters - 27 April 2018

From 'God, words and us' to an essential question

God, words and us

God, words and us appears to be gaining momentum as our entry point for a revision of Quaker faith & practice (Qf&p). When our Meeting considered it, a good half of those present found it lacking in spiritual inspiration and over-concerned with contributors’ names.

Friends, we can do better! Start with the Quaker Quest series Twelve Quakers and… in which anonymous writers share understandings and experience of God, Jesus, evil, prayer, faith and death. The absence of names allows us to focus on content and not whether a named writer is to our liking.

Our re-reading of Qf&p was a huge success, reminding us of familiar gems but uncovering long-forgotten – or perhaps never read – treasures. Chapter twenty-three is a powerful reminder that Quakers over the centuries have been led to act and witness for their convictions. Their inspiration was not intellectual or academic. It came from deep experiences of spiritual empowerment. Some even had to face Quaker criticism! The social witness of Quakers was not a reasoned, intellectual response to the ills of the day. It came from their hearts and souls, with the life and teaching of Jesus often a primary motivation.

Where do we now find the passion, power and strength to witness against todays evils? If we are, in Thomas Kelly’s words, to ‘be the message’, we need something more than God, words and us. Can Britain Yearly Meeting still name and own its sources of spiritual power and inspiration – or has our fire burnt out?

David L Saunders

I enjoyed David Boulton’s article (13 April) on the recently published book God, words and us. I also really enjoyed the book, which I have just finished reading. It was very thought provoking but also very frustrating.

I don’t think we should get too hooked on beliefs. When I was a teenager studying GSE Religious Education, the teacher once said to us: ‘At various points in your life you will probably lose your belief and then later regain it and then lose it again [and so on]… Don’t worry about it too much.’

I still consider that to have been one of the wisest pieces of advice I was ever given. It gave me permission to allow my beliefs to change and develop during my life. For that reason, I would say to those who think the theism/nontheism issue is important: ‘Just chill out.’ It’s only a theory. Whatever position you hold at the moment might change at some point, so it’s not worth getting too concerned about it. Just enjoy the journey. You can’t do that if you allow yourselves to get stuck in one fixed place.

‘Think it possible that you may be mistaken’ seems to be an important phrase here. If we can remember that then we are more likely to be able to listen to each other with an intention to learn and to grow.

Ken Orchard

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