Letters - 28 July 2017

From food for thought to atonement

Food for thought

I was reading the Friend (14 July) over lunch the other day, a bad habit but it gave me much food for thought!

Sometimes we need to stand up and be counted, as James Yeoman said in his letter. At other times we should hold our council, quick to listen but slow to speak, having perhaps looked for that Inner Light in all of us and answered the question ‘who am I?’, as Hilary Peters suggests.

If our faith means anything to us, expressing this, as Ann Lewis does in the ‘Community together’ article about Disley, shows that deeds can do more than words, although listening to Prime Minister’s Questions you often wonder! Politics is part of the fabric of our society and the democratic system and, as David Rubinstein says, is about ‘finding the best way to order relations between communities’. Some years ago Kenneth Baker, our local MP as he was then, gave a lecture to a local school and defined politics as ‘the resolution of conflict’. Political parties please note!

As reported on page five, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted on 7 July by 122 countries out of 192 member UN states, with the UK staying away. The treaty is a step in the right direction and in accordance with the Quaker Peace Testimony, but there is still much to be done.

Fred Meynen

What is a Quaker?

I was puzzled by James Yeoman’s view (14 July) that ‘no one – least of all potential new members – can tell what [Quakers] actually believe in’. As a newcomer, when I attended my first Meeting for Worship a few months ago I was given a welcome pack containing several short leaflets, which explained very clearly, directly and simply the essence of Quakers’ shared values and the core of Quaker life.

Their contents – and even more so, my experience of that first Meeting – were a revelation. Coming from a lifetime within the Anglican tradition, the realisation that it is entirely acceptable for me to seek an unmediated experience of God, unhindered by doctrines formulated by others, and then to work out my own understanding of what that experience means for my life and actions, was liberating.

Moving from being asked to ‘believe in’ a set of dogmas recited week by week – an exercise of the head only – to listening and responding to the stirrings of the Spirit in heart, soul and mind, was electrifying.

The unique tradition, the pearl of great price, which Quakers have to offer to others is surely that of silent worship. To quote Quaker faith & practice: ‘In the Religious Society of Friends we commit ourselves not to words but to a way.’ Or to use the words of the psalmist: ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’

If Quakers really need a statement of belief, there are worse starting-points.

Patricia Critchley

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