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Readings for Reflection: October 2014
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Affirming Quaker Commitment

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take a three-day course at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, England last spring.  The course was “Beyond Religion,” taught by Timothy Peat Ashworth and based on a book that he and Alex Wildwood have written: Rooted in Christianity, Open to New Light. I was challenged and moved by Tim’s teaching, and even more by the content of the book, in which Timothy and Alex took turns – chapter by chapter – sharing their insights from very different perspectives. Alex expressed a continuing aversion to doctrinal Christianity and described himself as “surfing the sea of faith.” Timothy grew up in the Anglican Church, and later became a Catholic priest before moving into a relationship with Quakerism. The following quotation is from one of Timothy’s chapters called “Affirming Quaker Commitment.”   ~ Nancy Taylor

In just about the last project event Alex and I led at Woodbrooke, one of the participants … said that in the end it may come down to a commitment to meeting for worship. Most Friends would recognize this particular form of worship and decision-making as expressing the heart of Quaker life. While it is true that adopting a creed or accepting a set of precepts is not necessary in order to participate in meeting for worship, accepting some significant features of Quaker practice is essential. Worshippers need to be reasonably comfortable with the silence, to have a sense of receptivity, to be able to let go of personal preoccupations, and to find within themselves an openness to quite subtle and undemonstrative expressions of religious faith. 

These requirements are even more essential when the meeting is a meeting for worship for business with the task of making decisions. These meetings depend on a willingness to accept a set of disciplines in which things are said and points made without any of the normal cut and thrust of discussion and argument. This disciplined form of interaction, which is inextricably linked with the meeting for worship, runs against the grain for most people. Even though in their application Quaker practices are gentle and non-confrontational, they are disciplines nonetheless and, like the more obvious rituals of the Catholic Church, are caught as much as taught.

P. 84, Rooted in Christianity, Open to New Light: Quaker Spiritual Diversity, by Timothy Ashworth & Alex Wildwood, Pronoun Press, 2009.

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