It is my habit on First Day (Sunday) to prepare myself for meeting for worship by reading about Quakers and quietly thinking and absorbing what I have read. (I typically read something daily that resonates with me about spirituality/Quakers. However on First Day, I generally spend greater effort.)
So my thoughts are to bring forward something I have read each First Day that has particular significance to me.
Currently I’m spending time with Geoffrey Durham‘s The Spirit of the Quakers***. It is a blending of historical and present thinking on Quaker practices. I completed the chapter regarding Prayer and entered the chapter on Advice and Queries. Quakers do not use creeds and do not make commitments to beliefs/dogma.* The Advice and Queries do challenge Friends by seeking their truth about all individual and corporate behaviors and beliefs. This historical and current practice is vital to the internal core of the Religious Society of Friends.
Footnote: Liberal, unprogrammed Quakers often substitute other language for “God,” as Friends recognize that not all have a belief in one supreme being, but do have a working spirituality that encompasses Quaker belief in “love” and the principles of Quaker testimony: Peace, Equality, Integrity (truth), and Simplicity (Community and Ecology).
There are different editions around the world of Advice and Queries, which are updated at times. From the British Advice and Queries (this current edition has been in use since 1995), I was especially drawn to the following:
*. Remember the importance of the Bible, the writings of Friends and all writings which reveal the ways of God. As you learn from others, can you give freely from what you have gained? While respecting the experiences and opinions of others, do not be afraid to say what you have found and what you value. Appreciate that doubt and questioning can also lead to spiritual growth and to a greater awareness of the Light in us all.
I will leave it here, allowing for that wonderful silence of quietude to bring gentleness to this moment on this First Day.
*From One Explorer’s Glossary of Quaker Terms by Smith and Bixby:
Friends have carefully kept clear of formal creeds or anything that might resemble them; for how can we be free to search for the God that is within us, if we cannot depart from the road signs devised by others? . . . .Both advice and queries grow out of the collective experiences of Friends trying to live their Light. Unlike dogma, they are subject to revision as new experience sheds new Light.
**Light, of my own definition is: the truth that comes from within each person’s resonance with a higher power or out of Love/ God/Spirit/The Devine.
***Here is the link to my favorite online Quaker Bookstore: http://www.quakerbooks.org/