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Among Friends June/July 2013

The Flavor of Quaker Testimonies

On the occasion of this, our issue focusing on what have been called “the Quaker testimonies,” I pause to reflect on how radical the Quaker faith is, and how rich our conversation.

The topic of “testimonies” hits the sweet spot for Friends Journal. Our stock in trade, after all, is language; it’s how Friends give voice to the inner workings of Spirit. And what are the testimonies if not a linguistic shorthand for a shared spiritual experience? The concept of testimonies is one readers of Friends Journal have seen discussed, often without further explanation, many times in our pages. My colleague Martin did the math, and “testimonies” has turned up in 778 issues of this magazine (now, 779) since its start in 1955. It’s high time we unpack this term, and our authors do it with aplomb.

In my thirty-plus years as a Quaker, I’ve internalized the “SPICE” mnemonic of the testimonies like a dutiful student. It’s useful as a quick guide, but as Eric Moon points out in “Categorically Not the Testimonies” (p. 6), “when we codify, make creeds, and canonize a few words, we limit our vision, as well as the possibility of God’s work through us.” One wonders how many authentic Quaker leadings and ministries have been suppressed because they didn’t seem to fit neatly in one of the categories we’ve almost accidentally installed to circumscribe the range of acceptable Quaker utterance and deeds.

Quakerism is radical because in recognizing the divine nature of each person and the potential for God to speak through each person, we give ourselves permission to remake our faith from the ground up and to reaffirm, recombine, remix and build upon the wisdom of both those who have gone before us and those who walk with us. Done right, this makes for deep and powerful conversation, and I’m proud that Friends Journal can be a part of this conversation.

Speaking of conversation, readers of the Forum will find that an epic salon has emerged in response to Benjamin Lloyd’s article “Changing the ‘Me’ to ‘We’” in April’s Journal. The loving respect you can feel in our community of readers and authors—even in disagreement—is something we should treasure. I hope you will take Friends Journal to your meeting or worship group and help us extend and enlarge that community. In Quakerism, after all, ministry is not just the responsibility of the individual who listens for and faithfully transmits it. Rather, a more complex and transformative responsibility is the responsibility the community holds in listening to that ministry and discerning the right way to act.

Join us as we open the SPICE jars and see how our spiritual taste buds react. And bring your friends!

Yours in peace,

Gabriel Ehri

P.S. This is a combined June/July issue. We’ll be back in August with some surprises for our readers. Be well, Friends.

Gabriel Ehri is executive director of Friends Journal.


Posted in: Among Friends, June/July 2013: Quaker Testimonies
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