A Culture of Faithfulness

By Marcelle Martin. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 462), 2020. 32 pages. $7/pamphlet.

As do Quakers all over the world, we wrestle with the question of how best to live a life faithful to the beliefs we hold dear and to the inner leadings of the Spirit so that we may impact the vastly changing planet in deeply positive and significant ways. In her new Pendle Hill pamphlet, Marcelle Martin explores this concept with thoroughness and depth that comes from her own rich experience.

Martin urges us to consider: 

The problems we face require inward, spiritual healing as well as outward action. At the same time that we call out for peace, justice, and ecological sustainability, our lives need to testify to the Divine Reality that undergirds everything and unites all in an invisible wholeness. In order for our lives to make that testimony, we need to root them so deeply in the Spirit that divine healing power flows freely through us as individuals and through our communities.

This she names as “a culture of faithfulness.”

In order to nurture such a culture, Martin states three core convictions as needed: (1) first and foremost is the Quaker tenet that the Divine Reality exists in each of us and speaks to us from within; (2) we are guided by that Inner Truth; and (3) that others who are attuned to this Spirit can sense it, nurture it, and support it in others or in the group.

Faithfulness begins with noticing and attending to the promptings of the Spirit. It continues by following these promptings, even when they differ from our own ideas or preferences about what to do. Faithful people and communities will discern the leadings of the Spirit step by step as the leadings emerge into manifestation, trusting that the Divine wisdom has a better sense of what needs to happen than they do.

Such openness and action, however, require regular practice and more time than we generally devote to weekly hour-long meeting attendance. To truly experience such movement of the Spirit and have the courage to heed its call requires sustained commitment to the practices that allow for living faithfully in the Light. Following the promptings of the Divine often requires a willingness to combat the fear of nonconformity, and to take that leap of faith, we need clarity and the support of a community.

Martin further explores the role of components of our faith communities: religious education programs, clearness committees, meeting support for individual actions, and mutual help through spiritual companionship and faithfulness groups. She also cites examples of individuals who have lived such lives, and encourages meetings to join with other programs or organizations to form a collective service or witness when members or the community share a particular concern.

As Quakers and citizens of the world, we struggle with a vastly changing world filled with challenges at all levels, especially as we deal with a global pandemic and a hostile political environment. Martin calls us to “walk our talk,” and her passion is compelling and articulate. I am duly reminded of my own role and encouraged to do my part as a Quaker who seeks to live more fully in the Spirit and to abide by the leadings I discern with the help of my faith community.

As Martin states so eloquently:

Quakers have a great treasure to offer a suffering world, a key to solving the greatest problems faced by humanity. . . . Let’s make good use of our precious communal practices designed to support faithfulness, so we can participate more wholeheartedly in God’s loving, healing work in the world.

Claire J. Salkowski is a member of Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore, Md. She has been a teacher, founder, and head of school at Free State Montessori School; a Montessori school administrator in Hong Kong and Egypt; and director of graduate education and community mediation. Claire is an author and currently a consultant.

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