Peace and Social Concerns
Worship and witness are two pillars of Quaker spirituality. Worship in the Quaker tradition is fundamentally receptive and contemplative. Witness is active, testifying to the power of God to transform the human condition and seeking to engage the world to improve human society. At their best, each is rooted in the other: social action can be an expression of worship, and worship can participate in remaking society. For Friends, the experience of divine leading links the two. Our witness grows out of God's leading as encountered in contemplative worship. Faithfulness to Leadings, in turn, enhances the experience of worship.
Michael L. Beirkel: Silence and Witness – The Quaker Tradition, p.15
Friends believed that a faithful life requires engagement with the world. Engagement that is our best understanding of what God is asking us in the real concrete moments of our lives. Our engagement is not driven by political calculation, by preservation of privilege or even self-preservation. We seek to align our outward love and care for this world with our inward relationship with our personal and our corporate experience with the Divine. Many words have been used to describe this focus of our inward relationship; the Holy Comforter, Inner Light, Living Christ, Teacher and Friend, Beloved, Inward Guide - and many more, description changing with time, culture and experience.
For the inward relationship to have meaning it must be responded to. Friends have experienced this response in stages. The desire to live consistently in this world to God's abiding love requires a tendering of our spirits, a willingness let our defenses be broken down, and be open to compassion, love and pity (in the best sense of the word) for the world around us. With a tender spirit there comes a heighten sensitivity to the needs of others. “... in this terrible tenderness, we become one with God and bear in our quivering soul the sins and burdens, the benightedness and the tragedy of the creatures of the whole world “ Tomas Kelly – Testament of Devotion
From this deep soul felt tenderness for the suffering of our world (its people and its natural elements) emerges a specific and special responsibility that friends have called a Concern. “A quickening sense of the need to do something about a situation or issue in response to what is felt to be a direct intimation of God’s will. “ PYM Faith and Practice.
With time, prayerful attention to a Concern condenses into a specific Leading. A sense of being called by God to undertake a specific course of action. (PYM Faith and Practice). The Quaker sense of concern particularizes the response to the World's needs. A person is led to address a specific Concern with a specific action or perhaps a few actions. The Divine “Loving Presence does not burden us with all things, but considerately puts upon each of us just a few central tasks, as emphatic responsibilities. For each of us these special undertakings are our share in the joyous burdens of love. (Tomas Kelly – Testament of Devotion). Within our Faith Communities we support each member’s Leadings or may share in them but we strive to be faithful to what is set before us personally. There are also however, concerns that emerge as a corporate leading which require the same prayerful discernment. Example – building of a school in Afghanistan, providing sanctuary, providing bail bond….