In our Quaker meeting are folks who accept Jesus as their personal savior.
In our Quaker meeting are fervent atheists and non-theists.
In our Quaker meeting are those who have found numerous other spiritual places, each as different as the individuals themselves.
And yet, in our Quaker meeting we thrive on and even rejoice in our differences.
How is this?
Consider two Quaker practices.
We share and proclaim the undeniable experience of an inexplicable spirit. It is self-evident in each of us and in our relationships.
It is a constant. It defines life. It is life.
Some call this spirit “God.” Early Friends proclaimed it, and most still do, as “that of God in everyone.”
For me the word “God” is burdened with associations. My list is long: the “Thou shalt” Father, a flowing white beard, fear, “a mighty fortress,” cloudy thrones, retribution, etc.
I don’t want THAT within me.
So, I, and others, say there is “that of the spirit in everyone” and some add ”and in everything.”
Other Friends have successfully freed “God” of such baggage. Or it simply no longer matters. “That of God in everyone” works for them. Some Friends have told me they don’t consider my “baggage” to be baggage at all. They find it divinely essential or historically significant or quaint or compelling or curious or simply irrelevant.
And that brings me to the second reason that Quakers are, as Friends say, “radically inclusive.” In our worship we put words, and the differences they define, aside. We unite in silence. We connect and unite with the one, unifying spirit (or “God” if you choose) in stillness.
At times we are sorely tested, but we know silence leads to the healing spirit.
We return again and again to this stillness. It is our great solace. It is our guide. It compels us — as individuals and as a community — to decide and ultimately to act.
As for the rest of it, the religious part, it’s words which often fail us. But we listen and rejoice. One Friend’s description of the spirit that is true for him or her gives me joy! I shouldn’t be surprised or angered if those words don’t match my own. The ineffable spirit is the same. Why should I not rejoice?
I know the communal celebration of that joy, our joy, resides in the shared, wordless stillness and unity of our silent worship. From that centered gathering emanates unity, truth and leadings of the spirit which spread to all, both in our community and the greater community beyond.
I share all this because I believe there is a profound universality to “radical inclusiveness.” Today, as always, it urgently needs to be celebrated and practiced in a world threatened by division and strife.