Quakers realize that most people don’t have a clue about Quakers. What they know often begins and ends with the guy in the funny hat on the oat meal carton.
Some of us in our Quaker meeting have been working on how to describe ourselves — briefly. Our model is the 30-second elevator speech.
It’s hard to imagine the subject of Quakers coming up on an elevator, but suppose....
“Quaker?” says the stranger. “Aren’t you kind of, like, Amish? The oat meal guy. Virtuous and old-fashioned. Kind of odd? Quaking even?”
“Do you have 30 seconds?”
“All the way to the 30th floor.”
I take a breath.
“Start with ‘spirit.’ There's something in each of us that is spirit. Many of us call it ‘God.’ Many of us don’t call it ‘God.'
"That's okay. We should be free to call it what we want.
"Friends— that’s what we call ourselves — Friends know we are different when it comes to words and theology. We are happily and variously Christians, atheists, Buddhists, Jews.... We think of ourselves as 'radically inclusive.' We know we all experience this ineffable living force — call it what you will.
“Quakers find that worshiping in silence — being beyond words — centers and deepens our relationship to this "it," this inner spirit or God. Stillness also deepens our relationship with each other. Sometimes, a Friend is led to speak out of the silence, to share ‘ministry.’”
“Through silent worship and words that emerge from it, we have been led to five guiding truths. We call them ‘testimonies.’ They are...
“Simplicity. Just as our worship is simple, the spirit leads us to live simply.
“Peace. Because spirit or God is in everyone (EVERYONE regardless of belief or non-belief), we strive to live in peace with all.
“Integrity. The spirit leads us to adhere to the truth as we discern it.
“Community. We are united and one in love, worship and the manifest spirit of many names.
“Equality. All are equally in and of the spirit.”
“That’s it. Oh, the testimonies are easy to remember; they spell the acronym ‘SPICE.’”
The elevator chimes. Its door slides open onto the 30th floor.
"I just wish we had another 30 floors for silence," I say.
The stranger touches my shoulder on the way out.
“Spirit or God, silence and SPICE,” he says with a spreading grin. “Elevating!”
As the door shuts, I'm left with a small problem. As is, the speech clocks in at over 45 seconds. Should I hold the elevator door open for 15 seconds for the sake of “integrity,” “community,” and “equality”?
And what about those extra floors for silence? Maybe that's why we have skyscrapers.For more than an elevator ride's worth about Quakers, go to www.quaker.org
Labels: Quakers, Religious Society of Friends