This is the fifth in a series of Reflections posts about Quaker testimonies.
There are several definitions of the word “society”, and almost all of them contain the word “community”. So it makes sense that the Community testimony is an integral part of the Religious Society of Friends.
On their page about Community, the American Friends Service Committee website says “While the Quaker faith is founded on the principle that every person can have a direct relationship with God, an equally central tenet lies in the power of the ‘gathered community’. When Friends gather in silence to worship, they are collectively seeking the will of God, rather than meditating individually. Shared worship signifies unity and trust.”
But Friends’ concept of community extends far beyond meetings for worship. Quakers have a long history of helping people and building relationships outside of their meetings.
Many Quaker queries ask us to look for ways to extend our faith – through our actions – into ways that benefit our communities.
In that regard, we don’t just mean people who live near us. As Friend Parker Palmer said, “Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other.”
The other Quaker testimonies such as simplicity, peace, integrity, equality, and stewardship are founded on not only what is good for Quakers, but what is good for others outside our meetings – in other words, what is good for our community.
Author Ursula Jane O’Shea said it this way:
“Living out the immanent and transcendent aspects of spirituality as a Friend has never been a private matter. Quaker structures depend on the shared inward experiences of members as the basis for worship, the ordering of business, and social and humanitarian action. The Quaker way takes on faith the seemingly irrational proposition that the inspirations of individuals can lead a community to unity and spiritual power, not to chaos and dismemberment.”