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Faith features

Philip Thornley outside the Meeting House
Philip Thornley at the Meeting House

What Quakerism means to me

by Philip Thornley
Philip tells us about his life, as a member of The Religious Society of Friends...

Quakers is really a nickname that has come into general use – the real name is "The Religious Society of Friends" and sometimes just the word "Friends" is used.

Philip Thornley attends the Friends Meeting House in King Street, Hereford, and he tells us more about his faith...

What Quakerism means to me

I think the basic purpose of religious practice is to find a pathway to God, to nurture the spiritual part of our nature.

"Quakers have always refused to take part in war... believing a loving non-violence to be the right way to approach conflict."
Philip Thornley

For me over many years, Quakerism has provided just that, helping me to find that of God within and then trying to translate that guidance into all the varied aspects of everyday life.

The Quaker Meeting for Worship provides a space of calm silence, in a simple setting, in which I can try to put aside the distractions of the moment and be open to the eternal spirit.

Sharing with others, sometimes through brief, spontaneous spoken ministry, we move together to find inspiration in our spiritual search.

In seeking together I discover that we all have responsibility for our worship, combined with deep respect for our individuality.

I have found Quakerism so liberating, enabling me to form my own understandings that can develop and help me to be responsive to new light from wherever it may come.

Words are never adequate to capture the nature of God and the consequent lack of definition in Quaker belief is something that I have always welcomed.

Throughout, I experience the gift of friendship in a loving community.

Non-conformist Christians

Friends Meeting House in Hereford
Friends Meeting House in Hereford

With it's origins in the non-conformist movement of the Christian church in the 17th century, our Quaker tradition is based on knowing a God of love, trusting that strength to be our guide through life.

I have always felt that religion is for using in my life and so I want it to be relevant and alive.

The words 'divine guidance' may sound a bit pompous, but in fact this channel is open at all times, even if my discernment of it is not always clear, and rarely pure.

It is this guidance that Quakers seek in their business meetings, enabling a constructive search for the decision without recourse to voting.

Treating everyone as equal

Over the years Quakerism has developed testimonies that embody my concept of the love of God at work in the world.

Equality is a very important attitude, accepting that everyone is of equal value regardless of race, religion, class and actions.

This leads on to concern for those in need in our society and the world at large.

Like others, I have experienced the way in which life can become cluttered, diverting us from the values that are eternal.

So I really value the Quaker emphasis on simplicity, which has a lot to say in our materialistic age.

Truth and integrity are most important values and I feel very uneasy with our advertising world of half truth and false images.

Quakers have always refused to take part in war, and reject policies that lead to killing, believing a loving non-violence to be the right way to approach conflict.

This has always seemed to me to be fundamental to trusting in the power of love to guide human relations.

In recent years I have been able to share the steadily growing awareness throughout the Quaker movement of our responsibility for the earth on which we live.

Eternal values

The Two Mules story poster
The Two Mules story poster

These concerns can weigh heavily in this violent and turbulent world, but I also find that the Quaker way helps to guide towards a sense of perspective that enables hope and joy to flourish over anxiety and anger.

There are many inspiring writings by Quakers that record personal experience of God and insights into eternal values.

These writings, written through the years, illustrate how Quakerism is able to adapt to the needs and issues of the time.

I like the guidance that is offered gently as "Advices and Queries" (available as a little booklet) for each of us to use in our lives as best we can.

Seed of faith

I know that there are people who do not know about Quakerism and the special aspects that it offers as a pathway to God that has served me well.

I hope somebody may read this piece and be led to enquire a little more deeply.

Philip Thornley 27.07.06

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