Worship and Action Update 10/18/02

Dear Friends in New York Yearly Meeting:

  We too are America and so share responsibility for the things our nation says and does. When Congress votes for war, we feel complicit. When an urge for violence grips our nation by the throat, we feel fearful and oppressed. When the needs of the most vulnerable are derided and discarded, we feel demeaned. When lives are extinguished, we feel loss.

But if we too are America, we can elect for our country to live in the Spirit of peace. To those who press for war, we can bear witness to the Light. To governors who preach paranoia, we can speak out of tenderness. We can remind ourselves and our neighbors, that God did not intend for us to live in the darkness of distrust and disrespect. And in worship we can help sustain each other in our journey of activism:

"All the various expressions of the peace testimony find their inspiration in the conviction that the spirit of God dwells in each person, and that the calling of Friends is to listen and speak to that of God in others, thereby strengthening that of God within themselves. There are, of course, conflicts and disputes, and we all must struggle with evil. But in such struggles, Friends' only weapons are love, gentleness, faith, patience, purity, grace, virtue, temperance, self‑denial, meekness and innocence." (From the Brief Amicus Curiae of New York Yearly Meeting in Packard v. United States of America, at page 11. The brief is available on the Peace Action page of the NYYM Web site at www.nyym.org.)

Today, America has edged closer to war, but we have not moved as near the precipice as seemed inevitable in late July when New York Yearly Meeting resolved to "hear anew the call to pray and work for peace." Public expression against war has emerged and is swelling. The United Nations has found its voice and is calling for reason and diplomacy. And many American political leaders are beginning to discover their inner strength to stand for peace…

In continuing care,  

Linda Chidsey, Vicki Cooley, Fred Dettmer NYYM Worship & Action working group


Here are some excerpts on TESTIMONY from Faith in action--Quaker Social testimony, by Jonathan Dale and others, Friends House, Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ, April 2000.

"Zeal for the testimonies is one of the characteristics of the Quaker way", p15, (John Punshon, Testimony and tradition, p68)

"The peace testimony is not a form of words but a way of living, not a creed but an active witness, not an ideology but an always imperfect and faltering attempt to live out a fundamental spiritual perception" p19, (Pam Lunn, Deeds not creeds, QPS,1993).

Testimony is about bearing witness to the truth. It is not a question of opinion or reason or hearsay-- what I think, what someone else has told me. It is about affirming our own experience of something as true, as fact, as surely known. p20, ('Testimonies in the Quaker tradition' in the Quaker  peace testimony, p13).


'It is not a form of words, but a mode of life based on the realization that there is that of God in everybody, that all human beings are equal, that all life is interconnected' (p22, Jonathan Dale).


If our testimonies are what unite us as Quakers, then they should go beyond mere words and become a way of life. They are public statements of our commitments. This may have drastic implications: if the world appears less good than it might be in the light of our testimonies, then we must act to change it. It is not through agreement with the testimonies that we identify ourselves as Quakers, but also through our commitment to upholding them p6, ('Who do we think we are?')


Recognizing and developing a new Quaker testimony is an equally gradual and complex process. It requires pioneering actions by those who seek to arouse the conscience of the society, together with the response of those who come to see the new truth in what is being said. It takes place against a background of religious conviction essentially expressed in a spirituality of developing response to God. Moreover there is a universal aspect to the task of formulating new testimonies-- they do not represent a separatist holiness of the elect-- they rest in the discovery of the truth applicable to all. p37, ('Testimonies in the Quaker tradition' pp15-16).

Firstly we need to distinguish between the general direction and the precise path. Testimony is mostly in the realm of the general direction rather than the precise path. And it's here, in terms of general direction that we can realistically hope for a substantial measure of unity. For example we may not agree on the exact taxation regime that would accord best with our testimonies… (p25, Jonathan Dale ).

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