The Quaker Faith has been called a “quiet faith,” by others, but it comes with a practice of acting with conviction, and a belief in being open to the Divine.
Multiple sides of this faith equation were named and discussed in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week, with interviews with the activists Eileen Flanagan and George Lakey, and with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer.
Acting for Change – A Faith Born in the Midst of Civil War
Both Lakey and Flanagan have been involved with a new initiative, Choose Democracy, that was reported on by both the Atlantic and the New Yorker. A tense post-election period of vote counting led to a surprising media interest in the ‘Quaker way’. The Atlantic and New Yorker stories focus on how the faith has embraced acting for change, and the Inquirer story discusses how we do this while maintaining a tradition of ‘expectant waiting.’
In the Inquirer article, written by Ellen Gray, Lakey spoke to the founding days of Quakerism, noting the faith was “born in the middle of a civil war” in the mid 1600’s. Lakey described a period of revolution–with the English wars and the beheading of Charles I–against which the faith grew. He said, Friends were “politically active but not in a partisan way. We had social change goals, social justice goals, that we were pursuing in the midst of a a very chaotic situation.”
Flanagan, who has a long career in successful activism, said “the stereotype may be of Quakers…that we’re passive,” but the history is one where Friends practice “nonviolently resisting things that we believe are wrong.”
Stillness and Centering
Duncan-Tessmer underlined the fact that Quakerism represents a ‘both/and’ outlook. She noted there “are prayerful worship spaces in the Quaker Faith, where reflection will feed action, that can represent an infinity loop between action and doing, and stillness and centering. They both need each other.”
There are “so many ways of being in alignment with God…at times like this,” Duncan-Tessmer affirmed. Adding; “when there is so much stress and strife and concern…that space of being in worship and being able to connect to the…flow of all life among us is a really important part of being whole…”
The attention to the Quaker Faith in the media is nice to see, as is the good work that many Friends do in their own communities and Eileen Flanagan and George Lakey do with their social justice work.