What is the core of Quaker faith?

Inner Light

Inner Light

Photo: Rachel (justmakeit on Flickr) / Rachel (justmakeit on Flickr)

Before the end of the year I posted this question on Facebook and I received an amazing string of answers. To me such an exercise is powerfully expressive of Quaker faith, which is not doctrinal but expressed in the individual experiences of those who practice. I think these answers together create a lovely poem expressive of the multitude of ways that Quakers understand and experience Quaker faith. If you’d like to view the whole conversation, go to the original Facebook post. – Lucy

Continuing revelation. Humility. Truth. – Emma Churchman

Unmediated access to the Divine. – T. Harrison

I would add: fearless direct nonviolent action when necessary, consensual process. – Laura Roxanne Seagraves

There is That of God in everyone. That belief is the primary reason that I became a Quaker, and the reason I remain a Quaker. – Marilyn Gilmore

We can access the voice of the Divine if we wait patiently. In all dealing with people we use the knowledge of that of God in each and honor it. That leads us directly to the Quaker process that is the core outer example of that inner faith. – Joan Baulch Spinner

Everyone has direct access to God, but we help each other discern what we hear from that divine presence in community. – Ashley Wilcox

My own feeling is that nothing could possibly be as important to Quaker faith as the concept of Inner Light. This is a theological innovation which liberated believers from the oppression of the Thou Shalt Nots in the Bible (Protestant tradition) and the Catechism of Mortal Sins (Catholic tradition). Friends believe that the answers to their most pressing issues are ultimately found uniquely in their own hearts. – Mitch Gould

From an outsider’s perspective? Acceptance. – Martin Magnuson

For me it’s the silence and the waiting and the discerning what the Spirit is saying and then acting on it. – Edy Nolan

Openness to the Spirit and to love. Keeping the testimonies growing in our hearts and not reaching for the shorthand. Openness to the possibility that, despite believing in divine guidance, we make mistakes and are not always right. – Ruth Seeley

Light by Jez Smith

Light by Jez Smith 

Unmediated access and God in everyone. – Sharon Smith

Metaphorically, the overlapping of circles (like those from raindrops falling on a calm pond) between us and God… we are a little in God and God a little in us and where the twain meets, light blossoms. – Bill Powell

That every man, woman, and child on this planet has direct access to divine love, presence, and guidance – and if we listen closely to this still small voice we can heal ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world. – Steve Chase

God is with us, helps, leads, and comforts us, if we are willing to stay in touch. – Margaret Kataranides

Truth and integrity (truth to self) are what we seek. When truth within matches truth without we are expressing that which is whole within us. It is then that we are most free: willing to be and do what God [Logos, The Way] wills us to be and do, rather than reacting out of habit, past wounds, and unexamined cultural norms. – La Verne Shelton

“Christ has come to teach his people himself.” – George Fox… This is the power and subversive simplicity of Friends faith and practice. – Johan Mauer

We can be true to our inner light on our own, but we need a covenant community to really find ourselves and discern our work in the world. – Kate DeRiel

I’ve been creeping out of the closet door on this one for some time… Coming out in the Society of Friends on other issues has already put me on the margins of this religion. So, what’s one more? The core of Quakerism for me is Jesus. Quaker tradition is very important to me, and I am part of a Quaker community, and I practice Quaker disciplines, my primary self-understanding is not as a Quaker, but as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.  –Paul Ricketts

To walk (not run) cheerfully (and lightly) on the earth seeking and acknowledging that of God in every person and all of creation in patient expectation of continuing revelation. (Would that I could do it!) – Kathy Hersh

Peace Candles by Mike Gifford

Peace Candles by Mike Gifford 

There is that of God in all living beings – which informs how we relate to other beings. It also leads to the idea of ongoing revelation. It feels like all else Quakers hold important flows from that. – Martha Yager

LOVE. – Jada Jackson

The power of kindly attention. – Dave Shoen

That of God in each of us, working towards Unity. – Philip Balcombe

The experience of shared union with the divine through meeting for worship. – Vonn New

What’s at my core is a desire to live as much in alignment with primitive Christianity as possible – to seek to live the essence of being Christian, without giving primacy to the rules that church and society have built around Christianity. My faith is anchored in Jesus’ teaching and I believe that people with other faith systems (non-Christian) are as able to be in communion with God as I am. My faith is Christian and my practice is Quaker. – Kathleen Karhank-Glasby

I experience, in these times, G!d’s primary revelation as the universe itself. The story the universe is telling is one of creativity, a bending toward diversity, complexity and love… none of this is in contradiction to Christianity, especially primitive Christianity – or any of the deepest core understandings of the major religions. To be Quaker is to honor this experience and to be in dialogue with other people’s experience. – Amy Kietzman

The practice of turning attention inwardly to know God’s presence and peace and to listen for truth so that we may be guided by continuing revelation. – Melanie Douty-Snipes

What is a Quaker? Someone who believes in life before death. – Paul Ricketts


First Published on Nov 21, 2013

In a Quaker meeting for worship, a Friend rises to give worship about George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement.  Find out more about the Quaker way, practiced by 500,000 people worldwide:
http://benguaraldi.com/filmmaking/geo…  Download the video at: https://vimeo.com/83549436 This is a parody of Ylvis’ “What Does the Fox Say” by members of the Religious Society of Friends: Quakers, mostly from Massachusetts.  Shot on location at Framingham Friends Meeting, Homer’s Cause, and the Middlesex Fells.  The original quotations of George Fox, with context and links to sources, are at: http://benguaraldi.com/filmmaking/geo…

And, by request, these are the subtitles:

1650s England
Kingless country
Civil war

Dudes in robes
the only way
to communicate with God

All pay tithes
And all take oaths
Churches full of empty forms

A shoemaker
begins to preach
What does George Fox say?

“I saw that there was an ocean of death,
but flowing over it was
an infinite ocean of love.”
What’s George Fox say?

“Be patterns and be examples
in all countries, places, and nations,
wherever you go.”
What’s George Fox say?

“Be still and cool
in your own mind and spirit
and you will feel the principle of God.”
What’s George Fox say?

“I heard a voice, which said,
‘Jesus Christ can speak to your condition.’
When I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.”
What’s George Fox say?

Shaggy hair
Leather clothes
He comes for prayer
then he steps on toes

He cannot stand
Bad theology
He serves a jail term or three

His jailers rise
and follow him
He’s an angel in disguise

His piercing eyes
see your course
cause he’s connecting to his


He’s connecting to his
What does George Fox say?

“The Lord does not dwell
in these man-made temples
but rather in people’s hearts.”
What’s George Fox say?

“Christ says this,
and the apostles say that,
but what can you say?”
What’s George Fox say?

“Walk cheerfully over the world,
answering that of God
in everyone.”
What’s George Fox say?

What does George Fox say?

The insight of George Fox
was that the Spirit can guide us
It talks in a still small voice
of Love and Truth
What do you hear?
Will you keep yourself open
to peace and integrity?
What do you hear?

You have a guardian Angel
hiding in your soul
What do you hear?

What do you hear?
I want to
I want to
I want to know!


Additional Quotations of Friends:

Peace is a gift, but it does not come magically through our passivity. Only in our faithful response to God’s call do we receive God’s peace. ~ Sandra Cronk, 1942-2000

Now, Friends, deal plainly with yourselves, and let the eternal Light search you, and try you, for the good of your souls. For this will deal plainly with you. It will rip you up, and lay you open, and make all manifest which lodges in you; the secret subtlety of the enemy of your souls, this eternal searcher and trier will make manifest. Therefore all to this come, and by this be searched, and judged, and led and guided. For to this you must stand or fall.~ Margaret Fell, 1614-1702

Take heed of pleasures, and prize your time now while you have it; do not spend it in pleasures or earthliness. The time may come that you will say; you had time, when it is past.~ George Fox, 1624-1691

That which the people called Quakers lay down as a main fundamental in religion is this— That God, through Christ, hath placed a principle in every man, to inform him of his duty, and to enable him to do it; and that those that live up to this principle are the people of God, and those that live in disobedience to it, are not God’s people, whatever name they may bear, or profession they may make of religion. This is their ancient, first, and standing testimony: with this they began, and this they bore, and do bear to the world.~ William Penn, 1644-17

The moral man is he who is opposed to injustice per se, opposed to injustice wherever he finds it; the moral man looks for injustice first of all in himself.  ~ Bayard Rustin, 1912-198

There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end.  ~ James Nayler, 1616-1660

Force may subdue, but love gains.  ~ William Penn 1644-1718

These things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by; but that all with a measure of the light, which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not in the letter; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. ~  The Elders at Balby, 1656

I saw that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that also I saw the infinite love of God…  ~ George Fox 1632-1691

Is there anything Quakers today can say as one? We can proclaim this – there is a living God at centre of all, who is available to each of us as a Present Teacher at the very heart of our lives.   ~World Gathering of Young Friends 1985

Quakers should enter the world of the arts with humility and courage: courage because it is a risk of our certainties. A religion unwilling to take risks shuts out what is creative. Preoccupation with moral integrity is likely to assume that life can be tidied up: that is its goal. In fact, it is because life is essentially untidy that it can be creative.  ~   Kenneth Barnes, 1983

quaker-peace-garden (1)

from Bristol Friends Meeting