We are an Inward people. Our faith is not based on outward forms of ritual, but rather on the transformation of our hearts and minds in order to conform to divine will. Our best witness is merely an outward expression of that transformation, which occurs through Grace. We live in the world, but not of the world, conforming to Divine Will as we are led. Let our lives speak, said George Fox.
Our faith is both deeply Christian and prophetically Universalist. We are not either/or: we are both/and. Our Christian stream runs deep and, all to often, silent. But it is the source of so much power in our faith. Our Universalism comes more easily to many unprogrammed Friends these days, and often appeals to newcomers. But many (myself included) have had their Christian faith reconciled and deepened as a result of our witness: that the Light of Christ is universal; the Light was before Time and will be there after Time, and Jesus’ spirit, that which is called the Christ, is eternal.
We pay no special reverence to persons or things; our emphasis is on the Spirit. We love the historical Jesus, but so do we love the historical Buddha, Theresa of Avila, Mary Magdalen, the disciple John, Mohammed, Ghandi and many, many other people, both alive and dead, whose lives exemplify the courage to exhibit some aspect of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us all.
Scripture provides an important window into the workings of the Spirit in the lives of our forefathers and mothers, but it is not an authority in itself. We place authority in the individual and corporate discernment of spiritual leadings. We test individual leadings against the discernment and prayer of our meetings to know if they are authentic. Authentic authority among Friends is holistic: it encompasses historical witness, individual leadings and corporate discernment.
Our spiritual lives are lived in the here and now. We pay attention to the moment; are able, in our meetings for worship, to invoke the divine, to bring the divine into our everyday experience in a transcendent moment of immanence. Friends worship can be tender, and fragile. It can be tedious, or transcendent, or even both at the same time. In the best of circumstances, it allows the Spirit to enter our minds and hearts and conforms our minds and wills, calling us to remember from whence we came, and whither we shall return: to a moment of divine incarnation that lies in our deepest memories and touches our hearts with the balm of Presence.