Monday, 7 May 2018

Are we all that convinced?

At times Quakers refer to the term "convincement" as that defining moment when from being an ordinary human being, some kind of transformation takes place. It's like the ding of a microwave oven. All those ingredients which have been whirling around in your head are sorted. It's, "Hey Presto! The meal is now prepared, I've suddenly become a Quaker!"
Quakerism can so easily become a convenience food if we are looking for a quick solution.

At times in the past Quakers have written long reassuring documents which include statements about our beliefs to make us seem not so very different from orthodox Christians.

These days what we lack in creeds we seem to make up in testimonies, reflecting a particular way of life. Is it any more honest now to say that Quakers hold a peace testimony than to say as at one time that we all believed in the Trinity, the doctrine of original sin and the redemptive power of Jesus?  If you come from a military background, have experience of war, or your sense of logic about what's practical in foreign affairs arrives at a different conclusion, does this now make it impossible to become a proper Quaker?

Quakerism may seem at times to be a series of lifestyle choices and opinions? What if you are out of fashion? What if you do not share the same priorities and political opinions as the notice-giver? Does having a different perspective make it harder to become convinced?
Perhaps instead we are all learning, moving on with the times. When I was younger it was possible to play "Spot the Quaker" reasonably well in the vicinity of Woodbrooke or Euston Road. These days it is getting a little harder. Our men do not all have beards and wear sandals. Ladies no longer seem to think grey is an attractive colour and cover their hair with a bonnet. Instead of identifying ourselves with a design logo used to sell porridge, we are able to think simply in other ways and can dress with as much thought as any cavalier.

Lately, we have also tended to adopt green issues, motivated by the threat of global warming. I'm no scientist so rely on the expertise of others to do my best for planet earth. Being able to afford solar panels may help the process of convincement for this type of Quaker. If you live in a reasonably affluent area which is able to support a specialised type of food shop, enjoy experimenting with homemade soup, can produce some ethical looking craft, and have ever considered sewing a quilt, there is the risk these lifestyle choices can soon get you to encounter Quakers.

Rather someone who has achieved the status and security of being convinced. I prefer to think of myself as a "Seeker after Truth." This is how we began so going back to basics in a way. It not about being right or convinced I'm right in my beliefs or way of life but the way I worship, and the emphasis that I put on silence which unites me to other Quakers.
When I have all the facts necessary to become convinced it would seem most likely I will be at the end of life's journey, looking back on times when I haven't always been correct, fitted in or attempted to set a pattern. What would have been the point of having been created a unique human being if I had to always rely on others to tell me what to believe or to behave, turned down the opportunity to make my own unique journey through life?

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