Put God at 
the center of your life.


  Opening Exercise Summary:
Spirituality and Politics 
       The Relationship Between Quakerism and Activism     

For some time, the members of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee have felt a leading to, in some way, begin a conversation with the members of our Meeting about the relationship between Quakerism and activism, spirituality and politics. In a recent Opening Exercise, two members of the committee set forth this query:

“What is the relationship between our Quaker identity and worship and collective action we may (or perhaps should) take in the world?”

Back in the Fall of 2008, two members of our Peace and Social Concerns Committee attended a Pendle Hill workshop entitled  ‘Faithful, Effective Work for Peace and Justice.”

One of the first activities was a group sharing where the facilitators asked for the  concerns or burning issues of participants. In her work on our Peace and Social Concerns Committee, one of the committee members said she had a sense of walking on eggshells—a feeling of not wanting to offend anyone. Many in the group shared this sentiment and later in the weekend there was a breakout session held around this topic. One of the facilitators suggested that we read Pendle Hill pamphlet No. 397, “Quaker Witness as Sacrament” by Dan Snyder.

Two members of the Friends Committee on National Legislation gave a presentation at the workshop. In it was a section called “Know Yourself—A Motivation Check for Change Activists.” It asked if a Friend’s energy for lobbying is sustained by:

Faith (belief in living hope through action)

Personal Motivation for Activism

Many Friends’ personal motivation for activism often comes from a place of anger and that that is not sustainable. The workshop leaders said that if activism comes from a place of anger, it creates a rush and then burnout. The idea of it coming from a place of faith grounded in love resonated with a member of our committee, who thought of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, whose activism came completely from a place of faith grounded in love.

The following passage from Snyder’s pamphlet describes the personal journey he has taken in order to come to an understanding of the relationship between peace work and personal spirituality:

“Action that arose from clarity and action that arose from despair often took the same outward form. I was one of the despairing ones, and even though I participated in nonviolent actions, the heroism I imposed upon myself lacked any real interior substance. I was no Gandhi, no Martin Luther King. Whereas they had struggled through their fear and anger and uncovered reservoirs of hope and inspiration, I was drowning in my anger and in my desperation to make things better. Whereas they drew on a lifetime of tempering their souls against the hard edges of injustice, I was young, naïve, and willing to take risks for which I was ill prepared. They were fed by inward springs that refreshed and renewed them even in the face of death. I was fed by surges of emotional energy with which I tried to lift myself out of an undertow that threatened to swallow me into its depths.” 

In the second part of the pamphlet, Snyder discusses the relationship of silence and speech in a Meeting for Worship and the Meeting for Worship as a pattern for our witness in the world:

“What I now see and believe is that our political witness must also be nondoctrinal. We must purge ourselves of our unspoken political creeds. We must understand that our political words, as well as our theological words, must rise out of the silence and that they serve best when they deepen it. The meeting for worship, with its tension between silence and speech, is a pattern for our political life as well; it is a pattern for the spiritual discipline of holding the tension between prayer and our witness in the world.”

In talking about the stillness of meeting for worship, Snyder goes on to say:

“The stillness that we find in our meetings for worship can take root within; it can become a hidden spring of refreshment and inspiration that we carry into our daily lives, where it becomes the ground, the Source, and the substance of the peace we bring into the world.”

At the heart of the pamphlet, Snyder eloquently and powerfully describes the integration of prayer and action, what he calls inward activism and outward prayer. The prayer is the inward activism and the political work is the outward prayer. Synder concludes with:

“Our peacemaking is not merely our activity in the world, the things we do to promote justice and peace; it is, even more, a way of being, a mutual infusion of self and world. For out of the immediate encounter with God who brings a new center of hope and vision, ordering our lives in simplicity and peace, we become increasingly able to answer George Fox’s challenge to ‘be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.’ Such a life is simple, clear, courageous, and deeply loving, for it is a life lived out of a wider vision, a life that sees to a farther horizon than our own limited perspectives would allow, a life that is continually refreshed by the hidden springs of Love. Such a life may not make sense in the world’s terms; it may not even be visibly ‘effective’ in the relatively short time frame of our own lives, but it is ultimately transformative in its power.”

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A Prayer

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you will live deep in your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that you will work for justice,
equity, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer so you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world, so you will do the things which others say cannot be done.



Make me a channel of your peace. 
Where there is hatred let me bring your
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we're born to eternal

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