Quaker Universalist Conversations

A Free Space

by Gail Rogers

During my 35 years as a Friend, I have heard various people say “I don’t fit in because I am a Christian,” or  “I don’t feel welcome because I am not Christian,” or “I feel connected to nature in my spirituality but I don’t talk about it because Friends will think I am strange., ”   On occasion I have asked myself whether I am really a Quaker; do I qualify, and by whose standard?

My vision for Quaker universalism is that of a “free space” where we can feel safe to speak our truth, ask hard questions and explore in safety – where we all belong.  A lack of trust inhibits our worship, our verbal sharing, and our own spiritual growth as we develop and test our leadings in community.  If we believe that the Light is within all of us, why do so many of us hide our Light from each other?   How many of us are worried about feeling accepted and our own unique spirituality respected?

The Quaker Universalist Fellowship can foster a safe forum for sharing, exploring and experimentation among our own participants.  This already happens in the QUF Yahoo group, and we have the opportunity to have expanded discussion on this blog.  What steps can we take to foster dialog?

We can also encourage a dialog between Friends with diverse paths within Quakerism.   I suspect that most, if not all Friends who participate with Quaker Universalists are part of the more liberal, unprogrammed branches of Friends.  We can take the lead fostering sharing among Friends from the many branches of the Quaker tree.   How can we be more inclusive?

Quaker Universalism includes participation with denominations and religions outside of Quakerism. Quakers frequently participate in interfaith efforts and projects based on common values. How can we, as Quaker Universalists, foster interfaith dialog in a free space with peace, safety, and deep listening?

As I consider this vision of fostering a “free space” for dialog regarding our spiritual journeys, I am wondering how those of you who read this blog feel about this matter.  Do you share my feelings about the need for this?  Do you share my vision for fostering dialog as a role for QUF?   What other thoughts arise on this topic as you read this?


Thank you for this. As somebody who identifies as a Quaker but not a Christian (and not even a theist, though not as an atheist) I love the ability of my meeting to provide a safe space where I can share a spiritual space with f/Friends who experience their own spiritual selves and their connection with the Divine through more traditional channels.
I agree with this post, but would like to add a caution(?). I believe we need to be clear in our use of the term "universalism" particularly among Friends. To many Friends, at least those that I have contact with, especially among the "pastoral and evangelical Friends" that the post would seek to address, the term "universalism" is limited to the concept that all people will be "saved." The term is particularly related to the writings of Phil Gulley which has caused a "split" (at least 6 churches and some administrators leaving) in Western YM. I see a very clear distinction, but that may just be my interpretation.
Share your feelings. Also want a spiritually "alive" community that challenges me to keep growing and supports my explorations, whether Christian or universalist (and since I self describe as a Christian Universalist, I explore in many directions while expressing my spirituality in Christian language). So I need people aware of the literature and able to recommend in many directions, a good Meeting library and lively discussion "tolerant" and ACCEPTING of one another's spiritual language and variety of explorations, united in Spirit-led actions in our lives as a community and supportive of Spirit-led actions as individuals. This means sensitive, strong eldering in the best senses of that term of nurturing each other! I am in the midst of preparations for the 6th World Gathering of Friends (at Kabarak University, Nakuru, Kenya) in April. I look forward to exploring with Friends from around the world "Being Salt and Light In A Broken World" and the future of Friends. Right now, I also look forward to the comments of others on this topic and commend to all comment threads on QuakerQuaker about membership in the RSOF and eldering for strength in supporting our spiritual journeys/life.
Thank you for your blog. I am in the process of asking for a Clearness Meeting to work towards finding a safer, more open, environment in my Meeting. Although we all share the same goals and dreams as Quakers, it can be harder to accomplish without intentional work and sensitivity toward all than we anticipate. Sometimes I believe that deep listening can slip into stonewalling and the silent treatment. There is always so much to learn as we work towards a truly loving, safe, open community.
Thank you, Gail Rogers. I am confident in calling myself a Christian, even though I know I do not always live up to my own Chrisitan ideals. I am a "Hicksite" Friend, and I like Elias Hicks's interpretation of Gospel stories. He considers Jesus an example, a teacher for us all. The Easter story he believes should be used as a metaphor - the physical blood of Jesus is a metaphor for the spiritual blood of the soul. He does not believe the sacrifice of the physical body results in atonement but rather that the willingness of Jesus to die rather than recant his beliefs is an example to us to live our beliefs. It is the spiritual "blood" of the soul - that is the Inner Light, the Light of Christ, which is shared by us all, that helps us to take the path of righteousness and not deny what we know is right. Following this view, the human sacrifice of the physical body on a cross does not "atone" for anyone else's sins. We each atone for our own failings when we follow the divine spirit, the inner light. And we must continually turn from our continued failings so that atonement is not a one-time event but something we must follow throughout life. To HIcks, there was a physical temporal world, and an invisible, eternal, spiritual world contemporary with the physical world, and he sought insight into the spiritual world. I myself rather like to think that there is one world - a world which is both physical and spiritual, and I try to find the spiritual aspects of it,. The beauty of the physical world can inspire us, and spiritual insights can help us live right and hold onto values which help guide us. I do not expect everyone to believe what I believe, and I do respect that others in their beliefs are seeking the right way for them.
Your response inspired me to look up Philip Gulley's address to the FGC Gathering in 2010 (http://www.universalistfriends.org/Gulley.html).and I very much enjoyed reading it. How would different views of quaker universalism be denoted? Christian universalism and "general" or "unrestricted" universalism? From my understanding there are even different ideas of "Christian universalism" means. Discussing different approaches to these words seems a fertile avenue to explore in Quaker universalism.
Thanks emaidab, I also consider myself as a Hicksite Friend, and agree with Hicks (except the need to be saved by God or anyone else). I think we are truly born with God-within. We are all sons and daughters of God. I have never heard a direct message from Jesus, even when I waited upon him. I think he serves the world as a teacher with a message from his own God-within. I thought this ruled me out as a christian. My son is an evangelical Christian, and would love to see me saved. I feel badly for him and am truly sorry that he will not succeed in this quest. Then again, maybe I am Christian? I'm not sure what the definition of Christian is??? Guess I don't know the rules.
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