Category: 2014

Quaker Study – Testimony to Simplicity Pt 1


Mark Burch, our Quaker Study leader, has¬†devoted himself exclusively for 20 years to the study of simplicity. It’s been like a fractal diagram: the more you look at it the more it reveals.

Drawn to simple living pre-Quakers, Mark published his first book on voluntary simplicity in 1995;  since then he has published seven more.  Simplicity drew Mark to Friends in 2006, not the other way around.

He’s felt blocked inside about what to say to Friends about what Friends have said about simplicity. This is what Mark has to say.

Testimony = something like praxis: belief/theory plus practice

James 2: 14-18 says,3¬†“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

Early Friends were probably very familiar with this passage. Simplicity is a way of life, and not just a belief system or a critique of consumer culture.  How does our talk match up with our walk?

Many Quaker perspectives about simplicity:

  • Robert Barclay – original thinker about the theology of our fellowship, warned against over-involvement in “the world”, which involved too strong an attachment to material things. ¬†He urged simplicity as a means of minimizing distractions from spiritual work. ¬†Simplicity was an outward expression of an inward transformation. ¬†It was both a hedge against negative influence from world and a light from the renewed soul.
  • John Woolman – overconsumption of luxuries causes oppression, and is one of the causes of war. ¬†Consumerism endangers people!
  • Millward Young – depletes and diverts resources
  • Richard Grey (worked with Gandhi) – simplicity is “organization of life for a purpose”.

More thoughts on simplicity:

  • Plain living is intended as a visible public witness to spiritual values, and an outward sign of conversion.
  • Simple living is also environmental stewardship – a step in a positive direction for the planet.
  • Simplicity holds out a lifestyle that promotes personal well-being.
  • Simplicity is the practice of framing every aspect of life with an inner reference point: the light, the Spirit, etc.

Not all friends agree on these matters! ¬†Margaret Fell thought that George’s asceticism and the early dress code as a “silly poor gospel”. ¬†Mark is with Margaret Fell on simplicity – we need colour and laughter.

Positive asceticism: when we forgo things we might enjoy for the sake of something we value more. e.g. Athletes avoiding food, lifestyle that undermines their performance.

Negative aceticism: avoiding things that are “bad” for us. Mortifying the flesh, as it were.

Media coverage of voluntary simplicity tends toward negative aceticism.

Seeking God First is what constitutes integrity toward Christ. ¬†Simplicity shouldn’t be subordinate to integrity or any of the other Quaker testimonies.

What can we say now, in the 21st century?

We see a great deal of bobbing and weaving around the issue of simplicity. ¬†Our traditional way of observing simplicity was with plain dress, plain speech, temperance, etc. ¬†But in the last 100 years or so, simplicity has been marginalized in Friends discourses. ¬†Only 5 of 400 Pendle Hill pamphlets deal with simple living. ¬†(That’s in 85 years of publishing)

Mark’s teaching this week will show us that simple living is the single most powerful means of living out ALL the Quaker testimonies!

Reflection Questions:

  • In practical terms, what does living simply mean to you?
  • How are you living the testimony of simplicity right now?
  • What difference do you think the decision to live simply makes in terms of issues like environmental sustainability, peace, the priority you give to spiritual development, the quality of your family life, your own well-being?

Part 2 tomorrow, August 12.

Posted in: News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Annual lecture: Sunday evening: ‘Making the Diagnosis, Changing the Prognosis

“CYM’s annual keynote lecture¬†Making the Diagnosis; Changing the Prognosis….. Dale Dewar and Bill Curry of Prairie Monthly Meeting bring their scientific and philosophical wisdom to bear on the global malaise of people and the environment, exploring what we can do to work toward a more just, balanced and sustainable world.”

Posted in: CYM 2014, News, Quaker Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

CYM Community Celebration

On Saturday evening, August 9th¬†, everyone at CYM will come together to be welcomed, to be seen, and see who is here from where. We also will “make a joyful noise” together! To include our F/friends who are not present and to learn more about one another we will watch a PowerPoint presentation showing all of the Monthly Meetings in CYM¬† where they, including all of the Worship Groups, hold Meeting for Worship plus selected photos of meeting life from all across Canada. ‘First-timers’ — young AND old — will receive a special welcome. Quaker music talents will shine. Group fun will help Friends of all ages connect or reconnect with people in their own Meetings and from across the country.

We cannot do this without your help


Only YOU, as Meetings and Worship Groups across Canada can provide the photos needed to make this vision work!
Caroline Balderston Parry is coordinating this Saturday night gathering at CYM, as a visual and musical “Community Celebration.”¬†¬†¬† Please send her:
1. A clear photo of the place that your MM, and any additional Worship Groups, currently meet.
2. A few pictures of life at your Meeting — new members or babies, a special event, marriage or wonderful gathering.
3. Offers to play music or lead a song or group game (short and snappy).
4. “Other news” that your MM would like to share…
While, due to time constraints, we may not be able to use everything on Saturday night, we will be VERY pleased to have your offers and look forward to finding other times and places to share them.
Please send digital photos and ensure that folks in them have given their permission for public display and use, including on our website. No identifying names will be attached.

Caroline Balderston Parry:

Posted in: Quaker Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 4 of 7 «...23456...»