A Quaker’s life is an individual spiritual journey, undertaken within the caring and supportive community of the Meeting to which he or she belongs.
Quakers do not have a creed to lay down what they should believe. Quakers believe that each individual must find his or her own understanding of God and must be guided by his or her conscience in finding the right way to live.
The detail of one Quaker’s beliefs or understandings may vary from another’s – but at the centre of the Quaker way there are some shared understandings that all Quakers recognise as central insights. These are called Testimonies, and they have been at the centre of Quaker thinking from the earliest times.
The Quaker commitment to truth and integrity reflects our belief that there is that of God in everyone. Quakers strive to live out the importance of honesty, truth and integrity in their daily lives, in their business conduct and in the conduct of public affairs. Speaking the truth, even when it is difficult, is valued.
Believing there is that of God in everyone leads Quakers to see that all persons are of equal worth. In early days, Quakers refused to use forms of address and social behaviours that recognised social distinctions, leading to controversy and conflict in the hierarchical society of the times. Today, commitment to equality guides Quakers to be proactive in avoiding discrimination and promoting social inclusion. Quaker belief in equality is at the base of a long history of work with the homeless, refugees and prisoners.
In a world where violence and conflict is ever-present, Quakers are called on to live in a way that promotes peace and non-violent ways to resolve disputes, whether between individuals, groups or nations. The Quaker commitment to peace and alternatives to violence is widely recognised. Quaker witness contributed to the recognition of the right to conscientious objection in time of war; Quakers also have a long history of involvement in relief and reconstruction in war-torn areas. The peace testimony also means living in a way that fosters understanding and harmony in the community.
'Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength.' (Advices and queries, 41)
Quakers believe that it is more important to focus on the right way to live than on acquiring possessions; indeed, a life defined by possessions and acquisition is a distraction. The testimony of Simplicity calls on us to challenge the way we live, to consider what our true needs are and what the true focus of our lives should be.
In recent years, Friends have given this Testimony an ecological dimension: that we should not use more than our fair share of the Earth's limited resources.