How do we deal with the fact that not all Quakers are like us? For Benigno, our answer to this question is key to how Friends live out our testimonies in the world.
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- Have you ever gone to a Quaker Meeting that was different in theology or worship style from your own? What was the experience like?
- Benigno talks about living with the love of God spilling out through us, and that transforming our relationship with those on the other side of the culture wars from us. Have you experienced this state of mind when talking with someone who you wouldn’t normally relate to? How do we get there?
The thing that has been the largest blessing for me to recognize is that the Quakerism that I’m doing in my Monthly Meeting: it’s good. It’s mine. But it’s not everything that Quakerism offers.
Why I Worship With Other Kinds of Quakers
My name is Benigno Sanchez-Eppler and I live in Amherst, Massachusetts. I’m a member of Northampton Friends Meeting and I’ve been working for the Friends World Committee for about two decades now. Lately, they have called me to serve as their clerk.
Looking to Early Friends
You start reading Early Friends, and you can see how my Monthly Meeting is an heir of what the Early Friends started, but you can also see that the Early Friends would’ve been foreign and uncomfortable in our Monthly Meeting, and that people from my Monthly Meeting would have been foreign and uncomfortable in the gatherings of Early Friends.
That’s true for everybody. It’s true for the Evangelical Friends. It’s true in Friends United Meeting. It’s true even for the Conservative Friends, who look more like the Early Friends. And so when I go out of my Monthly Meeting and I worship in another church, in another Friends Church, when I visit them what I get in fact are those parts of Quakerism that – if you look at the Early Friends – were definitely parts of Quakerism that I’m not so much doing anymore.
Friends’ Diversity As An Opportunity To Practice Peacemaking
We have, inside of the Quaker spectrum, all of the tendencies and all of the articulations of belief, all of the affect and animosities that are fueling the culture wars everywhere.
I feel that whenever I’m in worship with someone who’s so different from me that I could very easily find him or her on the trench in front of me in the culture, and yet we don’t engage in the violence of denying each other, of demonizing each other. When we engage in worship and in shared work and we don’t let ourselves become tools of the separating spirit, if Quakerism does that right, again we will have provided an example of peacemaking.
When We Struggle, the Spirit Is There
The miracle happens when we’re not like minded. When we have substantial differences. When we have animosities even. When we have a real intent that this is what needs to happen, the Spirit comes, is felt, and love is felt. And then, a desire comes over us of surrendering those things that are more ours than the Spirit’s. I have felt unity arrive at the Monthly Meeting like a balm, like soaking. Particularly in those moments when we have been struggling with each other.
Living With the Love of God Spilling Out From Us
When you hold all the differences, you don’t hide, them, you know that they’re there. There’s something about the possibility that the differences are acknowledged, and that then, because we are living with the love of God in us and with the love of God spilling out from us, that we can do what needs to be done to arrive at unity.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.