Are SPICES ‘the’ Quaker Testimonies?

If you’ve been a Quaker for a while, or even if you’ve just been around them, you’ve probably heard about SPICES: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship (or Sustainability). They’re often described as “Quaker testimonies,” sometimes even “the Quaker testimonies.” Paul Buckley was curious about how that came about.

In this conversation, Paul explains how a catchy acronym intended as a mnemonic for children about some Quaker values became an easy template for Friends to explain their overall belief system to newcomers. But that emphasis, Paul says, comes with a risk: “All testimonies are fruits of the Spirit,” he explains. “But by using SPICES so frequently, we lose that sense of them being the products of our relationship with God and begin thinking about them as the roots.” And that, he warns, can cut us off from recognizing and acting upon Spirit’s full calling.

Here are Paul’s guidelines for discerning whether you’ve got hold of a genuine Quaker testimony: Does it originate with God? Does it involve outward, public behavior? Does it call upon the entire Quaker community? Does it challenge us? And is it rooted in love?

4 thoughts on “Are SPICES ‘the’ Quaker Testimonies?

  1. Thank you for putting this out for us to remember! I became a convinced (convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit) Friend in the late ‘70s. Newtown Friends Meeting had an elementary school under its care and I observed how this acronym took over as: “THIS is what Quakers believe!” To me it felt so empty because it does not include nor mention ‘that of God’ nor the power of the Holy Spirit! Nor does it speak of the “motion of Love!” It is good for us to remember the truth of ‘SPICES’ – that they are a gift of our relationship with God’s Presence, the Holy Spirit with in us. And not forget to always speak this truth!!

  2. I really appreciate this. Another Friend and I were hosting a visiting church group, and she used SPICES to answer the question of what Friends believed. I startled everyone by saying no. My response is that the basic belief of Friends is that every person can communicate directly with God (by whatever name they use), and hear from God what we’re supposed to know and do. I say this also when we have visitors at meeting; it explains why we sit in silence, and why we don’t discuss messages during the worship. It really is foundational.

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