“That Friend speaks my mind” is one of Jennifer Higgins-Newman’s favorite phrases unique to Quaker faith and practice. “When I hear that as we’re doing business, or I get to use that,” she says, “I think it helps us as a community… tether ourselves or knit ourselves to each other. Like, ‘oh yeah, that’s me, too.’ Or ‘that is what Spirit is calling me to, too.'”
We asked several Friends about their favorite words and phrases from Quaker vocabulary, and they shared words and phrases with powerful spiritual resonance. Didn’t see your favorite expression in the video, or just want to learn more about Friends-specific terms? Visit our glossary at Quaker.org—or share your thoughts in our comments section!
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Carl Magruder: I love all kinds of quirky Quaker phrases such as “a nudge” or “a leading” or “way opens,” “a covered meeting.” I love the traditional use of thee. I love the metaphors of “the seed” and “the light” and those ways of approaching divinity that don’t necessarily evoke a male deity in the sky waiting to judge you when you die, because that conception of divinity is not life giving to most people. So, I love all of those things.
What Are Your Favorite Quaker Words or Passages?
“There’s That of God in Everyone”
Sarah Katreen Hoggatt: My favorite Quaker phrase is “there’s that of God in everyone.” In the church I grew up in there was a definite line of “saved” and “unsaved” and who was out and who was in. I think it is one of Quakerism most radical beliefs that there is God in every single person. At the core of us it is not a depraved sinner but it is a beautiful light and that everyone has that divine spark that needs to be honored and respected.
“That Friend Speaks My Mind”
Jennifer Higgins-Newman: One Quaker term that I am finding joyful in my life right now is saying “that Friend speaks my mind” or “that Friend has spoken my mind,” in part because it reminds me a little of a game I play with children when I teach them the things, like an icebreaker game where you’re in a circle and one person stands in the center of the circle and they say a thing that they like or that they do, and then anyone else who also feels that way gets out into the center of the circle and has to swap places, and finding the areas in which we have to tether ourselves to each other. So when I hear that as we’re doing business or I get to use that I think it helps us as a community get a sense– we talk about that sense of the meeting where in business a clerk or the clerk’s table should be listening for like, where is the body– that we can tether ourselves or knit ourselves to each other like “oh yeah, that’s me, too” or “that is what Spirit is calling me to, too.
“Let Your Life Speak”
Cai Quirk: My favorite Quaker phrase is “let your life speak.” There are many things that we can say, “yes, we are this” or “yes, this is who Quakers are. This is who I am as a person,” but until we live into that it’s only words. For me personally one of the pieces that comes to mind in particular around this is the willingness to put my photo project out in the world. I am trans and queer and genderfluid and the project relates to some of those topics. I know that there are people who have been physically attacked or yelled at or sent death threats and so even though there is that fear sometimes, I know that God is by my side and divine is there supporting me through whatever happens, and so the willingness to live into those hard places because that is where God is calling me and to let not just my words but my life speak and the willingness to go there is something that is truly spiritual to me.
Carl Magruder: I think one of the Quaker terms that I hold dear that is imperiled is actually the term of oversight. That there was oversight committees (there still are, ministry and oversight committees), that there were overseers in Quaker meetings, and the reason I treasure that is because I believe that the spiritual life of a person, the spiritual growth of a person, sometimes needs guidance, pruning, correction. I mean, it’s all about people who know better giving you tools and correctives and invitations that enable you to be better. And so I don’t want us to lose oversight and the function of oversight. I am now resigned that we will lose the word because of its association with slavery, it’s very off-putting. But I hope that we do not lose the ethos of oversight and that we continue to maintain and to name those elders who have the gift of providing skillful and loving oversight.
Anthony Kirk: So for me a word within Quakerism that has become very important to me is the spiritual concept of visitation that actually comes from Robert Barclay’s apology, and for Robert Barclay “visitation” is that experience of feeling Jesus come in and making a decision of “am I going to be a follower, a disciple, or not?” However this experience of visitation you don’t even have to know who Jesus is to be able to experience that. We don’t even have to call it Jesus – we can call it God, the divine. It’s really about opening ourselves up to that presence fully and being willing to take that weight and responsibility of being a disciple or comes with Quaker values, and diving in and just trusting that Jesus is walking alongside us and that Jesus is also within us.
- 1) Do you have a favorite Quaker word, phrase, or passage? Why does it speak to you?
- 2) Carl Magruder discusses the term “oversight,” which he explains is a term that is “imperiled.” How can Friends discern what language to keep and what to retire? Does changing the language also change the practice? How can Friends use continuing revelation in our language and terminology?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.