On several occasions, Karla has asked me to write something about the “Quaker Testimonies.” My initial response is to point out that I have, both before I started blogging, and when I taught a Sunday School class based on the Queries. She then lets me know that she wants me to write on SPICE, as opposed to the Advices and Queries.
My personal experience with Friends does not really include SPICE, but it is filled with a knowledge of testimonies. My home church was rather strict in encouraging us to follow them when I was a child. My father was a conscientious objector. I know the social testimonies well.
One thing I know is that the testimonies tend to be very negative, and rather specific. The tend to be rules that are to be followed, the majority of which come up to “Don’t do this.” This has the advantage of being practical, and somewhat easy to understand — but it is not exactly the most attractive way of putting forward what your group is about.
One of my complains about SPICE has always been that even though it sounds nice, it really does not say anything without a great deal of commentary. What does Simplicity mean? When we speak of Peace, what role does the individual have? Is this inner peace, or peace within the community? What is Integrity? What is the role and the purpose of community? What does Equality even mean — do we start chopping off heads to get it, like they did in the French revolution?
Another thing I disliked about SPICE is that accepting it is accepting a definition offered by the ‘other side’ of a very old split. Its a 20th century rethinking of 19th century testimonies. While SPICE addresses these testimonies before they diverged very far, there is a part of me that would prefer to use “my side’s” efforts at coming up with a contemporary take on “Testimonies.”
Pushing past my sectarian pride, I do have to admit that SPICE was a pretty good summary. The Advices and Queries can be put into these buckets without too much difficulty. Spice provides a positive and attractive framework, which can be used both when observing ‘rules’, and when evaluating whether or not the rules are still appropriate at this time. It seems that it is something that deserves my consideration.
Over the next few months, I plan to meditation on “What is Christian’s call Simplicity?”, “What is the Christian call of peace?”, “What is the Christian’s call to integrity?”, What is the Christian’s call to community?” “What is the Christian’s call to equality?” in the same way that I meditated on concepts such as ‘What does it mean to be called.”