Friends World Committee for Consultation - Europe & Middle East Section

Pre-Triennial study booklet: Being Faithful Witnesses: Serving God in a Changing World

Contents

7. Unchanging Truths

Phyllis Short Aotearoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting

Aotearoa, pronounced ‘ah-oh-te(as in tent)-ah-ro-ah’, is the name given by the Maori people to New Zealand. The word means ‘the world (or land) of the long white cloud’. This name is in common use today.

Here in Aotearoa/New Zealand we members of the worldwide family of Friends are the southernmost. Here the sun goes round by the north, and we have summer when the northern half of the world is in winter. Yet here too, in this ‘farthest corner of the earth’, the Spirit is present within the ‘first people’ the Maori, those of European origin and more recent immigrants of many races.

When we acknowledge the Spirit or Light within, we are ready to receive power to live as faithful witnesses. As Friends, we are united the world over by this knowledge and embrace all people.

All my life I have valued the priceless heritage of our Christian and Quaker roots: from Jesus, whose life and teachings guide us and whose Light shines brightly still after 2000 years; and from the insights of George Fox, who learned by personal experience that Christ is our inward teacher and that the Spirit, or God, resides within every human being. From these truths, and the experience of Friends over the centuries, have emerged our Quaker testimonies to equality, peace, integrity and simplicity. I am inspired by the lives of men and women who have been faithful to these truths.

In Aotearoa/New Zealand Te Whiti, a Maori ‘prophet’, applied the Christian principles he had learned. In the late nineteenth century he led his people in prayerful and peaceful actions in an attempt to save their land and village from the British colonists. They prayed, sang hymns, went on ploughing their fields in front of the troops, and the children brought flowers to give to the soldiers.

While I was in India in Quaker service, meeting Gandhi at his ashram was a significant experience on my life’s journey. This remarkable man, a Hindu who was strongly influenced by his Christian friends, including Quakers, showed me glimpses of what Jesus might have been like. I saw this in Gandhi’s huge love for the poor and his ability to respond directly to the needs of those who came to him and to ‘speak truth to power’. These qualities, combined with his occasional withdrawal into prayer and fasting while seeking guidance for the way forward, impressed me deeply.

My spirit is uplifted by such people who have acted under guidance in their day and circumstances to show love and to work for justice and truth. I know that, in our changed and changing circumstances, I must seek in prayer and worship for the leadings of the Spirit today, joining with other Friends in learning how we can live, both individually and collectively, the unchanging truths we have been given.

Queries:

- What are the unchanging truths of your spiritual experience? How do you try to communicate them to others?

- Where do you find people who inspire you?

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