The Quaker Way: A Rediscovery by Rex Ambler
reviewed by Talley Kenyon
So just what is The Quaker Way? What is going on when we sit in silence? Why do we need a Meeting for Worship? How does all this play out in our everyday lives? These questions are explored and explained in the seven short chapters of this new book by British Friend, Rex Ambler.
I found myself underlining passages throughout this book, from the introduction all the way to the end – a sign that I will be returning to it many times in the future. This book would be helpful to someone who has barely heard of Quakerism, as well as someone who is seeking a deeper, if not scholarly, understanding. The content is appropriate for teens as well as adults
This book will serve Friends well as a valuable resource in a wide range of situations: It provides responses to the question, “What do Quakers believe?” It explains the historical beginnings of Quakerism, how those initial faith professions are still present, and how they have changed. It offers support to people on spiritual journeys in the 21st Century. It explains clearness committees for anyone who might benefit from or might serve on one. It offers words of inspiration for anyone facing a challenge in their personal life, their social activism, or their faith journey. It discusses whether we need labels such as Christian, Non-theist, Atheist, etc. Finally, it reminds us all about how we work together to reach unity, not just consensus, in Meeting for Business.
To those outside of Quakerism who want to know “what Quakers believe,” Amble explains that a list of rules to live by is not a part of the Quaker faith. Instead, Quaker practice means “seeing for oneself and responding to the truth of what one sees with an open heart.”
In the chapter on “Meeting Others,” Ambler discusses the reasons we gather into Meetings. First, he says, “We cannot be fulfilled in our lives if we cannot share our lives with others and believe we participate in something much larger than ourselves.” A second reason he gives for the importance of a Meeting community is this, “We need others to mirror back how they see us and to affirm us.”As we sit facing one another in worship, “the face of the other in front of me may challenge me to face up to myself, my real self, or comfort me in the knowledge that I am accepted.” The third reason he give is that, while we each seek our individual truth or a “measure of the light,” we also “each have a limited understanding and need one another to share our insights,” which can further deepen our personal understanding of the truth.
Ambler has written this book in an extremely accessible style. And for the scholars among us, he provides historical quotations (with modern English translation when needed), appendices, references to source materials, and suggestions for further reading. This book gave me a deeper understanding of The Quaker Way and a greater confidence in my ability to engage in conversations about our faith. I believe it might do the same for you. ~~~
The Quaker Way (2012) is available from Quaker Books at www.quakerbooks.org.
Talley Kenyon began her life as a Quaker in a 19th century Meeting House in rural New Jersey. She is now a member of Palo Alto Friends Meeting.