I continue to be so grateful to spend time with David Hartsough last Saturday evening, and then to continue reflecting on our peace testimony this past Wednesday during our monthly Learning Committee gathering. Both provided opportunities to reflect and experience at a very personal level what the Friends Peace Testimony means, and could mean, to each of us. Both gatherings allowed for honest and deep sharing on a topic that we too often take for granted, or don't take the time or intention to examine in much depth.
For my part, I realized at a far deeper personal level that peace making, or peace building, is based more on a daily, personal discipline and commitment than how it manifests in my public peace ministry. What I "do" out there in the world begins with how at peace my heart and soul are. I need to "practice peace" more intentionally, constantly, like maintaining a skill with an instrument or honing a new skill (the challenges of creating a better relationship with my computer come to mind!).
So what might that mean? Obviously it means training myself to be more mindful and conscious about how I react and relate to people on a daily basis - am I able to offer a sense of grace and peace to all I meet, even when I am in a grump or feel upset? But I also have begun a discipline of journaling and being mindful about those aspects of my life that make me more peaceful - living with a deep sense of gratitude, for example, is key. I also have been focusing on praying for imagination, patience and hope. You may discover other strategies or practices that lead you to being more peaceful.
As Cathy pointed out the other night with her introduction to the history of the Quaker peace testimony, it is not a "creedal" statement for Friends, although it may easily be taken that way, as "to be a Friend one needs to adhere to the Quaker peace testimony because every other 'real' Quaker does" - that's a creed and obviously we are non-creedal. Instead, the Quaker peace testimony is a practice. Each of us is encouraged to seek to live with a deep spiritual peace that creates in us a place of profound love and nonviolence that we may know personally and "experientially." When we are able to practice and experience that level of peaceful spirit individually, and it is shared and reinforced through our worship and our deep community, our Quaker peace testimony is a powerful living presence capable of transforming each of us and the world where we live. Because Friends' lives have affirmed this living presence historically and presently (David Hartsough,, e.g.), and because we live with the inspiration and commitment their witness provides, we continue to claim the mantle of a Friends Peace Testimony with great gratitude and humility as attempt to bring it into our own present community and contemporary lives.