The testimonies are about the way Quakers try to lead their lives. This attempt to put faith into practice, often with great difficulty, arises from an understanding of certain values and principles that are central to the Quaker faith. This leaflet tries to explain the spirit behind the testimonies and what they mean in practice.
Quakers’ understanding of faith is that true human fulfillment comes from an attempt to live life in the spirit of love and truth and peace, answering that of God in everyone. These beliefs spring from a sense of equality, compassion and seeing the sacred in all life. The testimonies are about Quakers’ commitment to those beliefs. Naturally, our dayto- day practice of them faces us with many dilemmas and compromises. Indeed the testimonies are often out of step with the way that many other people think and act and so may seem idealistic.
The testimonies arise out of a deep, inner conviction and challenge our normal ways of living. They do not exist in any rigid, written form; nor are they imposed in any way. All Quakers have to search for the ways in which the testimonies can become true for themselves. The testimonies also reflect the society we live in, and so have changed over time. Early Quakers had testimonies against outward symbols, taking oaths and the payment of tithes, and about peace, temperance, moderation and forms of address. Later, testimonies evolved with regard to slavery, integrity in business dealings, capital punishment and prison reform, nonviolence and conscientious objection to military service.
As the testimonies come from “leadings of the Spirit”, this may mean taking a stand against common social practices. The interaction between faith and action, as expressed in the testimonies, is at the heart of Quaker spiritual experience and living.