Chapter 19 » 19.00
In this chapter we tell the story of the origins of our Religious Society. The experiences, insights and ‘openings’ of Friends in the seventeenth century set out the framework and purpose of the Society and give an authoritative point of reference. But it is not just history, even though it is historical, for the openings also set a direction and point into the future.
At a time of political and religious turmoil, early Friends as a people were gathered, guided and ordered by God. From their experience of the immediacy of the presence of Christ sprang the form of worship and the way of life which became the distinctive testimonies of Friends, and which were upheld with courage in the face of great persecution. From the need to make provision for those suffering and the need to set boundaries to individual behaviour, came the insights into ‘Gospel Order’ and the setting up of meetings for church affairs which were also meetings for discipline.
As we look at these openings – both beginnings and insights – we are not telling a full history. We are telling those parts of the story which explain and illuminate the identity of our yearly meeting as it is now, as it interprets its origins in the Light now given to it, and as it is called by the same Inward Teacher to find, in differing times and circumstances, the same Truth.