Quaker Testimony of Community in the Time of a Pandemic

Quakers Australia logoQuakers, also called Friends, are a historically Christian denomination whose formal name is the Religious Society of Friends. The following text and poem was sent to Victorian Quakers at the Beginning of the ‘Stay at Home’ in March 2020.

In 1667 during the Great Plague, Isaac Penington wrote to the Friends in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, the words which generations of Quakers have since treasured.

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

As we too face a pandemic, albeit in greatly different circumstances to the seventeenth century, our testimony of community can guide us in how we choose to respond. Many Friends who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do so, chose to self-isolate prior to this being required, not just for their own protection, but to avoid being a carrier of Covid-19. I see the latter as more important than the former, as the multiplying chain reaction we can trigger through transmitting the virus can potentially result in many deaths and overload our health systems.

Friends are now exploring new ways to remain connected through our local meetings and our worshipping groups, using modern technology in ways earlier Friends could never have imagined, and developing Caring Circles through telephone contact to support one another.

Let us go further than that, Friends, and move beyond our cocoons. Let us be mindful of those who may not be able to use such technology and of those from whom our meetings may have become disconnected. Now is the time to reach out to them and to anyone, including those we do not know well, who might be suffering in isolation.

Let us hold in the Light all those who have chosen not to self-isolate in order to serve us all: the people who are producing, delivering and selling food; dispensing medicines; cleaning public places; maintaining transport and communication systems; and much more. For those who selflessly serve people who are sick and dying, especially in circumstances that place themselves at serious risk, let us hold them in the Light and express our profound gratitude.

May we be spiritually nourished throughout this time of physical isolation, and spiritually nourish one another. In 2000 our Canberra Friend, Reg Naulty, wrote this poem which he titled Evening Prayer, which may speak to our current condition.

In the loneliness of the evening I pray:
For comfort at the heart for the bereft, still bewildered, bereaved,
For the sick who search for hope in the desolate sky,
For the forlorn, unexpected losers;
May you whisper within them, O God,
to all without companions at the darkening of the day;
may you who brings the morning
breathe within them that they are not forgotten,
that there is a love close to them.

by Dorothy Scott on behalf of the elders of The Religious Society of Friends, Victoria Regional Meeting,


Australian Quakers at the Yearly Meeting
Australian Quakers at the Yearly Meeting