A description of the approach to faith at Valley Mills Friends Meeting. This statement was approved by Monthly Meeting for Business on June 6, 2010.
What will you find at Valley Mills Friends Meeting?
Church can provide a framework for living your life and giving it meaning. Perhaps Valley Mills Friends Meeting is – or could be – such a resource for you. We are a Quaker meeting: a Christian church of the Religious Society of Friends. We have spent more than a year in study and discussions in our distinctive Sunday School classes, trying to describe what we love about our Meeting. Here are some thoughts on which we have agreed.
The foundations of our faith include three things: the Bible, personal experience, and community.
The Bible is always part of our worship, and often part of our Sunday School. Our study of the Bible does not assume that the Bible is free of errors, or that God’s revelation to us ended when the last Bible author wrote the last verse.
The Bible is not a book but a library of books. It preserves the writings of Jews and Christians who loved God, and who understood God and Jesus in a variety of ways. We inform our understanding through the study of many questions. For example, who wrote its many books? When were those books written? What were the literary customs then? What was the historical, cultural and scientific understanding of that period? How were writings translated and edited in the centuries that followed? We haven’t stopped learning. We want to know more.
We are seekers. We expect that each person’s experience of God can be transformative. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, described this transformative power and capability as “that of God in every one.”
Some of us, through our personal spiritual journeys, have figured out some answers for ourselves. We do not condemn or exclude anyone who believes differently. None of us expects the other people who worship with us to know God in exactly the same way we do. There is no creed nor is there a list of beliefs which any of us would expect another to accept.
Our faith community helps us interpret, filter, validate, and understand our individual experience of God and our understanding of the Bible.
We find spiritual fulfillment and satisfaction in the process of seeking answers to unanswerable questions. We are content to know that there may be no absolute certainty. The process of seeking can engage us, educate us, and bring us closer together. We find unity not in creeds and doctrines but in sharing our experience of God.
While “creeds” may be unnecessary in our meeting, we do want to live up to the Quaker “distinctive testimonies” of peace, equality, integrity, simplicity, and community.
Few of us are motivated to spread our good news through recruitment or persuasion. In general, we prefer the Quaker tradition of “letting our lives speak.” We get involved, individually and as a group, in a great number of projects and causes that improve people’s lives.
Diversity and Inclusion
We do not merely tolerate differences of understanding, outlook, or style of living. We welcome them. We love to seek understanding across lines of difference. We do not want to isolate ourselves, but to engage in dialogue with our differences, listening more than speaking, giving and taking, and sharing criticism and self-criticism.
Jesus and God
At Valley Mills Friends Meeting, Jesus is teacher, interpreter, and the best example of “living the will of God.” We find a path to understanding God through the life and teachings of Jesus. On this we agree.
Some in our meeting believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Some believe he atoned for our sins through his crucifixion. To others, the teachings of the human Jesus of Nazareth are at the center of their Christianity.
Most of us believe it is not possible for us to fully and truly understand the nature of God. We describe our experience of God in different ways. We learn from each other.
We welcome and enjoy sharing these differences. These differences unite us more than they divide us. We are a community of people who care about one another. These topics are always open to discussion and seeking.