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Book List:
Basic Quakerism
Corporate Discernment




My Experience Of Quakerism's Greatest Gift


Brief Description:
"Like many other members of the QUF [Quaker Universalist Fellowship], Sally believes that the very essence of Quakerism rests in accepting the possibility that every human being may have a direct and personal relationship to God, the Tao, or the spiritual universe-whatever name one chooses-independent of belief, creed, clergy, or organization. Paradoxically, this extreme of individual seeking finds expression in a community of support, love, and mutual Discernment. The resulting tensions between individualism and universalism, freedom and community, are mediated, Sally finds, by trust. ..." - Rhoda R. Gilman, editor's introduction.

Troll Press 2008 23 PP. Paper

$5.00 (in stock)


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Reviews (1)

Trust: My Experience of Quakerism’s Greatest Gift
Pamphlet Review by George Schaefer, PYM Care and Aging Coordinator

In her pamphlet, Trust: My Experience of Quakerism’s Greatest Gift, Sally Rickerman presents her journey among Friends as a living process which all seekers can recognize and aspire to. Throughout that journey she has faced life’s trials and tribulations while maintaining a strong spiritual connection to wisdom, her own innate experience and the truth revealed through her religious tradition. The resulting pamphlet should rightly be considered the wisdom of a Quaker elder. The word elder currently carries a lot of baggage among liberal Friends. But, it would be helpful for our tradition — which faces the unprecedented challenge of an extremely atomized society and a rapidly changing world environment — to listen when our elders feel compelled to speak. They are attempting to nurture our spiritual vitality and to impart to rising generations the legacy of wisdom from within our peculiar tradition.

Indeed, it is soothing to read that as Sally entered her eighth and ninth decades of life, she “had thrilling, encouraging and helpful insights about the gift of potentially world — changing understandings and empowerment of liberal Quakerism.” In these insights, she found new hope, “not only for Quakerism, but also for humanity as a whole.” This hope is what she imparts to Friends and to seekers everywhere.

Sally tells us that she discovered her insight into the open secret of Quakerism gradually and without much conscious seeking. She began by trying to puzzle out why Quakerism had such a positive effect on the 20th century world. This line of inquiry led her to search more ardently for the spiritual source of “Friends’ extraordinary empowerment,” as a force for peace and justice in the world. This, in turn, led to research into the works of scholars who trace the human spiritual journey in many different religious traditions.

What she found not only satisfied her mind but also allowed her to relax more fully into her own tradition. She understood that the search is over when one can relax enough to let go of the “boundaries of the smaller identity,” (quoting Henry Underhill), and “transcend into something bigger” through trust in the connectedness of all life with the transcendent truth of being, or God. When this happens, all sorts of wonderful things can be accomplished.
For Rickerman, the truth of Quakerism — that we can trust in the basic goodness of our lives — is a precious gift that Friends have endeavored to share with the world for the past 350 years. Such trust begets a plethora of positive values and leads to actions that, in fact, have changed the world. Of course, trust as a human value is fairly basic to the continuance of any group of people, especially a religious body. But, it is Rickerman’s premise that early Friends changed the equation when they posited that what is revealed to every sincere person should be valid, and thus, if this consideration shows that the point revealed arises out of a vibrant relationship with the Divine, it should be honored as truth.
Because this approach rules out the idea of a fixed collective truth to be believed in, Friends have been encouraged ever since to respond to a set of queries designed to test the leadings of truth in their lives. Discernment then becomes a spiritual practice in which the seeker attempts to empty herself, to let go of fixed ideas and known images, to open to the larger spiritual reality of life, to trust the Light within. In this way Friends are empowered to not only like and accept themselves but to engage the world with energy and hope.

Rickerman reports that she has found very few who share her perspective. However, she remains undaunted trusting that her insight into the open secret of Quakerism is of vital importance and must be spread. To this end, she shares the effect of trust in her own life. Having been born with dyslexia at a time when very little was known about the disorder, Sally experienced the unconditional love and profound trust of her parents, family, family F/friends and teachers at Westtown School, all of whom affirmed her innate goodness. This love and support in time enabled her to recognize this apparent disability as a gift. It is a special way of seeing that enables her to understand the world in the context of its larger patterns, its bigger sweeping images.
Rickerman goes on to describe the manifestation of the pattern of this exceptional Quaker empowerment, presenting an impressive list of groups and organizations that highlights the disproportionate accomplishments of Friends in the world. She credits these achievements to the gift of trust. Rickerman also affirms that trust is the basis for the growth of healthy minds and souls. While the research lacks extensive scientific documentation, current neuroscience does support this foundation. It is a piece of pre-Enlightenment cultural wisdom that modern Western societies seem reluctant to reclaim.

While Rickerman admits that there have been many “bumps in the road” along the way these many years, she asserts
that trusting the spiritual context of our lives in the larger life of Spirit is still the bedrock upon which modern Quakers tread. It is a way of knowing that ultimately requires a self — transcendence, often experienced with an intensity of pure present moment awareness. This connection liberates us to trust ourselves to take positive action to help others. It is the universal path to the divine which sincere men and woman of every spiritual tradition have been travelling for thousands of years.

In closing, Rickerman asserts that our ability to trust the universe — to access this open secret of Quakerism — would disappear “in a flash” were it not deeply grounded in an active spiritual practice of faithful discernment, a practice in which Friends are regularly gathered into the greater reality of God and Spirit. It is a practice that is soul-enriching and leads to a faith centered in trust. This is the message that must be shared, the Light that should not be covered with a basket to make it less direct or more decorous.

While Rickerman is widely known as a Universalist Friend, the essence of her message here is that unprogrammed Quakerism is unique in that it is the only faith tradition she knows of that “implements in its faith and practice a universal policy of trust.” For her, this peculiar understanding of Quakerism has universal application. For when a person is trusted, “that person is liberated from self-centeredness… from doubts, anxieties and needs centering on the self, they are enabled to act, freed to go out and do!” That is a blessing to share with all people everywhere.
All of us need wisdom for living. And real wisdom is carried by human beings existing as part of a living cultural tradition with all its strengths and its shortcomings. In sharing her understanding of Quakerism’s gift of trust, Sally Rickerman has given us wisdom that can inspire Friends to live with greater understanding and hope.

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