If you’ve managed to get hold of the useful little Quaker booklet called Advices & Queries, (available for free online and in print from the Quaker Centre and your local Quaker meeting.) you’ll find a phrase tucked into the middle of number 28 that means a lot to Quakers: Attend to what love requires of you. We have found it to be a good piece of advice for anyone looking for meaning and purpose in their life.
For many Quakers, much of that meaning and purpose comes from helping others; and for the vast majority this ‘social action’ takes place at a local level. Quakers work quietly – sometimes singly, sometimes in groups – to give assistance to the frail, the elderly, the unemployed, refugees, prisoners and homeless people.
They organise soup runs, they run mobile libraries, they teach English to people who are living in the UK for the first time. They offer themselves and their skills wherever they may be needed. Not all these activities happen in every location, of course. They depend on local conditions and the availability of people to run things. If you’re interested, you’ll soon find out what’s happening in your area when you visit your nearest Quaker meeting.
None of this social action is compulsory or even expected of you. But you may find, as hundreds of Quakers have before you, that you experience an inner compulsion to do it, a sense that you have little choice.
Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?
- Advices & Queries, 1995
There are some national Quaker organisations that may also interest you – perhaps enough for you to offer your services.
Quaker Voluntary Action enables participation in spirit-led volunteering that makes a practical and social difference in local and county-wide areas.
The Crime, Community and Justice Group highlights some particular Quaker projects based around crime, community and justice, and links them with one another, so that experiences can be distilled into new Quaker initiatives. The activities may be locally organised and managed, or they may be run centrally. A major concern for them is restorative justice, described here.
Quaker Housing Trust works with housing organisations to help them to provide decent homes for people in often desperate need of housing, and who have nowhere else to turn.
Quaker Social Action works in east London to provide practical solutions for people facing the multiple and varied impacts of poverty. For example, they provide crisis support for those unable to afford funerals; they help people to manage money and improve their resilience; they run the UK’s first dedicated housing project for young carers; and they provide a cooking space and a mobile library for people affected by homelessness.
You may also be interested in exploring the work of two organisations originally funded or inspired by the Quaker philanthropist Joseph Rowntree; The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The first is ‘a Quaker trust which seeks to transform the world by supporting people who address the root causes of conflict and injustice.’ The second ‘is an independent social change organisation working to solve UK poverty.’ They are both great examples of Quaker concerns that have a long history, and are as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago.
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 for one another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.
- Isaac Penington, 1667