Updated on 12 February 2021
Quaker Faith & Practice is published by British Yearly Meeting, which is a gathering for Friends from across the Britian.
The first British Yearly Meeting was in 1668 and in America (New England) their first Yearly Meeting was even earlier in 1661. Yearly Meetings publish guiding principles, organizational processes, and collected expressions of faith from the Friends present. These periodically updated publications are called Faith & Practice , and/or Book of Discipline.
Publishing Through The Years
The origins of Quaker Faith & Practice (QF&P) can be traced back to a 1738 manuscript that set out ‘brotherly advices given forth from time to time’. A printed edition was published in 1783. As of today, the modern British version is in its fifth edition and can be read online at: qfp.quaker.org.uk (opens in a new tab).
With the Quaker faith finding its away across the oceans of the globe, each country produces its own version of QF&P to make it relevant to them.
Countries that have their own book include Australia, Denmark, Germany, Central & Southern Africa, Switzerland and New Zealand.
In America, because of its size and number of Quakers many different states and communities have their own version.
Advice & Queries
The first chapter of the British QF&P is entitled Advices & Queries and a version of this chapter has found its way into many of the worldwide editions. This opening chapter seeks to introduce what it means to be a Friend and is the best starting place in exploring the faith.
Here are a few lines from the introduction of the British QF&P to give you a flavour:
“There will also be diversity of experience, of belief and of language. Friends maintain that expressions of faith must be related to personal experience.”
“Some find traditional Christian language full of meaning; Some do not. Our understanding of our own religious tradition may sometimes be enhanced by insights of other faiths.”
“The deeper realities of our faith are beyond precise verbal formulation.”
“Our diversity invites us both to speak what we know to be true in our lives and learn from others.”
“As Quakers, we often pride ourselves on being ‘seekers’, who are continually, “open to new light, from whatever source it may come.”
A Living Breathing Document
An undeniable strength of QF&P is that it is continually revised and updated to reflect the faith as it is now, what it has been in the past and how it may shape the future. The current fifth edition is currently being revised for a new edition.
QF&P is a living breathing document.
Friends are seekers who hold “a precious heritage of discoveries,” and it is for every generation to find “the Light and and Life again for ourselves,” as “we must humbly acknowledge that our vision of the truth will, again and again, be amended.”
Recommended Reader Order
YQN recommends QF&P as an excellent starting point for learning more about the Quaker Faith and the Society of Friends in general. However, if you’re going to read the British version then YQN would argue that it’s not necessarily in the best order for newcomers. This is because most of chapters in the first half of the book deal with the structure of the society and its governance – required but quite dry, especially for newcomers not used to Quaker terminology.
Rather, YQN, suggests reading the book in this order:
- Chapter 1 – Advices & Queries
- Chapter 12 – Caring for another
- Chapter 18 – Faithful lives
- Chapter 19 – Openings
- Chapter 20 – Living faithfully today
- Chapter 21 – Personal journey
- Chapter 22 – Close relationships
- Chapter 23 – Social responsibility
- Chapter 24 – Our peace testimony
- Chapter 25 – Unity of creation
- Chapter 26 – Reflections
- Chapter 27 – Unity and diversity
- Chapter 28 – Sharing the Quaker experience
- Chapter 29 – Leadings
- Reading the rest of the chapters
If you’re a British Quaker, do you agree with this ordering? If you’re a Quaker from elsewhere in the world with a different version of QF&P, would you recommend a reading order of your book’s chapters to newcomers? Let YQN know in the comments below.
Featured image from amazon.co.uk