A couple of times in recent Meetings for Worship--once at the monthly meeting and another at the worship group--a worshiper at each place made reference to the nifty little acronym SPICE. A lot has already been written about that acronym and the modern take on the Quaker Testimonies, and I've included a partial list of related blog posts below.
I agree that the mnemonic acronym--Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality--is a sort of tool to help our youngest Friends and our newest attenders understand what some of our key principles are. But it's like a mechanic who pulls out a Phillips screwdriver, a flat-head screwdriver, and a hammer and says, "Every mechanic should have a complete tool set like this!"
Well, of course it isn't quite like that.
One of the Friends who talked about SPICE has long-time connections with Friends education. To be fair, the Friend did say something about helping the young students understand some of the values that make the school what it is. And yet: at the rise of worship, an attender acknowledged that the acronym helped him finally understand what Quakerism is about...
Do we really want worshipers to leave meeting with an acronym? Or do we want them--and ourselves--to leave worship with a renewed sense of God's love, guidance, and presence in our individual and corporate lives?
The short-hand of SPICE doesn't relieve us of our responsibility to convey our faith and its invisible doctrines, principles, and complexities to those who worship among us.
What is it we really want those who find us to understand about our peculiar faith tradition? How can we share the fabric of Quakerism and not just a few of its individual threads?
The other person who recently spoke about SPICE has been worshiping with Quakers for a handful of months, and he talked about the acronym as if it was the best thing he'd seen or heard since sliced bread. I think he was disappointed to find out that the acronym has been around for at least a few years...
The thing is, if we stop at SPICE--as others have pointed out in their posts to which I link below--if we say in essence, "The testimonies are the crux of what we need to share when we talk about Quakerism with others," then it is as if we have pulled out a single thread that leaves marred the entire Quaker tapestry. In essence, we unintentionally sever these spiritual fruits from the deep root of our faith: the Inward Teacher, the Light, the Divine Principle that guides us to outward action that offers testimony to what it is we know inwardly.
If we are going to talk about SPICE in reference to the Testimonies, then we must also, and at the same time, and in the same breath, talk about the concept of the transformative power of the Light. Quakers would have no Testimony to the Truth had we not made ourselves low enough to submit to the Light's searching out of our shortcomings, yielded to it, and subsequently found ourselves changed.
So I want to suggest a new acronym, in order to put God first:
- GPS ICE.
But really, the acronym should be
- GPS G ICE G.
Putting God first, last, and in the center of our Quakerism.
RELATED BLOG POSTS:
Martin's essay on the Quaker Testimonies
Chris M's thoughts on Creeds and Quakers
Melanie Douty-Snipes thoughts on Devotion as a Testimony (scroll down)
Pam's thoughts on Love as a Testimony
My own cautions about overreliance on an acronym
A more recent post by Quaker Jane, reminding Friends that Love is the fount from which the Testimonies rise