Quaker qualities appeal to younger generations

By Dr. Guy Chmieleski

The world is an increasingly complex place. We are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about who we are and how we should live in the world. We seem to struggle to know how to live well in this rapidly moving, ever-changing culture.

At Friends University, we experience these same cultural messages. As we consider the future, and the role our graduates play in this world, we hope they are encouraged to make our world a better place. And that’s shaping how we educate our students.

To accomplish our goal of preparing graduates to lead, influence and transform our world, we are leaning on ideas that have shaped the lives and faith of our founders, the Society of Friends (also known as Quakers), a Christian community seeking to embody the words of Jesus: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). These ideas are known as SPICES (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship). We believe these qualities, along with the grace of God and the incredible education they receive, make our graduates stand out and serve our world for the better.

Simplicity can come in many forms and is about reducing much of life to what is necessary, essential and important. This can come in word, deed, dress or desires.

Peace seems self-explanatory, yet we often struggle to know how to live into it. When we learn to listen, and really hear others, we can better understand, empathize and seek the greater good above our own selfish desires. This leads to a higher level of internal and external peace – which can be contagious!

Integrity. In a world where we often mask our true feelings and self, integrity is a call to be the same person – in all places, to all people, at all times. What you see is what you get. It is a simpler existence that creates more peace – internal and external.

Community is more than just being connected. Research tells us while we are more connected (digitally, virtually), we are more relationally disconnected, and more unhealthy and unhappy, than we ever have been. We are created as relational beings to be in intentional relationships with others. Embracing simplicity, peace and integrity leads us into deeper connections and healthier community.

Equality is a buzzword these days. Yet it highlights an important issue plaguing humanity in most cultures.  Quakers have sought to address this issue from their origin. We are all created equal. When we embody this reality, you can see how it shapes the health of our communities and culture.

Stewardship is an idea and practice that helps us see ourselves as implicated in all things. We are called to be caretakers of the elements of life we encounter. Each of us plays a role. We do not leave the work of taking care of our world and resources to someone else. It is our shared responsibility.

Education will always be important and essential. If we fail to incorporate the SPICES that embody the ways Quakers have sought to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, I wonder where we will end up as a society?

We remain hopeful because this younger generation believes things need to change. At Friends University, we believe the ways we are preparing and equipping the world’s future leaders speaks to the changes our world so desperately needs.

Dr. Guy Chmieleski is campus pastor and dean of campus ministries at Friends University. Friends University is celebrating Quaker Heritage Week April 8-14. This editorial ran in the Wichita Eagle April 6, 2018.