To be brief, around 1652 in
It was the inspiration and preaching of George Fox (a troubled seeker who saw the hypocrisy and ritualistic nature of the churches around him at the time) that first sparked like-minded Christians to be drawn to the liberating message of early Friends and that of subsequent members of what was to become The Religious Society of Friends.
professed Christians at that time in
This was most likely a derogative term first used by a judge who mocked the fact that George Fox commanded him to “tremble at the words of the Lord” and the term also “stuck” and was even welcomed by some Friends because they observed that shaking or “quaking” often occurred when one rose to speak in meeting under the true inspiration of the Spirit. Today, “Quaker” and “Friend” are used interchangeably.
the history of the
laws prohibiting their religious meetings, for their refusal to take oaths of
allegiance to King and country, and for not paying the State-imposed tithes.
role in helping develop many facets of this country is enormous despite their
small size as a group.
Quakers in most parts of the world, although numbers are small.
surprise you that
The “church” as the term is used in the New Testament, always refers to the people, and never to a building. It is improper to refer to a building as a “church”. Only God’s people are His church.
They vary, of course, as there is no “set” pattern. But they always tend to be quite simple. You will not encounter icons or even crosses. No art adorns the interior meeting room used for worship. The simple benches or chairs are arranged in facing manner, to represent the equality affirmed to by Friends in their manner of worship.
YES! There are some Quakers who will not agree with this nor hold to the necessity of holding orthodox or traditional Christian truths as absolute, and it is true that Friends do not have formal creeds. No one is rejected as a person just because they disagree with others about faith and the historical Jesus, but for many Meetings, this would seem to indicate that one is not in unity with the Society, and might prevent membership being recommened to the individual expressing their non-adherence to Christian principles and the divinty of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Regardless of the attempt of a few Quakers today to claim that Quakerism is not necessarily based in Christian belief, it is a historical truth that Quakers very much saw themselves as trying to revive “primitive Christianity”, or returning to the age before the apostasies of the Roman Church and others. They believed they had a message to share about the true message of Jesus’ power to be with us even now, not just in a book, and His overwhelming commandment to love all. They, like George Fox, did not reject Jesus in any imaginable way. In fact, He was the center of their writings. But they did not always fit into the other Christians’ ideas of their day of the Christian "way" (meaning their doctrines and beliefs) and so some accused them of being heretics.
Mostly already stated above! But most importantly that “Jesus Christ has come to teach His people himself” and that each person is responsible for spiritual growth and listening to the voice of God. We are not rogues, however, and therefore meet together to learn and discern God’s voice to us as a group.
Because the scriptures state that The Word (capital “W”) is God and that Jesus was the Word Incarnate, we do not think it proper to refer to scriptures as “The Word”. In fact, that could even lead to idolatry of a book. The scriptures are indeed inspired and reflect the leadings and inspiration and revelation that the writers received at the time they were written. Paul did not know he was writing parts of “the Bible”! But this does NOT diminish the power and appropriateness of scriptures for training and revelation. What is true is that scriptures without the Spirit who inspired them are not understood. We see this happen when scriptures are taken out of context, historical accuracy, and cultural relevance, and then used to “defend” a particular belief or practice. We must guard against that, and see the scriptures as a whole, and understand that the discrepancies and contradictions found in scriptures are not indications of faults, but rather the input of human thought and feeling. Even the process of the choosing of the books of the bible, while overall most likely accurate and inspired, was in some cases perhaps a “political” process with a hidden agenda (or maybe even many hidden agendas!). All this makes them useful and great inspiration, but they are NOT the substance, or Word of God… Jesus is THE WORD! The Spirit will reveal to us all we need to know IF we are listening carefully. However, not that the Spirit would not reveal anything to us that went in complete and utter contradiction to the scripture of the new covenant through Christ (the New Testament). So, scriptures are a secondary source of Christian inspiration. To summarize to a brother or sister, we can live our lives without that book (although it would be much missed!), BUT WE CANNOT LIVE OUR LIVES WITHOUT THE SPIRIT! That seems to settle the discussion.
NO. We wouldn’t really want to be. Freedom and individual responsibility has always been part of our Christian walk. We do not demand conformity in the faith. That was one of the major differences between Puritans and Quakers. However, to be honest, all groups experience turmoil, and the very fact that Quakers listening to opposing ideas to try to gain wisdom from each idea or revelation made Quakerism vulnerable to schisms. And so it was. In the early 1800s the Friends divided over issues of the faith. The two divided groups soon divided again, and even again. Today, there is still division, but in general Friends accept all other branches of the Religious Society of Friends as having legitimacy. Organizations such as American Friends Service Committee and the Friends World Committee on Consultation bring various branches of Friends organizations together in many ways to work together on causes much broader than the divisive issues. Friends everywhere enjoy learning about other Friend’s traditions and practices.
There is no dress code! Some people prefer to dress down, and not wear loud outfits or clothes that draw attention to themselves rather than to the person. Some dress in the plain dress of Quakers of the past. Wear what you like.
These are terms used to honor the old habit of Friends to avoid using the names of the days and the months which were in many cases of pagan origin.
First pick up our brochure, “A Quaker Meeting for Worship” in the lobby. You should read it as you settle into your seat. It’s fine to read during this time! You will experience silent, waiting worship, and then as someone is led, they will rise and speak (usually briefly and to the point) what God is speaking to their heart. It may mean a great deal to you or very little, but the silence will continue afterwards. Others may do the same, but silence may prevail. Often newcomers find the silence extremely deep and refreshing. At a time that seems appropriate, Friends will shake hands which officially announces the end of waiting worship for that day.
I have found that the differences are found in manner of worship, the experience of spiritual rather than physical rituals or sacraments, and the insistence on the “Word” of God being Jesus, while the scriptures are the words (little “w”) of God. We have much in common as well. But one major difference here is that we do not have “pastors”. But rather than saying that we eliminate the clergy, you might say that Quakers have eliminated the laity! We are now all ministers to Him and to each other! That’s the challenge of our faith! We also vary in the way decisions are made, never taking votes, but rather waiting to members all agree in the direction that God is leading for a particular issue.
Yes, although you will find various degrees of thought on the subject among us. Some indeed question “what they might do if….”, but we trust that God will reveal to us His will in those situations, and that we will be obedient to His will in those situations. We do not judge the conscience of each person. We only know in our innermost being the words of Jesus “render not evil for evil” and “love your enemies”, and “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword”. These are difficult words in this world of violence and hate. We seek wisdom and guidance.
Jesus said not to! Also, it implies that we would use one degree of truth in one situation and another in another situation. We reject that thought. We should always speak the truth. Oaths are not only therefore against the teachings of Christ but in essence are unnecessary.
Hopefully, always the Spirit of God! Of course, among Friends, Committees and in some groups Elders, take care that others are free to explore the voice of God without hindrance, and will sometimes have to gently correct a situation where a Friend has misspoken or become angry, or disrupted what was agreed upon to be a true and valid movement of the Spirit. Also, words of hate or prejudice should be promptly corrected in love. So it is not complete anarchy in an unprogrammed meeting for worship, but an outsider might be hard-pressed to identify the “elders” or committee members for Ministry and Worship by sight (a fact that we like) unlike a more traditional setup where a pastor is in front of a congregation. The Clerk of a Monthly Meeting assists the group in meetings for worship with business
This is what we call convincement. It is a matter of the heart, not the organization. If after time you feel a strong desire to officially identify with the Religious Society of Friends, simply write a letter to the Clerk of the Meeting expressing your desire. You will find you are welcome among us!