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Quaker, French-speaker, educator, anti-racist; Southern-born & raised, and talking enthusaist.

2009-08-20

What is Quakerism?

While there is no official statement on who Quakers are, this is mine:

Quakerism is a living, vibrant faith with several manifestations that are strikingly different. Quakers refer to themselves and each other as "Friends." The terms are used interchangeably. The majority of Friends world wide are Evangelical Christians. However, in the United States there are various other "branches" of the Quaker tree such as Liberal and Conservative Friends. The lines aren't always clear and some Friends from different branches actively seek dialogue and fellowship with one another . Some Friends are socially conservative others are very liberal. It all depends on the local group and how the Spirit leads that particular group. You can even find progressives and conservatives worshiping in the same congregation! Generally, Friends oppose physical and verbal violence, espouse equality for all people under the law, strive for simplicity in time commitments and material possessions, and testify to the importance of community balanced with private reflection and individual needs. Quakers are united in that we are to search for Truth and be honest in all we do. In Friends' experience, a person can have direct contact with God, without a book or another person or an institution. We do acknowledge the benefits of holy writings, the experiences and wisdom from other people, and the gathered community as important means to keep help us discern the way forward in our journey with the Divine.

In Quaker communities all Friends are considered equals. In Quaker conregations (generally known as Friends Meetings or Churches) members do not vote, but rather seek to find God's will in a form that is often confused with consensus. Pastors, ministers and elders (in the meetings that have them) or committees that offer pastoral care and which tend to the spiritual life of the group only have as much authority as the members of the group give them. Quakers seek God's direction in their hearts, attempting to put egos aside, to discern as a community which actions to take and what statements to make. We call this finding the "sense of the meeting."

Most Quakers attend a Friends meeting or church where they worship in a manner that resembles a protestant service. There will often be a pastoral minister, or ministry team, songs, vocal prayer, a short sermon and a reading from the Bible or the meeting's Faith and Practice. There may be a period of "open worship" that may last only a couple minutes or up to half of the time of worship. These Friends are more commonly found in the South, Midwest and West of the United States. Traditionally, however, Quaker worship is completely based in silence. During this time, Friends seek to quiet their minds (some will silently chant a mantra, a Bible verse or focus on an image to avoid distracting thoughts). Friends find that with practice and time, the "world" can fall away and in that silence we can feel or hear the voice of God. Instead of a pastoral minister, Christ is the spiritual priest who guides the movement of the Spirit in the worshippers' hearts and minds. In that silence worshippers may receive a message and those who do so will labor in that silence to discern if it is from God, and if so, if it is to be shared, and if that's the case, if it's to be shared then and not at a later time. The experience of God calling someone to deliver vocal ministry, vocal prayer or a song can be overwhelming, and can lead to an inner (or even outer) trembling or "quaking!" This type of ministry is prophetic, as it is God through us who speaks. In the line of the evangelists and prophets of the Bible, both men and women (and children) can share in this form of ministry.

Quakers believe that all people have the potential to be ministers, emphasizing the "priesthood of all believers" (1 Peter 2:9) or the "universal ministry." In Quaker worship, God may call anyone to sing, speak or pray aloud. From time to time, individual Quakers are led into a particular ministry which may take many forms from pastoral ministry, prison ministry, missions, youth work, social activism and reform or Gospel Ministry . Some meetings and churches follow the tradition of recognizing gifts ("recording ministers or elders"). While the particular Quaker meeting may not employ a pastor (Evangelical Friends Church of Baltimore does) or even recognize particular ministers or ministries (Homewood & Stony Run do not), you will find a number of Quakers in a given meeting who are actively engaged in ministry and who are given spiritual care by others in their meetings.

What could the Light of Christ within be leading you to do?

1 comment:

  1. You're brave even to have tried to define Quakerism! Thanks for the even-handed definition/description/summary. You pulled it all together very well.

    Amitiés.

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