Quakers in the UK. This topic is right up my street. Quakers are members of a group with Christian roots that began in England in the 1650’s. The formal title of the movement is the Society of Friends or the Religious Society of Friends. There are approx. 210K Quakers across the world (please don’t quote me on this) and in Britain there are 17K Quakers and 400 Quaker meetings for worship each week. 9K people in Britain regularly take part in Quaker worship without being members of the Religious Society of Friends.
While Quakers have roots in Christianity, they find meaning and value in the teachings and insights of other faiths and traditions. In brief, Quakers believe that there is something of God in everyone. In addition, Quakers believe that faith is lived through action-working positively and creatively with others in order to build a more just and peaceful world. Also, Quakers believe strongly in living out their faith in the world-and that there is something of God in everyone, thus shaping relationships and how we treat others. This seamlessly translates into treating everyone with respect, whatever their circumstances-to include: beliefs, race, age or gender. Ultimately, it means working to make the world a better place. In incorporating these tenets, Quakers are involved with (and support) many, including the most marginalised and vulnerable, including refugees, asylum seekers, prisoners, war casualties and those affected with mental health issues. Quakers work for peace in every aspect of life whether locally, nationally or internationally.
Allow me to wax lyrical about Quaker values-briefly….
-Truth and integrity
-Simplicity and sustainability
The following is directly related, to what Quakers believe:
- God is love
- the light of God is in every single person
- a person who lets their life be guided by that light will achieve a full relationship with God
- everyone can have a direct, personal relationship with God without involving a priest or minister
- redemption and the Kingdom of Heaven are to be experienced now, in this world
Quakers do not regard any book as being the actual ‘word of God’. In fact, most Quakers regard the Bible as an inspirational book-but they don’t see it as the only one-and so they read other books that can guide their lives. Truth. All true. Es verdad.*I think you get the point*
Where the name comes from
Many say that founder, George Fox, once told a magistrate to tremble (quake) at the name of God and the name ‘Quakers’ stuck. I don’t know if this is true but it is interesting as well as entirely possible. In addition, the name ‘Friends’ comes from Jesus’ remark “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
How Quakers worship
Quaker worship (called: ‘Meeting for worship’) normally lasts for one hour. Quakers will subsequently enter a designated space or Meeting House et al and sit in stillness and waiting. This stillness gives or rather- allows a space and time to listen and reflect. Further, Quakers don’t have songs, set prayers or talk-which you might find in other places of worship. It is important to note that Quakers realise that for some people, they may find the silence uncomfortable, but it can also be viewed as an opportunity to come closer to God.
Worship is at the heart of what it means to be a Quaker. What does this mean exactly? Allow me. Meeting for worship brings Quakers together in stillness enabling them to quiet their minds and open our hearts and lives to God. Everyone is WELCOME to join.
I recently attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship, while visiting Canterbury (mind you, I don’t live in Canterbury, but was just visiting) and at the end of the meeting I was greeted with hearty handshakes and warm smiles. It was like coming home again.
Ok, last thing. For those of you who are not completely up to speed on Quakers and think that they are similar to the Amish, the chart pictured below, should help.
George Fox pictured below
And one more thing …a massive ‘shout-out’ to the Quaker educators and non-Quaker educators who effortlessly guided me through the tenets of the Quaker religion, while I was at SFS. Thank you/Massive thanks.