Quakers are a historical religion beginning in 17th century England. A man named George Fox became disillusioned with the Church of England and other religious movements in England at the time. He believed he received revelations and discovered that God and Christ could be directly experienced by mankind without any intervention from clergy or symbolic sacraments. He also believed in a priesthood of all believers.
Through the years, the Quakers were pushed from the British Isles to the New World where they were ran out of colony after colony until they settled a colony called Pennsylvania as a safe haven for them.
Today, there is a spectrum of Quaker beliefs ranging from old school Orthodox Quakers, Evangelical Quakers, and Liberal Quakers. However, there are some uniting characteristics among Quakers.
General beliefs and practices of Quakers:
- People can experience and commune directly with God without the intervention of priests or sacraments.
- Belief that Christ's inner light resides within all mankind and can be accessed and experienced by everyone.
- Rejection of creeds which are binding to members of the faith.
- Priesthood of all believers, as such there often will be no clergy in a Quaker meeting, but instead the church will be run in an egalitarian way.
- Pacifism and a commitment to nonviolence.
The Friends Meeting I went to falls on the liberal end of the spectrum. So how was it?
The church is located in Murray, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. The church is a blink and you'll miss it building. I know that because I did miss it. But, once you see it, it's quite a pretty little brick building with a ramp for the main entrance and several signs out front, one of which says, "Torture is wrong."
Once inside, there is a table with pamphlets on how to help climate change, pacifism, caring for the earth, Quaker beliefs, etc. Underneath the table is this sign that looks like it has been out on the lawn before.
Leading into the chapel are two wooden doors with this sign telling you to be quiet as the meeting is in progress.
The chapel is lined with a few simple but well made stained glass windows.
The chapel itself is a simplistic room with a sanctuary that contains a piano. However, most of the space is taken up with chairs forming a circle. This is where the services take place. More on that below.
Overall, simplistic but very warm and traditional environment. I enjoyed it a lot.
The people were silent during the service, however, afterward there was a coffee hour. There I got to talk to people. It was interesting to speak with them. They were all quite friendly and asked a lot of questions. I learned many were involved in social work jobs and seemed to be very focused on the community.
They were diverse in age and background. Some were teens, some young adults in college, several older people, and a number of middle aged people. They were very welcoming, everyone asked my name and why I was there. They were very intrigued by the idea of the blog and had a number of questions.
Overall, very kind people.
Quaker services traditionally are quite different than most church services you'll encounter. Though many Quaker meetings have started to have more traditional services with hymns and a sermon, known as programmed services, the traditional Quaker services are unprogrammed. The unprogrammed service is simply a group of people sitting in silence in a room. While in this silence, they meditate and pray. There are no songs and no sermons. If a member feels inspired to, they will stand and deliver a short message on a topic they were meditating or praying about. These messages are not necessarily for everybody and not like sermons telling you how to live your life.
This meeting was a traditional, unprogrammed service. The members were already in progress at the time I got there. I walked in and they were sitting in the circle in complete silence. The service went on in silence for about 10 minutes before a woman stood up and told a story. She mentioned how she works with refugees and how a woman from Somalia had locked herself in the car and when the police officers came, they asked if she had pulled the lock button up. She hadn't and was able to get out once she was told about it. She said that she found it interesting because sometimes what seems so obvious to all of us isn't obvious to someone else who's not had the same experiences as you.
After that, there was more silence. I watched the people meditating and enjoyed the silence for a bit before getting a little bored. Finally, an elderly man stood up and gave a small speech about how discovering the light inside of us is like opening the curtains and realizing there were hidden bad things that you have to work on inside yourself that you didn't see in the dark. At that moment, the sun started shining brightly through the window. He looked at it and said, "Well, with that sun coming through the window, I guess it's time to be silent."
There was then more silence. After an hour of it, the silence was broken by everyone shaking hands, then members going around the circle sharing their names and any announcements they had.
Overall, the service was slightly boring being completely in silence for an hour, but it was nice to experience silence for a bit and just unwind at the end of a stressful week.
I really enjoyed the Quakers. The service wasn't exactly my taste, but it was calming and peaceful. I really enjoyed the people and all the things they stood for, peace, nonviolence, environmentalism, and living in harmony with others.
I would definitely visit a Quaker service again.
Only 2 left. I'm planning on visiting the Mennonites and the Hindus. I have two additional announcements. Check out the upcoming blogs for that.
Until next time, peace be with you!