Why I Love Quakers and Why I am not One

Raised in a conservative American community, under the shadow of a Strategic Air Command Base (bombers going over the pole during the cold war), I had never questioned what it meant to be an American. I just accepted that the Air Force provided most of the local income, that men served in the Armed Forces, that the protests agains the Vietnam War were not helping any. It just was not something to be questioned; the Baptist Church and the local school system were one hundred percent American, and Democrats were in short supply.

I didn’t stay in the Baptist Church, but my faith journey was not in the peace churches. If anything, I went in the opposite direction, baptized as a Lutheran and confirmed in the Episcopal (Anglican) Church. These were state churches at their founding; they owed their beginnings to monarchs and parliaments. They were establishment churches, and still are.

It’s not as if I haven’t wanted to leave. I cannot abide the htought of providing for a standing army; seeing how the military almost ruined my sons lives made me see the armed forces quite differently. “Cannon fodder” is not just a joke, not just a cold statement by cold-hearted men. It is a reality. Those in uniform are expendable, no more than equipment. If it works well, fine; it it doesn’t, it can be discarded. If lost, it will be replaced. There’s no soul to the military.

I’ve been drawn to Quaker theology and philosophy since a young age. I’ve known Quakers, both Conservative and Liberal. I’ve never met a Quaker I did not like, love, or see as a newly-found brother or sister. I need peace people in my life, because there have been so many angry, warring, bitter people. I need people who will stand up and be counted for peace and the love of Christ. We all do even if we do not know it.

And yet I am not a Quaker myself. I’ve come close, but I haven’t crossed the line and never will. I suppose it is the sacramental nature of my faith. I also need the real, tangible, palpable signs of faith. I wish I could commune spiritually only, but I am of the earth, earthy. I need to hold the Lord in my hands, need to feel the water over my head. (Well, that happens once, but the memory is there.)

It’s probably deeper and more profound, as well. I am ordained to the sacraments, and the Lord is not going to let me go, come hell, high water or bishops with hardened hearts. The Lord has called me out to serve His flock in a profound way and I cannot put down the rod and staff and walk away. Besides, the sheep know the shepherd’s voice; they will follow anyway.

I am not leaving thee, Friends; I am just walking a parallel path.

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29 thoughts on “Why I Love Quakers and Why I am not One

  1. Dear Friends,

    Being a Conservative Quaker myself, there is much to be said for their way of life. The simplicity and vigorous accounting of all activities that one participates in is commendable. In Christ, Thea Pollock

    “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. ” William Penn/Quaker

    • As thee knows, we try to live a life of simplicity and accountability. My goal is to re-introduce that way of life to a large, influential denomination, in the small ways that I can. The Anglican Church made a grave error in casting out the reforming Quakers. It is God’s blessing that the Quakers still live a life of integrity while many Christians have become enamored of the world. For His own reasons, the Lord has kept me in the Anglican fold and I will use that as a witness to the simplicity He taught.

      Thanks, Thea, thy witness to me has been strengthening.

  2. I do not know where I will end up, I put my trust in god, but I feel very drawn to quakerism. Since I first heard of it I have always had that feeling in my breast that this is my way.

    However, the closest meeting is very far away and I have never had the opportunity to attend one. I think that if I had that chance I would instantly know if it was right or if I need to continue my search.

    I do not feel I fit in completely in my church, I often find sermons to be overworked and saying too much, not leaving anything to the heart of people. I have a problem with having to read so much in chorus and the fact that there is a ‘program’ to everything. I do not know what to think of the sacraments, I take communion and find it to have a positive effect on me, somehow. I find it easier to be genuinely thankful of the gift of food in sharing bread and wine with my fellow Christans than when I eat alone at home, but I do not believe in a mystery in communion.

    If I become a quaker I might still attend my church I go to now as well, it seems quite common to do so among quakers in Sweden. I do get some positive things from going there, otherwise I would not go, I do not think that I would not get these positive things if I changed the label of my faith.

    • I think you will find some help from “Quaker Jane,” she has written quite a bit on being a solitary Quaker. I’m sure other Quakers will help you connect and keep you in fellowship, even if they are far away. Can anyone help Elin find a nearby meeting, or fellow Quakers with whom to meet?

      We all take different journeys to get to the Kingdom of God.

  3. I have read her page quite a lot and started taking some of her advice, however it is hard. I have gotten in contact with a Swedish quaker, however, he is basically as far from me as you can me and still be in Sweden. However, I hope he can help me, perhaps there is someone a bit closer to me how is longing for some quaker-company.

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful piece, Magdalena. (I almost wrote “peace.”) I wish you blessings in your calling.

    For Elin and other potential “Friends at a Distance,” many people have found connections through an online Quaker network at http://www.quakerquaker.org. It’s run by Martin Kelley, whose Quaker Ranter blog is linked to in the blogroll here. In fact, I found this post because Martin linked to it there.

    By the way, the early Friends left the Anglican Church, as well as the Puritans, Baptists, and other non-conforming churches, rather than the other way around. So I don’t think it’s accurate to say the Anglicans “cast them out.” Except perhaps after the fact.

    • While some non-conforming groups left on their own, others were tossed out, refused the right to meet under law. I f they continued to defy the bishops and the crown, they were imprisoned. They always had the option of recanting and returning. Priests who followed Quaker principles were put out of the church by the bishops; and their flocks followed them, often into exile. The Puritans, or Congregationalists, were also a reforming movement, and almost succeeded. The Baptists were early enough that they were never really part of the Anglican foundation. My family, I beleive, may have been Baptist since John Knox.

      Martin has been a great help to me in finding Quaker resources.

  5. This weekend I was sharing faith story with a Friend from another Yearly Meeting. We are on a committee together. Her family were Quaker pastors from way back (look up Evangelical Friends). She talked about getting baptized for teenaged rebellion.

    Even better, she talked about how, before she met her husband, she figured she could marry someone who believed in baptism or communion because those things are not wrong. But she could never marry someone who is not a pacifist. I see no reason to let ritual stand in the way of one’s peace witness. Perhaps there also are other reasons you are called to this walk.

    • I am almost a lone voice for peace in my denomination, since it was an establishment church. It’s probably standing in the way of getting employed! I believe I amcalled to witness in the Anglican Church as one who stands up for the radical way of Christ.

      Actually, I hope to introduce some Quaker practice into my next parish, in addition to traditional liturgy.

      • Hello akhomeschoolfun, I am acquainted with several Quakers
        (Conservative branch) who stand strongly for Jesus Christ. Yes, they may include hunger and peace issues in there times of silence. My local group,
        Santa Cruz, CA strongly supports “Peace,” yet they support a “women right to choose,” which makes no sense to me! ~ Thea

        “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. ” William Penn/Quaker

  6. Sadly, the majority of the Quakers I know are Christian in name only. They are more concerned with worldly causes (hunger, peace, environmentalism seem the most important) rather than spiritual welfare. They don’t use the causes to draw others to Christ. Yet they would all say they are devout quakers. What’s wrong? How can they have gone astray like that? Even their services are silent. No sermon. Sometimes talk by members about a special event in their life that week.

    • The silent gathering was one of the hallmarks of Quaker worship, but traditionally, members spoke as they felt moved by the Holy Spirit. They might read scripture, or a religious tract, or they might speak from the heart. The prepared sermon wasn’t part of their gathering. Still, some liberal meetings seem to have wandered away from their Spirit-led history. Conservative Quakers are much more Christ-centered, in my experience.

  7. Scott Savage is a very, very conservative Quaker, his community has renounced all technology, Scott publishes the The Plain Reader, he has a book by this title with articles by Quakers, and non Quakers about living the simple life while serving God. Scott also published another book called The Plain Life – it details his thoughts about life, faith, family, simplicity, as he walked across Ohio to Columbus to turn in his drivers license once he had decided that he no longer needed to drive.

    Philip Gulley is a Quaker Pastor in Indiana, he has written a series of books, fiction, about a small Indiana town called Harmony where the main character Sam is a Quaker Pastor. The stories are written in a Garrison Keillor style, but are Christian, they are entertaining but have a peace filled message –

    • I have Scott’s book The Plain Reader. It was quite influential for us (although I was already living a fairly simple life when I read it.) If anyone wants to get in touch with the Savages, is there an address? I know he is way off grid, no email – so it will be the old-fashioned pen to paper if anyone wants more information from him.

  8. I think either at the end of The Plain Reader, or the beginning, there is mailing information for the newsletter The Plain Reader. Scott does NO technology, so he has not computer, internet, blog, webpage etc. The other option would be to contact the publisher. However, there cannot be too many Scott Savages in the small SE Ohio community where he lives 🙂

    • I should have qualified my answer! I don’t have it with me. Does anyone else have Scott’saddress, for those who are interested in writing to him?

  9. What I appreciate about your post, frankly, is that you do not write about how “if only the Quakers would allow outward sacraments to be part of their religion…” You graciously let Quakers be Quakers and leave the rituals in the steeple houses where they have meaning and a long history.

    In my experience among American Liberal and Conservative Friends, many Quakers who have come to the faith as adults talk the talk about not having outward sacraments but from time to time create a “work around” in order to include some structure to worship: Maybe an opening song…? Maybe a small table with flowers…? Maybe an Easter egg hunt before worship…?

    It drives me crazy, which is partly why I have been identifying myself as a Conservative-leaning Friend…

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

    • I would introduce silent worship to Anglicans, but as an entirely different setting – not drop five minutes of silence into morning prayer. Anglicans need that. We try to work on meditative services, Taize services, Celtic services, but we just end up with some fussy evening prayer alternative. An hour of “shut up and listen to the Spirit” would do anyone good.

      It sounds like some Quaker groups are going through the uneasy “what are we” trials that American Unitarians have. Quakers, though, have a long history of unique practice. Is there something wrong with it now? Probably not.

  10. As an Anglican-with-Quaker-leanings, and a Spiritual Director, I’ve been working towards the establishment, within my parish, of an early morning “silent, waiting worship” service before our 8:15 Eucharist. So far, only a few “takers” but “where two or three are gathered together…” We obviously cannot operate as an “alternative” service within our Anglican structure but it does seem to work as a “faith sharing” or “spirituality/prayer” group adjunct to our traditional worship of Eucharist and occasional BCP Morning Prayer. I’ve found that treading a very gentle road draws “seekers” from the ranks of those who feel a prompting to a more contemplative way of worship and life while allowing us the full range of our Anglican Tradition which I too, believe includes the Quaker witness.

    • that is exactly what I would like to do, too, although I am peripheral to a parish right now, and in a rural setting, it wouldn’t fly – too much traveling for some. I’m afraid that not all Quakers want to be included under the Anglican umbrella, though!

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