More a way of life than a religion.
Born out of the unrest and persecution of the English civil war 400 hundred years ago, Quakers, has a lengthy history of radical thinking and social change. Led by their founder George Fox, and initially rooted in Christian tradition , they challenged the thinking of the time and continue to do so all over the world today, with members from all backgrounds and religious and spiritual beliefs .
More usually these days , members and attenders of Quakers meeting will see their involvement with the Society of Friends, as they are generally called, as a way of life, more than a religion. That isn’t to say that there are not some generally held spiritual beliefs that Quakers have at their heart.
Quakers believe that there is something of God in everyone. All human life is unique and valued and this has led to centuries of work to bring about social justice and peace across the world. Quakers have long been associated with their work with marginalised people and history evidences the great work undertaken in areas like prison reform , and the rights of workers.
Unlike most religions, in the Society of Friends, each individual is charged to seek meaning within themselves. There is no priesthood, no hierarchy, no hymns or prayers, and meetings for worship are conducted in silence. Friends are asked to examine their own conscience when deciding on matters of morality and all Quaker business is undertaken with the assertion that everyone will be heard.
The silence of meeting can be a deeply profound experience. I have heard one Friend describe it as a gathering up and a bringing together. It was what first attracted me to meeting and has been a source of comfort and challenge at various times in the twenty or more years that I have been attending.
On the website, Quakers in Britain it says “ …Quakers try to live according to the deepest truth we know, and we connect most deeply to this in the stillness of worship….”
That isn’t to say that the silence is absolute. Friends who feel moved to speak will stand and do so during the meeting and very occasionally it can be a busy hour. Usually a friend will feel moved to speak on something they have found in the little books called Advices and Queries, that are available to all . Sometimes from Quaker Faith and Practice, but generally on something that has occurred during the meeting. It shouldn’t really be something that has been prepared earlier, but rather something that one feels compelled to share in the moment.
There is usually an opportunity to discuss anything arising from meeting when it closes, but although Friends may not always agree with each other, respect and kindness have been my experience always.
In fact something that stands out for me from advices and queries is the gentle advice”… to attend to that which love requires of you.” Hard to be furiously opinionated if we remember to act from love.
Quakers do not have holy days and I have rarely found a Friend who holds to the traditional protestant view that the Bible is the literal word of God. Instead many Quakers see the New Testament as one of many inspirational texts preferring to draw from a huge library of ideas to inform them.
At the heart of many of these works will be the subjects closest to Quaker hearts, human rights, social justice, peace, freedom of conscience, community life and environmental issues. Quakers endeavour to live simply as a way of reducing the burden we inevitably place upon the world just by being alive.
If you would like to know more, there are a number of websites which will provide more information. You can also find out where to go to attend a Meeting.
Currently, there are three main meetings in Pembrokeshire, meeting each Sunday at 11 for one hour. These are St Davids, Narberth and Milford Haven.
There are other meetings that meet monthly in Fishguard and Haverfordwest.
All are different, but everyone will be welcome.