What happens during Meeting for Worship?
Each participant in the meeting takes time to become quiet and center down: to open to the Spirit and experience the presence of God. This takes various amounts of time because the conscious mind likes to stay busy and be in control. During the meeting, a wide variety of experiences may occur – or nothing at all may seem to happen. Some may find themselves feeling restless, preoccupied with a current personal concern, or involved in an effort to perceive a sense of truth or a corporate concern that relates to the whole of the meeting.
Most people new to Quaker worship find that sitting in silence takes some practice. Almost all participants experience a deep inner peacefulness. For some this may feel like meditation, while others discover a deep, nonverbal communing with God.
When urged by an inner leading, a member or attender may feel moved to speak aloud to the meeting in vocal ministry. This is generally done in simple words; messages are often brief. All listen in silence, and after the speaker finishes there is more silence. There is no discussion or debate. Others may be stimulated by the previous vocal ministry to add to the concept, but before speaking each needs to remain with the silence for a time to discover if he or she truly has a deep inner leading to speak. Such responsive sharing comes only when a period of waiting has elapsed to let the original words season a while for all present.
Sometimes our meetings pass in total silence. Some individuals speak more often than others. And some members have never felt led to speak aloud in the meeting. Some unprogrammed meetings have frequent vocal ministry and some have much less. From meeting to meeting, the types of messages brought to the meeting will be different. Like all Quakers, all meetings are individual.
What do Quakers believe about the Bible and about Jesus Christ?
Quakers believe that the personal leading of the Inner Light is the critical factor in how any individual comes to know God. Friends perceive that great problems arise when any person presses another to believe a specific doctrine verbatim. Because Quakers have no written creed to which all must subscribe, they have widely varying opinions about both the Bible and the nature of Jesus Christ.
Generally, Unprogrammed Quakers do not take the Bible to be literally true. Instead they see it as an important expression of how humankind has experienced and may relate to God, using the historical context and the nature of language and translation as clues to understanding its value.
Virtually all Quakers hold Jesus Christ in high esteem, but there is a variation in belief about his unique nature and his relationship to God.
Are Quakers Christian?
Historically, yes. Currently, with the divergent beliefs for Friends, some are clearly Christian while others would not consider themselves Christian in the strict religious sense. Many Quakers hold great respect for other world religions and study them thoughtfully.
Is there a “Quaker” political orientation?
There is no “Quaker” political orientation, although the moral viewpoints of Quakers do have political implications. Because of the nearly uniform acceptance of the peace testimony, Quaker are opposed to war and the conditions that lead to war. As a result, they oppose moves by any political party towards preparation for war; at the same time, they actively oppose the injustice that is often the occasion for war. But Quakers have different opinions about how justice can be accomplished.
How do Quakers collect money and how is it spent?
There is no offering or passing of a tray during worship. Quakers believe that attending to the Inner Light will direct each individual to appropriately share resources with the Meeting. This principle relies on the moving of the Spirit of God and not the promptings of other persons.
About once a month, or as they are able, attenders and members privately give money to the Meeting treasurer. Funds contributed to the Wooster Meeting are automatically added to the general operating fund. Any special distributions for non-budgeted purposes are discussed and decided at Meeting for Business.
Each month the treasurer reports to the meeting about how money is being dispensed. Once a year the budget is agreed upon at Meeting for Business.
Currently our meeting supports a variety of projects both in our local community and abroad. Individuals also support activities with which they are especially concerned. We do not value expending money on ornate buildings or fixtures; simplicity is our guide. No member receives any money for services rendered.
What relevance do plain clothes and plain speech have today?
During part of their history, Quakers wore plain clothes (durable, serviceable and relatively undecorated garments) and used plain speech (preserving the thee and thou of early social equality and protest). These practices persist among a few Quaker groups, but are generally no longer observed. However, Quakers do generally refrain from ostentation in their homes, cars and clothing, often choosing instead to provide money for causes that foster peace and justice. However, this is an individual matter, determined by each person’s leading by the Inner Light.
What is the difference between an attender and a member? How does one become a member?
Everyone who comes to meeting is an attender. After a time of attending, any individual who wishes to formalize his or her relationship with the meeting may begin the membership process. Anyone who is considering membership is invited to talk about this step with members of the Ministry and Nurture committee. And that committee forms a clearness committee, consisting of several members of the meeting. The clearness committee meets with the applicant to determine whether he or she is clear in seeking and understanding Quaker membership.
If the delegated committee and the individual together reach clearness that membership is an appropriate step for the individual to take, the committee makes a recommendation to this effect to the Ministry and Oversight committee and to the Meeting for Business, agreement is reached, the individual is read into the meeting and becomes a member.
Basic beliefs and practices of Friends
When Friends are asked, “What do Quakers believe?” they may hem and haw as they search for an honest answer. Quakers have no written doctrine to which all are expected to adhere. There are, however, generally held beliefs among Quakers.
Quakerism began in the seventeenth century with George Fox. Then, as now, the Quaker faith was based on the belief that God’s will is continually and directly revealed to every person who seeks it. For this reason, Quakers are also sometimes called seekers. Although it’s difficult to describe God’s will in words, Quakers refer to it as the Light, and devote their attention to minding the Light or seeking the Light. God is also said to speak to the condition of those who pay attention.
George Fox, an Englishman, saw a need to bring religion back to the simple teachings of Jesus and to re-emphasize the importance of those teachings to each individual. After hearing a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” he began to preach a view of Christianity that cut through ritual, hierarchy, social structure and the politics of faith. Jesus proclaimed the unmediated presence of God to all persons with no limitations of time or space, doctrine or practice, text or book, power or wealth, family, rank or status. And this was George Fox’s message too.
Fox’s fiery teaching “spoke to the condition” of many in mid-seventeenth century England. Soon, thousands were calling themselves Children of the Light. For Quakers, the belief that there is that of God in every person has always been taken seriously. In the heavily stratified society of seventeenth-century England, Quakers held that all people have equal access to God, including children, people of different races, the insane, women, prisoners, the rich and the royal, the poor and the uneducated.