Historically, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was founded in England by George Fox in the 17th century, at about the time that the Bible was first made generally available to the public. In the beginning, Quakers were primarily Christians, but modern Friends come from a variety of religious backgrounds. Despite this diversity, there is unity among Friends concerning “testimonies” that have evolved over time: the pursuit of integrity, peace, justice, human rights and simplicity of lifestyle are generally recognized as concerns of Friends. Decisions regarding appropriate action are based upon a “sense of the meeting” — i.e. consensus, based upon the perception of the Inner Light — rather than a majority vote.
The central concept to many Friends is the “Inner Light.” Worship is most blest by gathering together in expectant silence to wait for God’s guidance, which comes through either stillness or word of those moved to speak. Quakers find that attending to the Light within influences the ways we act in our personal lives, as well as the changes we work for in the wider world. We have noticed that certain values seem to arise more or less consistently when we try to stay close to the guidance of the Inward Teacher.
Friends believe that all people are created equal in the eyes of God. Since all people embody the same divine spark, all people deserve equal treatment. Friends were some of the first to value women as important ministers and to campaign for women’s rights. They became leaders in the anti-slavery movement, and were among the first to pioneer humane treatment for the mentally ill and prisoners.
The Peace Testimony is probably the best known testimony of Friends. The belief that violence is wrong has persisted to this day, and many conscientious objectors, advocates of non-violence and anti-war activists are Friends. We seek a world free of war and the threat of war. We believe that peace throughout the world is God’s will and is attainable. Our Friends Committee on National Legislation lobbies in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Quaker values.
Local Quaker members participate in Friends Committee on National Legislation and one member helped organized the protest march against gun violence in schools.
All are welcome to attend Quaker worship. There are Quakers of all ages, religious backgrounds, races and ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities and classes.
Quakers dress comfortably. In general, wear everyday clothes to meeting. This may range from what you would wear to the office to jeans and a T-shirt. We also have fun! Occasionally we get together for smaller happenings, or gather for a potluck dinner. Meetings for worship take place every second and fourth Sunday at 4 p.m.
More information about Quakers can be accessed at www.fgcquaker.org.
Pete Carlberg of Sheridan is a member of the Quaker faith.