Quakers: Testimonies and Practices

On Thursday, March 20 2014 GES welcomed Nancy McInnes and Theresa Hood to the Rollo Centre where some 35 people listened to their presentation and participated in some practices. It was interesting to learn that though there are only some 1000 Quakers in Canada they have managed to affect our society in many ways. The change to the swearing of oaths is one where the requirement to “affirm” can replace swearing an oath on the Bible.

The Quaker movement began in the 1650’s with George Fox. At this time the Bible came into print and everyone could read and interpret it for themselves. The belief was that Christ came to teach his people himself so that if you opened yourself up to the Divine you would know what to believe. Later on this was modified.  As each Meeting is the basic unit of the Society it is there to help in discernment. So each individual tests their discernment against that of the group. Though the movement started from Christianity it is not a requirement especially as they do not adhere to a set Creed.  Some Meetings are Pastoral (have a pastor) and these tend to be Christian based but others are not. All members believe in peace, reconciliation work, simplicity in dress, speech and living, justice and integrity and as a result exhibit solidarity with aboriginal movements and have a unity with creation. The Meetings also work with many other like minded groups to achieve social change.

The Meeting will worship in silence for an hour. During this time each opens to the divine so one is waiting expectantly. A person(s) may stand up and deliver a message/teaching which is listened to attentively even though it may not be applicable to oneself. A strong belief in equality has led to both men and women having strong organizational opportunities and assuming leadership roles. Also young people are treated the same as everyone else though they are also supported by an Elder who counsels and acts as a role model. People serve on various committees according to their gifts e.g. the Ministry and Counsel Committee looks after the spiritual health of the group. Anyone can attend meetings but in order to become a member one would need to write to the Clerk and meet with the committee to discern if this is the right decision.

Judging by the numerous questions in the discussion period  the participants thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Society of Friends especially the little tastes of ‘opening to the Divine’ that we were given each time Nancy read a short thought from the “Advices and Queries” to help us centre.