17th September 2023
If you’re curious about Quakers, I‘m excited for you.
Discovering Quakers is uncommon. Quakers have tended not to seek the spotlight, and as a result most people have never heard of them, or they might confuse them with other religious groups with similarly sounding names, like the Shakers, or think of them as the antiquated looking man on a package of Quaker Oats—a company Quakers have nothing to do with, and an image as exploitative and problematic as those used by US sports teams of Native Americans.
And yet, for millions of people in the UK and beyond who consider themselves spiritual but without a spiritual home, getting to know more about Quakers has the potential to transform their lives.
There are so many of us looking to move beyond the consumerism and politics of contemporary culture to something deeper and more meaningful; so many struggling to find connection and purpose in a world where we’re increasingly isolated and alienated from each other; so many searching for a moment’s peace amidst the din of media clamouring for our attention, exploiting our fears, attention spans and insecurities, and distracting us from what’s really important.
If you’re seeking a spiritual home, but finding one neither in traditional religious institutions nor their contemporary alternatives, Quaker Meeting is worth considering. Quakerism is wonderfully unconventional and largely misunderstood. It’s unlike other Western religious traditions in many important ways. It’s much more centred on the individual, nuanced, inclusive and modern (despite being over 350 years old).
The first Quakers called themselves the Friends of the Truth. This reflected the idea that the spiritual truth they were rooted in was one based in the reality of experience — lived, personal experience, forged in community and centred in the heart — and that applies to Quakers to this day. Quakers are still referred to as the Religious Society of Friends. Quakers say you don’t need to accept anything someone tells you to because they claim authority. Quakers remain suspicious of authority, and the way we organise ourselves is radical and remarkable for its refusal to establish hierarchy and positions of power. A society of friends is a group of equals bound together through feelings of love, trust and solidarity.