Finding a spiritual home

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.

This conception of truth is radically different from a tribal claim to exclusive knowledge of the true nature of what is divine. It sets Quakers apart from religious institutions with rigid hierarchies and belief systems, refusing to admit uncertainty and requiring unconditional acceptance from their followers. It also makes the obscure and divisive arguments found in Christianity and other religions with their focus on the details of the past and the veracity of one set of interpretations over another beside the point; the point is in finding God for oneself and collectively, in the present moment, and answering that of God in others.

Quakers see meaning in life as existing for individuals to continually discover for themselves, in community and through their actions. It is a tenet of Quaker faith that the ability to access this source is there in every person. From their earliest days, Quakers committed themselves to this radical idea of equality, in line with opposing repressive power structures and reflective of the strains of egalitarianism that were gaining force at the time of Quakerism's beginnings. This is the radicalism behind being Quaker.

If you’re curious about Quakers, it may be in fact that you are already are a Quaker at heart and simply haven’t yet had the chance to realise it. In that case, you wouldn’t be the first, and I couldn’t be more excited for you. Indeed, a wonderful homecoming awaits.


Sean Jacke – Hampstead Quaker Meeting