Here I am at Australian Quakers Yearly Meeting on a hot humid January day. I have been a Quaker (Religious Society of Friends, http://www.quaker.org.au ) for many years but have been unable to worship with everyone for the last five. We moved to the bush and the Meeting for Worship closest to us closed. There weren’t enough of us. (This is a Quaker joke.)
There are not many Quakers in the world yet there has been a disproportionate impact by Quakers, historically, on some of the most contraversial issues. Hundreds of years ago, it was about women and children in the same prisons as men. Then about children being imprisoned as if they were adults. Primarily about peace, focus grew on the plight of slaves and Quakers were keen proponents against slavery. In Australia there has been a commitment to the rights of Indigenous People and to wherever people are vulnerable and downtrodden, for example with Asylum Seekers and Refugees. (Hmm, I’ve always disliked random capitals but find myself using them where I am passionate.) Quakers have been involved in peace movements world wide and while a small yet passionate group, we are committed to equality (including same sex marriage).
Quakers have a lot of quotes that are used to consider concerns and to inspire. My favourite is to “let your life speak” and “walk softly over the world greeting that of God in everyone” or to “live life adventurously”. They are my favourites, they “speak” to me as we say. There are many more. In fact, Quakers love writing and talking and talking and …
Ironically, Australian Meetings for Worship are predominantly silent. If someone is moved to speak they may do so and keep it short. Each statement, whether in Meeting for Worship or Meeting for Business for Worship (I know), each statement must be greeted with silence to let the thought settle, rather than immediate agreement or rebuttal. I like silence. I like this practice. Quaker practices evolved in response to the compromise of church and it’s relationship with the aristocracy hundreds of years ago, when people wanted a direct relationship with God. We take this for granted now. But then, it was radical.
While the Religious Society of Friends grew out of Christianity, many Quakers are not Christian. Many are and just as many are Buddhists, Agnostics, Mystics or Atheists. That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? We talk of the Light within and that all living things are lit from within by the Light (of God). The evidence you find for your faith as a Quaker is yours. We may debate, we may discuss, we may write about it or talk, talk, talk but the principles that Quakers share are about Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Earth and Equality. Spicee! Gotta like that. There are Committees for everything.
It’s been many years since I was last at Yearly Meeting with hundreds of other Quakers. It’s going to be an intense week. For people who worship in silence, Quakers talk a lot. I’m quite looking forward to it. My challenge will be to not join any committees. I really would like a worshipping group close to home. For now I am going to enjoy seeing old F/friends and making new ones. I am going to enjoy worshipping together and going to the healing sessions. The past ten years have been really challenging, it will be good to hold it in the Light.
I’ll let you know how it goes.