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Quakers: The Light Within Essay

3226 words - 13 pages

On Easter Sunday, a dozen adults and half that many children gathered at the Perry City Friends Meeting an hour before their usual worship time. They came, bringing plates of food for a time of fellowship before worship. The children had an Easter egg hunt, while the adults visited over coffee and snacks. After a while, the group moved to the meeting room for a time of singing. The meeting room, a plain room with a stage at one end and a few small tables holding brochures along the wall, has simple benches arranged in a circle around a central space. Someone had put a small table with a vase of fresh picked daffodils in the middle. Music is not a part of the worship at this meeting which is unprogrammed, so this time of singing together was special for the Easter holiday. One person played the piano, while people looked through the hymnal for their favorite hymns. Anyone was free to suggest a hymn, as no one is in charge of planning a worship service. When worship time approached, the hymnals were gathered up and put away, and one adult led the children downstairs for First Day School. Without announcement, everyone lapsed into silence. The silence at Meeting for Worship is not a passive silence; it is the deep, comfortable silence of people accustomed to joining together this way. It was not broken when a few more people entered the sanctuary to join the group. The silence continued for about an hour with each worshiper communing with the Holy Spirit in his or her own way, not interrupted when the children reentered to join in the silent worship. One man broke the silence to say a few words about the simplicity of Jesus’ teachings, and then the silence returned. At the end of the hour, without announcement, one woman turned to greet her neighbors, and everyone proceeded to greet the people around them. This was followed by a short time of sharing prayer requests and announcements before people started to leave.
Not all Quakers continue the tradition of unprogrammed silent worship. Many Quakers attend programmed or pastoral meetings, often referred to as churches. These meetings have pastors or ministers and the worship services there resemble worship in other Protestant churches, with regular use of music, Bible readings and a message or sermon. Many, but not all of these pastoral Quaker services, have a time of “silent worship,” or “open worship” when there is time for silence, and anyone is welcome to speak as the Holy Spirit leads them.
Quakers trace their beginnings to George Fox, who grew up in a Puritan family in England in the mid 1600s. He was disillusioned with both the Church of England and the various sects that he encountered, and wanted to see the church purified. He was convinced that “being bred at Oxford or Cambridge was not enough to fit and qualify men to be ministers of Christ.” (Hamm 2003). After having a series of experiences of God speaking to him directly, he and his followers developed the belief that everyone has the...

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