Advice and/or Resources regarding practicing Quakerism without a local church

Hi there!!

I have very recently been drawn to Quakerism and have been watching many of the videos on QuakerSpeak as well adding books to my to-read list! It started right at the tail end of my undergraduate degree when I started asking some questions about Quakers to my favourite philosophy professor (who is a Quaker) and I now very much regret never having attended the local Society of Friends while I was in a big city.
I have since returned home to my small home town where there are no Quakers or at least no Society of Friends. In August I will be travelling to Japan to live and work there for a year. Needless to say, I, now more than ever, want to delve deep into Quakerism, but haven't a community to do this with.
What I'd like to ask is how you might advise me to go about becoming a practicing Quaker without a community of Quakers to do it with? Would you advise me to simply wait until I wind up in a larger city where I can go enjoy silent worship with other Quakers? Perhaps there are things I can alone? There is also a Buddhist temple 70 metres from the apartment I will be moving into. Do you think a Quaker might be able to join Buddhists at a temple and practice silent worship alongside their own spiritual practices? I know I've heard at least one mention of Buddhist meditation in your videos and wonder if their is enough overlap that a Buddhist temple environment might be a good space to explore Quakerism rather than no space at all?
Sorry for the rambling e-mail! But I would love some advice!
TLDR;
How should I go about introducing myself to Quakerism without a local Society of Friends?
Would you say that one might benefit from meditating with Buddhists in a local temple as a form of silent worship for the time being?
Do you have any resources or advise regarding this sort of a situation?
Thanks so much!
I look forward to hearing from you!

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A lot depends on what kind of Quaker faith you feel drawn to.  If you are looking for post-Christian Quakerism, I would recommend getting in touch with the Friends General Conference.  If you are looking for more classical Quakerism, especially Christian Friends, you might want to order *Quaker Religious Thought*; the whole set of 100+ issues is available for $150.00.  You could also contact the Tract Association of Friends for further information.  The Friends World Committee could provide you with contacts in Japan.  All four of the aforementioned information sources have websites.

I forgot to mention periodicals.  *Friends Journal* represents unprogrammed Friends of a liberal bent, although the editor is on the conservative end of liberal Friends (figure that one out if you can!)and owns this website!  *Quaker Life* is the publication of Friends United Meeting, what one could call an "umbrella" Quaker denomination.  There are also smaller-circulation periodicals such as *Foundation Papers*, which serves the New Foundation Fellowship.  Of course, there are also British Quaker periodicals, such as the *Friends Quarterly* and *The Friend*.

Quaker groups vary widely - even within the same national or regional organizations.  For example, in my town there are two Quaker meetings (churches) that both belong to the same regional organization (called a "Yearly Meeting").  Yet, I am told by Quakers who have tried both meetings (just 25 minutes apart) that they have quite a different feel and emphasis even though both are liberal Quaker meetings, worshipping in an unprogrammed manner (worship based on silence with occasional spoken messages by any worshipper).

Then there are other conundrums such as some Conservative meetings (such as those conservative meetings found in North Carolina and Iowa) can be as liberal or more liberal than many so-called "liberal" meetings.  And the reverse is increasingly true, as well.

Then, of course, many Quaker meetings are pastoral.  They have evolved over the centuries to employ a pastor.  Most of these are not the liberal or Conservative Quakers.  They are generally referred to as "pastoral Friends" or "Evangelical Friends".  However, there are a few liberal Quaker meetings that do employ a pastor while they also utilize some form of silent-based worship.  Some of the liberal Quaker yearly meetings, such as an Eastern U.S. one, "Piedmont" have both unprogrammed and pastoral meetings who identify as liberal. 

As time goes on, the mesh-mash of Quakerdom continues to get more varied, because increasingly the regional Quaker organizations leave the spiritual preferences to local Quakers, and these organizations have (or are becoming) very loose associations - rather than religious denominations.

All of these Quaker groups trace their roots to Christianity as propagated by George Fox and his associates from England in the 1600s, which was (and still is) an immediacy of spiritual experience with the divine without human intermediaries. Generally, the so-called liberal Quakers and increasingly many Conservative Quakers are very open to the foundational teachings of Jesus (such as love, peace, forgiveness, and compassion) as presented in other spiritual traditions (such as Buddhism and modern-age spirituality), and even in secular philosophies.

Since you have been drawn to QuakerSpeak, I am assuming that liberal or Conservative Quakers might be most appealing to you.  With perhaps the exception of much of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), much of one's spirituality is left to their own draw through contemplation, reading, meditation, and prayer.  Within those liberal and Conservative local meetings (and online), you usually can find some kindred spirits who are drawn similarly to what you are drawn to.

Within the Conservative and liberal Quaker communities, it is fairly easy to start your own Quaker group, since there is no expectation of a paid minister or other staff.  I myself have started Quaker groups, simply by placing flyers at the market, as well as ads in the newspaper.  All it really takes is one or two others who are willing to meet for silent worship once a month or more.  Most liberal meetings have started from those humble beginnings for hundreds of years.  In major cities in Japan, there is likely others interested and possibly already meeting as a small group of Quakers.  The resources William Rushby mentioned are good places to start for finding these.

Finally, I will conclude by saying all of the above is how I see things now, and others (including me in the future) may see things differently out there in the world of Quakers!

I wish you good fortune in your spiritual endeavors.

Yeah, if you wanted to know about the different flavors of the Quaker thing (& how they came about) this is probably a good account:  http://sneezingflower.blogspot.com/2012_11_01_archive.html

But I'm thinking it's the basic openness to God you're probably wanting(?) -- and that's not a monopoly of ours, by any means!

?

Hi! Thank you for the detailed reply!! I appreciate the encouragement and information!

Unfortunately, the city I'm moving to is quite small (50, 000 people) and is actually more like a conglomeration of 6 towns. I'm not sure if I would be too successful in starting a Quaker group in Japan, but it may be worth a shot! And if not in Japan, if I don't end up in a larger Canadian city, I won't hesitate to start one on my own then!!

I think I may go ahead with attending Buddhist services, and seeing if that can compliment my Quaker pursuits. I always will have Friends online, and perhaps I could seek communion here or on other online platforms as far as my distinctly Quaker centered questions and thoughts are concerned. In the meantime though, the contemplative, still and silent meditative practices of Zen Buddhism should serve as a wonderful catalyst, and all the while I can be in the physical presence of other people who are seeking similar things, even if our vocabulary is a bit different :)

Howard Brod said:

Quaker groups vary widely - even within the same national or regional organizations.  For example, in my town there are two Quaker meetings (churches) that both belong to the same regional organization (called a "Yearly Meeting").  Yet, I am told by Quakers who have tried both meetings (just 25 minutes apart) that they have quite a different feel and emphasis even though both are liberal Quaker meetings, worshipping in an unprogrammed manner (worship based on silence with occasional spoken messages by any worshipper).

Then there are other conundrums such as some Conservative meetings (such as those conservative meetings found in North Carolina and Iowa) can be as liberal or more liberal than many so-called "liberal" meetings.  And the reverse is increasingly true, as well.

Then, of course, many Quaker meetings are pastoral.  They have evolved over the centuries to employ a pastor.  Most of these are not the liberal or Conservative Quakers.  They are generally referred to as "pastoral Friends" or "Evangelical Friends".  However, there are a few liberal Quaker meetings that do employ a pastor while they also utilize some form of silent-based worship.  Some of the liberal Quaker yearly meetings, such as an Eastern U.S. one, "Piedmont" have both unprogrammed and pastoral meetings who identify as liberal. 

As time goes on, the mesh-mash of Quakerdom continues to get more varied, because increasingly the regional Quaker organizations leave the spiritual preferences to local Quakers, and these organizations have (or are becoming) very loose associations - rather than religious denominations.

All of these Quaker groups trace their roots to Christianity as propagated by George Fox and his associates from England in the 1600s, which was (and still is) an immediacy of spiritual experience with the divine without human intermediaries. Generally, the so-called liberal Quakers and increasingly many Conservative Quakers are very open to the foundational teachings of Jesus (such as love, peace, forgiveness, and compassion) as presented in other spiritual traditions (such as Buddhism and modern-age spirituality), and even in secular philosophies.

Since you have been drawn to QuakerSpeak, I am assuming that liberal or Conservative Quakers might be most appealing to you.  With perhaps the exception of much of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), much of one's spirituality is left to their own draw through contemplation, reading, meditation, and prayer.  Within those liberal and Conservative local meetings (and online), you usually can find some kindred spirits who are drawn similarly to what you are drawn to.

Within the Conservative and liberal Quaker communities, it is fairly easy to start your own Quaker group, since there is no expectation of a paid minister or other staff.  I myself have started Quaker groups, simply by placing flyers at the market, as well as ads in the newspaper.  All it really takes is one or two others who are willing to meet for silent worship once a month or more.  Most liberal meetings have started from those humble beginnings for hundreds of years.  In major cities in Japan, there is likely others interested and possibly already meeting as a small group of Quakers.  The resources William Rushby mentioned are good places to start for finding these.

Finally, I will conclude by saying all of the above is how I see things now, and others (including me in the future) may see things differently out there in the world of Quakers!

I wish you good fortune in your spiritual endeavors.

Anne & I join a small Zen group downstairs, chaired by an AA guy who discovered meditation -- and a particular teacher -- to be helpful to smoothing his life out.

He reads us these pep talks from his guy, between meditation periods (ever read _The Empty Mirror_? or _Thank You and Okay_? -- both good ones, both extremely entertaining as well!) about people who seem to be deeply into it -- but are basically just blissing out, adrift a very long way from Enlightenment...

and the next morning I'm reading a book from a local meeting library, where I find _almost_ the same thing -- as you say, different language!

----------

"While stressing that the actual experience of passing time in a Friends meeting is likely to be similar between newcomer and old hand, we must also acknowledge that there is much that one can learn about this kind of worship. There are more effective and less effective ways of coming to meeting. What makes for equality is that the effective ones are not habit forming... God adds spice to Quaker life by ensuring that the less effective ways are habit-forming and can be a snare for the soul..."

[John Punshon, _Encounter with Silence_]

Thinking some more about this... The Quaker thing really requires meeting with a Meeting... not to keep us honest, nor [as authoritarian moralistic types like to put it, 'to hold us accountable'], nor 'to test our leadings' (because, after all, two can be twice as mistaken as one) -- but simply to have someone to bump heads against.

Without that, it might take too long to become disillusioned with us or yourself.

What I hear from people who've done time in monasteries and in places like Pendle Hill ('study center near Philadelphia, lovely place) is that good people turn out just as difficult to get along with as anybody else; that even if there's nobody else around but good people, we turn out to be hard to get along with!

You need to learn how loveable exasperating people can be, how exasperating loveable people can be... (sort of a God's-eye view of our mutual poor-soul nature, perhaps?)

Forrest:  Since Brixton probably has not yet even attended a meeting, it seems premature to talk about what can go wrong.

Proverbs 11:14  "Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety."

"What can go wrong?" I was talking about the way life is supposed to be, so it'll stretch us a little and we'll learn something.

That happens, doesn't it?

People come to us expecting to join a company of saints; but we'd never fit in if we were, would we?

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