I don't know if this discussion might be more fitted for the "Seekers" group, but since the topic is Christianity-centered and this group has a lot more members, I thought I'd get a better response here. Hope that's okay!

 

I am a Christian and a seeker who has long been interested in Quakerism. I'm at an uprooted stage in my life right now, in search of a new faith community; after a lot of prayer and study in recent months, I feel that becoming a Friend may be the path God is leading me to.

 

In reading the stories of convinced Friends on various blogs, I've come across many people who came to Quakerism because (or partially because) of some irreconcilable frustration or discomfort with the more mainstream Christian denominations. While I certainly understand this, it's not the case for me. There are of course things in the Church that I disagree with, but not to the point where I would be unable to find some congregation, somewhere, that I could happily worship with. My interest in Quakerism, I feel, is more from a desire to be challenged and stretched, to discover a different way to worship and apply my Christian faith. 

 

I love the Quaker testimonies and methods, with their simplicity and openness (I haven't had a chance to attend a meeting yet, but plan to this weekend).  However, I also value and enjoy a lot of "traditional" church practices. While I know such practices aren't requirements of belief, and I'd be happy to set them aside in becoming a Quaker, I do love the symbolism and reverence of sharing in Communion, in Ash Wednesday services, in the baptism of new believers, etc...and I personally don't find them an impediment to my faith or worship (it'll be interesting to see if/how my perspective changes after I actually attend a Friends' meeting).

 

Anyway, I'd be curious to hear the stories of any Friends out there who come from a similar background or perspective. Are there individuals here who have come to Quakerism for reasons other than simple dissatisfaction with mainstream Christianity (or other religions, for that matter)?

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When I read your post, I really identified strongly with it. I am what I call a Catholic Quaker and feel exactly as you do about the need to be part of a community where the "outward" (as Friends sometimes call them) signs of Christ's continued presence and the sense of continuity with the long history of the church exist alongside a community of people who are completely committed to putting their faith into all they do and are. I wrote a book call Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism which you can get for almost nothing "used" on amazon. I'm really not telling you that to promote myself, but I think you might enjoy it. 

Have you read through Jez Smith's "Why? How?"project.  A number of people (myself included) share their journey to Quakerism.

Hi Kirby,

 

You're probably already aware, but there are several distinct varieties of Quakerism in the United States. (Click here for a description of the historic testimony and modern diversity of Friends.) The Meeting Kalamazoo is part of the Liberal tradition.

 

I myself come from the Conservative stream. Broadly orthodox Christianity is essential to the Quakerism that I and my community practice. Nevertheless, we are definitely a distinct branch of the Christian Church, like Protestants, Roman Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox church are. Our practice of waiting worship, inward spirituality and radical application of the "priesthood of all believers," may leave other Christians scratching their heads.

 

For me personally, I don't have anything against ritual. In fact, I think that Quakers have our own set of rituals that often go unacknowledged. However, I feel unity with Friends' testimony of not performing water baptism or taking ritualized communion in our life as a church. These two rituals in particular have been (and still are) held up by most Christians as being necessary for salvation, and I feel it important that Friends continue to bear witness to the fact that Jesus is primarily concerned with our inward conversion and outward faithfulness - not with adherence to a particular set of ritualized church practices. 

 

I hope that you find what you are looking for at Kalamazoo Meeting. I'd also encourage you, if you get the chance, to visit New City Friends in Detroit. I know that's a long haul for you, but I think they'd be worth the trip.

Hi Kirby,

As someone who came to Quakerism because I was looking for a peace church in my area, I get where you are coming from. One of the things that was very much missing from the denominations I came from was silence. The intentional listening silence and the understanding that the Spirit will speak through anyone is what has held me to the Friends. I have very comfortably worshipped with everyone from Pentecostals to Lutherans, but found my home among the Friends.

 

Gil

Does it sound weird to you that I ended up a Friend due to dissatisfaction with mainstream Christianity but also get what you mean about the connection to certain aspects of worship in other denominations?.

 

Given the mention of Ash Wednesday, I'm going to guess you were raised a Catholic. I've got Roman Catholics on one side and Byzantine Catholics on the other. I grew up going to Catholic school, and unlike the other students actually liked it when incense was used in Mass. The thing I miss most in Quaker Meeting for Worship from my old Catholic days is the singing. My Meeting has started having singing sessions before MFW on the third Sunday of the month, so those are the Sundays when I need to remember to wake up early. Even during my atheist/agnostic/igiveuponreligion period, I still really liked hymns.  Catholic school taught me that "singing is like praying twice" and that stuck with me. Singing together makes me feel more connected to the group.

 

A programmed liberal Friends meeting would be really neat, IMO.  My brother and another of my friends both say they're theologically in agreement with Quakers, but the lack of singing is a deal-breaker for them. So, my brother goes to a Baptist church (he likes loud gospel music) and my other friend goes to an Episcopalian one where she sings in their chorus...even though neither of them actually agrees strongly with those denominations theologically.

Wow, thank you everyone for the quick responses! 

 

Micah -- I had gotten the sense from their website that the Kalamazoo Meeting might fall more on the liberal end. I've considered New City Friends, but like you said it is a bit of a haul, and I don't have reliable transportation every weekend. I'd love to visit them eventually, but I think I'll start local and see where that takes me. Thanks for the advice.

 

Mackenzie -- Actually, I was raised Methodist, but our church maintained a lot of more formal traditions (like Ash Wednesday services). I don't know if that's normal for Methodist churches, or if our congregation was peculiar. And I agree with you about the singing; it's something that held me back for awhile too. But I've been attending my parents' Methodist church (not where I was raised) for the past few weeks--the most consistently I've been able to go to church in a long time--and I've actually found myself craving those short periods of silence between the songs more than I've enjoyed the actual music. They use more contemporary music, though (and not the best contemporary music in my opinion), while I've come to prefer hymns. Their lyrics hold much more meaning for me than most contemporary worship songs.

 

Irene -- Exactly! You just explained it much more succinctly than me. I'll check out your book as well. I'm a writer myself, so I don't mind a little shameless self-promotion. Thanks for the suggestion! 

Irene Lape said:

I am what I call a Catholic Quaker and feel exactly as you do about the need to be part of a community where the "outward" (as Friends sometimes call them) signs of Christ's continued presence and the sense of continuity with the long history of the church exist alongside a community of people who are completely committed to putting their faith into all they do and are.

Hi Kirby,

 

For a little of my background, I grew up in a programmed Quaker Meeting. We had a pastor who lead sermons, and we even had a choir. But the majority of our worship was still in silence.

Most recently I attended an unprogrammed meeting--a small group that met in a family center lobby. We still sang after meeting though, which I enjoyed.

 

All meetings are going to be different. So if you're fortunate enough to have a couple within your reach/commute, then check them all out until one feels right.

 

As far as "giving up" sacraments just to be Quaker, that's not necessary. For me, Quakerism is about living with purpose. Many times sacraments and rituals just become habit, and the true spiritual connection is lost. I still take communion, but it is indeed rare. I only take it if it means something to me and the community I am taking it with. My mom is a member of a Christian church I don't actually remember/know the denomination of, but she still only takes communion when it's going to add to her spiritual and faith journey/connection. If the rituals still hold meaning, there is nothing that says you cannot practice these things outwardly as a sign of your faith and be a Quaker.

 

I had a friend whom I grew up with at a Quaker church camp. It saddened me the day he said he couldn't be a Quaker any more because he wanted to be baptized in water. The sacraments can and do have value--they're not to be taken lightly. Just because Quakers don't practice them as part of their worship doesn't mean you can't.

 

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I hope you can find a spiritual community that helps you grow and feels like home.

Although I leaned toward feminism and nonviolence before I ever became a Christian, my choosing to become a Friend was a direct consequence of my Christian conversion. I hadn't time to be dissatisfied with anyone else--Friends (in Ottawa, Ontario) were my very first spiritual home.

Thanks for asking!

I attended a New City Friends' Meeting for the first time a dew weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the use of  hymns before meeting for worship began, as I have missed them.

I've attended both liberal (FGC) meetings and conservative (Ohio yearly), both unprogrammed. I am drawn to waiting for worship, but the FGC meeting left me with thinking that a Christian witness was largely unwelcome and the conservative meeting was not GLBTQ friendly (which was the state of the Church of the Brethren [what can I say? I like the Peace testimony] in area I tried out as well.)

So, for the time being, I'm going to continue to attend New City Friends Meeting, it's worth the drive.

 

New City Friends is about 3 hours away from me - a bit too impractical, at least for regular attendance. But if Kalamazoo doesn't end up being a good fit, I'll definitely take the time to check it out. 

 

Jeffrey, I hope New City Friends Meeting provides the welcome and community you're looking for. Maybe our paths will cross there sometime!

Jeffery Agnew said:

I attended a New City Friends' Meeting for the first time a dew weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the use of  hymns before meeting for worship began, as I have missed them.

I've attended both liberal (FGC) meetings and conservative (Ohio yearly), both unprogrammed. I am drawn to waiting for worship, but the FGC meeting left me with thinking that a Christian witness was largely unwelcome and the conservative meeting was not GLBTQ friendly (which was the state of the Church of the Brethren [what can I say? I like the Peace testimony] in area I tried out as well.)

So, for the time being, I'm going to continue to attend New City Friends Meeting, it's worth the drive.

 

Kirby,

I know we are a bit far away from Kzoo. But if you do ever want to visit we would love to have you and would be glad to provide you overnight hospitality. We're having a weekend retreat on Nov. 18-19 and would love to have new friends join us. Let me know if you want more info. Also there are two people (Donna and Brett) starting up a monthly group in New Buffalo, which is on the right side of the state anyways! I'd be happy to put you in contact.

As for my walk, the unprogrammed Friends tradition (liberal and conservative) has been the place where I landed and was Spirit-baptized as a new Christian. I was drawn by the unusual worship and have stayed involved because I feel Friends is a good framework for me to have a relationship with Jesus.

And Jeff, we have been very glad to have you lately!

 

-Tyler

clerk /New City Friends

Hi, Kirby

 

At least in theory (meaning we talk about it but it doesn’t always happen), Friends offer you some distinctive contributions to the Christian tradition. Foremost, perhaps, is the rich tradition and experience of answering God’s direct call to relationship, what Friends call the Light (from the gospel of John), the indwelling presence of Christ in each person. Some Friends express this as "that of God in every person." Second, not just individuals but the worshipping community is also called to a direct, unmediated relationship with God: “Christ has come to teach his people himself,” George Fox said. Third is the experience that God’s revelation continues: from the act of creation, through the scriptures, through the early Friends unto ourselves, God has never stopped guiding, healing, correcting, inspiring, strengthening and enlightening God’s people. Fourth, God calls us to live outward lives that reflect our inward leadings from the Holy Spirit, the understanding of which Friends continue to develop in our “testimonies.” Fifth, we try to base our spiritual lives on what we ourselves have experienced as God’s truth, rather than just accepting an historic legacy of tradition: “What canst thou say?” asked Fox. Finally, we are called to live the commandment of love.

 

Our other distinctive practices flow out of these. For instance, we do not (at least in the unprogrammed tradition) have professional clergy or programmed elements in the meeting for worship because God will come directly to the meeting in our vocal ministry (in theory, anyway) and these conventional practices could interfere. We worship without these things so that we can hear God’s call; it's hard enough to do this even in the silence.

 

Do these approaches to religious experience appeal to you, even excite you? If so, then perhaps you are a Quaker. Once more it needs to be said, though, that this is how we describe ourselves. In your experience of an actual meeting, it might take a while to see these beliefs manifest as actual experience.

 

Steven Davison

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