Just what is the World Family of Friends? From 3-5 September Quakers from Britain Yearly Meeting, Ireland Yearly Meeting, Aotearoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting will be exploring this question through worship, workshops, activities and fellowship at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, UK.
The participating Friends will be bringing their own connections to many of the Yearly Meetings and worship groups around the world. But I would like to add some more perspectives to share with participants and to share online as a resource for other Friends who want to explore this starter question. To facilitate this, I would appreciate it if anyone would take the time to answer the following questions:
- a. Why are you a Quaker?
- b. How are you a Quaker?
- c. Please give an example of how a Meeting for Worship is conducted in your tradition.
Here's my response:
Why am I a Quaker?
I am a Quaker because when I was in high school I went to county-wide Youth For Christ meetings at Garden Grove Friends Church in Southern California. Fast-forwarding a few years, I found myself looking for a church to attend and while browsing through the phone book came across Garden Grove Friends. I was curious about what a "Friends Church" might be since I had grown up in various Baptist churches.
There I discovered something very different from what I had grown up with. The forms of worship in this meeting were familiar because it was programmed worship, but the people I encountered there knew God in a way that was new to me. God was present. Jesus was teaching his people. So I stayed. As I discovered other things about Friends - our way of doing business, our understanding of ministry and the testimony of equality - I realized that I belonged among Friends.
How am I a Quaker?
I am a Quaker who continues to be amazed at how the first generation of Friends broke through the forms and structures of the church of their day and discovered a way of living almost totally in the presence of Jesus Christ.
I am a Quaker in a programmed meeting who enjoys and gains from unprogrammed times of worship.
I am a Quaker who is part of a stream of people extending back to biblical times who have experienced the revelation of God in many ways and forms. I am a Quaker who learns from George Fox, Margaret Fell, William Penn, Robert Barclay, John Woolman, Elias Hicks, Joseph John Gurney, Rufus Jones, Elton Trueblood and the many contemporary voices expressing Quaker faith.
I am a Quaker who understands Quaker faith as an expression of Christian faith.
Worship in my tradition-
I enjoy being part of the programmed tradition of Friends. Singing, group prayer and preaching are valuable elements of worship for me. We have times of unstructured waiting as well, and I personally would like to move more in this direction.
How would you respond?