A strange question to ask during the coronavirus pandemic, but perhaps not so strange; big questions are asked by everybody, especially in times of need. This is one person’s attempt to answer the impossible.
Quakers seek to experience God directly, within ourselves and in our relationships with others and the world around us. Quakerism is a way of life, rather than a set of beliefs. It has roots in Christianity and many Quakers find the life and teachings of Jesus inspirational, but we have no creed. Quakers today do not look any different from other people, although we try to avoid extravagance and excess. Our vision is of a world of justice, peace and equality. Our inner experience leads us to be committed to equality, peace, simplicity and truth; all of which we try to live out in our lives.
The Religious Society of Friends (or Quakers) began in 1643 in the UK, at a time of growing disillusionment with the established church. Inspired by George Fox, people sought an alternative, calling themselves “the Friends of Truth”. Early Quakers were persecuted and imprisoned until the Toleration Act of 1689 granted the right to religious freedom. Excluded from many forms of employment for c. 200 years, Quakers became tradesmen, industrialists, doctors, engineers and scientists. Renowned for their honesty, some built up large and successful businesses: Clarks shoes, Cadbury’s Fry’s and Rowntree’s chocolates, Huntley & Palmers biscuits ..... In the 20th century, the Society became heavily associated with the Peace movement and pacifism, in the 21st century it is becoming associated with Environmental issues of the world.
Meetings for Worship take place in silence, unless anyone feel moved to ‘minister’ and speak to the Meeting. Everyone sits in a circle. There are no sacraments, music or dress code. The only universal belief is that ‘there is that of God in everyone’ ; there is no definition of what the word God means, and many now use the word Spirit or Light. Furthermore, 100 Quakers will probably give you 100 different answers to what this belief means!
In the early years it used to be a Christian-based religion, but that is no longer true in the last 50+ years. Some members of the Society associate themselves exclusively with Quakerism, others combine with other faiths. Probably in the 21st century, it is true to say that a majority come to Quakerism dis-satisfied with other religions.
We now hold a weekly UOB Zoom meeting on Tuesdays from 1:10 to 1:50 pm; Zoom numbers from the Chaplaincy Secretary. There are five Local Meetings within a few miles of the University who hold 1 hour meetings on Sunday mornings; two, Cotteridge and Selly Oak, have been using Zoom very successfully since mid-March. All Meetings are slightly different, and each have points that some may find attractive but some may not; for example, some Meetings have lots of spoken ministry, others have very little. If you are interested, do contact me first, but I would suggest you experience a couple of meetings and explore which one works for you.
Finally, good health to everyone and take care.
Richard Tuckett - Quaker Chaplain, 18 May 2020