From 'The Quaker Way' by Richard Allen
Quakerism is a way of life, rather than a
a dogrna or creed. It rests on a conviction
that by looking into their inmost hearts
people can have direct cornmunion with
their Creator. This experience cannot
ultimately be described in words, but
Quakers base their whole lives on it.
The Quaker movement arose in the mid-
seventeenth century. Its followers called
themselves 'Friends of Truth', or simply
'Friends'. 'Quaker' was an abusive
nickname used by others, but Friends have
since adopted the term themselves, and
today 'Friend' and 'Quaker' rnean the same
and are used interchangeably. The formal
title is 'The Religious Society of Friends
Friends' basic attitudes show themselves
in certain ideas and practices, personal and
collective, of which the most important are:
- In their rneetings for worship Quakers
do not sing hymns or use set prayers, but
wait on God together in silence. Out of this
silence occasionally someone may speak
briefly, or pray, or read from the Bible or
other religious work.
- Friends try to learn from the teachings of Jesus
of Nazareth as recorded in the Gospels. They also try
to live in the spirit of forgiving love that was shown
in his life and death, and has been a living source of
strength and inspiration to his followers ever since.
This does not, however, prevent many Quakers from
acknowledging a debt to the saints and sages of other
religions and to wise people of no declared religion.
- Quakers do not consider that ultimate authority
can reside in a church or other organisation. Nor do
they regard the mere words of the Bible, or any other
writing, as authority. They try to enter into the spirit
that inspired the writers. This does not mean that
every Friend is his or her own authority. Belonging
to the worshipping group exerts a gentle discipline
which Friends gladly accept.
- Friends also carry on the business of their Society
in a framework of silent worship, placing themselves
and their affairs in the presence of God. The
proceedings are conducted by a 'Clerk', who is both
chairperson and secretary, and records the'sense of
the meeting' at the time without recourse to voting.
- Quakers tend to live simply, but they are not
rigidly puritanical. For example, some Friends are
teetotal, while others drink alcohol in moderation.
- Quakers recognise only one standard of truth,
and consequently do not swear legal oaths. This
attitude is also reflected in their avoidance of
speculative business deals and gambling.
- Quakers do not practise or condone
discrimination by sex, social class or race.
- The Quaker way implies non-violence in
thought, word and deed. Most Quakers refuse to fight
in war, and make clear their opposition to all
preparations for it. The Society is regarded as one of
the traditional 'peace churches'.
- Quakers are prominent in work for
disadvantaged people at home and abroad, though
many people who admire this work are not aware of
the religious conviction underpinning it.
- Finally, it is fundamental to the Quaker way to
be open to new insights from whatever source, to
tolerate differing opinions, and to work for
reconciliation wherever there is strife and enmity.
It should not be imagined, however, that Quakers
are impossibly 'good' people. like others they have
their faults and fall short of their own aims. Nor do
they claim that their path is the only true one; they
have simply found it right for them.
While Friends are glad to tell others what
Quakerism means to them, they do not pressurize
anyone to join them, but leave people free to decide
whether the Quaker way really is for them.
Everyone is welcome to attend a Quaker Meeting
for Worship, and Friends are delighted when people
want to find out more about them. This may take
some time. The best approach is to attend a Meeting
for Worship on several occasions, and also Meetings
in different places, and to do some reading. leaflets
on Friends' silent worship and other aspects of the
Quaker way can usually be obtained free from any
- RICHARD ALLEN 1985
Links to Quaker Sites
Links to Quaker views on homophobia, racism, sexism and anti-semitism