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Quaker Culture: Transparency Perhaps because unprogrammed Friends have neither ministers nor formal worship services, people who are new to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) sometimes have the impression that our worship has no structure at all.  This impression is incorrect.  We Friends see ourselves as led by the Spirit, and we have quite a few customs, rules, and procedures that are important to us because they help us to “hear” both the Spirit and each other.  We seldom explain why we do things the way we do, nor what is appropriate behavior in and around our meetings for worship and business.  To help newcomers become aware of our procedures, and to remind older Friends of these ways that unite us, Western Friend will offer a little nugget of “Quaker Culture” in each issue.

On War (January 2013)

Quaker Culture: Discovery “What is Quaker Faith? It is not a tidy package of words, which you capture at any given time and then repeat weekly at a worship service. It is an experience of discovery, which starts the discoverer on a journey, which is lifelong. The discovery in itself is not uniquely a property of Quakerism. . . What is unique to the Religious Society of Friends is its insistence that the discovery must be made by each of us individually. No one is allowed to get it secondhand by accepting a ready-made creed. Furthe

On Play (September 2015)

Quaker Culture: Testimonies Friends’ testimonies are descriptions of actions and behaviors that have characteristically sprung from the very foundation of shared Quaker beliefs. They are neither proscriptive nor prescriptive, but descriptive of Friends’ lives. They are not creedal; they may change or develop over time; they sometimes help define our faith in a society hostile or blind to our beliefs, and they may become invisible when their need vanishes. Thus a testimony against slavery, although well known, is not now visibly practiced in America. Testimonies against taking of judicial oaths and against gambling, although often not practiced by modern Friends, still have the same basis in our faith and beliefs as they did in prior generations.

On Needs (May 2015)

Quaker Culture: Brevity Brevity is an under-appreciated virtue. If you speak [during Quaker worship], do not feel compelled to explore all the implications of your insight. Rather, leave room for the Spirit to work through the next person, building on your words and possibly extending them in an unexpected direction.

On Limits (May 2016)

Quaker Culture: Wealth [In seventeenth century England], nonconformists like Quakers were barred from universities, professions and public office, and so turned to trading and industry instead. . . The work ethic of the Quakers and their simplicity of speech and life quickly led to prosperity and property, and that property soon included ownership of the industrial base of factories and transport and their financial underpinnings through banking. In other words, despite the almost otherworldliness of their conscience and spiritual practices, the Quakers were instinctive capitalists. . .  The ethics of this are clear: once it is impossible for a family to own their immediate means of production, the owners of such means have various ethical obligations to their workers. The history of Quaker businesses demonstrates [their] keen sense of that obligation.

On Wealth (May 2020)