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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: Unity When reaching decisions in a Meeting for Business, Friends shun consensus (a secular decision, usually comprising the common acceptable part of the opinions brought by those present). Rather, Friends seek the unity which is the result of spiritual discernment of God’s leading for the group, often an unexpected decision transcending the opinions brought by those present.

On Power (March 2013)

Quaker Culture: Queries Friends’ Queries started early in the history of Quakers, and the primary focus of monthly Meeting for Business was once to to examine and respond to them corporately. Today Queries are sometimes used to prod us into a reexamination of our faith and how we practice it daily. Queries can be used as daily devotional readings. The Advices sometimes provide helpful suggestions as we try to put our faith into practice. We read the Advices and Queries in our Meetings for Business as a reminder and to open ourselves to the possibility of receiving useful ministry on that month’s topic.

On Deception (November 2013)

Quaker Culture: Audibility When we are led to speak in Meeting, we try to do so in a way that everyone can hear. It is our custom to rise and to speak slowly and loudly so that messages are audible to all.

On Patriotism (January 2014)

Quaker Culture: Punctuality If we were coming together to worship individually, each to enter into his or her own private meditation, then it wouldn’t much matter whether all arrived at the appointed time. In private meditation, the worshippers could each “settle” separately, training themselves not to be disturbed by latecomers. But . . . our goal is to achieve a group mystical experience, deepening and enriching our individual experience; we need to start the process at the same time.  ~~~

On Time (March 2014)

Quaker Culture: Notions Quakers have always been wary of what George Fox called “airy notions,” speculative ideas or doctrines not rooted in our experience . . . But we tend to forget that early Friends paradoxically never seemed to be at a loss for words: they made use of a rich and evocative vocabulary to describe their experience with the Divine. This vocabulary consisted not so much of propositions or declarations, but of metaphors like Light, Seed, Spirit, Inward Teacher, Wisdom from Above, Life. They understood that in speaking about the Divine, metaphors (however imperfect) are all we have.

On Knowing (March 2015)

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)