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Quakerism and me

15/01/2013

My association with Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends) goes back many years. I was always drawn to these amazing people. However, I rarely attended Sunday meetings for worship as my walk programme was of priority. Yet, it was the midweek midday meetings that I hardly ever failed to attend. They were held in the historic Friends Meeting House in Winchmore Hill, London, England (close to my home and workplace). However, the numbers were small and gradually declined to the point that the midweek meeting was closed. I experienced that closure as a dreadful loss.

My spiritual direction, in no small part, now lies with the community of Quakers in Kyneton, Victoria. We meet on the third Sunday of each month—a small but friendly and open spiritual community. That is followed by a hearty lunch and great discussion. I feel at ease in their company knowing their active concern for peace and social justice for all.

Quakerism is often termed a mystical religion, but it differs from other mystical religions in two important ways. First, its mysticism is group-oriented rather than focused on the individual. The unprogrammed Quaker meeting is an expression of that group mysticism, where all the members of the meeting can together listen for the Spirit and, ideally (in what is called a “gathered meeting”) build on what the others have said in developing themes and ideas. The other way in which Quaker mysticism differs is in its outwardly directed activism. Rather than seeking withdrawal from the world, the Quaker mystic translates his or her mysticism into action, and Quakers have traditionally applied their values towards working for social and political improvements. Many abolitionists in the 19th century were Quakers, as were others who worked for prison reform or world peace. Quakers were among the first to pioneer humane treatment for the mentally ill, with The York Retreat, an asylum set up by William Tuke (17321822) as a reaction to the harsh nature of 18th century asylum care. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker charitable organization that has worked for peace and social justice throughout the world. The AFSC won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. [1]

Though the number of Quakers in the world is small, these people have shaped the world to a degree far beyond their numbers.

Reference
1. Quakers: http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Quakers

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