The Future of Quakerism

“Things don’t happen overnight. You achieve by struggling, not by lying down. There is a voice inside that talks to you when you are alone and silent. That voice I have come to call ‘the God in me’, and it tells me when I’m right, when I’m pretending, when I’m dishonest, when I’m fair. If you follow it and are committed to it, you will get somewhere.”
Wangari Muta Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, as quoted in Amnesty International Magazine, Fall 2007


“As death draws near, a dying person may hear a still small voice inviting her to freedom. Sitting with the dying, sitting still in meditation, and sitting at the edge of cultures different from my own, I have also encountered that still small voice. It is there to speak to us all, if we can give it enough silence to be heard.
“Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death” by Joan Halifax

 

As a Quaker, a member of a relatively small religion, I’m positively tickled when I come across quotes like those above, written by non-Quakers. While the idea of that “still small voice” originated in the Bible, I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that Quakerism, more than most religions, actively promotes the belief that if one is silent, one can commune with that inner voice. And even more so, that all of us have access to that “God in me”.

I often think that we Quakers don’t give ourselves enough credit. We liberal Quakers look at our diminishing numbers and fret about whether our religion is going to be in existence in 100 years or whether our Meetings will just die out. What I think doesn’t get talked about enough is how Quaker ideas have spread into general society.

Haven’t you ever seen a non-Friend use the term “speaking truth to power”? I’ve seen it more than once, often in publications released by human rights organizations. The two quotes above from vastly different sources are just examples of how Quakers ideals have taken root in people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves Quakers.

I don’t think what matters most is whether Quakerism as a religion will still be around 100 years from now. I think what matters most is that Quaker values and some of our foundational beliefs are gaining mainstream acceptance.

Isn’t that more important than whether, say, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting will still exist as an organization in 2111?

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Future of Quakerism

  1. Jon

    I found this an interesting entry. I have a couple of reactions, I thought to share. The Buddhist in me says: “Things are impermanent, therefore could Quakers fade away?… of course.” And there needs to be some non-attachment to that possibility. On the other hand, and coming from someone new to Quakers, the Quaker path has a lot to offer the world & spiritual seekers. Thus it would be a shame to see it disappear. I have pondered what would happen if some Quakers accessed their “inner George Fox energy” and reach out to new people… like put up a literature table in public spaces, fliers, etc. We have enough authoritarian religious organizations. We need more of what Quakers are doing. 🙂

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