How Does Culture Influence Quaker Worship?

Interview 19 Comments

When Ayesha Imani found Quakers, she knew this was where she belonged. But she also felt limited by the culture she perceived in Quaker meeting—that is until she tried worshiping with other Quakers of African descent.

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Comments 19

  1. Donna Hartmann

    City & State
    Bethlehem, PA
    I met Ayesha the first time several years ago at Sessions (at Muhlenberg College) and immediately loved her. She has a deep, lovely, exciting Spirit living within her that bubbles out. I’m so glad she’s in education, I’m so glad she’s happy being a Quaker. Thank you for speaking with her and sharing her wonderfulness.

  2. jules

    City & State
    lovely lady, lovely explanation..
    …in the light of friends…

  3. Amy Kietzman

    City & State
    Cheyney, PA
    Tears sprang to my eyes when Ayesha said of the first gathering of Friends of African Descent, that it was amazing; it felt like coming home. I was there and I felt the same way, also- even though I am pale-skinned and of European descent ( i.e. white)! I felt called to be there with my two young children and welcomed without reservation. The rightness, the wholeness, the joy was, indeed, palpable. I have been working, as best I know how, as led, to the best of my discernment, toward that beloved community both in the Religious Society of Friends and in the world. I’m so grateful to Mama Ayesha and others who have persisted and grown that blessed community around them.

  4. Mackenzie Morgan

    City & State
    Silver Spring
    Thanks for this! I’ve been in groups where saying “amen” is common, and where I’ve gone to my knees, but not in established meetings. I would like to see more loosening up in meetings, in general.

  5. Sharon

    City & State
    Oh yes, oh yes!
    I’ve been fortunate to have lived around the world, and I so agree that our worship reflects the cultural forms and restrictions of where we happen to be. That’s not a criticism, merely an observation.
    At one point I became aware that in our small fairly rural meeting, most of our very names reflect the national origins of the first Quakers with all that signifies culturally, leaving out other ethnic groups living in our area.
    I have often felt profoundly moved to fall on my knees or lean my head on the bench ahead of me and weep. Over time I have conformed, not because anyone did anything to compel me, just because nobody else knelt or wept. I was grateful to a few who raised their hands in joy.
    I love my meeting with all my heart, yet I recognize our form of worship as culturally shaped.
    Reading this thoughtful and beautiful piece, I may yet burst into song or slip to my knees in gratitude.

  6. Elizabeth Fischer

    City & State
    Portland, OR
    I believe that when there is a gathering of Friends of color, white people (l am one) need to respect that and not register for such events. My Friends of color tell me they need a safe space to be with each other, and that’s what those gatherings are for. I implore white Friends to respect that. Not respecting it is yet another example of the white supremacist, albeit often unconscious, attitudes of white Friends in the US.

  7. Ruth Naylor

    City & State
    Bluffton, OH
    Ayesha is captivating and captivated by the Spirit. I loved meeting her here and hearing her speak so freely.

    Thanks for posting this.

  8. Pingback: Liberty of the Spirit

  9. Marcia V. Ormsby

    City & State
    Annapolis, MD
    Praises to Ayesha and praises to her words! She is so connected to the spirit that we all wish to experience. Gratitude.

  10. jessica fullerton

    City & State
    Mill Valley CA
    I have read that there are fairly large numbers of Quakers in Africa and I wonder if meetings there are different than my very quiet Pacific coast meeting.

  11. Heather Pens

    City & State
    Olympia, WA
    Thank you Ayesha for you explanation. I have heard about cultural differences being a problem in Meetings but I didn’t know the specifics until I listened to you talk about it. It seems that our Meetings could be so enriched by the liberated expression of other cultures.

  12. Deborah Dougherty

    City & State
    Tarrytown, NY
    As I began listening, all I could think was “Yes! Yes! Yes!” How can our culture “not” be reflected in and affect what emerges in our meetings. Thank you, Ayesha. This is something for all of us to reflect upon as God makes her/him/them self(selves) known to us.

  13. James Supplee

    City & State
    West Chester
    This Quaker Speak video was fresh and Spirit was at work. I appreciate Ayesha’s words. It is wonderful to have it be okay and comfortable to have the liberty she speaks of- in ministry and in taking part.

  14. Paul Ricketts

    City & State
    Fort Wayne IN
    “You may find yourself having difficulty really being free in the Spirit. And it seemed to me that there was this liberty of the Spirit that really was at the root of Quakerism, but as Quakerism developed and developed among a particular race and a particular class over time—different from the class that it started with—then Quaker meeting began to kind of perform itself in a way that was very cerebral and reflected the cultural orientation of the white, middle class folk who had gathered.

    And though I found that to be a rich experience, I also believed that I wasn’t operating in the liberty that the Spirit had set me free in. Not that the people there were doing something that they were supposed to do differently, but that I was not following the Spirit in the ways that I was always led to, “Ayesha Imani

    These words sum up my thoughts and experiences with the RoSF for over thirty years. Why I attend a
    queer-affirming racially diverse Methodist church.

  15. Krista Barnard

    City & State
    San Francisco
    Thank you, Ayesha Imani, for your clarity and passion and openness. And thank you, QuakerSpeak staff, for creating this and making it available.

    In San Francisco, those of us who watch QuakerSpeak videos together regularly, as well as those who came for the anti-racism group we hold once per month, learned from watching this. We also heard other voices besides Ayesha’s by following up with Ujima Friends Peace Center’s own video .

  16. Melissa LeVine

    City & State
    Lexington KY
    Thank you, Ayesha, for giving me a glimpse into what Quaker worship might look like in a culture different from my own White American one. And for doing it in a way that joyfully accepts what each person and each culture has to bring, rather than privileging one over another. It made me a little bit sad to feel “left out” of African American Quaker worship, but a lot happy to make space for that worship, whether in my own (predominantly white) meeting or in another setting that is “free” of people like me.

  17. Neva Reece

    City & State
    I am a ‘birthright’ Quaker, raised in programmed meeetings, attended unprogrammed meetings for about 20 years, and for the last 17 yearrs have belonged to a Black Baptist church in my community. I am a ‘white girl’, and as a Quaker I felt called to join an African American Baptist church. Sometimes I say, I had to be a Baptist to be the Quaker I am called to be.

    I loved this video and it fit with my experience, but from a different perspective.

    Thank you so much.

  18. Claire Staffieri

    City & State
    Ayesha , so joyful to know the depth and blessed satisfaction of the abundance of the Spirit in your worship at the Peace Center.

    Thank you for letting us know of your unique connection to the Spirit.

    I love it.

    Blessings Claire

  19. Helen Minnis

    City & State
    I’m a black Scottish Quaker and loved Ayesha’s video. It was wonderful to be reminded about the many ways of acheiving liberty of the spirit. Thanks so much for this, Helen

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