The Quaker Handshake as a Sacramental Practice

Before the pandemic, the handshake was such a commonplace gesture that you’ve probably never thought much about where it came from. Steve Angell reminds us that, when 17th-century Friends took up the practice of shaking hands, it was a radical rejection of the social norms of English wealth and aristocracy.

Learn more about the history Steve discusses in this interview by reading his Friends Journal essay, “The End of the Quaker Handshake?”

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6 thoughts on “The Quaker Handshake as a Sacramental Practice

  1. The Economist magazine has recently suggested that in Buddhist countries, placing the hands together in front, called the wai, may have had a role in helping places like Thailand avoid massive outbreaks of the coronavirus.

    Just a thought. Gratifying to know the Quakers promoted, if not originated, the handshake.

    1. Wai, (bowing rather than a handshake) is, according to cultures, silently say more than just our handshake does. Personally, I feel more honored than just shaking hands, to many has no meaning except a
      cultural habit.

  2. While your discussion and article in Friends Journal was quite interesting, I am afraid that you(we) are falling into the trap of thinking we know better than the experts.
    It is my experience that a very large percentage of Friends are either in, or very close to the susceptible category with regards to Covid-19.
    That being said, there really is no way that we can, nor should resume the handshake.
    While this may seem drastic and a hardship for some lifelong Friends to consider doing away with the handshake, it is, in my opinion, a lot easier to live with than watching our Friends/friends become afflicted with an illness due to our continued implementation of a reckless and ill- advised practice.
    We need to collectively find an appropriate substitute that respects our tradition and protects out members.

  3. Personally, I prefer a hand on my shoulder to a handshake; not a reaction to the virus, a residuum from a career spent in health care. You may notice that if your doctor shakes your hand, they do it before, not after, handwashing. And younger docs don’t shake hands at all. Nurses are more likely to tap your shoulder or take your arm. Imaging techs touch the body part being screened. Medical assistants don’t typically touch patients at all except when having gloves on. There are excellent reasons for all that.

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