The Courage to be a Quaker

Being a Quaker isn’t just about going to Meeting on Sunday morning. It’s about opening yourself to being transformed and then living in a way that not everyone will understand. How do we find the courage?

Jon Watts

Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

5 thoughts on “The Courage to be a Quaker

  1. Earlier this year, Bev and I moved into the Village of Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania. While speaking with a neighbor, a couple days back, he began to relay points in this area’s history to me. One thing presented was Quakers are arms oriented. He talked about Quakers selling weapons to Native Americans, during the French and Indian War. My first reaction was to let him know “I am a Quaker.” Then, let him know of two United States Presidents being members of The Religious Society of Friends, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon. This was followed with an explanation of everyone being responsible for personal actions in life. No effort to claim no Friends were responsible for supplying guns in this historical period of time, was taken. Being a member of the Quaker Universalist Fellowship, I believe all have a right to present what they believe to be truth.

  2. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin records an evasion he used to get the pacific Quakers, a dominant force in the Pennsylvania legislature, to vote to supply gunpowder to new England: They “could not grant money to buy powder, because that was an ingredient of war; but they voted an aid to New England of three thousand pounds, to be put into the hands of the governor, and appropriated it for the purchasing of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain.” The “other grain,” of course, was gunpowder.

  3. A part of the courage to be a Quaker is dealing with the futility of being a Quaker.
    Though Quakers and abolition are linked together, many prominent abolitionists were not and it took a war to end slavery.
    The book Quakers and Nazis recount how British Quakers traveled to Nazi Germany in an attempt to aid Jews but their own records stated that Nazi officials listened politely, then continued with what they were doing.
    A Quaker mentor told me that Quakers have never prevented a war, never ended one and are held in contempt by members of other Christian religions for their pacifist beliefs.
    I am the only member of my family that does not approve, support and encourage the death penalty.

  4. The companionship part of Quakerism is true. Jesus had his friends, and followers. But he was not alone. We cannot be alone, either.

    Being new to Quakerism, involved with a liberal meeting for eight short months, I could not learn enough; however, there was no system for education or discipleship in place. Where I have found my heart’s reflection is in friendship. I had never known a Quaker, but my friend and youngest child’s teacher, gifted me with a kind ear, and showed me what Quaker non-judgement, listening, and reflection is like. She reflected from the pool of her heart what her life experience has taught her thus far, about children, about marriage, and gave me a sense of faith, every time she responded to my confusion.

    It is in friendship that we find strength and healing. The stillness, listening, reflectiveness, and all the mysteries that can result within those ways of being in the world, seem to center our friendships, and make them more spiritually helpful.

  5. Hi Deborah, I remember you vividly still from last year when you led a weekend course on discernment at Woodbrooke with Ben Pink Dandelion and I felt then —a feeling further reinforced by your talk— a strong sense of spiritual kinship. It seems a strange phenomenon but I’ve encountered just a tiny few people in my life in whom the things they say seem to be prompted by the same kind of spiritual experience and life which prompts, guides and supports me in every way. I suppose all humans have their uniqueness but some must, I suppose, be more unique than others —in my case a mixed blessing and almost a curse (because spiritually isolating). We met again briefly I recall at yearly meeting at Friends House London in May this year. Keep up the good Quaker work and I hope we meet again here in the UK sometime. It is hard work finding oneself counter cultural and we do all need to share our discernments of the leadings of the spirit —to give each other that greatest of gifts, that of deep, non-judgemental listening, so that that still small voice of god may somehow creep out of our discenments!

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