Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and QuakerSpeak gathered a group of new Quakers and asked what led them to try being Quaker. Here’s what they said.
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Claire Staffieri: The things that were so powerful for me about Quakerism was having an experience with God. That really resonated for me. And silence. Because that which is God for me has no words. There are no words.
What Attracts Newcomers to Quaker Meeting?
Alice Stein: I very much like for example the determination that says somebody believes in peace and has the guts to say in a time of war, “No, I can’t fight. I can’t do that.” I think that takes a lot.
Cassy Hung: I think it had a lot to do with the people. There wasn’t really that hierarchy, where there was someone talking down to us, but we could really share ideas and we could all learn from each other, and I really appreciated those ideals.
Meredith Hung: I think the silent worship was also a big draw for us, to be able to center ourselves and get away from our busy lives.
Kevin Connors: I like the principles that I see the Quakers standing for. I like the focus on peace. I like that there’s not an authoritarian power structure in Quakerism, and that everyone brings something to Quakerism.
Discovering Quaker Meeting
Max Rivers: There was a draft going on for Vietnam and I thought it might be a way to get out of the draft, and I went to a couple of Meetings and really enjoyed the way it was done. I also really felt the integrity of it, and I felt like using it for my own ends didn’t match the faith itself so I went to Canada instead and hooked up with the underground and then didn’t get drafted. It occurred to me about 3 or 4 years ago that meeting that I’d gone to that I’d loved—they were still doing them!
Mary McElroy: A friend whom I really admired invited me, and I just thought she was a lovely person, and I was intrigued. She said, “Come on along, and let’s meet and let’s come this following Sunday!” And I’ve been here ever since.
Kevin Connors: When we had our first child, and still only child, and were looking for a good daycare facility, we weren’t happy with the ones we’d found. We went looking and I just happened upon a Quaker one and decided to investigate. We were just so impressed with the respect that they showed to children.
What was your first experience of Quaker worship like?
Claire Staffieri: My first Quaker Meeting was a wonderment. I do remember walking into that meeting room and feeling a power. It was a transcendental power.
Cassy Hung: My first experience was actually a second First-day, so I went and joined the youth committee and we worked on a community service project for the full hour. I’m 14, and once a month we meet and we work on a project. Sometimes we’ll work on a project for a couple months, for example in the winter we worked to set up a bake sale and raise money for the Heifer Project. We ended up buying several flocks of chickens and other animals for families in need. I just remember really enjoying being with the group and working on something meaningful.
Max Rivers: I just felt really invited in to the silence of it and the sweetness of it and the gentleness of it. You know, I went there to avoid being part of the war but while I was sitting there, I really felt separate from anything like war. That’s my recollection of that first meeting. I didn’t even have to resist the war. There just was no war for that hour.
What keeps you going back to Quaker Meeting?
Alice Stein: My husband has Alzheimer’s disease, and at that time he was still living in the apartment, and it was very difficult. It was getting scarier and scarier: what was going to happen? What would I do? I liked going to the meeting. It was quiet. I could say to him, “I’ll be back in three hours” and I would go. So part of it was a very good excuse to, frankly, get out–but be with other people who understood and just sit there quietly and I would think.
Meredith Hung: We have a family of diverse ages, multiracial. We have one child in our family who is handicapped, and everyone goes out of their way to make us feel welcome, and “What can we do to help you in your journey and help you in your path to God and to the Light, and still help to support your family in the craziness that is a family life?” And we have found that to be very supportive.
Max Rivers: I think it’s a way for me to be able to check in to myself, because it’s really a peaceful, beautiful quiet hour.
Cassy Hung: I feel involved and I feel like I’m doing something meaningful and it’s worth my time, and it’s helping me and it’s helping the people who are benefitting from the organizations that we’re helping.
What questions did you have about Quakerism when you first attended?
Alice Stein: I still wonder, what are those people all doing when they sit down quietly and maybe some of them close their eyes and maybe some of them hold their hands out? What are they thinking? What are they doing?
Mary McElroy: How do you know when to share? How to settle the thoughts? All these questions like, how do you know when it’s over?
Cassy Hung: I remember there was a lot like: what do we do now, going forward? If we choose to continue coming, how do we become a member? What other committees and projects do we work on in Meeting? How can we practice Quakerism at home? Stuff like that.
Claire Staffieri: Also, the subtle nature of it. Quakerism is not easy. It is not easy. It is intriguing and inviting and powerful and splendid and magnificent and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. And that’s a real come on. That’s a come on, and it keeps me coming back.
- What first brought you to explore Quakerism? What attracted you to it?
- What was your first Meeting for Worship experience like? What keeps you coming back?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.