What, There Are Quakers in New York?

We also call ourselves Friends, from the early name, 'Friends of Truth', and from Jesus having called his disciples his friends. We call our group the Religious Society of Friends.


There are Quaker carpenters, teachers, politicians, writers, business people, artists, telephone-operators, stock traders, musicians, needle workers, social workers, doctors, lawyers, and everything in between. In the country, there are a lot of Quaker farmers.
Two to 125 of us worship together once or more often each week in silence. In silence we pray, give thanks, or concentrate somehow on what we've done, what has happened to each of us, and how we might live. Some of us wait upon God, as we call it, for inward direction or strength to do something alone or together about what deeply concerns us, You should know, however, that, in a Friends' meeting for worship, anyone may speak, when the spirit in the occasion insists, about the hopes or insights he or she has, for we are learning from each other. Spoken words in meeting may comfort, and they may be pointed, prophetic, and disturbing. Our stillness in meeting may force us to listen to others and to know better our fears, doubts, where we fail, our common humanity and divinity, humor, strength, Christ, and God. This knowledge is chiefly what has freed Friends to do the things we've done and is a source of whatever integrity we have.
What do we do? For one thing, we don't yet have world peace, and Friends - with others, of course - try to live peaceably and stop war; some have refused military service; some decline to pay war taxes; some encourage good relations around the world. We try to be honest, diligent in our work, followers of conscience, simple in manners of living, and decent with our friends,neighbors, landlords, tenants, and the people we work with, We make a lot of mistakes and keep on trying.
We are outspoken about the world's troubles and their causes including our own responsibilities: our religion can be unsettling. Worship together and private prayer encourage us and also seem to make us see things differently and change our habits.
We are single, married, divorced, parents, straight, gay, bisexual, European, New Yorkers, black, Asian, Caribbean, African, athletic, a bit wobbly, blind, far-sighted, young, middle-aged, old, plump, skinny, smokers, non-smokers, exuberant, shy, comfortable, and a bit rustic. Some of us talk a lot; others are reticent. Some of us are quite funny; others aren't. Many of us cook delicious food, and our best times are often over a pot-luck meal.
Because we have buildings, membership, and concerns in common, we must meet to consider them. We unite on what seems right to do, rather than vote or reach a consensus of opinion. Periods of quiet worship or prayer occur during these meetings. We decide some matters quickly: others take us months or years to come to unity on. About some things we have never agreed, and controversies have continued somewhat bitterly.
Some of us have rejected other churches who believe a lot that is against science's findings or seems unreasonable. Some have left other religious groups which have compassion only for certain people or which misused authority. Because many of us are not sure that the words we use describe faith and truth perfectly, we do not insist that anyone else use them. We know that everyone has lived differently, and therefore everyone's words and faith must be somewhat different. We think that there are probably many ways to meet God and to live justly and compassionately.
If you're curious about us, come to a Friends' meeting sometime. We find it helpful to avoid the radio, television, newspapers, and squabbles before coming. We wear to meeting the clothes we work in. Save your cash: with no pastor, musicians, singing, or ceremonies, we have no collection of money in meeting. You'll be most welcome. With your children too!
With up to an hour of silence, we have only our own discipline to fall on: the quiet may seem hard to bear, but with others worshiping there we can feel the love and power in us all, God within and amongst us teaching us to be wide awake to what fosters good and diminishes evil, and then do something about it. There is plenty within and around us to get angry and gloomy about, of course, but our way to worship may be one you might wish to join.
It gently asks us to see God alive in each of us and to live and worship knowing and seeing this.

Adapted from a brochure by John Maynard, which was designed for New York Quarter 11/92

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