Becoming a Quaker?
December 2, 2011 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about being a Quaker.

Hello -- thanks for reading!

I'm kind of thinking of becoming a Quaker, and want to know more about it. I grew up generally Christian, I'm not crazy about church hierarchy but would like to have a religious community of some sort. I also love the Quaker values, and they match my personal philosophies about the world and life. Also, I'm getting more into meditation and reading some books about Buddhism, and for some reason, I connect this aspect of my life with being a Quaker too. (Is that weird?) I still feel Christian though, though I don't feel particularly "religious." In other words, I'm kind of confused.

Any thoughts on what it's like? Encouragement/discouragement? Suggestions for reading? I don't know any Quakers. There is a Quaker meeting in my town, but I've been too cowardly and nervous about protocol to go. Any suggestions for this, too?

posted by EtTuHealy to Religion & Philosophy (29 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
I have known a few Quakers in my life. None of them have ever seemed particularly religious, but all of them, without fail, have been some of the nicest, least judgmental, most caring people I have ever known. And this wasn't, like, one really nice Quaker family, this has been a smattering of random Quakers I've met over time. I really don't know anything about being a Quaker, but I'm sure you could do worse than to go introduce yourself to someone after one of the Quaker meetings and explain that you're interested.
posted by phunniemee at 7:37 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I spent some time dabbling with Quakerism, and I found it to be very rewarding. Quakers are, generally, a very thoughtful compassionate lot, and broadly speaking very in line with "MeFi values"--I think any number of MeFites might feel at home with a Quaker meeting. Different meetings have a greater or lesser Christian focus; many are very secular, some more religious (though none I ever attended were "Quaking" or Bible thumping etc.).

I strongly recommend just going to check a meeting out. No need to plan ahead or anything--just show up (you might want to give the regulars a chance to sit first and then find a place--people often return to the same places every week). Meetings generally are silent until the "spirit moves" someone to speak--usually an "elder" first. Personally, I'd say nothing for the first time if I were you--just watch how it unfolds. There's usually some fellowship time afterwards; I'm sure you'd be welcomed warmly as a newcomer and people would be happy to discuss their experiences.

You should totally go! Also, my usual pitch for Secular Humanism--which is a lot like Quakerism, but wholly secular.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:45 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I still feel Christian though, though I don't feel particularly "religious."

Congratulations, you might be a Quaker!

Sorry, I'm not being flip, just -- it's okay. There isn't a line in the sand you have to cross that takes you from being a not-Quaker to a Quaker, and there aren't strict rules that you must follow if you do feel drawn to the Society of Friends. I know Quakers who are atheist, pagan, Christian, generally deist, *devoutly* Christian, and so on and so forth. The only requirement is that you attend meeting with an openness of spirit and in a sense of friendship.

(As an aside, I've been through a couple religions before settling on being a Quaker, so I do sort of understand why you feel confused. It's okay -- you're figuring out a huge part of your life, and it's something you have to work your way through.)

I would definitely encourage you to go to a Meeting, because I think you'll get a better sense of how personal the religion is, and how much of what you believe is determined by you, not by a diktat handed down from on high. I go to (and prefer) an unprogrammed Meeting, where the protocol is very simple. When you show up, there will probably be a group of people outside of the Meeting room who will welcome you, and likely give you a quick primer. One of them will, uh, be working the door, and will probably shake your hand as they let you into the room. The room will be set up with a semi-circle of chairs (we also have some old pews against the walls) around, in my Meeting's case, a low table with a bowl of flowers and some books -- a bible (usually one in English and one in Welsh, but that's really particular to Wales-based Meetings!), and a book called Quaker Faith and Practice, which consists of liturgies for things like weddings, and writings from past several hundred years on aspects of Quaker life. Everyone sits -- it doesn't matter where -- in silence. This is...really personal, but in Quaker language, you're opening yourself up to the light, in meditation or prayer or whatever helps you find what you need. Sometimes, people are moved to stand and speak, about something they read, or thought, or what have you. Other people might build upon their testimony, but it's considered rude to argue the point. At the end of the hour, one of the elders will signal the end of Meeting with a handshake, and you'll find that everyone around you will be shaking your hand as well, as a kind of fellowship moment. Meeting is followed by announcements (and glory me, do Quakers like to go over announcements) and chatting over tea and coffee.

This is my experience with (primarily) one Meeting, but I don't think you'll find too much different. (If anyone else has found otherwise, please, speak up, because I'm curious too!)
posted by kalimac at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Quaker Ranter is quiter than he used to be, but you might get a lot out fo reading the archives.

Here's a decent "How-to" on attending a Quaker meeting. (This assumes that it's an unprogrammed meeting... if your local Quakers are programmed, that'd be different, and then you likely wouldn't need a how to.)
posted by Jahaza at 7:50 AM on December 2, 2011

I am not officially a Quaker yet, but I've been attending off and on for several years. What I love about Quaker meetings is the communal nature of the silent worship. You may spend the meeting hour mostly in your own head, but there's always the sense that the group is moving together toward something. Since you're interested in meditation as well as finding some kind of religious community, I think you'll really enjoy it.

If your local meeting is anything like mine, maybe four or five people will feel led to speak during the hour, usually several minutes apart to give everyone time to think through what's been said. (Getting up to speak right after another person is considered poor form because it implies you didn't truly listen to them.) And often each person will somehow pick up the thread of what the previous speaker said and take it in another direction. You never know where you'll end up, but it's almost always thoughtful and substantive and interesting.
posted by eleventy zillion at 7:52 AM on December 2, 2011

My girlfriend and her family are sort of Quakers. I'm not religious at all but if someone made me pick one I'd go Quaker all the way. I bet if you showed up at their meeting they'd be really nice and welcoming, so if you're interested you should probably do that. Also AFAIK their church hierarchy is basically pancake flat so that's another plus.

Two Quaker things (that my gf's family does, anyway) that I like are: Quaker Grace, where before you eat everyone at the table holds hands, closes their eyes, and thinks about whatever they want to think about. When you're done thinking, squeeze the hand to your left. You can pass on a squeeze if you want to but you don't have to. Once the squeeze has passed around the table everyone opens their eyes and dinner starts. It's great.

Also, the way the run weddings and funerals: no real officiant, just all of the couple/dead guy's friends and loved ones in a room. Whenever you feel the urge to talk, you can say whatever things you feel about the couple/dead person. When everything's out of things to say, it's over. Super cool. I definitely want to get married this way, or in a way similar to this, and think it would be nice on the funeral side as well.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:52 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love not that girl's commentary on Quakerism, peach churches and the death penalty.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:54 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I attend Quaker meeting and was raised strict Catholic. I spent about 20 years in-between being nothing, reading Buddhism, anti-Catholic, etc. I really encourage you to attend meeting. It's one of the key aspects of Quakerism and is very low key.

Most places with unprogrammed meeting (no one "leads" meeting or preaches) simply have about an hour of collective silence, with the occasional person speaking if moved to. Other may speak but it's the nature of meeting not to "respond" to the previous person (to agree, defend, contradict, etc.). Some Meetings, IME, are more or less political than other Meetings. I'm in MA now and the Meetings here lean toward politically active. But that's one of the things I really love about Quakers--it is a service-based, action-oriented spirituality in a way that Catholicism never was where I grew up (conservative, power-focused, dogmatic, etc.).

Another thing to reassure you is that some Quakers consider themselves non-theist Quakers, and they live and let live with theist Quakers. You can be Christian, believe in God, or not be sure, and still be Quaker.

If there are a few meetings in your area, visit them all once to get a sense of the vibe, members, leanings, etc. and then pick one to attend for a while.
posted by Yoshimi Battles at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2011

Sigh. Peace churches. Although I might attend a peach church. Wonder what the sign of the peach would look like?
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

Hi, I'm a (convinced, as they say) Quaker. I very much agree with others that you should go to a meeting as a starting point. A lot of people feel very philosophically in line with Quakers, but find that either the mode of worship, or the community, isn't the best fit.

Your interest in Eastern faiths and "still feeling Christian" are both certainly in keeping with the liberal Quaker tradition. Quakerism grows out of Christian roots, and I identify primarily as a Christian though at the same time I have an agnostic streak and also find much of value in other faith traditions as well. In Quakerism, these ideas can be in conversation, not in conflict - something I profoundly treasure. You'll find that Quakers span the entire spectrum of relationship to Christianity; some people in meeting will sit with a Bible and talk about the Christian/Hebrew "God" and scripture when they rise to speak; others will be at the total opposite end of the spectrum (including non-theism, sometimes) and will talk about general moral and ethical concerns or other religious traditions. There is room for all this.

The character of meetings can be different, too. Some are more religious in feel than others, determined completely by who's in the congregation. But what really binds Quakers are a simple set of principles, including concepts of the inner light (the element in every person we identify with the divine or eternal) and the "corporate quest," the idea that by meeting together in groups we can develop fellowship even while everyone works toward his or her own understanding of the universe.

After the meeting for worship, it's really likely that there will be a coffee hour. Stick around and chat with a few people, saying just what you said here - you're interested and exploring the faith. Quakers are really used to this, especially (kind of funnily) since the advent of BeliefNet, on which an unbelievable number of people take the quiz and discover their philosophy aligns with Quakerism.

You'll find a huge emphasis on global justice concerns and service work, which is central to the tradition. Check out the bulletin boards and calendars that will probably be posted to see what you might want to get involved in. There are study groups, discussion groups, service projects, even trips.

One aspect of Quakerism that's interesting is that there are a lot of Quaker institutions that do various cool things and build lovely communities. There are camps, schools, and colleges emphasizing the tradition of Quaker education, and there are groups like the American Friends Service Committee, The Friends World Committee for Consultation, and others doing global and domestic aid. Meetings are also organized into groups. Local meetings generally belong to a monthly (or quarterly) regional meeting (often these are one and the same for practical purposes), and those in turn belong to yearly meetings. This organizational structure does different things at different levels - monthly or quarterly meetings often hold workshops and talks and meetings for business, and yearly meetings tend to evolve into big conference-like gatherings that are very festive.

If you don't like committees and reading and process you might not want to do much outside the worship, which is fine, but there is sort of an expectation that Quakers are involved in improving the world in one way or another. Also, you can attend meeting - forever, in fact - without becoming a 'member.' Membership is a formal process by which you attend some classes and learn the history and basic principles of the faith, and then put yourself forward for membership. You don't have to do this right away and if you are even inclined to it, you can take years and years.

I am so very much at home in this faith tradition. I grew up in a freethinking family but started participating in Friends activities when I was 18 and worked at a Quaker camp; I found it really worked for me as a practice, and over the years have just grown closer and closer to identification with the denomination. There is simply no other faith in which I can at the same time follow Christian principles and explore broader ideas in total freedom of through, while being part of a centuries-old tradition with a discipline and character all its own, in company with other people who share my concerns and interest in peace and justice. So it's been a wonderful thing in my life, though at times I've been more or less active in it. I still am not such a big fan of leaving the house on Sunday morning and wish we could have the Meeting at, say, 3 PM, but that ain't too likely.

Here are some good places to go for readings to get started - and to find a meeting. That's really what it's all about. - a good hub for lotsa reading.
Friends General Conference
I just recently found this message board, which is interesting because it seems mainly designed to serve not Liberal Quakers but the western/evangelical kind which has programmed meetings and leaders and is much closer to mainline Protestantism. So there's a real diversity there and not everything is for me, but they have subgroups and it's kind of interesting. Quakers tend not to agree on things anyway and are cussedly independent-minded, so disagreement can be taken in stride.
QuakerFinder - find a Friends Meeting and some tips for attending.

Good luck in your exploration! At the very least you will meet some salt of the earth people and learn about an interesting community.
posted by Miko at 8:17 AM on December 2, 2011 [16 favorites]

freedom of through

freedom of THOUGHT that is.
posted by Miko at 8:23 AM on December 2, 2011

Huh, I see I was wrong that the QuakerQuaker board is primarily for evangelical Quakers. It seems it was actually started by the QuakerRanter blogger! I just remember when I first got there being surprised at the large presence of programmed Quakers, because being from the East Coast I haven't run across many of them.
posted by Miko at 8:36 AM on December 2, 2011

Wow, I can't really add to what everyone has said, but I will say that I am yet another Quaker MeFi. I grew up in an unprogrammed Quaker meeting (what Quakers sometimes call a 'birth-right' friend, meaning I was 'under the care of the Meeting' from the time I was born until the time I chose to elect membership as an adult.) And I can honestly say that unprogrammed Meetings are beyond used to visitors and will be more than happy to have you join them.

I did also want to add, however, that one of the beautiful things about Quakers, as others have touched on, is that there is a historical and modern commitment to avoiding creeds, which means there is absolutely nothing you must believe to be Quaker. Instead, we have something called, "Friends' Testimonies," which are things Quakers historically have cared a lot about and invested a lot of work into, both in their own lives and the lives of others. Not every Quaker believes in all the testimonies (no creeds, right?), but they're generally pretty widely regarded as a decent representation. I always learned them as SPICE: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality. If those sound like things you're interested in, you'll fit right in at a Quaker meeting. I for instance am a semi-agnostic shamanistic sort of person, but I find those testimonies to be right in line with my thinking. Furthermore, as Miko points out, the involvement in peace and social justice work is critical to my personal view of the world and there is absolutely nothing as heartening in the sometimes despairing work of justice as being in a room full of other people who are all committed to similar ideals and have a huge historical tradition of upholding them. It makes one feel that one is not alone on any number of levels.

If you don't like committees and reading and process you might not want to do much outside the worship, which is fine, but there is sort of an expectation that Quakers are involved in improving the world in one way or another.

That's very true! Quakers do all their Quaker-related business by a process called Sense of the Meeting, which is like a very spiritual form of consensus-building. A "Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business," as we call them, is considered to be a type of listening-to-the-spirit no less than sitting together in silence in at a normal Meeting for Worship. There are fantastically helpful protocols in place, including the selection of a clerk who facilitates the meeting in the spirit of worship while laying aside their own personal opinions (that is hard to do, let me tell you), to guide the business meetings towards finding an answer 'from the spirit' instead of just what one or two very loud people want. It's often a very long process, and very frustrating, but it is amazingly inclusive and works astonishingly well, and often the actions and solutions that come out of meetings for business seem nigh-miraculous. If you have the patience, I cannot recommend observing and participating in this process enough.

To give you an example, I'll tell you my favorite Quaker meeting for business story. I don't know if this is true, but it's handed down as a Quaker legend in all the meetings I've visited. The story goes that, during WW2, a New York Quaker meeting was assembled in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, and the community had been presented with the idea that they should create some way to ferry Jewish children out of Germany before the situation got any worse, which it was clearly going to. The Meeting was small, and poor, and after much vehement discussion they concluded they didn't have the manpower nor resources to do anything for those in need. The clerk called for a moment of silence to recenter the meeting and bring it back to the spirit. Out of the silence, a little girl spoke from the back of the room: "But how can we not?"

And out of that the Quaker commitment to the Kindertransport, rescuing Jewish children from Hitler's Germany, was born.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:40 AM on December 2, 2011 [11 favorites]

Er, by, "both in their own lives and the lives of others", I mean, both in their own lives and in peace and social justice issues, not that Quakers are, like, bustin' up in yo' house tellin' you to have more integrity.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:41 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you read any George Fox? He's the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, so his texts are the best place to start...
posted by devymetal at 8:51 AM on December 2, 2011

I first learned about Quakers when I was a young anti-war teen back in the sixties. One of the things that I remember about them was that they and the Catholic Workers I met treated me like I was an intelligent human being and not like I was just a dumb pretty chick the way a lot of other anti-war types did.

I eventually studied US social history in depth and was struck by the number of quakers who played major roles in various human rights struggles, in particular the abolition and women's rights movements.

Over the years I occasionally attended Quaker Meetings and found them welcoming and comfortable. About 7 years ago I moved to a new city where I didn't know anyone. The Quaker Meeting house was close to where I lived so I started going, initially really because I thought I'd find politically like-minded people more than anything. I found Friends (what Quakers call themselves) and friends, a wonderful assortment of people of different ages and backgrounds. I found that I enjoyed the hour of silence and that it has, perhaps, helped me to be more balanced and peaceful. I found myself getting involved in various projects and inviting my new F/friends into others. When I moved to yet another city for work three years ago I had a built-in community in my new meeting, a group of people who knew I was coming and welcomed me. (Both of these meetings are part of the same regional group/Yearly Meeting.)

I do not think I would feel comfortable in a programmed Quaker Meeting, but others may feel differently. If you, OP, would tell us where you are, we might be able to tell you more about the local meeting, and maybe even introduce you to someone one of us knows there. Feel free to memail.
posted by mareli at 9:24 AM on December 2, 2011

One thing to add--get a feel for what particular branch of Quakerism your local Meeting is, because that can greatly affect your experience. Broadly speaking, there are three branches in the States, roughly divided by location. The Evangelical Friends (the branch I grew up in) are more "christian-y"--Bible oriented, less open to pagan, atheist, etc viewpoints. They're also much more likely to be programmed services. While I have a great deal of fondness for them, I suspect the Evangelical Friends wouldn't be a good fit for you (as an agnostic I'm not very comfortable there anymore).
posted by kittenmarlowe at 9:43 AM on December 2, 2011

Even liberal, unprogrammed Quaker meetings vary a great deal by region. I've heard people from the East Coast say "Man, nobody would ever dream of talking about Jesus at my meeting." In Austin, where I live, it's certainly still very atheist- and agnostic-friendly, but there is also a lot of Bible-quoting and sincere talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and so on. (This is actually one of my favorite things about the Austin meeting! The diversity of paths and practices is awesome, and really, everyone coexists just fine.)

There are also conservative-but-unprogrammed Quaker meetings: that is, they practice silent worship, and believe in the priesthood of all believers (a.k.a. "What God tells you is just as valid as what God tells anyone else") but they retain a very strong foundation in the Bible and explicitly Christian belief. So, meetings like this exist, but they're a small minority. Most of the ones I'm familiar with are in rural Ohio and Pennsylvania, though I gather there are some in other parts of the country.

Anyway, the upshot is, Quakers are a diverse bunch, and in a big enough city you may in fact find several different meetings of different political and theological persuasions. (The Bay Area, for instance, has at least one very theologically conservative meeting and at least one very liberal one.) If you're lucky enough to have a few different meetings in your area, do visit them all and see what you think.

But, yeah, there's really no protocol to speak of for attending. You may as well wear nice church clothes your first time, though at some liberal meetings you'll discover that everyone's just wearing a t-shirt, and then you know for next time. You sit (wherever you want, however you want, eyes open or eyes closed, or you can bring a religious book to read) and listen. People might speak up, or they might not. There might be coffee or even a potluck lunch afterwards.

There is sort of a protocol for speaking in meeting. I mean, on one hand, it's just "speak whatever message the spirit moves you to speak," but on the other hand, there are definitely customs and habits concerning how and when to speak up, and how to phrase your message, and so on. Honestly, though, nobody will get too upset about deviations from the protocol, especially from new people. Occasionally at my meeting, someone new will show up and feel moved to say something, and people are basically like "Well, that wasn't quite the same style of speaking we normally use here, but it was still a lovely thing to say and I'm glad he said it."
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:46 AM on December 2, 2011

Have you read any George Fox? He's the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, so his texts are the best place to start...

Fox is impenetrable. Don't start with Fox. If you want to read about Quakers (though visiting meetings is probably the best advice--unprogrammed meetings will be very comfortable with you coming to check it out without making any kind of commitment), I thought Michael Birkel's Silence and Witness was one of the best books on the subject of "What are Quakers?"
posted by not that girl at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree, Fox is not all that relevant to most contemporary Quakers, though down the line you might want to read him for historical understanding. But another really nice book is A Testament of Devotion. It's more of a meditation on spirituality than a how-to, but lovely.

Also, I just remembered that after the end of a silent meeting, after the handshake that is, some meetings have a time for announcements and introductions. That's a good time, if you are visiting a meeting, to stand up and introduce yourself briefly. Not all meetings do it this way but if you hear someone inviting visitors to introduce themselves, that's a good time to take them up on it.
posted by Miko at 11:02 AM on December 2, 2011

What does it mean for a Quaker Meeting to identify as "Hicksite"?
posted by endless_forms at 12:00 PM on December 2, 2011

I can't add a whole lot to what everyone has said before, but as a non-quaker who worked at one of the Quaker Schools (I just looked them up on that website, made me smile), the meetings were wonderful. I ran into one person writing about Quakers where he used the term orthopraxy which meant unity of method. Which is what I've seen both when I worked at the school and the occasional meetings I've attended. The practices were mostly the same (unplanned), but the beliefs (the doxy if you will) varied widely. Go. You'll be welcomed. Just show up on time, as showing up late can be disruptive (not that they'd be mad at you, but you end up feeling like an ass, which I don't recommend. I am speaking from experience here.)

on preview
endless_forms: the Hicksite/Willburite split was something along the lines of a schism within the Quaker community. I've read a bit about it, but the differences between beliefs have left my mind. Honestly, they seemed pretty minor, and my impression is that you won't be kicked out of a meeting these days for having Willburite views in a Hicksite meeting or vice versa. Wikipedia has info, but, if you're like me, it may not make complete sense.
posted by Hactar at 12:05 PM on December 2, 2011

Hi! I was raised as a Quaker, and still usually consider myself one, though I'm currently non-practicing. I'm one of the many agnostic, Buddhist-leaning Quakers out there. (I also know a ton of Quaker Jews and ex-Catholics.) I was raised in an unprogrammed, non-Jesus-y meeting in New Jersey, and I spent many of my weekends in high school here, a place that was literally a life-saver for me.
Meetings vary from place to place; even among unprogrammed meetings, the social make-up and the size of the crowd can influence the experience. My sister is a member of Brooklyn meeting, which has a sizeable population of young adults with children, and it's become a central part of her life. Be aware that because any attender can speak, the quality of the messages given during meeting can, uh, vary. Unfocused, overly-long ramblings are part of the experience!
I love and believe in the philosophies of Quakerism, along with their political activism. At my local meeting there's almost always a letter-writing campaign you're invited to contribute to during coffee hour. And there's a weekly hour-long vigil for peace in the center of town, which was joined by tea party-ish counter-protesters about a year ago. True to form, the Quakers have been welcoming and respectful. Way more respectful than I feel when I read their signs, that's for sure. The Quaker idea that "there is that of God in all of us" is a biggie; it means respecting even those whose views anger you.
I could go on and on but I'll stop here. Memail me if you want to chat further!
posted by chowflap at 12:13 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not Quaker, but I grew up in an east-coast city with a strong Quaker influence, and went to Quaker camp and then to a Quaker college in Indiana. Growing up I attended a "secular humanist" Jewish school on weekends, which used the space of a Quaker school.

What has impressed me about Quakerism is that I never felt unwelcome at any of the Meetings I attended; I had been to Church with friends as a kid, even to synogogues, and felt distinctly like an outsider because I was either not Christian or not Jewish enough.

In my Quaker overnight camp and in college all adults (and professors, at college) were called by the first names. At the camp, all ages and genders were integrated for activities. We all took part in different chores around the camp. So, equality is a main value I saw promoted Quaker institutions.

I'll always remember a story one of the camp administrators told at Meeting one week (which was held in the woods). It was about a Quaker man who was almost mugged on the street. He turned to the mugger and said, "I will still try and love you, my friend.", and the mugger ran away, and aborted the mugging. Now, this story is kind of funny, if looked at one way, but really touching and exemplifies the Quaker spirit, if looked at another way.
posted by bearette at 8:26 PM on December 2, 2011

While I consider myself"officially" of another religion, I maintain a strong love and connection to Quakerism.

It's worth your time to attend a service. I know you can sit silently at home, but there is something connecting about attending meeting. There's truly no reason to feel awkward. Friends churches are always genuinely accepting. I go to meetings sometimes and I always feel welcomed there.

Sort of related, is the American Friends Service Committee. AFSC gives you a sense of the values in action. That's another perspective on Quakerism.
posted by 26.2 at 8:56 PM on December 2, 2011

I think Kalimac described it really well. I attend meeting in the U.S. (and have in a few other countries) and it is pretty much just like that (without the Welsh bible though, like s/he said). Only thing I have to add is that a number of meetings will ask if anyone is visiting, probably around the same time as announcements. A small meeting may have everyone introduce themselves, a large one will simply ask if there are any visitors or newcomers in each section. That's your chance to stand up, say your name, and that you want to learn more about being a Friend. You'll have plenty of people interested in chatting about quakerism over coffee.

Oh, and if your town has more than one meeting time, the early times are generally quieter, while the late morning one can barely settle down into silence. (If you're unsure about sitting for a whole hour in silence, late morning can help ease you into it.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:24 PM on December 2, 2011

(If you're unsure about sitting for a whole hour in silence, late morning can help ease you into it.)

My favorite tip for this is to sit where you can see a window, if you can. Getting lost in the light on moving tree branches and such really helps me stop feeling antsy and often brings up good thoughts.
posted by Miko at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2011

Wow everyone -- I can't thank you enough for all of your responses! This has all motivated me to attend a meeting and read more about it. It sounds exactly like what I've been looking for :). Thanks!
posted by EtTuHealy at 1:44 PM on December 3, 2011

What does it mean for a Quaker Meeting to identify as "Hicksite"?

Basically it means they're the sort of meeting most people in this thread are talking about: they practice unprogrammed silent worship, they don't believe in active proselytization, they put more weight on personal spiritual experience than on following scripture, they're likely to be pretty open to non-Christian members and they probably lean pretty far Left politically.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:48 PM on December 3, 2011

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