The Inquirers’ Group will be starting soon. This year, the format will change a bit. We will have fewer small group meetings in the evenings and some of the traditional topics will be the subject of Meeting for Learning on Sunday mornings after Meeting for Worship, so that everyone in Meeting is encouraged to attend.
We will most likely have our first small group meeting on a Monday or Thursday evening in mid-February. We will share our stories and questions. New attenders are especially encouraged to attend, but other Friends are always welcome. If you are interested in attending, please contact Joan Pine at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-492-0162.
The following are the topics generally covered in the Inquirer’s Group. Some of these topics will be discussed in Inquirers’ Group meetings in the evenings and some will be the subject of Meeting for Learning.
Sharing Our Stories and Questions
What spiritual paths have led us to the Religious Society of Friends? Where are we now in our spiritual journeys and what are we seeking? What questions about Friends do we hope to have answered in these sessions? How might Meeting support us in our spiritual journeys?
Worship in the Manner of Friends
Why is our worship “unprogrammed,” and what does that mean? How is Meeting for Worship different from meditation? What’s the difference between “giving a message” and “testifying,” “sharing your experience,” “offering your thoughts,” or just talking? How can individuals know if they have “received a message” or if they should share it? Why don’t we use choirs, organ, religious artifacts, or scholarly sermons? What opportunities do we offer for spiritual growth?
Beliefs of Friends
What do Quakers believe about the Divine? What words, images, concepts, and metaphors reflect Friends’ spiritual experiences? Are we “Christian?” How do we regard the Bible? Do we have sacraments like baptism or communion? In the absence of a theological creed, what unites Friends? How are “queries” used? What are participants’ experiences of the Divine?
Business and Decision Making
Why don’t Quakers have paid clergy? How are marriages and memorial services conducted? What are Clearness Committees? What is a “leading”? How does the work of the Meeting get done? How is our local Meeting organized? What is “First Day School?” What committees are open to attenders? What is a Monthly Meeting? How are Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business related? How do consensus, unity, and “sense of the Meeting” differ? How are financial contributions received? What is the membership process?
What is meant by a “testimony”? What are the traditional testimonies of Quakers and how did they arise? How were they practiced in the past, and how do contemporary Friends try to demonstrate them today? How can these testimonies further our personal spiritual practices? How can we use Quaker tradition to deepen and sustain our ability to live these principles?
What are some ways that we express our commitment to social justice?
The Wider World of Quakers
What is a “yearly meeting” and what does it do? How do we relate to other Quakers in the Chicago metro area and the nation? What are Friends General Conference, Pendle Hill, Friends Committee on National Legislation, AFSC, Friends World Committee, and QUNO, and what do they offer us? What is Friends Journal? How can you find Quaker Meetings in other locations?
In 2001, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee revised its purpose statement and information for the handbook. The revisions were approved by the Meeting. In 2004, the committee proposed further revisions of their purpose statement. These revisions consisted primarily in the incorporation of Earth Care Concerns into the name and mission of the committee. The revised Purpose statement of the Committee is as follows: The Peace and Social Justice and Earth Care Concerns Committee supports the life of the Meeting with regard to its witness on peace, social justice and care of the earth by serving as a link between the Meeting and individual Friends, other Quaker bodies and kindred organizations, and the larger society. Further revisions to the committee’s purpose statement are contained in the following handbook content. These proposed revisions will be presented to the Handbook Committee and the Meeting for Business for comment, changes, and approval.
Care of the individual:
The Committee supports and develops the leadings of individuals in the Meeting with regard to peace, social justice and earth care issues. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Communicating to the Meeting a clearly defined process for responding to the concerns and leadings of individual Friends.
- Inviting, encouraging, and monitoring the concerns and leadings of individual Friends.
- Convening and overseeing clearness committees to help individuals sort out their concerns and leadings through a process of discernment.
- Convening and overseeing support committees to provide practical advice, assistance, and resource coordination to individuals who are actively pursuing clear leadings.
- Networking among individuals and groups both within and beyond the Meeting that are focusing on similar issues.
- Providing a mechanism for discerning when an individual leading has taken on a corporate focus.
Care of the Meeting:
The Committee supports and develops the Meeting’s corporate peace, social justice and earth care witness. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Providing periodic updates of the Meeting’s involvement in peace, social justice and earth care issues.
- Educating the Meeting about current peace, social justice and earth care issues through maintaining a bulletin board and display space, preparing announcements and reports for Meeting for Business, and organizing Second Hour presentations and discussions.
- Informing the Meeting about issues that develop out of leadings and actions of individual members and attenders.
- Discerning patterns among individual members and attenders that may be indicative of a corporate leading.
- Developing and overseeing a process through which the Meeting can discern corporate leadings, including the preparation of draft minutes for consideration by Meeting for Business.
- Overseeing the development of corporate leadings, including collecting and disseminating relevant information, convening task forces and committees to pursue Meeting involvement, taking direct action, organizing events, and laying down such concerns.
- Appointing liaisons to wider Quaker bodies such as Friends Committee on National Legislation, American Friends Service Committee, and Quaker Earthcare Witness to assure that relevant concerns of EFM are brought to the attention of these groups and that issues these groups wish to have communicated to Friends are brought to the attention of EFM.
- Each July appointing a representative to the Camp and Conference Fund Committee and to the Friendly Hand Fund Committee.
- Each October preparing and submitting an annual budget to the Treasurer.
- Each autumn nominating and awarding an annual Peace Award to recognize the contribution to peace, social justice or care of the earth by an individual or organization.
Please consider supporting:
Interfaith Housing Center – interfaithhousingcenter.org provides HUD Certified Housing Counseling for homeowners facing the threat of foreclosure; Landlord/Tenant mediation; Fair Housing services;Homesharing – a program which helps homeowners on fixed incomes increase revenue
For more information call: 847/501-5760
Recipients of Budgeted Donations from Evanston Friends Meeting Criteria:
Evanston Friends Meeting donates to Quaker bodies as well as to compatible organizations in which at least one of our members is actively involved. Our donations are not intended to substitute for or replace gifts from individuals and families. Additional personal gifts to these charities are encouraged.
Friends World Committee on Consultation – This organization fosters worldwide communication and cooperative action among all branches of Quakers. Quaker United Nations offices in Geneva and New York depend upon this international scope. Our IYM representatives to the 2004 Triennial in New Zealand reported that our support is crucial.
Friends Committee on National Legislation– With headquarters are across from the Capitol, FCNL publishes a newsletter and web page explaining legislative issues and opportunities for action. FCNL’s lobbyists stay close to members of Congress and their staffs.
Quaker House – Located near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, this center offers ’s talk at IYM in 2002 is in our library.
American Friends Service Committee – This long has been the major channel of Quaker voluntary service to war-ravaged and impoverished people around the world. It works to eliminate the causes of suffering as well as to deliver food, clothing, bedding, and hygiene kits to those in need.
Right Sharing of World Resources – Friends’ contributions fund self-help grants to entrepreneurs in third world countries who have proven potential to improve the economy in their local communities. Our Simple Lunches and annual used-items sales also support this cause.
African Great Lakes Initiative – This project sends Friends Peace Teams to conduct training in alternatives to violence, healing from trauma, and reconciliation between oppressors and victims of violence, thereby strengthening the witness of Friends in Rwanda, Brundi, and Uganda. They sponsored a work camp in Brundi last summer.
Quaker Earthcare Witness – These Friends advocate policies for an ecologically sustainable world.
William Penn House – This center in Washington D.C. makes overnight accommodations available to Friends who are visiting the nation’s capital for
educational and related purposes.
Earlham College – This nationally-known Quaker institution of undergraduate education, located in nearby Indiana, is the alma mater of several members of Evanston Friends Meeting.
Earlham School of Religion – This institution offers theological and religious studies to Quakers and others, including recorded ministers and pastors of Friends churches.
Ramallah Friends School – This courageous school in the manner of Friends continues to be an educational beacon of hope for Palestinian children.
Friends Journal – This monthly journal reflects the perspective of Friends General Conference through informational and inspirational articles. Subscriptions pay only partially for publication and distribution.
Christian Peacemakers – Members of Mennonite churches, Brethren churches, and the Religious Society of Friends travel to areas of violent conflict to become a visible physical presence as a witness for peace. Two trainers gave the program at our regional gathering in 2004.
Fisher Memorial Ministries – Conducted by a neighboring African-American church with which EFM has had a long-term collegial relationship, this project offers the homeless and ex-offenders practical help in returning to productive lives. Members of EFM have been providing technical assistance.
Center for Middle East Studies – This component of North Park University sponsors lectures by and dialog among representatives of ethnic groups in the Middle East to further international understanding and diplomacy.
Evanston Interfaith Action – Any faith community in Evanston can join this coalition by sending two delegates and making a donation. While providing a network of services to the hungry and homeless, it also aims to increase interfaith understanding. Our bulletin board has a list of its soup kitchen and shelters.
Family Matters – This organization teaches and promotes nonviolent conflict resolution among families and youths in the low-income area north of Howard Avenue. It has worked with children and teachers in our First Day School and has received our Peace Award.
North Suburban Peace Initiative – This organization mobilizes religious bodies and peace groups in Chicago=s northern suburbs to act for peace and disarmament. It received EFM’s Peace Award.
Evanston Community Development Association – EFM is a Supporting Member of this coalition to increase affordable housing in the community and to give minority residents job training through the purchase, renovation, and re-selling of houses.
Emergency USA – This independent organization for international war relief operates clinics and hospitals to treat civilians in war zones and areas of prior violent conflict.
General Quaker Information
Other Quaker Meeting Sites
LIFE IN THE MEETING – QUAKER MEETING ETIQUETTE
As I entered the local YMCA swimming pool one morning, there was a sign saying “Swimming Pool Etiquette.”
It immediately popped into my head – what about “Meeting for Worship Etiquette?”
1. Arrive at meeting for worship five minutes before the appointed time.
2. Find your seat and settle into the silence without speaking to others.
3. Begin to center yourself in the Spiritual Presence that is already in the meeting place and that surrounds you and others.
4. As the meeting progresses, practice emptying your mind so that you are not distracted by all the multitudinous things that are going on in your life.
5. Instead, be open to the Divine and wait patiently for a sense of the nearness of God, the divine energy that is everywhere.
6. Commit yourself to being vulnerable so that a divine message can come through to your heart.
7. When a message comes, ponder it with loving care. Ask yourself how it applies to you and to life around you. Absorb the meaning of it, and allow yourself to be open to the feelings that come with the deeper meaning.
8. As you contemplate the message, you may find that the Divine wants you to share it with the meeting. Your heart quickens. Your pulse begins to beat faster.
9. At this point you may be scared. You are being asked to be a channel, a spokesperson for the God spirit. You may feel like turning off the mystical experience of Quaker worship and escaping to your ever waiting mental activity.
10. Instead, you may ask the Divine for help to stand up and say what has come to you, what is in your heart.
11. There is no need for you to rehearse what the Divine has given to you to say. Simply begin to talk and the words will come. They will be given to you by the Spirit.
12. Should you stumble, need to take some silent space to get it all out, or if you feel like crying because of the beauty of what you are experiencing, such things will only increase the meaning and the value of what you are saying.
13. When you have finished and you sit down, others may be spiritually led to build on what you have been saying and feeling. When such things happen, those present are in the midst of what is called a “gathered” meeting.
14. When the meeting is over, you may not recall what you said. The Divine may have given the words to you for someone else in the meeting.
15. When the speaking is coming from the Divine, it is usually short and to the point.
16. A member or members may feel clear that they have received a genuine message without the Divine’s calling on them to share it. This is to be expected.
17. A Friends meeting in which there is no speaking at all may still be very much of a “gathered” meeting. One can sense when the silence is alive and deep and how it builds up toward the end of the hour.
18. It is a mistake for a member to be concerned there has been no speaking at a particular meeting up until the last five or ten minutes. They won’t wait for a divine leading, but will speak from some personal experience in order to fill what they believe is a vacuum, or they think that, without speaking, it will be a dead meeting. It is unlikely that either would be the case. Let us treasure our completely silent periods of worship when they occur.
19. If someone isn’t familiar with the core of Quaker meeting or doesn’t believe that it is possible for the Divine to speak to us directly, one may mistakenly speak from the mind or from one’s ego.
20. When the presiding member closes the worship with a hand-clasp, and the rest of us follow suit, remember that we are not greeting each other just to say hello or to wish others well, but in a very special way. It is a recognition that we have been together in a sacred place and felt the Presence of God in very special ways. In that experience, we have been deeply united.
Kent R. Larrabee | Mount Holly (N.J.) Meeting
EARLY QUAKER HISTORY
The Religious Society of Friends arose in England in the middle of the seventeenth century. During this era many restless spirits arose who questioned authority and looked for a different foundation for their faith. Among these restless spirits was George Fox.
George Fox, born in 1624, wandered as a young man among Puritans, Baptists, and Seekers, looking for spiritual fulfillment and relief from inner turmoil. He spent much time alone and was unable to find help from clergymen. In 1647 he had the spiritual experience, which we recognize as the turning point in his life:
“And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, Oh then, I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition”, and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy… Thus when God doth work who shall prevent it? And this I knew experimentally.”
At the age of 28, in 1652, after five years of preaching and two imprisonments, he came to northwest England where he shared his discovery, convinced large numbers, and helped to initiate the Quaker movement among fellow seekers. Many early Quaker leaders, both women and men, felt led directly by the Spirit to travel in the ministry, join with others for worship, and accept the risks of persecution. Among the convinced was Margaret Fell, whose home became a center for Quakercommunication and hospitality, and who later married Fox.
As Quakers were transformed by their direct experience of the Divine, they saw the world in a whole new light. Fox demanded for himself and for others a life of holy obedience in even the small details of life. Quaker testimonies developed which gave outward expression to inward convictions. Central among these was the peace testimony, articulated in a declaration given to the King in 1661:
“All bloody principles and practices, we…do utterly deny, with all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world.”
While the Quaker movement began as a group held together by no visible bond but united by its own sense of kinship of spirit, it was soon found necessary to have some sort of organization to deal with practical matters. Arrangements had to be made to validate marriages without officiating clergyman, to care for the poor, to arrange burials, and to keep records of births, marriages, sufferings and deaths. Friends faced the question: how can a free fellowship based on divine guidance from within set up any form of church government providing direction from without? As early as 1652 William Dewsbury urged Friends to set up general meetings, to be attended by Friends in a limited area to meet immediate needs. Care was taken not to produce an authoritarian code. In 1656 at a meeting of Friends in Balby, Yorkshire, a letter was composed giving advices, rather than formulating rules of behavior. The letter concluded:
“Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by; but that all, with a measure of the light, which is pure and holy, may be guided: and so in the light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not in the letter; for the letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life.”
George Fox also perceived a need to bring order out of confusion by setting up Monthly Meetings for business in both Britain and America, and then a system of Quarterly and Yearly Meetings. The first Quaker meetings for business were made up of men only, but by 1656 women’s meetings began to appear.
The period following the end of persecution in England brought about by the Toleration Act of 1689 found the Quakers almost exhausted. Some of the most active Friends had migrated to America where they were engaged in setting up a new society and a new way of life. In Pennsylvania, under the leadership of William Penn, they founded a new commonwealth, the Holy Experiment, where they hoped Truth might reign.
The Quietist movement, which affected Quakers in this era, saw worship as a passive experience, a time of receptivity and waiting for divine guidance. Yet this guidance could lead to significant action. Friends were led to advocacy of significant social reforms and Quakers during this time continued to be active in political affairs in Rhode Island and New Jersey, as well as Pennsylvania.
The most important product of the flowering of Quakerism in this period in the New World was a unique Quaker culture, a clearly defined way of life with a spiritual basis affecting every aspect of life. In Quaker communities the meeting was the center, and often included a school. Its whole emphasis was on life itself in home, meeting, and community.
Exemplifying the best in Quaker thought in this period is a quote from John Woolman, who looked at the whole universe in a spiritual light:
“Our Gracious Creator cares and provides for all his Creatures. His tender mercies are over all his works; and so far as his love influences our minds, so far we become interested in his workmanship, and feel a desire to take hold of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted and increase the happiness of the Creation. Here we have a prospect of one common interest, from which our own is inseparable, that to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of Universal Love becomes the business of our lives.”
DIVISION OF QUAKERISM INTO TWO BRANCHES
In 1827 Quakerism split into two branches, Orthodox and Hicksite. The separation was rooted in mainly theological differences of evangelicalism vs. mysticism and rationalism.
In the late nineteenth century many Orthodox meetings, especially in the Midwest, came under the influence of revivalism, which brought in many new members. A pastoral system developed among many, although not all, Orthodox Friends.
Hicksite Friends remained “unprogrammed” and based their worship on silence and without pastors. Some Hicksite Friends, such as Lucretia Mott, were swept up in the atmosphere of radical reform of the 1840’s and advocated women’s rights. After the Civil War the utopian impulse declined and the late nineteenth century is often viewed as a rather conservative period for Hicksite Friends Hicksite Friends also expanded westward. For example, Illinois Yearly Meeting of which Evanston Meeting is a member, was founded in 1871 after Friends settled in Illinois.
THE INFLUENCE OF MODERNISM
By the late nineteenth century, Friends, like many other religious people, were impacted by Darwinism and evolution, scholarly Biblical criticism, the Social Gospel and other religious trends, which can be grouped under the label “modernism.” Many Hicksites and some Orthodox, began to embrace modernism, but with a unique Quaker twist. They believed that Quaker belief in the Inner Light, which Friends had held since the seventeenth century, paved the way both for an acceptance of a more universalist, non-dogmatic understanding of Christianity, and also the way toward a deeper mystical practice.
Friends began to organize large conferences to discuss children’ and adult education and social concerns. These conferences joined together in 1900 to form Friends General Conference, which united all Hicksite Friends.
In 1902 FGC created the Committee on the Advancement of Friends Principles, staffed by Henry Wilbur, who believed that the religious society of Friends could play an important role in addressing the scientific advances and social problems of the twentieth century. Friends began to turn away from the largely inward focus of nineteenth century Quakerism and actively promote social and spiritual testimonies.
The Committee contributed to new growth and vitality among unprogrammed Friends. They corresponded and traveled to areas where Quakerism traditionally had been weak and Friends moved to towns where there was no Quaker meeting. Many meetings grew up near colleges and universities. Most new meetings were unaffiliated, but many later affiliated with FGC.
In the course of the twentieth century a number of Quaker-related organizations arose as channels for Friends’ social concerns in addition to the work done by monthly and yearly meetings. Prominent among these are the American Friends Service Committee, founded in 1918, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, organized in the 1940s. The formation of Friends World Committee in the 1930s provided a vehicle for cooperation and dialog among the branches of Friends.
1950 TO PRESENT
Friends responded to social movements of the late twentieth century, such as the civil rights, antiwar, feminist, and environmental movements, based on a testimony of equality, “that of God’ in every person. Quakers have formed groups to raise new concerns, such as Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, Friends in Unity with Nature, and gatherings of people of color.
Unprogrammed Friends are a theologically diverse group, with universalist and Christocentric strands, and often some combination of the two. What unites unprogrammed Friends is not theology, but rather a way of living grounded in direct experience of the Spirit in meeting for worship and meeting for business. This way of living and being together requires careful listening to achieve unity amid the diversity of perspectives.