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Seasons greetings from 1948:

Mr & Mrs Acilius

Mr & Mrs Acilius

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  1. cymast

     /  December 27, 2008

    So this was you and the missus in your previous lives?

  2. acilius

     /  January 6, 2009

    Or our future lives.

  3. cymast

     /  January 6, 2009

    So Quakers believe in reincarnation?

    I’m always amazed at the sheer number of people who say they’ve found true love right in their own backyard.

  4. cymast

     /  January 15, 2009

    The more I learn about Quakers, the more they sound like ritualistic Unitarian-Universalists. But I’m not sure how Jesufied they are as a group.

  5. acilius

     /  January 15, 2009

    There’s a lot of variation among Quakers as a group. About 150,000 of the world’s roughly 250,000 Friends live in western Kenya and members of an ethnic group called the Luhya. There are over 5 million Luhya, so while Luhya Quakers are the majority of all Quakers they are a small minority of Luhya. As indeed the Luhya are a rather small minority within Kenya.

    Anyway, there’s a big rural-urban split among Quakers. On the rural side, including most of the Luhya meetings, you find a lot of evangelistic preaching, fundamentalist theology, and the like. On the urban side, Friends can be almost indistinguishable from Unitarian Universalists, or like other very liberal denominations minus the ritual. The only ritual that is even close to being in general use among Friends is unprogrammed worship, which is an odd sort of ritual- its only prescribed element is sitting together in silence, and if a Friend feels compelled to stand or to break the silence that’s all right. Quakerism started in England, and virtually all the meetings there fall on this urban side of the split.

    Our meeting straddles the urban-rural split. Half the people live in town and tend to be quite liberal, half live outside of town and tend to be quite old-fashioned in their views. Most come to the programmed meeting, where there is singing, a sermon, and usually some other stuff that you can attend to. But that meeting also includes segments of unprogrammed time, and the sermons are always on the liberal side. You’ll never hear about who’s going to Hell or why everybody but us is wrong.

  6. cymast

     /  January 15, 2009

    Wow, thanks for the info!

    The services of the UU church I attended as a child were very un-ritualistic, compared with the services of non-UU churches I’ve visited. There was a standing hymn singing and a group prayer, and that was it. The rest was like a professor giving a lecture in a classroom. From what I understand, Quakers sing hymns, pray, and sit in silence and face each other, which seems more ritualistic to me. Is the congregation separated by gender (or am I thinking of Shakers)?

    Are the sermons Bible-based? Quakers *are* Christians, right?

  7. acilius

     /  January 16, 2009

    Some Quakers sing hymns and pray out loud together, some don’t. Some face each other when sitting in silence, most don’t. In the nineteenth century, most meetings sat in separate sections by gender; there are still a few meetings of what are called “Conservative Friends” that may follow that custom. There aren’t more than a thousand Conservative Friends left on earth, and not even all of them follow that custom.

    Most Quakers would say that a classroom lecture is a ritual. Basically, any activity that divides a group into viewers and participants, that enacts a hierarchy, and that is done in the same way time after time strikes Quakers as ritual, and elicits their suspicion, if not their outright disapproval.

    Friends tend to believe that the Holy Spirit can speak through anyone and is most likely to speak to one person at a time as an inner voice. So Friends wouldn’t tend to think of a situation where everyone is required to fix their attention on one person for most of the time as a situation that would promote communion with God. That’s why pastoral Friends meetings keep the sermon short as a matter of principle. If a pastor habitually spends more than a third of the time at meeting for worship talking, that pastor is likely to be in trouble.

    In fact, many Friends meetings don’t have a pastor at all. Quite a few of the oldest Quaker meetings in England, including some that have been meeting steadily for 350 years, have never had a pastor.

    Quakerism started in England in 1647 as a Christian movement. Historian R. B. Perry defined its original form as “the left wing of the Puritan movement.” Obviously a lot has happened in the last 362 years, and the Puritan movement isn’t what it once was. So today there are a few small Jewish groups that call themselves Quakers, and here and there its possible to find “Quaker Buddhists.” Self-described agnostics and atheists are not rarities in liberal meetings; certainly there are several such who regularly attend our meeting. But certainly most Friends in the world today are Christians, and most meetings have their Christ-y Christian side.

  8. cymast

     /  January 16, 2009

    Sounds neat!

    It would be interesting to attend a meeting to observe members sitting in silence, and then (seemingly) randomly standing and speaking a few sentences, or a few minutes . . I assume it works better if people generally follow the lead of the first person that spoke, keeping roughly on subject.

    May I ask if the Holy Spirit has spoken through you?

  9. acilius

     /  January 16, 2009

    Most of the time no one says anything during open worship. When the silence is broken, usually it’s just one person popping up to say something brief. Occasionally lots of people will have things to say. As for keeping on a subject, the only time I’ve seen that happen was this Thanksgiving, when just about everyone at our meeting stood up to say what they were thankful for. That was an extremely moving service. Other times when there’s been a lot of talking it’s been one unconnected thing after another, and that can be very moving too.

    I don’t think that the Holy Spirit has spoken through me.

    I’ve spoken during open worship twice. The first was about a year ago. Once Mrs Acilius and I saw a car with the word “n****r” scrawled on the side in indelible ink. Evidently it had been defaced in that way and the owner had had to drive around all day like that. That’s the sort of thing that you know happens in the world, you just never expect it to have happened to the next car you see. That was on a Thursday. The following Sunday morning, we were getting ready for meeting, NPR news was on the radio. There was a story about the elephants who had fled southern Sudan’s decades long civil war returning now that peace has broken out there. Mrs Acilius’ response was “Praise God!” Which seemed apt to me. So during open worship I stood up, told those two stories, and said that I hoped that the spirit of peace and reconciliation that had called the elephants home to the Sudan would someday come to our town and stop our neighbors from trying to hurt and humiliate each other.

    The second time I had an announcement about a panel on religious traditions and the environment that was being held on campus. Usually you tell them about announcements like that in advance so that they can be made from the pulpit, but I’d forgotten to do that so I had to do it during quiet time.

  10. cymast

     /  January 16, 2009

    “Most of the time no one says anything during open worship.”

    Hmm . . I think I would get fidgety. Not that I don’t enjoy silence. But sitting in silence with a group of people always makes me restless. I was a member of a “Search Group” in college, and we did that twice during each meeting, interspersed with prayer. I always felt uncomfortable just sitting, like I wasn’t getting the point.

    Thanks for sharing the stories.

  11. acilius

     /  January 17, 2009

    It does take some time to get used to sitting together in silence. Mrs Acilius reports that it is just now coming to be something she values about meeting. Then again, a lady who’s been attending our meeting for all 89 years of her life said last Sunday that she still finds the silent times to be “very, very difficult.”

  12. cymast

     /  January 21, 2009

    Wow poor thing. I find being a heathen much easier.

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