Get ready to experience South Jersey Quakers
We know it's common to feel a little antsy in a new group, unsure of what to expect or what will be expected of you. Let us put your mind at ease.
What to expect
When we gather together to worship, we wait expectantly to receive a message from the Spirit. Whoever receives a message for the group shares it out loud. Then, we return to silence and wait for the next one.
The end of worship will be signaled by a handshake, fist bump, or other similar greeting going around the room.
Quakers believe that if you want to find out what God has to say, you need to listen. And so we spend a lot of time listening in quiet prayer. That quiet prayer time, which can happen anytime, anywhere, is the heart of the Quaker religious experience.
What to Expect in Quaker Meeting for Worship
If you are going to go into Quaker Meeting for the first time, first of all, congratulations. So you walk in, sit down, be quiet. What to expect when you’re there, besides just “go with the flow” is different things depending on where you are.
What Should I Wear?
Unlike some other churches, you don’t need to dress up with suit and tie or a fancy dress. Most of the folks come in jeans, t-shirts, or shorts/t-shirts. Whatever you’re comfortable in.
Should I Bring My Kids?
So you’re thinking about coming to Meeting and you have children. You really need to know that you have to bring them. They may or may not enjoy themselves but we’re always so thrilled to have young people join us. They come and they’re bringing their alive-ness and their love and their genuine-ness. So please, yes, bring them.
Entering The Space:
A Plain Setting
So if you come into this space and you’re looking for images or words on the walls, some kind of direction, and you’re going to notice that there isn’t going to be any there. From the very beginning of Quakerism, its about the inside. So it’s about you not looking around you for that, but really going inward for your own wisdom, for your own piece of the divine that’s been given to you.
Sometimes a worship room will look like a really old building with benches that have been sat on by thousands of Quakers over hundreds of years and sometimes it will look like the basement of another local church.
Entering the Space:
Where Should I Sit?
Something that’s common to them is that people often will enter already in silence, find a place in the room and sit down in silence. Anyone coming into the room can sit anywhere, there’s not a right place or a wrong place to sit.
Learning to Listen
So before you go into Meeting for Worship for the first time, I’ll tell you what I’ve always told my kids when they were little, every week before we went in, which is just, “remember when you go in, to just sit down and listen for God. God is here with us and this is a space to listen.”
The first time I went to Quaker Meeting I didn’t know how to listen. Because I had never listened in church before. I had to work on that process of figuring out: what am I listening for? Am I listening to myself? What’s going on? What is everyone else listening to and how does that affect the community and me?
So in that quiet-ness you walk in, you say, “Ok, everyone is sitting there quietly, when are the directions going to come? What am I going to do?” Just follow suit.
Just sit down in that space. Just feel the space and the people around you and open yourself as much as you can. Just continue to notice how you can be aware of all that’s around you and all that’s within you, and how that’s all connected to everybody else in the room.
About 9 years ago I began to give voice to a lifelong frustration of mine. The frustration was that I cannot answer the question “What do Quakers believe?” I would always answer the questions somewhat defensively. I would say, “it’s kind of hard to know what Quakers believe, but let me tell you what I believe.” Or I would say, “well, it’s hard to know what Quakers believe today but let me tell you what Quakers believed at the beginning.” Or I would say what I thought Quakers believed and I would hope that no one else was listening because I did not want to be overcalled.
And so I had all of those experiences as a lifelong Quaker and I said, “this is for the birds!” We can do better than this.
9 Core Quaker Beliefs
My name is Arthur Larrabee. I’m a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. I live near West Chester, Pennsylvania, very close to Westtown School. My work in the world is the work of teaching and consulting about Quaker decision making.
In attempting to name what I believe are core principles, or core beliefs of the Religious Society of Friends as understood by unprogrammed Quakers, I’m hoping that we would move in the direction of strengthening our faith practice, and strengthening our faith practice with each other and be more clear and affirming of what we’re able to say to the world, what we’re able to carry out into the world.
1. There is a living, dynamic, spiritual presence at work in the world which is both within us and outside of us.
Quakers use many names to describe this spiritual presence. Among the names we use are God, spirit, the light, the inward light, the inner light, Christ, truth, love.
2. There is that of God in everyone.
This statement of belief is similar to the first statement, and Quakers will talk about there being that of God in everyone, and it is the belief that the creator has endowed each person with a measure of the divine essence, and that as a consequence, all of life is sacred and interconnected.
3. Each person is capable of the direct and unmediated experience of God.
Our belief leads us into a form of worship that does not rely on clergy or liturgy or creed. Rather, we come together in the silence. We sometimes refer to our worship as “waiting worship.” Waiting to hear—listen for—the still, small voice within, and listening for that of God—the still, small voice—speaking to us.
4. Our understanding and experience of God is nurtured and enlarged in community.
When we come together in community, each of us brings our own manifestation of the divine energy. When we come together in community, we experience and embrace our diversity; we experience a much larger understanding and vision of God.
5. The Bible is an important spiritual resource, and the life and teachings of Jesus are relevant for us today.
For many of us, the Bible is an inspired record of humankind’s interaction with God through the ages. Quakers find that the truth and the teachings found in the Bible are an inspiration for daily living and also an inspiration for our worship together.
6. The revelation of God’s truth is continuing and ongoing.
Quakers are very clear that the revelation of God’s truth did not end with the writing of the Bible. We believe that God has continued to reveal God’s truth and make God’s will and energy, truth—known to humankind down through the ages, down to the present day.
7. We welcome truth from whatever source it may come.
We find that our experience of worship and our experience of the Divine is enriched by welcoming truth from different sources. We welcome spiritual truth from different sources.
What do South Jersey Quakers believe?
Members of the Religious Society of Friends ("Quakers" is just our nickname) will often speak of our belief that “there is that of God in everyone.” From this we derive our opposition to war and violence, and we challenge ourselves to seek better relationships with others through the power of Love.
Emerging from the Protestant Reformation, Friends have promoted education through the centuries and believe that God may speak through anyone. We do not have a formal creed but look to Testimonies for guidance in our lives; today’s testimonies include: peace, equality, simplicity, stewardship/sustainability, integrity, and community.