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Are there any Quakers here?


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I'd love there to be a Quaker thread, by the way.  I've had really two spiritual homes in my life - the Baptist church I grew up in and the Quaker school where I taught.  I have no real spiritual home right now and have somehow ended up with everyone else in my family becoming atheists and I often miss it and think about going to Meeting again.  We used to all attend the UU church up the street, but it turned out to be a poor fit for us long term.

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my husband was a Quaker, and probably still identifies himself as one. if no one else answers I will answer questions when I can get to a computer tonight.

the short answer on meeting: there are two different types of Quakers. in one group, men and women are segregated and sit opposite one another. there is no pastor or preacher in this group, and those who feel led to speak stand up and share the Word of God. this is not the type of meeting we went to, so perhaps I misspeak, in which case forgive me and hopefully someone with more information will speak up. we attended the other type of Quaker church. we had a pastor that lead service, there are a couple of things that were different from other churches I've been to... but as far as the actual church service goes the only thing that was different was communion. during service there be a time of quiet where anyone could stand up and speak and share the Word of God. A chance to allow your spirit commune" with the Spirit of God.

I have to head to town now, but can answer other questions later tonight

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So, from what I've read, Meetings are not typically led by one specific person, but just whoever feels the need to speak? Is that correct? Or are there different formats?

 

Would love to hear a description of a typical Meeting.

 

Thanks!

 

Rjones is right that there's a whole other branch of Quakers, about which I know very little, who are much more traditionally Christian and who I think are more concentrated in the midwest.  The "Richard Nixon Quakers" is how they were presented to me.

 

In Meetings for Worship that I've attended, yes, you settle into silence together and while there may be people with specific tasks to keep the Meeting working (someone to ask everyone to begin the silence, someone to begin the handshake to end the silence, someone to lead children out at some point, etc.) there is no leader.  I've been to historic Meeting Houses that are set up to be segregated between the sexes as Rjones suggests, but never attended a Meeting that was.  All the big ones here on the east coast don't follow that tradition anymore I don't think.  

 

The idea is that if you are moved to speak, then you speak.  In some Meetings, it's traditional to stand when the spirit moves you to speak, but I've been in Meetings where people don't stand or some stand and some don't.  Some Meetings are chatty feeling - a lot of people seem to speak.  Others are very quiet.  There's a culture of silence though and a "chatty" feeling Meeting is still pretty much all silence compared to other branches of Christianity.  Even if someone speaks, you give time to their words and don't respond right away, if at all.  People may share thoughts, quotes, deep ideas, just a few words or more.  There is a Quaker saying that is used in lieu of "prayer" where you ask others to hold someone or something "in the light" and if someone has a concern - an illness, a death in the family, etc. (the sorts of things that are often shared as congregational concerns in churches) then they'll speak and ask that everyone hold that person or thing in the light.

 

I've never been to a wedding, but they're the same.  So are funerals - I have been to Quaker funerals.  In those cases, the Meeting is for the specific couple or for the deceased.  The words people speak in the silence are specifically about that.  The graduation at the school where I worked was also a called Meeting and was also silent.  Each student graduating was given a period of silence and people could rise to speak to them.  The students themselves could not speak.

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Is it awkward to attend a Meeting if one is not already a Quaker &/or not attending w/ a friend/relative who is a Quaker? It seems like such a different format from either Catholic or various Protestant services that I'm wondering how a visitor would know what to do/how to follow along...?

 

Thank you. And, thanks also for the info already shared.

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Is it awkward to attend a Meeting if one is not already a Quaker &/or not attending w/ a friend/relative who is a Quaker? It seems like such a different format from either Catholic or various Protestant services that I'm wondering how a visitor would know what to do/how to follow along...?

 

Thank you. And, thanks also for the info already shared.

 

Not around here, I don't think.  I first went to Meeting as a teenager.  Someone did bring me, but it was really simple and everyone was welcoming - he wasn't a regular member of that Meeting himself.  There's no following along, you don't have to worry about an order of service or saying the right words at the right time or anything like that.  I always have felt a LOT more lost at other Christian services, where you're likely to say the response that you grew up with or kneel at the time you're used to or say the variation of the passing the peace that you know or whatever and then it turns out it's not the one everyone else says.  At Meeting, just expect to sit in silence, observe your first time at least, welcome the spirit in.  Know that it ends with a handshake in all the Meetings I've been to, so when someone turns to you to shake your hand, that's the end, now you can chat and leave.  I know that some Meetings have a pre-Meeting time to sing together and some have a time for announcements or a special way for kids to leave for First Day classes or whatever, but it's not complicated.  No program needed to follow along.

 

ETA: I thought I'd add...  there used to be (or I guess still is sort of) a concept of Birthright Quakers, who are Quakers born to Quaker parents.  Sort of a Quaker lineage thing.  But now there are so many Quaker converts - people who found Quakerism later - and I think this concept isn't really a thing now.  But to the outside world, I think most people picture Quakers like the Amish and their Meeting as some sort of exotic thing.  But it's really not.  They're not really actively evangelizing or anything (unless you count peace protest marches as evangelical) but there are lots of Quakers who weren't raised Quaker now I think.

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I hope some "real" Quakers come to this thread, by the way.  I feel funny answering.  But I would feel funny answering for any of my various religious affiliations, I suppose.  Teaching in a Quaker school taught me a lot about Quaker process and culture that has deeply shaped who I am as an educator and spiritual person.

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Is it awkward to attend a Meeting if one is not already a Quaker &/or not attending w/ a friend/relative who is a Quaker? It seems like such a different format from either Catholic or various Protestant services that I'm wondering how a visitor would know what to do/how to follow along...?

 

 

 

We had mixed experiences during our time as attenders. I think it had to do more with the personalities of the people involved, though.

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Is it awkward to attend a Meeting if one is not already a Quaker &/or not attending w/ a friend/relative who is a Quaker? It seems like such a different format from either Catholic or various Protestant services that I'm wondering how a visitor would know what to do/how to follow along...?

 

Thank you. And, thanks also for the info already shared.

 

Definitely not awkward.  Quakers are very inclusive.  The meetings I attended were not the segregated type.

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I hope some "real" Quakers come to this thread, by the way.  I feel funny answering.  But I would feel funny answering for any of my various religious affiliations, I suppose.  Teaching in a Quaker school taught me a lot about Quaker process and culture that has deeply shaped who I am as an educator and spiritual person.

 

Would you be willing to elaborate on the "Quaker process and culture" part?

 

Nan

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I went to a Quaker (or Friends) school grades 5-8.  Non-violence is a big part of their beliefs.  

 

We had to go to weekly meetings as part of school (but a student meeting, during the school day).  One time a friend of mine stood and said something, and then i wanted to speak too . . and then we both spoke again . . . and later we were told that 'conversations' are not appropriate in meeting.  we thought we were just being inspired lol!

 

I wonder that there do not seem to be any Quakers here.  I wonder if it is in part because, where there are good concentration of Quakers, there are fantastic Friends schools.  The years I spent there were the highlight of my education.  Although some of the gifted classes in my public high were pretty great, too

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Would you be willing to elaborate on the "Quaker process and culture" part?

 

Nan

 

Quaker process is that Quakers basically wrote the book on how to effectively do decisions through consensus.  Activists borrowed a lot from the Quakers.  The Quaker school where I worked ran mostly on consensus for all day to day things (other schools may be different - the school I worked in was sort of extra Quakery - a school like Sidwell, where the Obama girls attend, is much more like a traditional quality prep school and the Quaker aspect would be much less central - sort of the way some Catholic schools are very Catholic and others are much less so).  Consensus is the main decision making method for any Quaker group or organization.  And they're just good at it, in part because they have such a long history of doing everything that way.  Where I worked, there was a huge amount of give and take, of people understanding when to sit back and when to step up.  Really serious decisions, such as expelling a student, had to reach a higher level of consensus.  There's a Quaker term - Sense of Meeting - that can mean both that it's such an important decision that there needs to be a real sense of where everyone stands and that everyone needs to make peace with and agree with the decision, even if they're not happy about it.

 

Of course, there are structures to The Society of Friends.  It's not all open, loosey goosey, which is what I think people think when they hear "consensus."  There are Yearly Meetings that oversee individual Meetings as well as camps and schools and missions and have treasurers and secretaries and so forth.  A "Meeting" has a number of meanings - it's the act of gathering - Meeting for Worship - it's the group that gathers - the Sandy Spring Meeting - it can also be a Meeting for Business, where things are decided.

 

The other piece about process is that the Quakers are very focused on education - and I would say life as well - as process.  So they have a process oriented view of the world in general.

 

For me, the culture piece is learning to be in that sort of environment, which I think is very different from a lot of segments of our society.  I was in another group soon after leaving the school where I worked and the assumption of everyone (but me) was that, of course, things would run in a hierarchical way, and I was reminded that's the dominant way in our society.  Also, there's a lot of Quaker vocabulary and terminology and so forth.  Quakers, as some people may know, have a long history of having used their own style of speaking, in part because it reflected their sense of equality among their members.  That's all the "thees" and "thous" of old fashioned Quaker speak, which I don't think anyone really uses today but which you'll find in a number of historical novels, I've noticed.  But even now there are these terms that are different - like how I mentioned above about "holding someone in the light" meaning that you're praying for them (basically).  Or in Quaker terms, people don't get a "calling" to do something, they get a "leading."  And there are a lot of Quakery sayings, like "a way will open" is one, meaning that when you're stuck, God will open a way for the thing that needs to happen to happen.

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Farrarwilliams explained it very well.  My family is part of the Society of Friends that was mentioned.  Yes, on the nonviolence part.  Quakers are even exempt from military service.  As for their actual religious beliefs I can only speak from my family's perspective as I never attended their schools and only attended their meetings on a limited basis when visiting family.  As far as I know there is no central doctrine of faith.  They are very inclusive and not at all like you might think of Quakers. They dress very simply, but modern and not at all like the Quaker Oats guy. 

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I attended local meetings here for over a year. Basically, Quakers believe that each of us has an inner light that is like a spark of the Devine (however you define that).  Quakers can vary from Christian to Buddhist to atheists.  I've seen their beliefs summarized as P.E.S.T.  peace equality simplicity truthfulness

 

Another important part of their beliefs is action.  They are called to do something about the problems they see in the world.  

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 not at all like the Quaker Oats guy. 

 

Ha, that Quaker Oats guy! I forgot about him. I grew up in a Quaker family and I recall a time or two that question came up ("Does your dad dress like the Quaker Oats guy?"). 

 

 

quaker190.jpg

not my dad

 

 

Meetings I grew up with were rotated between the homes of the Friends. Everyone would gather, chat, get comfy in the living room on the chairs, pillows, bean bags, whatever. Then suddenly it was quiet. Like, you could hear the grass grow kind of quiet. Then after some time (minutes? eons?) someone would speak. They didn't stand, they necessarily look at anyone, not everyone looked at them. They spoke their peace, and we returned to the quiet. I can't recall the kinds of things that were said as I was just a kid and was mercifully excused after some time to go ("play quietly, like draw"). Then as mysteriously as it started, it ended. Everyone started looking around with big happy smiles, they talked about whatever, and we had a big potluck lunch. 

 

As far as the theology I grew up with, it was not "taught." It was lived. It was experienced. It was explained here and there as a simple part of life. Nonviolent conflict resolution meant taking the time to learn about the reasons the person who offended you might have done what they did, and try to solve the problem with mutual respect. We were never spanked as kids, reason and logic were always the tools used to explore and solve problems. Humility in presenting yourself to the world meant recognizing where vanity is expressed. I recall being in middle school when Gloria Vanderbuilt jeans were all the rage. Everyone in my tiny little town had some kind of cool designer jeans. My mom gave us a budget and a JC Penney Catalog and explained how we could buy one pair of designer jeans for the year, or a number of outfits. Damn. That always sucked! But it did effectively direct my attention to where vanity is expressed. One need not wear stylish clothes to be respected, and really, what's more important than self-respect? 

 

Heaven and Hell were no more referenced than anything else. No talk of Satan, no talk even of Jesus and his saving grace or anything like that. It just ... was. We just lived it, and Quakerism provided a vocabulary to explain what we were doing. I actually had no idea my dad is an atheist and has been my whole life, that's how much we talked about religion. 

 

As I recall, the history of the Quaker movement starts with George Fox who determined God does not need to rely on organized hierarchy to speak to those who sincerely seek him. He speaks through what is referred to as the "inner light." It's basically your conscience, with a degree of supernatural agency attached that makes you comfortable. 

 

Well, thanks for the trip down memory lane! 

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I have a friend who is a Quaker (though she usually says Friend) who recently posted this. She is less about God and more about Inner Light. I confess this was one of the possible religions that fascinated me when I was questioning my belief in traditional Christianity. In the end I decided not to go with anything even remotely divine/supernatural, but if I hadn't gone full atheist I probably could have embraced either the Friends or UU.

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This is interesting to me... We attended a Quaker church for 6 years. My husband was a member for over 20. And while some of these things ring true for his church, some certainly do not!

He is a birthright Quaker... There are many nicely dressed women... Several veterans.... No-one refers to an inner light- rather, Jesus is Lord.

There are many things that are the same... But lots of differences.

As for Religious Beliefs... No communion, No baptism... these are unnecessary and man has perverted their meaning beyond what God intended. That being said, I've been to precisely two communion serves within a Quaker church and they were BY FAR the most powerful services I've ever been to. And if you want to be baptized, you can be. However, since there is no baptismal you would go to the nearby lake. 

 

I had more thoughts, but the littles are needing attention...

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Yes, I think most of the things we're talking about are applicable to the Religious Society of Friends, which is based mostly on the east coast. I know there are Quakers in the midwest and in England with slightly different beliefs and rituals. That core of belief in the inherent worth of all people, pacifism, etc. are common to all of them, but other things may be really different, I guess.

 

Albeto, what you said about how the beliefs are not taught, they're lived, really rings true to me. Thanks for sharing all that.

 

If anyone is interested in reading about Quaker educational thinking, Parker Palmer is a great writer.

 

This is making me think about going to Meeting again, actually.

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Rjones is right that there's a whole other branch of Quakers, about which I know very little, who are much more traditionally Christian and who I think are more concentrated in the midwest.  The "Richard Nixon Quakers" is how they were presented to me.

 

Or "Philip Gulley Quakers"?

 

 

We consider ourselves Quaker (Dad went to Earlham, etc), but I wouldn't consider myself qualified to "ask a Quaker." We don't have a meeting close, so we attend a fairly liberal Congregational UCC. We're not the only ones who self-identify as Quakers there. I think the social-justice, "deed-not-creed" emphasis speaks to most who attend.

 

It seems odd to respond to a religious thread here. I often find myself in more "secular" conversations.

 

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I have been studying the Quaker faith since my 8yr old was a wee baby. I don't consider myself Friend only because the closest Meeting is a 5+ hour round trip drive. I would love to attend Meeting regularly or even semi-regularly but can't with that sort of distance to travel.

 

Here (Ontario) there are two different sects if you will - Liberal Quakers and Conservative Quakers. The latter tend to be more Christian-based/bible based. The former is where I fall, I believe deeply in that of the Light in all living beings but I follow no dogma and do not consider myself Christian nor do I follow the bible. These two groups are not regional at all, not that I have noticed. Most areas will have Meetings of both types.

 

All these recent threads about faiths are making me feel almost heartsick for wanting to find a Meeting to attend. All in good time, I suppose. :)

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We do have a Friends' school near us, which my eldest (now in college) attended throughout her primary years (we're Reform Jewish, FWIW).  I attended Meeting several times when I was investigating the school (that would be, oh, 156 years ago or something); and we all went periodically while she was attending the school.  

 

At the time -- these may have evolved since -- the Meeting formally subscribed to six "testimonies": Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Egalitarianism, and Stewardship (of the land/environment etc -- this last one was voted in during the time of our association with the school.)  It was/is still afaik rather a big tent in terms of belief systems -- the historic roots within Christianity were certainly acknowledged, and there are Friends with Christ- and/or Biblical-centered belief systems, but there are also many others with a more universalist perspective, or non-theistic perspective.  The emphasis was around the testimonies, which in turn focused on how to live life in the here and now.  There is a LOT of language of the "inner light" and "divine light" in every person.

 

Most of the Meetings I attended over the years were a full hour of almost total silence.  (Members do stand up on occasion when moved to give testimony, usually for a minute or less; and there are a few announcements at the very end.)  Once a month there is a more... formal? administrative? elder-led session that is organized around a particular theme, with formal elder-led remarks followed by silence and responsive testimony.  

 

We attended Meeting in Monteverde, Costa Rica (!! who knew??!) once, and it was eminently recognizable -- a full hour of silence, followed by a few minutes of bilingual announcements, followed by bilingual songs we were well familiar with, followed by coffee and warm fellowship.

 

There are many, many aspects of Friends history and current practice that I deeply admire.  

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If there had been a Friends' school near us, we wouldn't be homeschooling.  My husband and I grew UU, but we have friends with children in a Friend's school,

 

Nan

 

If I wanted to send my kids to a private school, it would likely be to the Quaker school.  It's a good drive from us, but I've never heard anything but good about it.  It's the only religious-based school I'd consider.

 

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I've told dh if I die in a horrible accident, he needs to pick a Quaker school for the kids. Not Sidwell though, as if we could even get in.

 

There are also great Quaker camps. If anyone is looking for a Quaker experience for their kids, Quaker camp is a big thing. The teen camps I know of are especially cool and some have service components.

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I've told dh if I die in a horrible accident, he needs to pick a Quaker school for the kids. Not Sidwell though, as if we could even get in.

 

There are also great Quaker camps. If anyone is looking for a Quaker experience for their kids, Quaker camp is a big thing. The teen camps I know of are especially cool and some have service components.

 

I don't want to "like" this, cuz, see, I wouldn't want you to die in a horrible accident, but...  

 

Also wanted to echo the Quaker camp idea, for anyone who's curious.  They are very welcoming to all and do NOT evangelize (well, except about composting.  Friends are very big on composting, ime).

 

Also, someone upthread mentioned the prolific author / teacher Parker Palmer - there's a nice 5 minute clip of his on Krista Tippett's show about Living an Undivided Life which I enjoyed.

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When I started looking for schools for my kids, I was very disappointed that there were so few Friends schools here in Central VA, and most of them were very exclusive.  I grew up in SE PA - there were so many Friends schools we had our own sports league, I think?  Idk, we may have occasionally played against other private schools, but there were Quaker schools all over the place.  

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When I started looking for schools for my kids, I was very disappointed that there were so few Friends schools here in Central VA, and most of them were very exclusive.  I grew up in SE PA - there were so many Friends schools we had our own sports league, I think?  Idk, we may have occasionally played against other private schools, but there were Quaker schools all over the place.  

 

Yeah.  I feel sad there's not more Quaker schools as well.  I feel like many of the ones that are out there are of the sort of exclusive, Sidwellish mentality, which I think can fit into Quaker education maybe, but that Quaker education has so, so much more to provide and should be out there more.  But it's not, sadly.

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If there is no real or singular belief system in the Quaker faith, what exactly is it that binds you together? How are you different from say, the UU?

I would not say there is no belief system. There is just no dogmatic system or exclusionary rules. Things like:

 

The silent worship. Not having a "leader" in worship like a priest or pastor or what have you. The deep commitment to honouring that of god in everyone. Pacifism and service work. Simplicity (to varying degrees depending on which branch (?) you are a member of. Those are the things that draw me to the Liberal Quaker faith.

 

I'm not really deeply knowledgeable about the UU faith (we don't have one of those here either. This is not a religiously diverse area I am in lol) but I think that there ARE similarities between the two. It's just inaccurate to say that Quakers don't have a binding belief system.

 

Sorry this is so jumbled, I'm on my phone and waiting for the coffee to brew so my thoughts aren't coming across well. :) I may come back to this after the caffeine has hit my brain lol

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Why did you leave the Quaker faith, especially as there is a lot of room for belief or lack thereof?

 

It just faded as I grew up. Then at one point after a long, and harrowing, and boringly predictable story, I joined the Catholic church. Opposites attract, I guess. ^_^

 

 I no longer hold any religious beliefs. 

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If there is no real or singular belief system in the Quaker faith, what exactly is it that binds you together? How are you different from say, the UU?

 

My understanding as I grew up was that Quakers were Christians and held traditional, conventional Christian beliefs (humanity born in sinful state, salvation through faith, Jesus loves me this I know, etc - one would read and familiarize themselves with the bible to know what these beliefs are). There was simply no need for a preacher to interpret the scriptures because the holy spirit can do that. So instead of gathering to listen to the preacher, Quakers gather because that's what Jesus said would bring him to them ("when 2 or more are gathered in my name..."). With Jesus present in the community, no one needs to be distracted with things like singing, talking about the bake sale next Sunday, or the preacher's interpretatio of a passage of his or her choice. Instead, the holy spirit would "speak" or communicate in some unexplainable way, to the believer sitting there. 

 

I've never been to a UU service, but my kids did piano recitals at the local UU church. It looks like a regular church with pews and a centralized spot for a speaker. The Quaker meetings I grew up in were in people's homes and we'd sit around in a circle. No songs to start off the service, no announcements, no rituals of any kind (other than silence for about an hour). There's a Quaker meeting house in my city. I've never been inside, but it's the only church that lets the homeless camp out and relax and eat on their lawn. 

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I grew up UU.  As part of our religious education, we were taken to a local Quaker meeting.  I can't speak for the Quakers, of course, but I can tell you what I remember of what they told us were the differences and similarities.  We both have our roots in Christianity.  We both have a variety of religious communities, some still working within a more traditional Christian framework and some not.  Service is a HUGE HUGE part of both.  We both believe that religion is not heirarchical.  The form of the weekly gathering is different.  UU communities usually have some sort of minister who leads the weekly service, although many do not.  There are UU churches whose gathering is more like a Quaker meeting but most of them have something that more resembles a Congo or Methodist service.  This varies from church to church.  (Everything varies greatly from UU community to UU community lol.)  In New England, "Quaker" is "synonymous" with "pacifist", although someone told me that this is not necessarily true in the south.  Many, many UU's are pacifist, but some are not, although personally, I am always extremely disconcerted at the militaristic element that appears to be common in so many conservative Christian churches, so I guess this is a fairly strong element.  (There is a national UU consciencious objector registery.)  The Quaker meeting houses I have been in were New England ones and looked like a normal small New England church on the inside - very plain white paint, stained wood, and white plaster inside, with big, many-paned windows; plain white clapboarded outside.  One had pews all facing one direction and two had pews set up to face the center, so everyone looked towards each other.  The Quaker friends I've had and the ones I met on peace walks were much less flamboyant and much more community-oriented rather than the sort of show-your-individualism-to-the-world-and-make-them-deal-with-it orientation that is common with UUs.  And they tended to be quiet. : )

These are my own impressions, though, and it isn't as though my sample size is large.

 

Nan

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