Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 11/24/2009 - 10:39pm
The William Penn House is a hospitality and seminar center affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends, also commonly called Quakers. Quakers believe that God speaks to each one of us and we do not need a mediator like a priest, official church structure or a special building. Instead, we try to individually and collectively open ourselves to God's immediate leadings in our lives.
In keeping with Quaker values, we are open to people of all faiths or no faith at all as a place of hospitality, learning and service.
Because Quakers believe that each of us has access to the Spirit of God, or “that of God within,” we worship in a unique way. Friends gather together for what is often called un-programmed, silent or waiting worship. We sit and wait in silence, trying to quiet our own thoughts and hear God’s promptings in our hearts. Often a person or a few people feel that they are being given something to share with the entire group by the Spirit. This can take the form of a message, a prayer or song. Sometimes an entire time of worship will go by without anyone feeling led to stand and share a message. This does not mean that God has not been there and moved among us, just that it did not take the form of a spoken message.
At the William Penn House:
Daily worship 7:30 to 8:00am.
Capitol Hill Friends has since changed their name to Friends of Jesus and no longer meets exclusively at William Penn House.
Another outcome of Quaker’s belief that God is in all of us is a set of social beliefs often called the testimonies. While articulations of them vary, the list often includes simplicity, integrity, peace, community, and equality. Quakers have been involved in the movements for peace, women’s equality, better treatment of those in prison and the mentally ill and civil rights. They also were active in abolition, temperance and education for all. In 1947 the American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Service Council, on behalf of all Quakers, was given the Nobel Peace Prize for the communities work with refugees after World War II. Today many Friends are involved in work to protect the environment.
The Religious Society of Friends began as a Christian movement in the mid-17th century in northern England. A young man, George Fox, felt like the religious leaders of his day could not give him the answers to his most pressing spiritual questions. After wandering throughout England he had an experience in which he heard of voice saying to him “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” meaning that Jesus is a living presence that he could experience himself, rather than having to go to clergy and the official state church.
George Fox soon gathered around him a group of seeker hungry for something more vital and spiritually fulfilling than the Church of England at the time. They rejected the professional clergy and the rigid form of worship. Instead they met in silence and waited upon God to move one of them to speak, pray or sing. Both men and women were allowed to speak. Because God could speak to anyone, everyone was equal and Quakers refused to show the signs of deference customary at that time, such as bowing and taking of one’s hat. This, along with their reject of the official church, led to their persecution.
Quakers, thanks to William Penn’s founding of Pennsylvania and a desire to evangelize, soon fled to the Americas. In Pennsylvania they strove to create a place of religious liberty where they and others could worship freely. At one time a third of all American colonists were members of the Religious Society of Friends. They also attempted to deal fairly and honestly with Native Americans, buying their land from them rather than forcing them off of it.
As America moved west, Quakers did too and there are now Friends throughout much of country. There are also large Quaker populations in east Africa and Latin America, thanks to missionary efforts. Quakers have been heavily involved in abolition of slavery, women’s rights and the prevention of war. Quakers have diversified in America to include a large spread of theology and practice. However, the common thread that the light of God is immediately available to each of us remains.
Some Quaker Organizations and Websites
- American Friends Service Committee
- Baltimore Yearly Meeting
- Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Friends Council on Education
- Friends General Conference
- Friends Meeting of Washington
- Friends Peace Teams
- Friends United Meeting
- Friends World Committee for Consultation
- Pendle Hill
- Quaker Meeting Locator
- Quaker Information Center
- Young Adult Friends web resource