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Shopping for a House of Worship? Try the Quakers.

August 15, 2013

Since we moved in together almost a year ago, my boyfriend and I have been “shopping” for a place of worship where both of us can feel comfortable. I am a Jew, and he is from that breed of Christian-born agnostics who secretly like to think about God a lot.

We started with the Unitarian church, and though we liked how open and welcoming they were, we were looking for a little more spiritual searching and depth than they seemed comfortable with. “God” appeared to be a term that they used seldomly and with great fear of stepping on someone’s toes. We decided that many of the older Unitarians had probably been scarred by overly strict Bible-thumping upbringings and were therefore seeking a haven where they would never have to hear the word “Jesus” again. (Since I’m from the Bible Belt myself, I can’t say that I blame them.)

After the Unitarians, we tried out the Quakers, and we have been going to Quaker meeting almost every Sunday morning ever since. Open-minded and welcoming like the Unitarians, the Quakers (aka the Friends) add a much more solemn and serious sense of spiritual purpose to their worship. They have no minister, and instead of listening to prayers and a sermon, Quakers sit in silence as a community for about an hour. Occasionally, someone will stand up and speak words from the heart (in theory these words should be “spirit-led”), but in our Quaker meeting, the vast majority of the time is spent in silence.

The idea is that each human being has a direct and personal relationship with God (or the Spirit, or the Light, or whatever you want to call it). No intermediary is needed. By sitting in silence, each person is opening him or herself up to communication from God.

And you know what? I like it. I’m not always great at it. I often let my brain wander to stressful and poisonous topics. But every now and then, I get it right. And I get the kinds of spiritual insights that I only ever used to get in synagogue when I was zoning out and completely ignoring what was going on with the rabbi and the prayerbook.

So I think that I may very well be a Quaker. Even though Quakerism began as a very strict form of Protestantism, the word “Jesus” seems to have all but slipped from Quaker usage, at least at my meeting. In recent history, Quakers have been staunchly pacifist, some even going out onto the battlefields during WWI and WWII and helping tend to the injured and dying enemy soldiers. The modern Quakers I have met take their commnity service seriously.

So, if you’re one of those “shoppers” and you happen to find a Quaker meeting in your town, definitely check it out and see what you think.

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