INTRODUCING QUAKERS
Most
people know little about Quakers beyond the picture on the cereal box and perhaps a notion that they are connected to peace issues. Please put aside any thoughts you may have that Quakers are a strange, rather old-fashioned, closed community wearing funny clothes and having even stranger views. If you are interested in finding out more, you will happily discover none of these  preconceptions to be true.
What is true
is that Quakers (we normally refer to each other as "Friends") have been guilty of hiding our "light under a bushel” for years, which is probably the reason you have not heard much about us. It is not in Friends’ nature to seek to convert anyone in the the high street, but prefer to wait for people to find us.  Naturally, that can take a while, and many coming to Quakers have explored other faiths. All of us are seeking a way of realising, expressing and practicing our spirituality; finding a way that seems relevant to this present time and our personal longing for God (or Light, Spirit, Divine, Source, Creator, Life Force - whatever word you feel comfortable with). Many have described finding Quakers as finally "coming home".    


Simple, Radical, Contemporary 
Quakers (or The Religious Society of Friends to give their correct title) try to live up to all three of these words. Quakerism is a living and breathing faith for a modern age, striving to respond practically to the needs of the world around it. Faith in action is our practical response. Quaker are more interested in this life, than in the next, and believe that all people can find their connection with God here and now. 

This state
ment is truly at the heart of Quaker Faith; the belief that every single human being has the Divine spark or seed within them. Quakers believe everyone can directly access this universal creation if they so choose, regardless of race, colour, age, gender, sexuality or faith. (Indeed whether or not they profess to believe in a Divine force at all!) All are truly equal in God. There are no “chosen or saved ones” and no inherent evil that cannot be transformed.  This belief inspires our practical response to the problems of society. (Quakers in Action)   
                   

 
"Walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one"
George Fox, co founder of Quakers, 1659

Quakers and Christianity    
Quakerism is rooted in Christianity but also draws on inspiration from many faiths and mystical traditions. It started in 17th century England during the civil war when society was in turmoil politically & socially. The founding figure, George Fox was increasingly disillusioned with the established church, finding their rituals & practices increasingly meaningless. He felt that the clergy were not an aid to accessing the Divine spirit or "Light" within him. If everyone has this Light, then they are all potentially priests or ministers and able to communicate directly with their maker. He sought to rediscover a simpler less cluttered spirituality and found stillness or silence to be the key to truly hearing the promptings of love and truth in our hearts.  

Silent Worship  

Silent worship underpins Quakerism and makes it profoundly different from other religious practices. It is true many Faiths recognise silence as part of their worship, but for Friends it is right at the heart of the matter. It is the belief that to truly sense the Divine, we feel the need to go to beyond words. What ever you chose to call this universal force – God, Light, the Spirit, oneness – no words can ultimately sum up the experience. It is a feeling that uses the whole body, not just the brain or intellect. It is not a feeling you can learn about from someone else or from the words of a book (though these may be a helpful way in). You need to experience it for yourself and learn to trust that personal experience. Quakers in their silent worship seek to listen for a divine prompting. We aim to quieten both body and mind so we can access a deeper place within ourselves where we may find the Light. Some of the tools we may use might sound familiar to those who meditate, but it is important to point out that a silent Quaker Meeting for Worship is not a meditation. It is is very much a communal activity where the Light within each individual can uphold, and be upheld by, others. If you consider a candle, one candle on its own sheds a little light, but when we come together the light is far brighter.  We seek to find the tranquil centre within and so the stillness of each person meets the stillness of others. That of God within each of us is encountering the Divine.

An Experimental Faith
Quakers hold much store by personal experience of the light within, and it's transforming power, recognising that each individual experience will probably be different. That is why Quakers have always rejected a Creed or set of beliefs to sign up to. It also explains why you will  find a very wide spectrum of thought within Friends on many areas of their faith. Most will probably profess to believe in a Divine source,  but how they express it and what they call it will vary hugely. Some Friends find deep meaning in Christian teaching & the writings of Jesus while for some this is less important. Some Friends will seek inspiration from Eastern traditions as well as other Western faiths. Quakers are less concerned with conforming to a rigid set of beliefs and are more interested in the community we create by worshipping together. Quakerism is much more a way of expressing and living faith rather than a belief system.

More details, see - First time in Quaker Meeting