“Singing Quakers?”

hymnals

After leaving the community at Maranatha, I began attending a Friends(Quaker) Church at the invitation of a fellow graduate student. I knew very little about Quakers, but what I did know I valued. They had led other churches in opposition to slavery, were committed to peace, and had always valued women in worship. I also thought they were silent. In the Western United States, however, most of the Quakers are Evangelical Friends, and their service is a combination of a sermon, singing and 20 minutes of silence. During the silence, if someone feels truly led by the Spirit, that person may stand and speak what they believe God has said for the gathered group. Despite how that might sound, in general words given are few, timely and appropriate.

I enjoyed the silence, but the music was something very different from the free joyous singing I had left at Maranatha. There were hymnals in the back of each pew, and the number we were to sing would be announced. Then we would sing together through the verses and stop when the printed text ended. It still felt Spirit-led, but in a very much quieter(these were Quakers after all!) way.

After I had attended there, had been joined by the man who would become my husband, and been married in a Quaker ceremony, some of the elders took an interest in our lack of musical knowledge. They loved old hymns, and they thought we were missing something by not knowing them. To my enduring gratitude, they gathered us with a group of about ten and, as one played the piano, they taught us many classic songs.

Those hymns included “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In the Garden,” and my all time favorite “It Is Well With My Soul.” The theology in all of these songs comforted and reassured me in the same way that “Jesus Loves Me” had done years before. This Easter season, I pause to thank them, now all passed, for their gift to us.

Meeting the Face of Jesus

arthurroberts
Arthur Roberts

Long before I was Catholic, long before I was Christian even, I was a deist. That is, I believed there was a God, but thought that Jesus was a good man who lived a long time ago and had good things to say to us. The only religious education I had ever received, and that very very occasionally, was Unitarian. The Unitarians, as revealed in their name, rejected the idea of Trinity and spoke of Jesus, when they did at all, in similar terms as my own.

A fellow graduate student attended a place called Reedwood Friends Church, and he invited me to attend it. This was an Evangelical Friends congregation which meant they were Quakers who had a pastor. They had long periods of silent worship and they adhered to all the testimonies of the Quakers such as peace and social justice.

I visited with great trepidation. Most of what I knew of Christianity was negative, informed by street preaching and door to door evangelizing. To my surprise, a distinguished looking man came up to me after the service and welcomed me. He asked me why I was visiting. I explained I was not a Christian but was intrigued by Christianity.

He said, “You are welcome to sojourn with us as long as you like. You don’t have to do anything else.” With all pressure off, I attended church there for many years, gradually having a conversion, quiet and true, to Christianity.

Arthur Roberts, a now retired professor from George Fox University, was that welcoming face of Christ.

Thanks to those who share, rather than impose, their faith.