My Films

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Quakers!

Since I began my real peace studies education nearly four years ago, I have been fascinated by the world’s most famous pacifist group--the Quakers or more formally the Religious Society of Friends. They are known for being witnesses to peace, consciences objectors, active in humanitarian work, and lobbying on behalf of the peace voter (The American Friends Service Committee) Well, I've heard little tid bits here and there over the years about what they do when they congregate but I wanted to experience their service first hand. Well, Tokyo has its own Quakers society and so I decided to join them this past Sunday.

What I had heard about the Quakers was that they sit in a circle in a "home"(no churches here), that there is no minister or pastor or priest conducting the service, and for the most part they sit in silence until Spirit moves them to speak. Well, I was most curious as to what they say when spirit moves them and how it relates to their values of pacifism and non-violent action.

Sure enough, the service room was set up in order for people to sit around in a circle. I had imagined that people would sit in chairs in a single circle however at this "home" regular church pews were lined in rows in circular fashion around a small center table. People sat wherever they felt like ie. Only one person at in the inner most circle. There were more pews than people attending that day, so people sat around comfortably.

As I entered, I sat down in silence (as so the website I researched told me to.) It was perhaps 20 minutes before anyone was moved to speak. Then, one man did and asked that we sing a song. Everyone stood up pulled out their religious song book and sang the song once then sat down in silence again. Shortly after, a man stood up and spoke. I had always wondered what exactly they say when spirit speaks through them. Do they talk about god? Do they talk about Christ? Do they talk about peace? Well, this man talked about his concern for polar bears and how global warming was causing their extinction. Another woman spoke about her typical American son-in-law and how their visit to the Hiroshima peace memorial affected him. A few more people spoke; someone read a passage from the bible, another person talked of a charity project they worked on. The service lasted for an hour or so.

I have to say it’s really moving to meet with people who can talk about global warming or their concern for Palestinian children during their religious service. I mean really when was the last time you attended a church service (esp. in the Christian faith) where people were consciously concerned about the world and were taking action about living out teachings of love and kinship!? Well, I give the Quakers my two thumbs up!

Next, Baha’i here I come!


meri said...

hey megumi... here is where i come crawling out and tell you i have been reading your blog! love what you have to share with us, and there is always some little bit of inspiration to find... thanks!
anyway. i have been really curious about the quakers too - they are really strong within the australian peace movement as well, and i know a lot of people involved but had never actually heard much about what their services are like etc. anyway just wanted to say thanks for the blogging and i will talk to you soon! xo

Clare White said...

Hello Megumi, your reference to Quakers bought me to you and we loved the site at our magazine! We have featured it this week and the post should soon be online at - i'd be happy to send a copy of the paper edition if you want to get in touch with me at editorial @ thefriend . org
Clare x