Friday, January 28, 2011

Society of Friends

Ah, Friends schools -- where Protestants teach Jews how to be Quakers.  It's a beautiful thing.

I live in the beating heart of Quakerism, and I'm surrounded by Quaker schools.  My kids are now attending two of them.  At their best, Quaker schools are the last bastion of child-supportive schooling, and their egalitarian, progressive views are a good fit for left-wing types like me.

Most people involved in a Quaker school are not themselves Quakers; there just aren't that many.   Schools are "Quaker" because they are under the supervision of a Meeting (Quake-speak for "church") and they teach Quakerism, with a fairly light touch. 

Full disclosure:  I attended a Quaker school myself for a couple of years, and it pretty well cured me of any interest in Quakerism.  I personally don't believe that you can improve religion by throwing out all the art, music, and ritual, which is basically all the stuff that makes sense to me.  The Quaker meeting, which is a lot of silence broken by the musings of the pompous,  is a practice I can do without.

There are two main types of Quakers; the old-family, old-money type (a.k.a "birthright Quakers", a.k.a "more money than God"), and the more recently joined crunchy-granola type (a.k.a "convinced Quakers".)  There's a similar division among non-Quakers at Quaker schools.  My younger daughter's school is, I think, in transition from one mostly dominated by old-money types toward one mostly dominated by crunchy-granola types (or is that just wishful thinking?)  My older daughter's school, from what I've seen so far, is firmly in the hands of old money, and likely to stay that way.

I used to know a guy who taught at a Quaker college, who told me that the faculty, in a moment of Quakerly enthusiasm, had decided to work by complete consensus -- that is, as long as one person didn't agree, no decision could be made.  As you can imagine, faculty meetings are populated almost entirely by dissenting windbags, so the result was that faculty meetings DID NOT END.   You could call it the "faculty meeting of the damned", if Quakers believed in damnation.


  1. As someone serving in a Quaker church, I can tell you of my own personal frustration to serve with those who tend to always hold things up seemingly more out of contrariness than real, legitimate concerns. Very frustrating, indeed.

  2. Ironically, my wife herself regularly attended Quaker meeting when my kids were younger, taking the kids along when they wanted to go -- but we have no Quaker primary schools here. I wish we did have some.

    I remember a Quaker Christmas pageant which my kids wanted to be in, but only if they could wear their Halloween costumes. This must have been the first time there was a blue-and-green spotted puppy and a begonia at the nativity.

  3. The absolute consensus thing is a complete distortion of Quaker business process. Historically, it has been what might be called guided consensus. But guided consensus involves recognizing that some people might have authority ("weighty friends"), and we live in an anti-authoritarian time.

  4. Wow! As someone who is a Friend, who couldn't afford to send my Quaker kids to one of those schools made up of mostly not-Friends and watched over by my Meeting, this is certainly a ghastly post.

    Here's my take on what you're talking about: It's not consensus at all, but waiting for a "spiritual sense" of the direction one is supposed to move in...meaning it takes us a long time to make decisions, but we seldom have the sense we need to go back and make a different decision in a month or two. And while we don't have arts or music in worship, we have no lack of arts or music or anything else elsewhere, finding that there is that of God found in everyone or everything, so most often, that is how we hear God.

    I'm very sad to hear that no one ever pointed that out to you, or that you failed to have that experience your self.

    Some of us, finding that big money as well as old money was being lost on the true values we wanted our kids to have, went off and founded new cooperative homeschool alliances, or cooperative schools, so that our kids could continue to have the values and interests taught that we had long strived to teach to all.

    We have asked in our Faith and Practice, "Do you endeavour to make available to all children, not just your own, an education of quality and depth, that will teach your children how to make decisions that reflect their values and beliefs as well as their knowledge?"

    1. I agree with Linda (haven). I'm a Friend who also could never afford sending my kids to a Quaker school. The high incomes of families with children in the schools administered on behalf of Meetings make these schools very un-Quakerly in my opinion. I would not send my children to these franchises as I wouldn't send someone to the Olive Garden for a true Italian meal.

      As a non-"crunchy granola" convinced member of the RSF, I believe we are meant to process our actions, words, and thoughts around our principles with careful attention. It's a morning to night, seven days a week, whole year life. I don't celebrate holidays not because I don't want fun but because everyday is a "holy-day". For fun, my family lives for spontaneity and action. We camp, go on holidays to visit family, organize LOTS of neighborhood activities with friends, and do "staycations."

      It was a strong interest of my family to consider homeschooling in cooperation with local Friends. Because we tried the free pre-schools and found invested parenting, we have stuck it out in our small, community school.

      I agree that pompous folks can be found at some Meetings (can't most places have them?). Our Sunday Meeting is something I avoid. I prefer Wednesday morning worship, neighborhood Meetings, and retreats. Organized religions are sometimes places that active faith has a difficult time sharing space with large egos, money, and business management.

      Equating Quaker schools with Quaker meetings is truly a mistake.

  5. i'm sorry that you had a bad experience attending meeting. I live in an area with only one friends meeting -- and no quaker schools -- and found that it can take time to "get" meeting. It's the chance to listen to and find God with a minimal number of man-made things in the way. Later I could find the same "spirit" in song and ritual in other denominations.. but it came to me first through meeting for worship.

    I've always wondered what friends schools would be like, and wonder if they have the same problems as Quaker Meetings -- the diversity and acceptance can hide the strong faiths and beliefs of individuals.

  6. I would have gladly sent my children to a Quaker school. In NYC, I couldn't afford it. Now in Iowa, there simply aren't any.

    Quakers do not come to agreement by consensus. That's a misunderstanding. I suspect the faculty had few Quakers amongst them.

    Going to a Quaker school is not the same as being a Quaker, attending Meeting for Worship with a community of Friends. There are few Quakers in Quaker schools, few Quakers teaching and working in them. It's similar to judging a group of people based on what you see on TV, or read in the media. You had the experience of a Quaker school, not the experience of worshipping with Quakers.

  7. You write: "Schools are "Quaker" because they are under the supervision of a Meeting (Quake-speak for "church") and they teach Quakerism, with a fairly light touch."
    Friends schools are Quaker also because of how they live in community. I know that there is a wide-ranging interpretation on what this looks like, and some schools are better at it than others. Most of the schools I have experience with (a dozen or more, some very intimately) have at least some of the explicit Quaker values ("SPICES") in the way they implicitly live together throughout the day.
    I am so sorry your experience of Quaker Meeting for Worship was dissatisfying. Did you go to an actual Meeting? Or was this at the school's meeting for worship? There is a really big difference between the two (just as meeting for business in a Meeting is different from the way Friends schools use Quaker process in their governance). In any case, believe me, I know the feeling of silence being interrupted by pompous jackasses! And I hear you about no music or iconography. Sometimes I miss ritual, pomp, and all that jazz.
    Quakerism is not for everyone. It's a difficult spiritual path to walk. I think it can meet the needs of many who are looking for something deep and authentic, but it's not a panacea for anything. Because we have no clergy, we all are called to be ministers. We all have to do the work that other religions have paid staff to do.
    Lastly, I want to take strong exception to your opening statement: Friends schools are not places where we try to teach Jews (or anyone) how to be Quakers. It's a place where we teach children (and hopefully ourselves) how to be just who they are. That's one reason so many Jews attend Quaker schools--because we do not proselytize! Rich Jews and other rich folks can send their kids to any private prep schools they want. What is it about Quaker schools that they like so much?

  8. Ann Marie said:

    You had the experience of a Quaker school, not the experience of worshipping with Quakers.

    I agree completely.

    and Anonymous said:

    Friends schools are not places where we try to teach Jews (or anyone) how to be Quakers.

    Well, Quaker schools teach the "testimonies", and they require kids to attend Meeting. That's close enough for me.

    Rich Jews and other rich folks can send their kids to any private prep schools they want. What is it about Quaker schools that they like so much?

    That's a great question, which I don't have a ready answer to.

  9. Ann Marie, There is a wonderful ( I think the best) Quaker School in Iowa. check out Scattergood Friends School. Now my son, who was brought up Quaker, keeps saying how, those in Quaker Camp he went to, just did not get Quaker Meeting, and how to listen to each other. I, too, find it is not as deep an experience in places filled with people who are new to the practice. they are still just skimming the surface. It is indeed not the experience of worshiping with Quakers. We looked at some of the "preppier" of the Quaker schools and settled on Scattergood as one that really held the values of community, simple living, growing their own food, but mostly valuing each person for who they are. By the way, I was a semi-professional musician myself and find genuine silence preferable to a the contrived emotion of people performing music to impress. Ritual can be empty and lacking in love as well. It takes time to build a genuine loving community that can share deeply and openly. It's not something that can happen even with a couple years at a Friend's school.

  10. I've been thinking a bit more about Anonymous' question:

    Rich Jews and other rich folks can send their kids to any private prep schools they want. What is it about Quaker schools that they like so much?

    I sometimes wonder about this myself. I meet other parents at Quaker schools whose main interest seems to be competing through their kids, and getting said kids into prestigious colleges. I ask myself, why are these parents at a Quaker school? It doesn't seem like the obvious choice for them.

  11. @Chris, I like your story about the puppy and the begonia. It reminds me of a nice moment this year with Younger Daughter.

    On the day before picture day, the school sent home a note with advice from the photographer, saying that we should dress our kids in solid colors because they photograph better. Naturally I ignored the advice and sent my daughter to school in her favorite wildly patterned orange shirt. Weeks later we got the class photo that was taken that day, and I discovered that everyone involved had likewise ignored the advice. You'd be amazed at how many ways a small class of 11 kids can clash. I like the picture.

  12. Linda (haven) said:

    And while we don't have arts or music in worship, we have no lack of arts or music or anything else elsewhere, finding that there is that of God found in everyone or everything, so most often, that is how we hear God.

    Are you saying that you're more likely to encounter God everywhere except worship? What's the point of the worship then?

  13. Hello, FedUpMom! I am pleased to meet you!

    I must confess, though, that this description of Friends (Quakers) seems strange to me as a Conservative Friend in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

    Here, relatively few of us talk about “consensus”, or even about “guided consensus”. What we do is try to discover what God wants — that is, the best, most loving, most moral, most constructive thing to do, for that *is* what God wants — and then unite with it, even (or especially) when it means giving up our own cherished plans. Our typical term for this process is “unity”, not “consensus”, and one of the beauties of the process of “finding unity” is that if someone is clinging to his own notions even when a better path is identified, it becomes obvious to all, and the someone loses the power to obstruct the group in the matter.

    We do not have “old-money types” around here, and while we do have a fair number of “crunchy-granola types”, they are a minority amongst us. A lot of us are farm families or descended from farm families, practical-minded and disinclined to put on crunchy-granola airs. A lot of our best-educated are tech-heads, not granola heads.

    Our school, Scattergood, has already been mentioned by another commenter. It exists primarily for our own children, although it does accept a lot of non-Friends’ children as well.

    I think most of us understand that “convinced” does not mean a newcomer. “Convinced” means that one has experienced being judged by God, in the place of one’s own conscience, for the wrongs one has done to others and then put out of one’s own mind. It is the experience that destroys our ability to go on being self-righteous, the beginning of humility and the beginning of the readiness to learn the true religious life.

    Speaking only for myself, I would say that a meeting for worship of genuinely convinced Friends is palpably different from a meeting of people who have not gone through that transition. It feels deeper, and the Presence is both more intense and more moving. The quality of ministry is different as well.

    I am sorry you have had so many disappointments with the Friends world in your area. But I do want to make it clear that other parts of the Friends world are quite different.

  14. Hello FedUpMom,

    One of the reasons I have heard for sending kids to Quaker schools (in three separate countries), is that there are excellent academic standards and the kids get into good colleges/universities.

    One reason for this academic success appears to me to be the small class size - 11 kids is a small class (loved the clashing colours story - reminds me of an english friend in NZ who insists her daughter wears shoes to school one day of the year - when there are school photos so the english relatives don't think they are poor).

    You ask Linda as to the purpose of worship if we see God in all things (including art, music etc). That is one of those great Quaker paradoxes, which we discussed at the end of my own meeting today...what the purpose of silent worship is when it is done in a group, rather than as a solitary activity. After 350 years I am not sure we are any closer to a good explanation for that, but it satisfies for us the same need as is met by others in services full of ritual, art and music.

    Having seen something as simple as the replacement of a meeting house carpet take 6 years to decide, while seeing our statement towards becoming a reconciling community at yearly meeting in 2001, going through with only minor ammendments to the original text I was involved in writing, means I have seen both the best and worst of quaker business practice, but I now understand how the use of the word consensus confuses what we do, we seek the unanimous decision of the meeting, based on how we feel the Spirit directs us. This is not consensus in the way the world means it - it is often a process by which we might not agree with the decision, but we recognise in obedience that it is the right choice for the meeting.

    In peace


  15. I'd like to thank all my Friendly visitors for stopping by. Your thoughtful comments have been a pleasure to read. I hope you will return as we go back to our usual topics!

  16. I love your opening sentence! It hits at the irony of the situation quite well, which I think some of the responses missed.

    Being Jewish (although far from 'Rich'), I would not hesitate to send my kids to a Quaker school, for all of the benefits that they offer (class size, alternate teaching methods, collective parenting attitude of wanting 'my' children to continue on to higher education and be successful, however you define 'successful').

    It is often difficult to 'see' when a religion or religious principles are being 'taught' by the ones within the religion. It's also tremendously difficult for a non-"choose your sect here" person to teach via the guidelines and intent of a religious governing body that is not their own religion without simply learning the core 'principles and concepts' and teaching from that perspective. Hence what I read as your 'light touch' is your 'Protestant' teachers doing their best to teach via 'Quaker' principles, to children who (potentially) have an even more diverse religious pool of experiences to draw upon. Now if all of the teachers at your Friends school were 'convinced' Quakers, that would be an incredible learning environment for any child to experience.

    It is a shame that, outside of 'sunday school', you cannot get enough teachers of a single religion to staff a religiously founded school - and sunday schools lack in having a full compliement of professional educators! (another irony)...

    and, to all of the Quaker responders to this blog post - whether it's through divine spirit, heated debate, or polite discussion, if everyone in the room has equal weight on a topic and everyone must agree to a single decision before action can be taken, that is consensus, by it's very definition... Don't take a definition of a word as a slight or insult to your religion, for none is intended (at least by my interpretation of all of the posts on this topic). Six years to decide to replace the carpet takes tremendous patience, and having everyone in the decision process peacefully wait until all are divinely convinced of it's 'rightness' is a tremendously positive reflection on your religion. I guess it is the 'non-believer' (meaning non-Quaker in this case) that can only look at this example and see the frustration of trying to make a basic decision (with significant potential monetary impact, not to mention stylist and practical differences) delayed for years due to a small, dissenting minority.

  17. Christine GreenlandJanuary 31, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    I can certainly relate. My son went to a Quaker school for 2-3 years 6-8th grades. I am a Friend -- not old-money time, and not crunchy granola type, either. Our experiences nearly persuaded me to find another religious tradition. My son is now so disgusted with Quakers in our area, he wants nothing to do with the tradition -- because of the pompousness, mostly.

    I was so shocked by the treatment of children in one school; adolescence is tough enough, without having younger people poorly treated because of quirks in their learning style, or their race. My son felt betrayed, and rightly so. It wasn't what he'd learned at home or in our meeting.

    At the school associated with our meeting that could address some of his learning quirks, things were somewhat better, but the focus was not on Quaker principles... though it did much better in many respects.

    After he graduated and went on to an independent school that was everything I hoped to find in a Friends' school, I began to work with the faculty at the school from which he had graduated. My son knew that the school's meeting was not what meeting should be, so we set about to change the dynamic... The faculty retreats were pretty amazing. Five Quakers, several Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, a Hindu, two Jewish teachers, and a Swedenborgian. After we talked about the dynamics of prayer/worship, and what each person brought into the worship, we did a trial run... just faculty. It was among those special meetings for worship where absolutely no one wants to leave and do other things. I'm sure we were guided in the exercise. The Swedenborgian recognized the meeting as "covered"... a term used for meetings where no one wants to go home.

    Over that year, we developed more understanding among the teachers for what Friends do in both worship and business ... and that it isn't so much corporate self-will (consensus) as it is finding out what's best (God's will) for the whole. I might add that it was easier to work with the teachers who had specific beliefs of their own. At least the conversation was started.

  18. @ Rob & Eva,

    I too thought that consensus was full agreement, until gently eldered by an weighty English quaker on the subject.

    Using define:consensus the definitions varied but generally are encapsulated by wikki as:
    Consensus is defined in English as, firstly, general agreement and, secondly, group solidarity of belief or sentiment. It has its origin in a Latin word meaning literally to feel together.

    using define:unanimity (afer working out how to spell it-LOL), also citing the wikki definition

    Unanimity is complete agreement by all people in a given situation. When unanimous, everybody is of same mind and acting together as one. Many groups consider unanimous decisions a sign of agreement, solidarity, and unity.

    The subtlety is general vs. complete agreement i.e. in consensus there is the potential for a disenting minority.

    My own intial response was "again, divided by a common language" - I suspect there has been contextual drift in the use of the word consensus on your side of the pond (and in my native country of NZ), but not here in Old Blighty.

  19. I love your biting wit. Where Protestants teach Jews how to be good Quakers!

    "As you can imagine, faculty meetings are populated almost entirely by dissenting windbags, so the result was that faculty meetings DID NOT END." Perhaps a logical next step would be the US Senate?

  20. We are Quakers and my daughter went to a Quaker school for 4 years. She had won a scholarship. If she had not, there is no way a regular, middle class family could afford the exhorbatant tution. It is more than a college. The school hired a new headmaster--totally non-Quaker--whose first move was to change the calendar to reflect "holidays". I shrugged, believing it really was an issue in busing. But slowly, I watched him slowly change everythign Quaker about the school. My daughter finally left when the non-Quaker headmaster banned hats from school. My daughter, being who she is, went to the headmaster and explained the long history of Quakers refusing to remove their hats. The headmasters final decision? Since my daughter was the only Quaker at the school only SHE could wear hat inside!!! She would more and more elaborate hats until the end of the semester when she left in disgust.

    If we are to have "Quaker" schools they need to be affordable for ALL Quakers and they need to follow Quaker testimonies. The schools need to attract quality Quaker staff, pay them decently and offer benefits. Then and only then will all these "ivy league prep schools" become Quaker again.

  21. I don't get it. Why would you ban hats?

    One of the very few clothing-related rules at my younger daughter's school is that camouflage is forbidden. Why? It's military, and Quakers are pacifists.

  22. I saw your post on Quaker Ranter. And while (as a Quaker who has taught and had 2 kids in Quaker schools) I can totally relate to your stated experience 30, even 50 years ago, and there is a lot about Quaker schools today that trouble me, I'm intrigued that your kids still go to Quaker schools. I could not afford them today. I never did send them for spiritual enrichment, but because at the time (the 1980s) I assumed, too optimistically, that it would provide my 2 bi-racial kids with a warm loving community. While it did not quite live up to expectations, it was better than the options I had. Art and music have been part of Friends schools and today many Friends Meetings. And the practice of eldering, which was years ago practiced in very pompous and negative ways, has been transformed in many Meetings to a more nurturing exercise, so there is often a more loving discipline in Meetings that does build a much more loving sense of community and deals with such pomposity. I hope that you found a warm, spiritually nurturing environment - if not, you might give Quakers a REAL try - not through a Quaker school. BUT like any congregation, it may take some searching for a good match. Incidently, the 'testimonies' is a 20th century invention, in my opinion, to revitalize an ideal in Quakerism that helped secularize our tradition and make our values accessible and congruent with others around us. It was a way of framing our religious commitment to truth-seeking, and living life with spiritual direction in specific ways. 'SPICES' in my opinion is a sad dumbing down of a rich spiritual heritage. My life ultimately is testimony to my commitment to seek The Right Way, to live out of Truth as I understand it through the lives around me (NOT any one thing one person says or thinks). And I am human and am doing the best I can. Quakers know they are not perfect. That is why community is important to us: We complement each other in amazing ways.

  23. Well, the Quaker schools were not my first choice. My first choice was public school, and if my older daughter hadn't become profoundly depressed in public school 5th grade, we would still be there.

  24. So I checked on Wikipedia, and I was right, there isn't a single Quaker school in Canada (though there are two that used to be Quaker). I'm thinking about investigating Ranter schools instead. :)

  25. There are Ranters still? And they run schools?

    I thought Ranters were the people who thought that you could only be free of a sin once you committed that sin as if it wasn't a sin. I would be very nervous sending a child to THAT school.

    I suppose there are no Quaker schools because the only Quaker organizations in Canada are Liberal ones and they tend to support public education and not any seperate religious schools.

    Jews at Quaker schools...probably because their parochial school system is almost exclusively Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox. Since Quaker values agree so much with Jewish values and there is no hint of idolatry it is a safe place for the modern-Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews to send their kids.

    As someone who attended synagogue with traditional ritual prayer I can say that repetitive prayer and silence often have the same effect, just as chanting, walking meditation and silent/still meditation all have the same effect.

    I don't currently attend my local meeting as it is Liberal and rather than "rich" or "granola", it is both simultaneously while I have been poor my entire adult life and am quite conservative. On my last visit I was told off for using the word "marraige" in conversation after meeting. However I have met many Friends online who are more traditional like myself and most of them are convinced Friends. I think the Liberal/Conservative/Orthodox issue is probably more relevant to the, um.. "crunchiness" of a Meeting than the ratio of birthright vs convinced Friends. You find the same issues in Judaism where there are very few converts and those few converts are often the most traditional rather than the flakiest ones.

  26. Good heavens, I thought we were just kidding around. There really was a sect called the Ranters? Fabulous name.

  27. Hi FedUpMom: There were indeed Ranters (see here), but I was kidding about investigating Ranter schools. I don't think there are any Ranters left. A great book about all the different religious sects in England during the 17th century is Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down.

  28. Hi FedUpMom: I'm sorry, I started a bit of this confusion. My blog is the "Quaker Ranter" and I'm the lead editor of, which picked up this piece and brought a fair number of Quakers over here. It's been fascinating reading the back-and-forth, both here and on related Facebook pages. I've been surprised that anyone would be surprised by what you've said.

    In 2003 I wrote "We're All Ranters Now" to explain why I was using "The Quaker Ranter" as my nom-de-internet. The gist is my worry that the Religious Society of Friends has traveled so far down the path of individualistic spirituality that we're more akin to the Ranters of olden times.

  29. My first time on this blog, and just came across the post from FedUpMom and the many responses it has brought forth.

    You have a sharp wit, FedUpMom -- when I first attended MFW at my niece's Friends School 25 yrs. ago (my 1st exposure to Quakerism) -- I had some of the same reactions. I came from the American West and an agnostic perspective, and found the silence, messages, etc. rather odd. This was certainly unlike any religion any of my neighbors or childhood friends had practiced!

    20 years of Meeting attendance/membership later: Spouse and I sent both kids to Q boarding schools for their HS years, something we could afford only because both kids got generous scholarships & just enough financial help from wider family.

    While these 2 different schools are not what they once were, in terms of numbers of Quaker students attending, both kids, and their Quaker perspectives, were very welcomed. I definitely got the sense their Friendly approach to life had a grounding and centering effect on others. Or at least I got this feedback from faculty and other parents.

    Coming from a (convinced, but not crunchy or old money) Friend's perspective, I was not always happy with the worldliness, amount of spending money, expensive vacations, and wardrobes many students attending these schools took for granted.

    But this was a lesson in itself, as both kids learned how little weight these privileges carry. They are no measure of character, and no promise of success. Some of the wealthiest kids seem, post-graduation, to be floundering. Our kids are letting their lives speak, are now in graduate school, intent on finding ways to earn a good living and to simultaneously do right by the world.

    My point is that the adjustments work both ways. It was frustrating for our kids that many others attending these excellent schools did not understand, or have interest in, the Quakerly approach to life.

    I hope you and your two children get as much out of these years as we did. And I hope you will find, as we have, that every cent spent on Quaker education was worth it. I wish more Friends could afford to go to these schools. The vibrant Quaker core at many Friends Schools is lacking.

  30. I'm a Quaker, and I'm thinking of getting "Quaker meeting: a lot of silence broken by the musings of the pompous" printed on a bumper sticker. Because it's one of those hilarious things that is just a shade too close to truth for comfort.

    I'm glad to have found this blog. I've been enjoying digging through the archives because I'm interested in education issues. I'm homeschooling my two oldest kids at the moment, but I expect my youngest to attend kindergarten, at which point I will also become a public school mom. I need connections and role models for wading into that system. So, thanks.

  31. Su, thank you! It's a treat to hear from new readers.

    Speaking of Quaker sayings, there was a little Quaker-run shop in Oxford, England that had these great little cards printed up. They were modeled on the cards that Catholics used to carry in their wallets, that said: "I am a Catholic. In case of emergency, please call a priest." The Quaker version said: "I am a Quaker. In case of emergency, please be quiet."

    I saw the cards on my first visit to the store, and went back the next time we were in England, intending to buy a pack. I was disappointed to find they didn't carry them any more, "because some people found them offensive." I've been kicking myself ever since that I didn't buy them the first time ...

  32. Apparently you can get the saying on a button. There's a whole catalogue here:

    I like this one:

    "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye if both are lightly greased."

    and also:

    "Welcome to heaven. Here's your harp and your tuning key. Welcome to hell. Here's your harp."

  33. Ah, Friends schools -- where Protestants teach Jews how to be Quakers. It's a beautiful thing.

    You are cracking me up. This was a truthful laugh riot from start to finish! LOL

    Christopher Isherwood was sheltered at both Radnor and Haverford meetings during WW2....of course the Quakers were very involved in helping conscientious objectors like himself at a time when no one else would. He was asked about the "speakers " at the two meetings.

    He said " well it's like the films, isn't it? : One is short subjects, the other : full length features"

    But I can't remember which one he said was which! lol!

  34. As some of the comments here show, it's difficult making generalizations about Friends, who come in more than two varieties.

    I am a graduate of a Quaker school (probably in your area, from the sound of it) where we were never taught a thing about Quakerism, not even the testimonies. Still, there was something there that made an impact on me and I later became a Friend myself, as well as a parent in a Quaker school.

    I think your post has gotten so much attention because you do capture some of our weaknesses with wit, though of course we are more than our weaknesses. While it's true that meeting for worship is sometimes
    "a lot of silence broken by the musings of the pompous" (great line, by the way), there are times when both the silence and the messages are profound, and these make the pompous musings worth sitting through, at least for me.

  35. Having spent a lot of years in Quaker worship, and having migrated for the last 10 to the Catholic Church, I've got to say that in both meeting for worship and church, what you bring to it greatly influences your experience of worship. I'm not just saying that you hear it differently, but rather, if you are praying for love, compassion, humility and generosity of spirit, then that will be given to you. If on the other hand your sights are fixed on the pompous and sententious, then you will likely hear those voices speaking out in meeting. The more you can express and pray through the heart of love, the more love will be present in your heart and in your worship.

  36. Kathryn, I'm sure you're right. One of the problems with Meeting at a Quaker school is that hardly anyone has good intentions -- they're all sitting through it because it's required, as I was.