Being “Peculiar” and Apart from the Crowd

Historically Friends distinguished themselves as a peculiar people – refusing to take of their hats, not accepting titles, not taking oaths, lifting up the equality of women, natives, etc…  In what ways do you see that Friends today have practices that set them apart “from the crowd?”


Collected From an Open Online Survey
7/5/09 – 7/9/09


It seems to me that most Friends today have consciously given up visible distinctives that wouldset them apart from others.  (This is a position with which I respectfully disagree

-Lloyd Lee Wilson – Rich Square Monthly Meeting, NCYM(C)


Quaker marriage practices, not swearing oaths, and Quaker meetings for business are have notbecome main stream yet.  There is also something subtle about how Quakers dress and holdthemselves that allows one to pick them out of a crowd.

-Kenn Harper, Rochester, NY


Being in the world but not of it, was how early Friends would have named it.  What’s disturbing isthe way in which some of these distinctives that started as testimonies hardened into rules andlost power thereby.  Early on, Fox says that the hedge (a term later used for the boundaries onbehavior of these peculiarities) was the power of God.  However, by early into the 2nd generation(Penn, for example) Friends were using the term hedge as a boundary that defined groupness,that kept some in and others out.  We see this in the interactions that developed during the firstschisms.  I don’t believe we have any true disctinctives now, and I’m not sure we should try for it.When we rest in the power of God, our individual and corporate behavior may perhaps once againdevelop in ways that set us apart from the world.   But the goal should be in fact for thosebehaviors to speak so strongly that they will bring everyone into unity, not to set up walls or hedges between people.

-Lu from Rochester, NYYM


Our refusal to condone warfare, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and many other social evils arecentral to our community. However, it is not based on being peculiar or apart, but rather aboutbeing *for* something, i.e. the values I listed above.

-Charley Earp – Northside Friends (Chicago)


It shows itself today in less visible but not less important ways.  It shows itself in speaking to asecretary and a department head in exactly the same language.  If you can treat Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s secretary in exactly the same way, then you are a Quaker.

-Anonymous, NCYM-C


I think a simple manner of living is the most separate thing we do.  It takes many Friends out of common North American practices like:

  • living beyond one’s means, sustaining ostentation with borrowed money
  • over consumption
  • environmentally unsustainable habits of household management
  • over scheduling the lives of ourselves and our children
  • working too hard, which can bring on burnout and drug use.

As Quakers along with the wider society wake up to the adverse consequences of some of these, the adjustments necessary become simpler, given the support offered by our meetings and the ways of living that Friends have fostered for generations.

-Jay Thatcher, Corvallis Friends Meeting, North Pacific YM


Decision making by consensus, actually by unity, is different from almost all mainstream decision-making concepts.  The continuance of the peace testimony and the stand for peaceful ways of resolving conflict particularly as exemplified by the Nonviolent Peaceforce are powerful practices

-Susanne Ratcliffe Wilson, sojourning in Homer, Alaska


I don’t know that Friends corporately have a common way we are distinguishable from   the community around us. But in many Friends I see an integrity of living, a winnowing down to free up time for G-d and G-d’s work, and a deep respect in their interactions with other people that arises out of the understanding that there is that of G-d within them

-Judy Goldberger, Beacon Hill Friends Meeting & Jamaica Plain Worship Group


I’m not sure that friends are doing anything to set themselves apart from the crowd

-Anonymous, Sandpoint Friends Meeting


Today Friends like to wear Birkenstocks.  Friends drive Priuses since they destroy the world lessand require slightly less war than other cars.   Friends like to give money to professionalorganizations that then try to make the world a better place–Not “the poor will always be withyou,” but “the poor are out there somewhere, so give the AFSC some money to empower them.”Love to listen to NPR, be white, get degrees, get proud about their humility, and live simply in away that is out of reach to 90% of the world’s population.  Oh, and make an idol of electoralpolitics, as though salvation was to be found there

-Carl Magruder, Pacific Yearly Meeting


These aren’t just our rules; it’s how we are, what God has brought us to see!

-Forrest Curo, San Diego Meeting


Primary insight: There is that of God in every human being, and each human being, because of this can be in touch with the Divine on their own.

Second Insight: Corporate/ silent waiting on God is an amplification process that makes our hearing sharper, and our willingness to listen deeper.

After that:

  • Simplicity (so clutter doesn’t create static on the connection between you and Spirit
  • Peace: All have that of God in them so harming or killing is wrong
  • Integrity: That of God that is within you needs to be held in  honest authentic vessel of your life.Integrity is crucial in that.
  • Community: Insights we have that we believe are divinely inspired should be tempered throughcorporate clearness
  • Equality: William Penn says the soul has no gender. I would add that it also has no race, no sexualpreference, etc

-Sue Tannehill Buffalo, NY


Evidence of God’s work on a human being. In order to stay right with God, I have to live a certainway: move away from violence, stay humble, try hard to say only the truth, seek to co-operate and include, use conflict creatively to learn and grow, stay on the side of the oppressed, cut backto the living Word, mind my words and avoid saying anything to the detraction of another person.