Early Friends and Today

How do you think Friends from early in the movement would feel about the Religious Society of Friends today?


Collected From an Open Online Survey
7/26/09 – 7/30/09


I think they’d see us much as they saw the separatists…as seekers who hadn’t found the experience, who were in head.

-Lu from Rochester, NYYM


What a great question.  I hope many of them would be inspired by how some Friends try to be inthe [quite changed] world but not of it.  I think they would find that many Friends enjoy a good debate or threshing session, and would hold their own with integrity and faithfulness in a discussion of how the RSOF has changed and why.  I believe early Friends would appreciate andeven enjoy this sort of dialogue with Quakers of today. I think they would be surprised as all the schisms, but maybe not.

-Liz/Savannah Friends (SEYM)


Shocked, saddened, angered, and challenged. I also think they would love experiencing the deep spiritual joy many Friends today share.

-Susan Lee Barton, Clear Creek MM, Ohio Valley YM


I think we have a gamut of belief and of action, as we always have – in any society.  Always therehave the brave and fervent who challenged authority and publicly asked for justice and rightness.Always there have been those who grounded action, their own and of others.  And always there have been those who were seeking others more than seeking the Light, adding interesting challenges and dynamics.

Because  I   am   an  unprogrammed   meeting   attender,   I  do   believe   early   Friends   would   not understand preaching or traditional Protestant church services of some meetings.  I also think evangelical Quakers would be a bit shocking.

-Anonymous, Perry City Friend, NYYM


confused. They might wonder if we are really Christian.

-Pam Rider


Early Friends would likely see some current day Quakers as fellow travelers who wait in the Light and are empowered and energized in their conversion of manners (transformation) by the Love and Power of God.  Early Friends would care more about the experience driving this process ofconversion/action than the words that were used to describe it.  On the other hand they would seesome current Quakers as walking wounded who can only muster the strength to attend to theirown healing from their own resources.  They would also be saddened by those who try to live up to the “rules” established by what are relatively recently codified testimonies even though the rule-followers have not had the inner experience that makes both “the trying” and “the rules”unnecessary to lead the life that early Friends aspired to

-Kenn Harper, Rochester Meeting, NY


I  think that it is similar to a parent looking at a very active, intense, opinionated child and thinking to him/herself, “Well they will either be amazingly productive and the world will recognize it or they will be amazingly productive in such a narrow band of human intelligence or art that it will be years before their genius is respected. Same kid, different scenarios, both legitimate,though of course, parents will prefer one outcome over the other.

-Sue Tannehill Buffalo, NY


The first generation of Friends would be as perplexed and confused about today’s Religious Society of Friends as they would be by today’s culture and society.  They were creatures of their time and place, as we are of ours.

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


I think that many of them would be appalled at the absence of the Bible and the references to Christ in many meetings.  I think that they would be pleased to see Friends’ continuing witness inthe areas of peace-building and other areas of social witness.  I think the “new plain” would puzzle them!

-Susanne Ratcliffe Wilson, Redwood Forest Friends Meet


I think that of course there are parts they would recognize. But they might be shocked at thedivisions, and also at the religious diversity, that there are Quakers who identify, not just asChristo-centric or theist, but also as pagans, atheists, buddhists, etc. It is quite a range and if early Friends were just dropped into our midst, they might feel a bit out of touc

-Mary Kay Glazer, Ticondaroga Worship Group, NYYM


I think much of our current theology, whether Evangelical or Liberal, would be confusing to them.They would probably consider much of our way of thinking notional. I imagine they would betaken aback by much of our current state of “worldliness,” and concepts of “self-improvement”and “self-empowerment” and current dislike of words like “discipline” and “obedience.”

I think they would recognize the “form” of liberal & conservative worship, but wonder where the Spirit was in worship, and probably would be aghast at the nature of many of our “feel-good” or political pronouncements in worship.

I have a feeling that they would also wonder at EFCI Quakers voting in meeting for business and FGC Friends allowing non-members to participate in business. (And also at liberal Friends’ lack of convincement as a criteria for membership.)

Basically, except for some of the forms that conservative & liberal Quakers use, I have a feeling the modern RSOF would be unrecognizable as “Quaker” by the mostly pre-Enlightenment earliest generations of Friends.

-Anonymous, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting