The Homes are run 'under the auspices of the Quakers'. The full name for the Quakers is the 'Religious Society of Friends'; the word 'Quaker' and the word 'Friend' (with a capital F) are used almost interchangeably.
In the period before the Civil War, there were few books published and no newspapers; the Church and the government kept tight control of the population. Church-going was compulsory, and the established church was the only one tolerated. After the war ended, that all changed. Many people wanted a new social order and the right to worship as they chose. Under the leadership of people such as George Fox, James Naylor and William Penn, they devised a form of worship without churches or priests, based on silent waiting on God.
At first this was illegal, and many Quakers were assaulted, fined and sent to prison, where nearly 500 of them died. However, the Quakers' uncompromising search for complete honesty in all aspects of their lives resulted in their reputation as honourable tradesmen, and for the founding of businesses such as the Coalbrookdale Company (iron), Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank, Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry, Clark's shoes, Bryant and May, Huntley and Palmer and Carr's biscuits, and many more. Historically Quakers are best known for their antislavery work, prison reform, and peace.
The most distinctive thing about Quakers in Britain is their manner of worship. Friends gather together in silence to seek God's presence. Anybody may speak, maybe about something that has been concerning them, something that has happened to them, or perhaps to read something from the Bible. It's hard to write about a 'typical meeting', but perhaps three or four people will speak during the course of the meeting for worship, perhaps for no more than two minutes each.
Quakers do not have a creed which tries to express the inexpressible in words because they could never encompass the fullness of the mystery of God. There are a number of phrases that are well loved by Friends which serve to give some idea of their faith.
- We talk of 'that of God in everyone'.
- We are encouraged to 'know one another in the things which are eternal'.
- We try to be 'open to new light from whatever source it may come'.
Simplicity, honesty and equality are historically important to us; we hope that this is apparent in the community of the Homes. Many people think of the peace testimony in relation to Quakers. Quakers are very active, despite their small numbers (around 20,000 in Britain), in working for peace in all sorts of situations. Not every Quaker is a pacifist, but most are.
Quakers prefer to be addressed by first name and family name, or first name only when less formal. When writing to a Quaker woman you don't have to worry about whether she is Mrs, Miss or Ms! This is common practice for many people now, but Quakers have been doing it since the 17th century. At that time people marked social distinctions by using titles for 'superior' people, and first names for 'inferiors', and Quakers scandalised others by addressing everyone by full name without any title, thus affirming their belief that all people were of value.
There is a Quaker meeting in the Quiet Room each Sunday. Everyone is very welcome, but there is absolutely no expectation that anyone has to go. In the Homes, all the Trustees are Quakers, as are most of the House Committee, and some of the residents. If you are curious to learn more about Quakers, any of the Friends associated with the Homes would be willing to answer questions - ask us, you may be amused at the difference between our answers!.
To learn more about Quakers try the following links: