Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lets Face It Quakers are Unique, and Other Denominations are too

I consider myself an ecumenical Quaker.


I am a lifelong Friend, who goes to a Presbyterian Seminary. Last summer, I interned at an United Methodist Church where I still am involved with the youth group during the school year. This school year I am working at the Episcopal Campus Ministry on the Rutgers University campus. I attend meeting for worship twice a week: On Tuesday nights at Canal Friends Worship Group and on Sunday mornings at Princeton Friends Meeting.

On an average week, I go to two meetings for worship, celebrate the Eucharist with college students, attend Chapel at the Seminary, and spend time with the youth at the United Methodist Church.

I made the decision to go to Princeton Theological Seminary because I wanted to see what the wider Christian world has to offer Quakers and I wanted to see if all denominations were just as dysfunctional as Quakers. I can happily report that the wider Christian world has lots to offer Quakers and yes, they can be just as dysfunctional as any monthly meeting. (Too bad sometimes I thought we took dysfunctional to a new level, but now I see that we have stiff competition.)

When I came here to learn more about the wider Christian world, I realized that people are interested in learning more about Quakers and what we have to offer other denominations. I have had several meal time conversations with fellow students. Several seminarians have attended Princeton Friends Meeting. A local hospitality house has asked me to come to talk about Quakers. My supervisor this year is interested in having me talk about silence at some point during Lent to the college students at Rutgers. Even at parties away from my seminary community, people want to know more about Quakers when they find out I am one.

We have a lot to offer the world, especially in the midst of daily chaos, 24 hour news cycle, smaller and smaller technological devices. How can we still hear the voice of God in the midst of all this noise and clutter? How can we be comfortable and even live into the silence?

Also the belief that anyone can be called to minister is still radical 350 years later. I have dear friends in the Catholic Church who are struggling for Women's Ordination. Also, I just met a woman, who was talking to her non-denomination church about being ordained. It has taken a year but she is finally making progress with her church and pastor to be the first woman ordained in her church. Being ordained will help her in finding a job as a hospital chaplain. Our pulpit is always open to anyone who feels led and our structures allow ways to nurture ministers and new ministries, if we choose to follow them.

We Quakers have a lot to learn from other traditions. We can learn about what it means to support young people with paid staff and offer opportunities for them. We can learn how to better support our elders as they age. We can learn that talking about our faith in public is not always bad. We can learn better techniques at letting people know we still exist and how to greet and welcome newcomers. Some monthly meetings do this well, but, based on my opinion, a lot do not. I have been particularly impressed by the United Methodist Lay Leader program.

Quakerism is an unique faith and we have a lot to offer our siblings in other denominations. We can also learn a lot from them too.


  1. Well put, Greg. Thanks for your thoughs.

  2. Thanks, Greg, I really appreciate this. Let's honor our own tradition and others, too. - Lucy Duncan

  3. Very true, Greg! I'm glad you're out there breaking down walls of sectarianism! :)

  4. Greg - I am currently attending The Haden Institute, a Spiritual Direction certification program affiliated with the Episcopal church. I have been a bit surprised at the level of interest in Quakers. Last residency/intensive, I was asked to lead a Meeting for Worship. In a very full weekend, we had twelve who came to worship. And a quite lively question and answer session at the rise of meeting. It is exciting to me to be able to share our way of worship and faith life with others.

    Angela York Crane (Anj)

    1. Anj,

      That sounds exciting! This year I have come to really like the Episcopal tradition.


  5. Hey, this is a great read. I love Friends, but also love being ecumenical. Find it interesting too, we are close in proxity.

  6. Having been a committed Roman Catholic nearly all my life coming to Friends was an interesting experience. I think my time with Friends has allowed me to view with greater clarity the riches on offer from the other Christian communities, and from men and women of good will of all relgions and none. Friends have alot to offer others and we have so much more to learn from them.

  7. We are all Christians under the skin. I am learning that many Quakers are denying this fellowship in response to the current culture war. So happy to hear you are crossing over on regular basis to make friends among fellow Christians.

  8. Greg, this is a very good read. Your ecumenical experience matches mine. You are right that Quaker meetings have no monopoly of being dysfunctional. That bug has made itself comfortable in quite a few churches, too. At the same time, the Spirit is wonderfully at work in many different communities and denominations. The path to which you feel drawn and led is rich in blessings.