Nature or nurture: part-time Quakerism

Part-time Quakerism: I’ve wondered if this is possible…it’s probably sacreligious.

I know this opens a can of worms for any religious person, no matter what persuasion, but I often marvel at the focus and dedication of Quakers who devote and dedicate their lives to their faith and practice. Every moment seems infused with one or the other–following a leading, ministering to others, keeping an awakened spiritual life and path.

Myself, I often dream of a Quakerism which is subtle and underlying all actions and thought. A bit like a natural tendency, the feeling that all is in alignment, all is right and well, that comes from action. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized this is like your natural voice–it comes out through speech which is unconcious and selfless, the rhythm and patter that is your own–rather than doubt or insincerity that can be heard through the tightness of speech or short breaths taken.

It’s often I see this in great “natural” teachers–those who come from a family of teachers and go on to teach, themselves. There is a comfort, a patience, and confidence of an internal compass that I admire. The naturalness seems to be embodied and held internally, flowing out intrinsically through their actions and words. Quakers who possess this seem the same, with a sense of how to slice simply to the essence, produce a clear gem, then offer it to the next person.

I don’t know if this is true for me, as Quakerism tended to find me. The naturalness of Quakerism in me comes from a kinship with it, rather than a birthright. No one I knew growing up was Quaker; I never went to a Quaker school; I never studied the Bible; most of my faith knowledge is localized through my meeting. Most of my internal Quaker clock seems to have been set by me outside of any knowledge of the faith itself through events and actions I found myself in on my own.

And sometimes I relapse into my old patterns and ways. I don’t keep Quakerism at the forefront of my mind or my spiritual life. Does this make me a part-time Quaker? Does Quakerism ask to be kept in the present mind all the time? Is Quakerism nature or nurture?

8 thoughts on “Nature or nurture: part-time Quakerism

  1. I’d offer that the Inward Light is nature; attending to it is nurture. And that most of us are part-timers, more or less, in anything we do or even are. The people who are not tend to stand out.

    The good news is that with practice, we move towards full-time presence.

  2. Hello Chad,

    Part-time is better than no time at all. Some points of our lives find it difficult to concentrate on any one thing, so I don’t think you are alone. For me, Quakerism is daily coming into my mind, but maybe I’m some sort of Quaker zealot! Ha! I think having this blog may help you find more “Friendliness” if that is what you are looking for. Like anything, it is what you put into it.

    Nice post topic, btw.


  3. Friend,

    I am involved in larger Quaker groups like the FGC and AFSC.

    I attend my Friends Meeting about once month.

    My Meeting has dwindle in numbers.

    Some Sundays we have only one or two friends in worship.

    Good news is my Meeting meets in a UCC Church.

    Which gives us Quakers a few choices on Sunday morning.

    Most sundays attend the early service at the UCC Church.

    UCC and Quakers share so many values in are work
    for peace and justice in the World.

    This is not the ideal situation.

    But you have to work with what you have…….


  4. Thanks for your posts–it seems QuakerQuaker joins us all…

    As I spoke to a friend the other day at work, I realized the steps in the A-A program are reflective of many things I find helpful in Quakerism that, before I found it, seemed amorphous. Faith in a higher power makes it possible to see outside your situation. Knowing that you are not in control helps you to relinquish the “rationality” that comes with modern scientific living in favor of awe and wonder, while allowing faith to bring action.

    I noted that before Quakerism, I did things without seeing beyond what was in front of me. I wasn’t able to reach outside the world I inhabited for strength which I needed. Quakerism opened the door to possibility that I didn’t have in my rational mind. Thank heavens for the openness aspect of Quakerism that is allowed and encouraged.

  5. I tend to feel that it is more a combination of the two, but I’d say that it is more nature than nurture. Some people are more naturally inclined to inner reflection and contemplation, and have more of an ability to “think outside the box” than others. These are generally the people who I feel make the most “natural” Quakers, and these are the folks I see most drawn to the faith.

    That said, nurture often plays a large part. I know that before I began to become more involved in Quakerism, I gave far less thought to things such as simplicity and egalitarianism than I do now. I have always been a very quiet, contemplative person (I go for solitary walks for at least an hour a day, weather permitting), but Quakerism has taught me to listen to that contemplation a little bit more closely.

    So, I feel it’s a combination. I am definitely more toward the nature side, but nurture has certainly played its part. I also feel that it’s perfectly fine to be what you consider a “part time Quaker”. Quakerism, and the testimonies, are not always in my conscious mind. But, I have found that with increased involvement in the faith that they are more a part of my subconscious, and my unconscious behavior. I am not able to attend meeting here in Korea, but I still consider myself to be an active Quaker, for instance.

    I’m curious to hear more thoughts on this, or a response.

  6. Wow, Korea! I think I need to find out more about Quakers who are living outside the range of a Meeting and what that’s like. It feels pretty luxurious to have a Meeting (or several) near me to choose from when I learn about folks outside of a Meeting who consider themselves Quaker.

    When I meant part-time, I didn’t imagine that I was including my Meeting community automatically and that that is an add-on to my faith practice that I don’t consider automatically. If I didn’t have my Meeting, I know that “part-time” would probably mean a lot less time, since the Meeting community is an intrinsic part of my faith practice. Extra props go to those who are Quakers outside the range of a weekly or monthly meeting!

  7. I have attended meeting with 3 different Meetings, but none for long enough to become a member. I have moved 17 times in 7 years, and so that makes stability a little difficult. However, while it is irritating, I do see that it has a positive side (I am an eternal optimist). For me, the fact that I am not usually able to attend meeting on anything resembling a regular basis means that I have had to find ways to practice the faith on my own. My boyfriend is Quaker, and that has helped some, but faith is a very personal, relatively private thing to me, so the assistance is minimal. To me, not being near a meeting has meant (through the years) that I have had to learn how to apply the various principles within my own life and my environment on my own, which can sometimes be a bit of a struggle, but it’s worth it to me. It has also supported my feelings that it is your internal expressions of faith (such as meditation, listening to the light, the motivations behind your actions, etc) that are more important than your external (going to meeting, etc).

  8. By the way – I just got back from visiting the Meeting here in Seoul. I got lost initially, and almost didn’t go, but I am SO glad I did. Even though I knew no-one there, and hadn’t been to any Meeting *anywhere* in 7 months or so, it felt very familiar, and as if I were instantly among friends, and I mean that with a lower-case F.

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