Friday, 27 April 2012

Quakers and Worship

Quakers describe themselves as a 'Religious Society' and call the central act of their society a 'Meeting For Worship'. Yet, to hear Quakers talk about this you would think that Quakerism is a religion and we meet together to worship God. There is a world of difference between 'having a religion' and being 'religious', and this difference becomes very apparent when trying to work through the Quaker admonition that everything is sacred.

If one's actual practice in life – which may be different from what one says – is to 'have a religion' then it is impossible for everything to be sacred, because you will have other things besides a religion. What will happen is that everything will become secular. Before one knows it, the use of the terms 'religious' and 'worship' will become problematic and the call to remove these terms from what we say and write will grow ever stronger.

However, if you are 'religious' the whole world is seen in terms of personal relationships, and the secular – that which we do in the world – is superseded by the sacred – that sense of intimate relationship in the world. Worship is the symbolic expression of that relationship in all its fullness, for which the idea of God may or may not be helpful.

The choice is ours in all its starkness: are we an ethical society of individuals who do good works in the world, which we then contemplate in the silence, or are we a community that expresses itself in worship, entering into expectant waiting to discern the good works waiting for us to do.

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