Our Quaker Tradition and History
Quakerism (The Religious Society of Friends)
Members of The Religious Society of Friends believe that in every person there is a measure of the Divine, “that of God”, which acts as a living witness and daily guide. Quakers do not have a single creed or religious doctrine that is accepted by all members. Rather, they believe that each person is his/her own minister, who turns to an inner guide or teacher for continuing revelation and direction, sometimes called the Light within or the inner Light.
Quakers are guided by testimonies, or guiding principles for conduct, traditionally focusing on peace, nonviolence, equality, simplicity, stewardship, community and integrity. Friends gather weekly for Meeting for Worship. The format is simple; people sit in silent meditation waiting upon the Spirit to help discern the Truth. Friends are encouraged to speak from their hearts, if so moved to share their thoughts with the community.
A basic tenet of Quakerism is that truth is continuously revealed. This means that God’s truth is not yet entirely known, but is accessible to the seeker. At Buckingham Friends School, this belief is reflected in our approach to curriculum and teaching. There is an emphasis on critical thinking skills and on the ways that we nurture the whole person and foster a sense of spiritual community, while at the same time maintaining a strong academic foundation for our students.
Early Quakers were regarded with suspicion for actions they took: they disrupted church services and challenged the authority of the Church of England and the state. To escape persecution, they came to the new world to participate in William Penn’s Holy Experiment – Pennsylvania, a colony where freedom of religion was practiced.
Between 1700 and 1800 the Quakers in the colonies became leaders in the movement to abolish slavery and to achieve racial justice. They gave help to Native Americans and adhered to their principle of nonviolence. Quakers participated in the westward expansion of our country, promoted education, worked for abolition of slavery and war and for the rights of women. Of the five women who organized the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls in 1848, four were Quakers. Lucretia Mott is the best known of the Quaker participants.
Friends have remained vital and active in their communities. Quakers look within themselves for the Truth. When they find the Truth, they stand in support of it even when it challenges others who believe differently.
Though Quakers were always wary of creed and ceremony, they felt a need for structure in their organization. The greater Philadelphia Quaker community is comprised of a system of monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings. Each local meeting has a meeting for business once a month; nearby meetings gather quarterly and the main business items are handled in the yearly meeting where all meetings are represented. Buckingham Friends School is under the care of Buckingham Monthly Meeting.