This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at www.jenniferhudsontaylor.net.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Few Basics on Quakerism


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Most of you know that I'm working with three other authors on a Quaker novella. I wanted to share a few basics you may not be aware of before our story is released. 

My story is set in 1808, so most of what I tell you will be in regard to that time period unless I state otherwise. The photo to the left is of my gg-grandparents, William Henry Wall and Martha Jane Zeek Wall, Quakers who attended Marlboro Friends Meeting in Sophia, NC south of Greensboro where we still have Wall family reunions. He was forced to work in a salt factory during the Civil War for the "cause" since he didn't believe in war.

Many Quakers used plain speech. They believed that all men and women were equal in the sight of God. Therefore, they didn't believe in putting emphasis on one's title regardless of who might be the king, queen, a duke, an earl, etc. You can imagine how this might have gotten them in trouble as their behavior might have looked disrespectful. 

For this reason, some of their churches, which were called "meeting houses," and may not have had a pastor to lead them since they believed that the same Holy Spirit resided in all of them and God could speak to the heart of anyone. Services were often a place where they gathered and sat in silence until someone was moved by the Holy Spirit to speak. Other meeting houses found it helpful to have a leading pastor to help maintain and keep order and rules--especially as congregations grew larger. Women were permitted to speak and teach and be pastors as well. Quakers were leaders in the Women's Rights movement, Civil Rights movement, and stauch supporters of the Abolitionist movement against slavery--long before the Civil War. Many hid slaves and were part of the Underground Railroad. 

Even among themselves they didn't distinguish each other. They would use "thee" for "you" and "thy" for "your". If they did refer to a person by name, they would state the individual's whole name. Instead, of saying Ruth, they would say Ruth Payne. Another thing they might say is, Friend Ruth. Quakers considered everyone around them as a friend. They didn't believe in having enemies--even if others considered them as an enemy. Forgiveness was the right thing to do. Therefore, they didn't believe in fighting or engaging in war. Killing was a sin. This caused them to be persecuted during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. 

They didn't use the calendar system of months such as January - December since these were established by pagans. Instead, they would refer to March as the third month. You'll see this at the beginning of my story, New Garden's Hope. 

Pride was a sin so they believed in dressing plain and wearing simple colors and avoiding material items that could make them want more of the world or take their focus off Christ. 

Quakers believe in education and often started schools, colleges and universities for African Americans and women. Even though Quakers are considered to be a passive religion, they are different from the Amish as many hold regular jobs, dress like the rest of us, have electricity, computers, and all the modern conveniences we have. A few traditional Quakers choose to dress in plain clothes today, but their decision is a personal choice. They are NOT forced to do this by the "rules" of their religion or church.

Most Quakers consider themselves to be Christians, believing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh as a man and died on the cross as the son of God as a sacrifice to atone for all mankind's sins. My mother's Quaker family believed this. There are still many Quaker churches in my hometown of Greensboro, NC, and I'm proud of my Quaker heritage.

Was any of this information surprising? Did I dispel any myths you might have had? Do you have more you'd like to add? Please share.

6 comments:

Thank you for enlightening me Jennifer. It was all new to me.

I've generally considered religions to be old-fashioned, behind the times, or even archaic. Quakerism seems to be a progressive way of thinking. It's very interesting.

I only had a brief knowledge of Quakers before reading this. THank you.

How interesting that your ancestor had to work in a salt factory since he wouldn't fight. I wonder how many others were forced into similar roles?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Charlie, You're welcome. Quakers were definitely far before their time.

Thanks, Jill. I was shocked when I found the records because he was only about 15-16 years of age according to the census.

Thank you for the information on Quakers. They are so honorable!

Thanks Rachel for stopping by!