let's talk about SPICES

Lots of folks are curious about our family's adoption of the Quaker faith (Religious Society of Friends) after we stopped attending the Mormon church, so I thought I'd write a bit about that tradition and what draws us to it.

First of all, it's important to note that there is a huge spectrum of Quaker beliefs and practices. There are evangelical Christian Quakers and there are atheist Quakers, and everything in between. The common threads that tie this groups together are the SPICES testimonies:


Quakers tend to worship in Silence. This means that rather than having a church service with music, sermon, rituals, and prayers, Friends sit in a circle in silence together (although there are "programmed" traditions within Quakerism that do have some of these elements). Occasionally an individual will break the silence to share their thoughts with the group. Some of my friends who've attended Quaker Meeting with us have found this mode of worship rather disconcerting.

Quakerism has a rich history, and Friends have been key players in many significant social movements, such as abolition and suffrage. Today Quakers are typically noted for their opposition to war.

If you would like to learn more about the Quaker tradition, my best suggestion is for you to find a local Meeting to attend--many have an "Intro to Quakerism" class for those who want to learn more. There are also many online resources about Quakerism and I can recommend some books that you'll find informative: Friends for 350 Years and Plain Living: a Quaker Path to Simplicity. Those with Mormon background might find Heidi Hart's account of her journey to Quakerism to be good reading: Grace Notes

I've spent time with Quakers in Boston, Logan, Pasadena, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Orange County. What typically stands out to me is the strength of the older women in the Meetings and the simplicity of the surroundings in which Friends worship. Our family has been warmly welcomed in each Meeting that we've attended. Recently, John posted some thought-provoking excerpts of an interview with our children about their transition from Mormon to Friend.

And, FYI, just so you know that Quakers do have a sense of humor.

Photo: Me standing in the historic Friends' Meetinghouse in Beacon Hill. John and I stayed in a room at the Meetinghouse during our last visit to Boston (our room overlooked the garden courtyard--lucky us!)


Zach Alexander said...

Funny that you would post that picture on the day I happen to follow the link.

I haven't heard of the "Grace Notes" book – what makes it recommendable for Mormons?

Best regards,

daisies said...

so interesting .. thank you for sharing :) xo

jana said...

Heidi was Mormon and became Quaker. Last I heard, she was serving as the clerk of the Salt Lake City Meeting.

It's good to see you here, Zach. I have fond memories of our IRL meetup at the SeedPod Coop.

Zach Alexander said...

Me too!

I haven't seen them since I moved out, but I may go over for canning soon...

Alisa said...

What a great post. I think I clicked on your blog a couple of years ago and read about some of your early experiences attending a Quaker service (I haven't gone back to reread, but I seem to remember some criticism for it?).

I looked up a meeting in my area, and I plan to go in a couple of weeks. I am not an anormously spiritual person, and I'm even less social when it comes to spirituality, but I love to seek new spiritual experiences. Maybe the silent community thing would work for me.

Alisa said...

That would be "enormously." *Sigh*

gs said...

Thanks for the link to the interview with your children. That was incredible.

Bored in Vernal said...

Quakers tend to worship in Silence.

I hope this is not an annoying question, but what do they do with the little kids?

belleshpgrl said...

Thank you so much for sharing. Your children are incredibly brave for questioning what they were being taught- and lucky that they were in a home that encouraged that. I only wish I were as brave, and lucky, as they.

galen dara said...

thank you for posting this jana.
we have a Friends meeting here in tucson and I have been once or twice.
the silence can be both powerful and unnerving for one raised LDS and taught that if there is a lull in testimony meeting it means you are supposed to get up and testify.
(silence in testimony meeting being 'waisted time' or something like that.)

John White said...

Here's what my meeting's web site has to say:

"Children are Welcome"
Many visitors to meeting, especially those to unprogrammed or silent meetings, worry a lot about their children and whether the children are being quiet enough. They should relax.

While it would be appropriate to take your child out of meeting if the child is screaming or being noisy for long periods, the occasional noises of small children are generally welcomed. Some paper and crayons, or a book to read for older children is often helpful, too.

Most children, especially those of visitors, have a tough time sitting silently for a full hour. Fortunately most Meetings have some sort of "First Day School" or "Sunday school" for children. If you see an adult rising after the start of Meeting and all the children filing out, they're probably headed for the First Day School.

Friends are generally quite tolerant of babies and their noises. It should be considered normal at most unprogrammed meetings to breast feed babies during meeting.