What Type of Person Is Attracted to Quakerism?

Throughout their history, the people called Quakers have been an important spiritual anchor of hope during times of cultural turmoil. People today are searching for stability and hope. They want assurance that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, all shall be well. I believe that the Society of Friends is in that important position to be able to offer people this hope and this stability. We will not be an attractive faith tradition to all people, but we will be an important alternative for many. Recently I have been thinking about the types of persons who are attracted to the Quaker faith. In my time as a Quaker minister, I have observed that Friends will be attractive to persons who exhibit some or all of the following traits:

  1. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are open—open to new ideas and ways of living. Our testimonies give persons a place to begin such a journey. A spirit of openness is the fountainhead for persons attracted to Friends.
  2. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are pliable—persons who are not set in their ways or living their lives in certitudes. Pliable people are persons who believe in grace and offer grace to others who may or may not agree with them.
  3. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are initiating—who are willing to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth and development. We are not a faith that tells people from the top down how to grow spiritually. We ask, "What canst thou say?"
  4. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are seeking—persons who are looking for new avenues of growth and for new communities to help them in their spiritual formation. If you are a seeker, there is an itch deep in your soul that is not being reached by the spiritual methods that you have been trying.
  5. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are in transition—Quakerism appeals, primarily, to persons who are at mid-life or older, persons who feel that the pedestals on which they used to rely are beginning to crumble. Persons in transition become open to new possibilities for spiritual growth.
  6. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are not self-righteous or judgmental—these are persons who can grow in a diverse and all-inclusive community of faith.
  7. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are questioning—the people called Quakers practice a questioning faith, a faith where queries serve as stepping stones to spiritual growth.
  8. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are self-aware—this means persons who are aware of their gifts, behaviors, and feelings. At its core, to be self-aware means an ability to understand ourselves and how we fit in the world around us.
  9. Quakerism is attractive to persons who are reflective and open to critical thinking—the Quaker practice of silence provides the medium for reflection, and critical thinking leads to the questioning of certitudes on which many faith traditions firmly stand. The Quaker faith is not only attractive to those who have learned the gift of critical thinking, but it certainly helps.
  10. Quakerism is attractive to persons who understand that an important part of belonging to a faith tradition is the idea of ministry and service to the world—ministry and service are a part of what I have come to call the "double priority" of Friends. Throughout our history Quakers have excelled in two major areas:
    • On the one hand Quakers are known for their active social concern. The story of Friends attacking a series of social evils has been a thrilling one. The most notable of these are the recognition of the evil of human slavery, the effort to care for the mentally challenged without cruelty, the concern for how prisoners are treated, and the continuous effort to work for peaceful solutions to problems between individuals, groups and nations.
    • At the same time that Quakers have been known for their attacks upon various forms of oppression, they have been equally known for their cultivation of the inner life of devotion. An outer life of service and ministry, and the development of the inner life of devotion—the Quaker "double priority."
  11. Quakerism will be attractive to persons who are seeking authenticity—Quakers take their testimony on integrity seriously. At our best, who we are as Quakers on First Day is who we are throughout the week. (With gratitude to Carole Barnhart for this addition.)
  12. Finally, Quakerism will be attractive to persons who believe in a theology of journey or process—Quakers believe in a God of continuing revelation, and that we are all on a spiritual journey. Everything is constantly evolving, and the living God is on this journey with us.

Certainly not all Quakers carry within them the 12 traits listed here. Most of the "Nones" and "Dones" who show up so strongly in recent polls about religious preference will not be moved to a new place spiritually by the people called Quakers. But here is some good news: some will. For those who can identify with one or just some of the traits mentioned, we welcome you to join us on our spiritual journey.

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