The Society of Friends

Program 243 • 29 mins


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We hear diverse voices of Quakerism, known as The Society of Friends, a rich American tradition dating to before the United States was founded. We tell the story of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania and a follower of the Quaker tradition. Friends today describe their practice and beliefs. We also present historical readings from powerful Quaker writings. As practiced in early America, the meeting for worship—where a typical Quaker congregation comes together each week—is unlike mainstream religious services. For one thing, in many Quaker meetings to this day, no clergy is present; no one is designated to preach or to lead the service. Instead, a visitor finds the group seated together in silence. Many attendees close their eyes in quiet meditation. Quakers are actively listening for some signal of divine guidance within. In some cases, they rise to share that experience aloud. The shared experience of silence is a wellspring for Quaker contemplation. But their journey is not entirely inward. The Friends have long been a vocal presence in expressing concerns about warfare, inequality, and prejudice.

The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion. And when death has taken off the mask, they will know one another, though the diverse liveries they wear here makes them strangers.”

—William Penn, Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania


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