Worshipping in silence
Patuxent Friends meeting in Lusby is only Quaker meeting in Southern Md.
For one small congregation in southern Calvert County, meeting for worship on Sunday mornings has nothing to do with singing or listening to a sermon.
The only Quaker meeting in Southern Maryland, Patuxent Friends Meeting in Lusby has between 15 and 25 attendees each Sunday. The Quakers have no formal creed or liturgy. During worship, Quakers, or Friends, sit in silent expectation of divine guidance. While the meetings and practices of the Quakers are very different from most other religious groups, those who attend the Patuxent Friends meeting have a strong connection to it.
Anne Harrison of Lusby, a convert to Quakerism, said that being a Quaker “speaks to her condition.” She said she has been on a spiritual quest and has been Presbyterian, Methodist and married to an Episcopal priest. She was introduced to Quakerism by two of her cousins.
“I can wear my religion like a cloak that covers me loosely, but doesn’t bind,” Harrison said.
The Quakers are a religious sect that arose in the latter half of the 17th century in England, which was a time of great turmoil. George Fox, one of the primary founders, believed that “if you listen, God will speak to you,” explained Tim Keck of Mechanicsville, who attends the Patuxent Friends Meeting.
Dave Elkinton of Huntingtown said Quakerism came out of a widespread critique of the Church of England and the desire to not have to depend on clergy. While some Friends meetings have a leader, the Patuxent Friends don’t have a formal leader or clergy. Quakerism arose mainly as a rural-based movement and was seen as a great threat to the established church. Quakers were jailed and meetings were broken up.
Fox even came to Maryland, specifically St. Mary’s County, because of the Calverts, Harrison said. In St. Mary’s at the time, Quakers and Jews could come without fear of persecution.
While Quakerism came out of the mainline Christian church, the Patuxent Friends are Quaker Universalists, so belief in Christianity is no longer a tenant. Some have attended meetings who are even Jewish or Buddhist, Keck explained.
While there is a formal membership process for the worldwide Assembly of Friends, there is none for the Patuxent Friends. There’s also no hierarchy for the local group, while there is a hierarchy on a higher level in the Religious Society of Friends. But there isn’t a council or leadership over the Patuxent Friends Meeting that has authority over it. It’s more of a coordinating role, Elkinton said.
Harrison explained there are guidelines for business meetings and a “Faith and Practice” document that gives guidelines for things like marriages, deaths and welcoming a new baby.
“Rather than rules, there are questions,” Keck explained.
Without a formal creed, what unites all Quakers is the format of the meeting for worship: silent expectation of divine inspiration. Elkinton said the meeting is “punctuated” by “sharings” from individuals. Sometimes there are none, but sometimes there are as many as six to 10. The experience can be compared to group meditation. It’s not a prayer circle.
“I have never found something that speaks to me like the silence of Friends does,” Keck said, who was raised a Quaker but has attended other kinds of religious ser vices.
Rather than being known for their liturgy or religious traditions, Quakers are more known for their community involvement, Elkinton said.
The Patuxent Friends are advocates for peacemaking and are involved in many community organizations, like the Community Mediation Center of Calvert County, which was founded by local Quakers Dusty and Vicki Rhoades.
“It’s what goes on outside the meeting for worship that speaks to me over the long haul,” he said.
Anne Harrison, Ann Trentman, Tim Keck and Dave Elkinton all attend the Patuxent Friends Quaker Meeting on Sundays.