Wor­ship­ping in si­lence

Patux­ent Friends meet­ing in Lusby is only Quaker meet­ing in South­ern Md.

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By SARAH FALLIN sfallin@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @CalRecSARAH

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.

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