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Author Topic: Ornery U: Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
hobsen
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The beginning was the preaching of George Fox starting about 1648. George Fox (July 1624 – January 13, 1691) was an English Dissenter who is commonly considered the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, often called the Quakers. As with a lot of radical Protestants of the time, his inspiration came from reading the Authorized Version of the Bible (King James Version) and interpreting it through his own intelligence and perhaps with the help of God. His autobiography, which is a classic text for the study of Christian mysticism, is available online:

http://www.strecorsoc.org/gfox/

Unlike dozens of other preachers of the time, who founded sects most of which soon vanished, Fox organized his group as a religious society within the Church of England - perhaps something like the Knights of Columbus within Roman Catholicism. The purpose was preaching and religious discussion among members, and an increase of faith. At meetings anyone could speak, hopefully under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and it became a custom for those present to wait several minutes between speeches to meditate seriously on what had been said, as possibly inspired by God.

Fox was also extremely lucky in two of his converts. Fox himself had a grade school education, but Robert Barclay had been educated at the University of Paris to be a Roman Catholic missionary to Scotland. Just at the end of the Counter-Reformation, that education had no equal in the world; and Barclay's exposition of Quaker beliefs compared favorably to any other Christian denomination for the next two hundred years. People could of course disagree, but they had to take his arguments seriously:

http://www.qhpress.org/texts/barclay/apology/index.html

As with the works of Aquinas, there are better expressions today; but the original still has value as a historical document.

The other important convert was William Penn, a nobleman who received a huge land grant from King Charles II which became the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania. Among the Yearly Meetings which make up the Society of Friends, London Meeting still receives the most respect; but Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is a close second. Yearly Meetings frequently send letters to one another on matters of mutual concern; and missives from those two meetings commonly receive most attention, although they are in no way more authoritative than any others.

The greatest split in the Society of Friends occurred in the early 19th century, as a result of revivals on the American frontier. At that time a number of meetings there were converted to conservative Protestant beliefs, and organized themselves as congregational churches headed by a pastor. Services in these resemble most of American Protestantism; while Quakers in England and New England continued to resemble Anglicans or Episcopalians in religious belief, and continued the traditional meetings without a designated religious leader. Lively disagreements persist today, since trying to hold the two together is like trying to merge Unitarians with Southern Baptists, but both remain part of the Society of Friends.

For the benefit of Pete at Home, who suggested this thread, I will note that William Penn's trial following his arrest with William Meade for preaching before a Quaker gathering had a major effect on United States law. Penn pleaded for his right to see a copy of the charges laid against him and the laws he had supposedly broken, but the judge, the Lord Mayor of London, refused—even though this right was guaranteed by the law. Despite heavy pressure from the Lord Mayor to convict him, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty". The Lord Mayor then told the jury, "If that be your verdict, your verdict be damned." and not only had Penn sent to jail again (on a charge of contempt of court), but also the full jury. The members of the jury, fighting their case from prison, managed to win the right for all English juries to be free from the control of judges and to judge not just the facts of the case, but the law itself. This case was one of the more important trials that shaped the future concept of American freedom (see jury nullification) and was a victory for the use of the writ of habeas corpus as a means of freeing those unlawfully detained.

The above overview is heavily based on plagiarism from Wikipedia, which has a lot of information on the Society of Friends. Personally I am rather more a Quaker than RickyB is a religious Jew, in that I attend Quaker services when convenient and take them very seriously; and I am reasonably well informed about the denomination. And I shall be glad to answer questions as best I can, so long as nobody blames the Society of Friends too much for my inadequacies. Of course any better informed Quakers are invited to contribute.

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Pete at Home
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Thank you, hobsen. I'd never thought of Quakers as a type of Protestant before reading your description ... I thought that you were an independent branch of Christianity, at least as different from Protestantism as Protestantism is from Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, and possibly as different as we LDS are, although not as different as Unitarians. Am I reading you correctly that you characterize the Society of Friends within the Protestant grouping?
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hobsen
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Actually I think your original view is correct, Pete. Quakers arose as a consequence of the Reformation; the group is obviously not Roman Catholic, although heavily influenced by Catholicism through Barclay's writings and through study of Roman Catholic mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila. And the founders took many of their ideas from other denominations, most notably the Church of England, but also Reformers such as Calvin and Luther. But the faith developed through individual interpretation of the Bible, and the practice of group meetings for business and worship. The procedure much resembles a New England town meeting: there is a leader to keep order, but anyone present is free to speak if inspired to do so. As for groups which have organized on the pastoral model, the pastor usually delivers a sermon, the congregation may sing hymns, and there may be a period of silent worship. But the designation Protestant should probably be reserved for the churches descending directly from the Reformation; I suspect Calvin or Luther would have persecuted Quakers as enthusiastically as they did similar groups in their own times. Quaker predecessors would probably have been classified as Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation. The difference may be as much a matter of church organization as belief; Quakers have never had bishops or priests, and condemned the idea that any man or woman is closer to God than another.

[ March 08, 2008, 12:03 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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Viking_Longship
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I'll weigh in here too. I am still technically a Quaker as, unlike my southern Baptist memebership, I never canceled my memebership and still believe in a lot of the positions of the Friends particularly the social ones. (THough I am no longer, I am sorry to say, a pacifist.)
(I prefer the term "friend".) I became a friend when I was 19 and was 21 when I started attending Orthodox services regualarly. I still attended friends meetings ocassionally for years. In fact I would still do so back home if the ocasion arose.

Whether the Quakers count as protestant is largely a matter of intepretation. As Quakers have a great deal of freedom about how they understand 'the light' some friends would, if you discussed it with them, be more in tune with protestantism than others. (Particularly I would think the congregational type) And it's also a question of which protestant sect or tradition. I can't see much in common between Calvin's dark vision of human nature and George Fox's fairly bright one.

As a Quaker I never considered myself a protestant but thought of us as a distinct group. Our meeting wasn't Pastoral so it certainly wasn't along the lines of what I had grown up with as Baptist.

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Viking_Longship
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Oh and as i recall Quakers WERE persecuted by Protestants both in England and the Americas.
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hobsen
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Glad to see another Ornery member probably knows as much about this as I do. Yes, some Friends died in prison in England; and four were hanged in Boston. At that time relations with some Protestants were strained. And I agree Calvin differed greatly in approach from George Fox.

So far as I know, Orthodox beliefs are perfectly acceptable for Friends; and members are certainly entitled to prefer Orthodox services. The traditional Quaker form of worship is distinctive; but Quaker beliefs are not, apart from regarding Quaker practice as a legitimate form of Christianity. As to the choice of name, I just find calling myself a Friend in speech leads to confusion, particularly with those who have never heard of Quakers. But that name was originally derogatory, though it is no longer regarded as so today. Members and attenders can certainly avoid it, just as they could wear the traditional dress, although I doubt anyone does anymore.

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RickyB
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Before I even read - yay! I dig the Quakers more than most Christian denominations, even if they did inflict Milhous upon us all [Smile]

"Personally I am rather more a Quaker than RickyB is a religious Jew"

Um, that's like the easiest proposition in the world. All you have to do is not reject it outright, for both personal and political reasons [Big Grin]

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Athelstan
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William Penn is entered as one of the more important converts to the Religious Society of Friends. My personal view of the events written on the life of William Penn would be very different but that has nothing to do with any religious doctrine. I just wondered why William Penn is considered an important convert. Is it purely Pennsylvania which he obtained in repayment of his father’s loan to Charles II and later tried to sell for £12,000 near the end of his life? The hero of the jury incident, in my opinion, was Thomas Vere.
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Viking_Longship
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hobsen
Yeah a fellow freind once said to me "don't worry a need for a little liturgy now and then isn't such a bad thing."

Some of my family and some of my proffesors accused me of 'jumping around' since Orthodoxy and Quakerism seemed so different to them. However none of them were either Orthodox or Quakers and it was impossible to explain.

Basically both the Orthodox and the Quakers have a sacramental aproach to life itself, all of life. The whole "being as communion" aproach to things. Both traditions appreciate the idea of God speaking to us through our inner silence.

What I lacked amongst the Friends was a depth of tradition. Not that Quakers lack any tradition but by rejecting the notion of seminaries it's difficult to access in my experience.

THat and in my particular meeting they seemed to be preocuppied with gardening more than God. As in out of the warm silence a slow voice saying "I was working in my garden this week and felt the renewal of spring...."

But maybe that was just my meeting [Smile]

It's a great bunch of people and a nice way to live and think.

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Jesse
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Friends meetings are fun to attend.

Somebody gets moved to speak about how greatfull they are for the gift God gave them when he brought their cat into their life after their spouse passed, and someone is moved to ask that everyone pray for Iraqi kids in refugee camps, and some gets moved to give thanks for some guy who jump started their car.

That, and there's no awkward momment when everyone else takes communion.

[ March 08, 2008, 10:05 AM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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hobsen
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Yes, I remember a black man of about ninety telling stories nearly every meeting from his childhood on a farm in Indiana. And a woman who felt moved to rise and sing a hymn. You never know what will happen.

More seriously, when something important arises, there are conversations which go on for years. Someone says something, and it is duly considered, and someone else replies the next week. Coupled with participation by everyone from ten year olds to doddering elders, every side of an issue gets discussed. I know of no better way to arrive at a decision; but participating fully requires attending every single meeting, which can be hard to do. The only real alternative is to convene a panel of experts; but those tend to be dominated by middle-aged men, which means other viewpoints get left out. Relying exclusively on the meetings in my experience tends to become dry and sterile; the process demands serious outside study, and I quite agree that, "a need for a little liturgy now and then isn't such a bad thing." Friend's meetings were originally a supplement to the services of the Church of England, not a replacement for them.

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Jesse
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BTW -

Everybody is welcome, and as far as I know, very few faiths have a problem with their members going to sit in fellowship with other folks.

If anyone really wants to know what a meeting is like, they're ussualy advertised in the paper.

I'm not a Friend, but several of my dearest friends are, and when I was still in San Diego I used to go once or twice a month.

As I've explained more than once, I don't believe appeals to the Creator effect the course of events in this world, or in the power of ritual, but I do believe we are endowed by the Creator with the power to heal each other through Fellowship and Love. That's what meeting was about for me.

The meeting I used to attended was on the grounds of an Episcopal Church [Wink] . Seriously, no one will ask you to betray any tenants of your faith, or anything like that.

The most negative thing I've ever heard anyone say about the experience of attending was "I was bored". No one will twist your arm and try to "convert" you.

Hobsen, if you think I'm misdirecting anyone here, please correct me. I've only attended the one meeting, and it certainly wasn't Pastoral.

The Hymns were WAY non-denominatial. I'm talking "Morning Has Broken" non-denominational.

What I've said may well not apply everywhere, and then I'll feel like a jerk.

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OceanRunner
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quote:
As I've explained more than once, I don't believe appeals to the Creator effect the course of events in this world, or in the power of ritual, but I do believe we are endowed by the Creator with the power to heal each other through Fellowship and Love.
I like that, Jesse. Especially as a Christian who is still perplexed by the mysteries of God's intercession in our lives and tends to lean towards a deist perspective... what you said above, at least, seems like it must be true, even if the rest is debatable.

Ah, religion: even once you believe, you still have to spend the rest of your life making sense of it.

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hobsen
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So far as I understand, in the Church of England in the 17th century, it was quite acceptable for any member of the congregation to stand up and offer a rebuttal to the sermon given by the priest. That must have made services a lot more exciting, even if many of the rebuttals were no doubt ignorant. Anyway George Fox used to do that a lot.

In addition, he would start to preach wherever a crowd had gathered; and those present were the congregation. Friend's meeting without a pastor follow the same practice today; anyone present can participate, although yelling through a bullhorn would be discouraged. But it may be disconcerting for a casual attender to be asked whether God has enlightened him concerning some burning moral issue, or concerning how funds should be distributed in the meeting's budget. But the process is actually controlled; all are invited to participate, but that does not mean all opinions are given equal weight. Those recognized for their experience and knowledge were traditionally called "weighty Friends," and their participation given more importance, although it was recognized that inspiration might come from anywhere on occasion.

And what you have said, Jesse, agrees well enough with what I have experienced, or read, or heard from family stories of events more than a century ago. Although I am surprised that a traditional meeting sang hymns; but it makes sense, as Friends on the Pacific Coast are a mixture from various traditions; and a meeting can conduct services any way it sees fit.

[ March 08, 2008, 12:39 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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hobsen
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Since meetings are scarce, Friends who are travelling often refer to www.quakerfinder.org

That indicates whether meetings are pastoral or not, and theological orientation from universalist to Evangelical.

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Jesse
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Just at closing, Hobsen, and not always.

Like I said, WAY non-denominational hymns [Wink]

[ March 08, 2008, 01:35 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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Viking_Longship
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Apparently Spitzer decided to use a religious alias. He went by George Fox. Alternately he could have been getting a dig in at the Friends as Timothy Noah suggests here. http://www.slate.com/id/2186325
Or he could be getting a dig at heterodox new agey catholics by taking the name of radical excommunicated new-agey witch loving Mathew Fox's father George.

My guess is the former

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hobsen
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That is amusing, but he may have borrowed the name from an erstwhile friend:
quote:
(from 2006)"After chomping down a burger at the Ritz Carlton's Ocean Bar & Grill, Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer headed over to a beach chair to take in some sand and surf on Day 2 of his post-campaign vacation...

Alongside him was George Fox, a friend and political donor who is president of Titan Advisers, a hedge fund consulting company."

A search led me to Carlyle's comment:
quote:
"The most remarkable incident is passed over carelessly by most historians and treated with some degree of ridicule by others - namely, George Fox's making for himself a suit of leather.

"No grander thing was ever done than when George Fox, stitching himself into a suit of leather, went forth determined to find truth for himself - and to do battle for it against all superstition and intolerance."

This was Thomas Carlyle's considered opinion about the poor, uneducated English shoemaker, George Fox. So hard was his itinerate preaching life that he made for himself that famous pair of leather breeches, which have since become historical. Those breeches were known all over the country, says Macauley the historian. In the middle of the 17th century men feared the man dressed in that famous suit as much as the Jordan spectators, centuries before, feared the man who had the leathern girdle about his loins and who ate locusts and wild honey. And rightly so, for George Fox and John the Baptist were kindred spirits.

If Spitzer had imitated the earlier George Fox's costume as well as borrowing his name, he might have had more time to think while taking his pants off.

[ March 11, 2008, 08:26 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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Jesse
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Oh, at those hourly rates, I wouldn't be suprised if someone involved was wearing leather pants.
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hobsen
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I walked into that one. [Big Grin]
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RickyB
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Today in Slate:

"Eliot Spitzer is known as "Client 9" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To prostitutes, though, he was known by the alias "George Fox." If the "companions" available via Emperors' Club VIP were anywhere near as sophisticated as its Web site promised, then they likely recognized New York's high-profile governor. Even if they didn't, Spitzer's choice of pseudonym was kind of rude. The real George Fox is a somewhat hallowed figure in the annals of Christian faith. He founded the Religious Society of Friends (aka the Quakers) in England during the mid-17th century.

Fox was imprisoned repeatedly for his beliefs. Then his faith was dragooned into selling oatmeal. Then Jimmy Stewart made fun of the way Quakers talk in The Philadelphia Story ("Dost thou have a washroom?"). Then Richard Nixon, one of their own, spurned their pacifism by ordering the Christmas bombings. Now this indignity is visited upon the long-suffering Quakers. In considering his political options, Spitzer may still have friends. But I doubt he has any Friends."

Thought this was wry [Smile]

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hobsen
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Yes, it is funny. Viking_Longship posted that link to Slate four posts back on this thread. But it is worth reading twice.

The oatmeal usage led to the following correspondence:
quote:
Dear Mr. William Lovett,


I am the attorney at the Quaker Oats Company responsible for trademark matters. As you probably know, our company manufactures numerous food products, the most famous of which is oatmeal. In addition to having used the Quaker Oats name as our company name for close to 100 years, we have registered the Quaker name as a trademark.


It was therefore quite a surprise to discover that you are operating a business under the name "Quaker Oats Christmas Tree Farm." Your use of our trademark is likely to mislead consumers into believing that your business is associated with the Quaker Oats Company. It is also likely to weaken our very strong trademark. In light of the foregoing, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of the "Quaker Oats" name. While we would like to settle this matter amicably, we will take all steps which are necessary and appropriate to protect our name.

Sincerely, Janet L. Silverberg, counsel.


And the reply came promptly, with all the irony that only a quaker can muster...


Dear Janet Silverberg,


My breakfast this morning, rolled oats by the way, was interrupted by the arrival of your letter via FedEx, which was delivered to us despite the fact that you have misspelled our company name which is Quaker OAKS Christmas Tree Farm. Our farm was so named because religious services were held outdoors on this farm under a great oak tree until about ten years ago when we were able to move into our new Meetinghouse on another corner of our farm.


Our business is 100% owned and operated by Quakers. I suspect that your firm employs considerably fewer, if any, Quakers. We trace our Quaker ancestors back 320 years and they were mostly farmers, but I don't know how many of them grew oats for your company. My guess is that you may be selling far more Lutheran oats, Methodist oats, or maybe atheist oats. Could your company be guilty of product source misrepresentation?


We don't know why you choose to associate your commercial products with our faith, but we supposed you feel there is some marketing value from it. If you were selling machine guns, roulette wheels or some other product offensive to our Quaker faith, we would be upset by the association, but since we find your products wholesome and enjoyable, we consider your use of our name a compliment. We invite you to visit our farm to verify that we are indeed Quaker Oaks Christmas Tree Farm. If you come in December, we'd be happy to sell you a tree!


Sincerely, William Lovett, Visalia, California.

http://www.kvaekerne.dk/personal/HFH/humorquaker.html
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Viking_Longship
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LOL, that's great. No one does deadpan like Friends.

Her surname reminded me of an adage that Friends like to qoute "A quaker can buy from a scot, sell to a jew, and still make a profit."

Not PC but I suppose a few hundred years of activism entitles quakers to break a few rules.

Wonder how he feels about "Quaker State"?

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Pete at Home
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Sad thing is that this isn't necessarily a winning argument in this screwed up world. Didn't "Madonna" end up wresting control of madonna.com from the Catholic church in some trademark suit? [Frown]
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Storm Saxon
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I went to a friends meeting once. Awesome church, lovely grounds,nice people-- but alot of the people were dressed in t-shirts and flipflops. Which really bothered me.

Now, I think the whole thing about dressing and speaking plainly is cool, but, dude, there's such a thing as going too far.

Anyways, I may check it out again at some point. It was kind of sad, because there weren't that many people there. [Frown]

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hobsen
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Yes, I have often felt that modern Quaker dress at meetings is too informal also. But that is probably a reaction to former practices. As late as the Civil War, every Quaker dressed exactly the same every day, like a monastic habit, except for differences between men and women. My grandfather's sisters were still wearing that plain dress as late as 1910, much as conservative Amish do today. But when the uniform dress was abandoned, for making members of the sect look like freaks to their neighbors, the only things retained were that dress should be simple and modest. Quakers had no tradition telling them to dress any differently for meetings than in their daily lives, and in fact had a tradition against it. Maybe that will change, and I think it should.

As for numbers, the census reported about 300,000 Quakers in the United States fifty years ago. Today I think it is something like 220,000. But I was horrified to discover recently that - since I give my allegiance to Pacific Yearly Meeting - I am classed as a Beanite. Now Joel and Hannah Bean were wonderful people, and they fostered a Quaker style in Palo Alto which brought together opposing factions, but I wish they had been named something else. Anyway PYM had twelve meetings in 1948, has twice split off new yearly meetings since then, and has about forty meetings as members today. So some groups are probably growing while others are shrinking, but I do not really know.

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Storm Saxon
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Interesting! Thanks, hobsen. [Smile]
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RickyB
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Pete - is that true? That would be too funny. Then again, why exactly does the church need a .com suffix? Let them have Madonna.org/net.
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Viking_Longship
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I took my mom to a meeting once. SHe made the mistake of dressing in a leather coat that made noise everytime she moved. Not a great thing in what turneed out to be a completely silent (other than her coat) meeting. So I'll give the t-shirts this, they're quiet.
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hobsen
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Yes, I remember someone outside learning to play a musical instrument. The whole congregation shuddered with every false note. A trumpet, as I recall, probably wielded by a 7th grader.

About clothing, I was too terse before. Most Christians dress up on Sundays because they see it as a special day, and they are going to a consecrated building. But Friends see all days and all places as equally sacred. So Sunday among Friends is called First Day, to avoid a pagan reference; and meetinghouses are never consecrated. Thus some might feel a dress code would violate matters of belief. Personally I would see it as no more than a courtesy to visitors.

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