Hidden away in our midst there exists a community of secret mystics. They don't wear saffron robes, or shave their heads, or take monastic vows. Neither do they gaze into crystal balls nor chant ancient mantras in order to propel themselves into altered states of consciousness. They live quietly among their neighbors working as teachers, drivers, parents, clerks, students, etc. Most of us wouldn't notice anything special about them. That is, until you stumble across the fact that they belong to the only religion in history to ever be collectively awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In fact, these folk have done such a good job of hiding in plain sight that for many people the only thing that comes to mind when they hear the word "QUAKER" is the oddly dressed man smiling beatifically back at them from the box of Quaker Oatmeal every morning. But the Quakers have been here offering the world a witness of radical equality, voluntary simplicity, and peace-making for over three hundred years.
In an age when religious and political certitudes are causing world-wide suffering, destruction, and fear, the Quakers, or "Religious Society Of Friends", as they like to call themselves, offer a path to spiritual awakening where the "seeking" is as cherished as the "finding". Although rooted originally in Christianity, Quakerism is a non-dogmatic spiritual path which affirms the potential of every person to connect with the central mystery that lies at the heart of human experience. Some call this mystery, "God", some the "Inner Light", some "Spirit", some "The Inner Christ", and some prefer not to name it at all. But deep within Quaker spirituality is the conviction that there is "That of God" within each person, indeed, within every creature, and every experience. That conviction is the guiding star that opens us to an ever deepening awareness of the fundamental unity and inter-connectedness of all creation.
The "Friends" have no clergy, no orthodoxies to defend, and no rituals, creeds, or scriptures to divide. They come together to collectively seek the the unmediated guidance of the "Inner Light" which is the fruit of that unique Quaker style of worship that rests in profound silence. To those unfamiliar with Quaker spirituality the silence of a Friend's Meeting may seem very puzzling and unlike any "worship" experience they have ever had. Nothing seems to be happening. But out of that communal silence have come the collective insights called the "TESTIMONIES" that make up the Quaker path: radical commitment to equality, non-violence, voluntary simplicity of life, integrity, and community. The conviction that the light of God shines in all has, for centuries, put the Quakers in the forefront of the struggle for civil rights for slaves, women, gays and lesbians, children, prisoners, and the mentally or physically handicapped. Their commitment to peace-making and reconciliation has earned them the Nobel Peace Prize, (as well as prison terms and persecution).
They welcome all who seek the serenity of the enlightened spirit that comes from love, prayer, and service. You won't find them on the box of oatmeal anymore. But, here in Norman, you will find them meeting at St. John's Episcopal Church every Sunday at 5pm in the little chapel at 235 W.Duffy St., Norman. (nursery service available).