The Quakers and silence

I’m a Quaker. I have been for more than 20 years now. At the heart of the Quaker Meeting for Worship lies silence. 

Pierre Lacont describes the silence of the Meeting like this: 

In silence which is active, the Inner Light begins to glow…for the flame to grow, subtle argument and the clamour of our emotions must be stilled. It is by an attention full of love that we enable the Inner Light to blaze and illuminate our dwelling and to make our whole being a source from which the Light may shine out. Words must be purified in a redemptive silence if they are to bear the message of peace.’

We are committed to pacifism and have been for 300 years and we have taken a radical lead in social work, mental health care, women’s suffrage, prison reform and the abolition of slavery. Within our Society we have no leadership, no hierarchy, no paid or trained ministers, no set rituals, no icons or alters, no credal formalities. We simply gather together and sit in collective silence to give ourselves a space in which our hearts and minds can unite beyond words and in doing so discern the fullness of truth as we see it. 

Of course we have business meetings in which every voice can be heard but in order to carry through a proposition there must be a 100% agreement. Sometimes I’ve known this to-ing and fro-ing to take hours but I wait patiently (and patience is definitely at the bottom of my list of virtues, unfortunately) because I know from the certainty of experience that out of shared silence a shared voice can emerge, that by listening closely to spirit we can step into radical social action and our leading is always ultimately for peace. That is why I treasure our gatherings bedded in silence so much.