Heart to Heart: Friends Worship in Silence to Inspire Service to the World

Article excerpt

Byline: HEART TO HEART By Helen Park For The Register-Guard

In an old Quaker joke, a stranger walks into a Friends meeting and finds himself surrounded by silence. After several minutes, he whispers to the fellow beside him, "When does the service begin?" The amused Friend whispers, "The service begins when the meeting is over!" This story brings up two aspects of Quaker practice: silent worship and service.

The Friends Meeting, with our meeting house on Onyx Street, is distinct from the Friends Church on 18th Avenue. We have no pastor or prescribed order of service. We worship in silence, with occasional ministry that can come from anyone present. We believe that everyone has direct access to Divine inspiration and communion.

By stilling the clamor of the outside world and of our own minds, we listen to "the still, small voice within." Out of this deep listening, many feel inspired to service in the world. For 350 years Friends have held to "testimonies" to order our lives. These statements of faith are about peace, equality, simplicity and community.

The peace testimony is the best known. Quakers are famous for refusing to fight or participate in war. Due to the work of Quakers and others, laws were passed after World War I authorizing alternative service for conscientious objectors. Today in Eugene, Friends are involved in peace activism promoting an end to war in Iraq, war tax resistance, gun control, nonviolence training in prisons, peace education in schools, Middle East reconciliation and support of national and international peace organizations and efforts.

Our belief in equality has put Quakers historically and currently in the forefront of work on behalf of civil rights, women's rights, basic needs and dignity for the homeless and hungry, rights of same-sex couples, farm workers and prison reform. …