Attempt to Make Quakers More People-Friendly; RELIGION: Society of Friends Concerned That Most Don't Know That the Movement Still Exists

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE DUBE

THREE hundred and fifty years after George Fox founded the Society of Friends, Quakers are finding out why most Welsh members seem to be English-speaking and middle class.

"After many years of dormancy the Quaker movement in Wales is flourishing again, but we're largely white, Anglo-Saxon and middle class, " said project co-ordinator Stevie Krayer of Ciliau Aeron, Lampeter.

"We are concerned that people who might be interested in the Quaker movement just don't know that we're here."

Unlike George Fox, modern Quakers do not evangelise or try to recruit, but Ms Krayer said the 350th anniversary was an appropriate time to reach out into the wider community and practise the Quaker ideals of openness and friendship.

Many people in Wales have been reminded of the Quaker presence in Wales by the recent screening of a drama series based on Marion Eames's novel Y Stafell Ddirgel - The Secret Room.

"But we wonder whether they have the mistaken impression that all the Welsh Quakers emigrated or died out centuries ago."

There are around 1,000 Friends and 33 meetings across a wide geographical spread of Wales. Some own or rent their own meeting houses but most circulate around different homes.

"We are very scattered in some rural areas, so we move around there and use our own homes, much like the early Quakers."

George Fox travelled around Wales with his interpreter Sion ap Sion of Ruabon and many people became Quakers in the religious upheavals that characterised the mid 17th Century.

Their disdain for class, social custom and status, and disregard for social etiquette and convention, made them a serious threat to the status quo and they were severely persecuted.

Many emigrated to America rather than compromise their beliefs. Those that stayed, including the Nantucket whalers who settled at Milford Haven in the 1790s in the only recorded mass return migration from America to Britain, were reduced to a few hundred after the religious revivals of the 19th and early 20th centuries. …