All posts by renofriends

The Case for Silence

There is something about the stillness of midwinter that soothes the soul.  Much of the natural world sleeps.  Though the wind still blows and birds hop about searching for seeds, for the most part the cold and dark confer a deep, healing silence.

Many of us who attend Quaker Meeting on Sundays are drawn by the opportunity to sit in communal silence for an hour.  The Quaker silence started, in part, as a reaction to church services of the 17th century, which were filled with ritual and liturgy.  Early Quakers believed, instead, that each person must come to her or his own understanding and experience of God.  The silence is a chance to listen for God – stillness enables us to quiet the busyness of our brains and discern what God might want us to hear.  It requires waiting.

Sitting quietly and waiting are not things we do much anymore.  With our ever-present phones and ubiquitous Internet connections, we rarely allow ourselves to be bored.  Instead of daydreaming while waiting in line at the grocery, we pull out our phones and fill our heads with news and gossip.  Sadly, this barrage of information has taken something precious away.  That is why I find silent worship so powerful.

There is no single prescribed way to be silent in Quaker Meeting.  Some pray, others meditate, and many of us sort through the clutter in our minds.  But no matter how you start, eventually a quiet descends.  For me this quiet feels like an open sky – huge, empty and holy.  Untethered from my own wishes and worries, it’s much easier to listen for deeper messages that may arise in my mind.  It’s a way of tapping our truer selves, reconnecting with our own humanity and vulnerability.  It’s a chance to renew our sense of wonder with the world.

The 17th-century Quaker Robert Barclay said this about silent worshippers:  “Each made it their work to return inwardly to the measure of grace in themselves, and not being only silent as to words but even abstaining from all their own thoughts, imaginations and desires.”

It is also within this space that Quakers listen and try to understand what the divine spirit would have them do.  This kind of discernment works best within a condition of tranquility and freedom from the demands of one’s own ego and will,  a state that the silence provides.  The modern Quaker Arthur O. Roberts suggests that silence indicates submission to God and can help Quakers prepare for effective social witness.  Silence can strengthen our souls and our resolve to let our lives speak, as Quaker founder George Fox said.

It is important to remember that Quakers sit in communal silence, not alone.  Some religious traditions couple silence and solitude, but not the Quakers.  We sit together in silence for many reasons, but part of it is to honor and support each other’s silence.  When someone in the group feels led to share a message, those words carry more weight because they rise out of the conditions of our shared silence.

Yes, there are, occasionally, words in the Quaker silence.  As much as we are drawn into the silence, we also worship together in expectation that someone else’s experience of God might speak to us through the messages others share.  Check back next month for the case for words.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting

Mindful Giving

Sometimes I wonder what Christmas would be like if we got rid of presents.

We would have more time to sing carols and deck the halls with boughs of holly.  Instead of spending Christmas Eve madly wrapping, we could gather around a wassail bowl with close friends and family to swap memories and aspirations.  We would have time to step out under a starlight sky and imagine angels appearing to the shepherds as they tended their flocks at night.  We could edge closer to the stillness that abides in the dark cold of midwinter, and take time to appreciate the warmth of the candlelight when we come inside.

I know the consumerism associated with Christmas today troubles many Quakers.  Early Friends refused to celebrate Christmas and Easter, saying such rituals distracted from true religious experience, and many Quaker Meetings still do not hold special holiday services.  Yet most of us – despite our misgivings – put presents under the Christmas tree as part of our holiday.  Could there be a better way?  How can we shake off the glitz and frenzy of the season to find ways of giving that uphold our Quaker testimonies of simplicity and integrity?

Quaker Earthcare Witness, a Quaker organization that addresses ecological and social crises from a spiritual perspective, suggests we practice “mindful giving” during the holiday season.  Look for gifts that have little impact on the environment, such as refurbishing furniture or passing on beloved books.  Or, instead of giving things, give a promise of an experience, such as a pledge to take someone dancing or make them a special meal.  Write someone a poem, or play the piano for them.  You can also gift people with a donation to their favorite charity, or membership in an advocacy group that promotes a cause they believe in.  Or give someone an imaginative “coupon book” that might include a free garage-cleanup, lending your car or joining them on a hike.

Last Christmas my ninety-year-old mother gave everyone the most wonderful gifts.  She didn’t know she was practicing “mindful giving,” but she was.  Instead of buying presents for her many grandchildren, she went through her collection of framed artwork, books, kitchen treasures and knickknacks, and found something special for all of them.  Geoffrey, an animal-lover, got the owl bookends carved from green marble; Craig, an electrical engineer, got his great-grandfather’s antique adding machine; college-girl Mary got an oriental jewelry box; and Joe, our pie-maker, got his grandfather’s beloved apron.  Every one of them was touched to have something chosen just for them from their grandparents’ house, and my mother was thrilled to pass useful things on to the next generation.

When the Three Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child, they meant them as symbols of honor and respect.  Sometimes I feel we’ve lost the sense of reverence at the heart of gift-giving.  Rather than rejecting gift-giving, perhaps we can embrace it as a chance to show those we love that we know who they are.  Any gift carefully chosen—no matter how small or silly or homemade—can carry the message of love in this sacred season.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting

Intellectual Integrity

A central tenet of Quakerism is the Integrity Testimony, which encourages Quakers to tell the truth, say what they really mean, and stand up for what they believe, even in the face of condemnation or conflict.

This imperative can also apply to how we approach information and news and form our opinions. If the nation ever needed clear-headed people with strong principles of intellectual integrity, now is the time.

Yet intellectual integrity can be hard to pin down. Is it being open-minded or is it being true to what you know? Is it listening to those you disagree with, or is it saying what you believe even if it is hurtful to others?

Seeking guidance, I stumbled across the Critical Thinking Community, a non-profit that promotes fair-minded critical thinking in education and society. According to this group, intellectual integrity comprises several elements:

  • recognizing the need to be true to one’s own thinking;
  • being consistent in the intellectual standards one applies;
  • holding oneself to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which one holds one’s antagonists;
  • practicing what one advocates for others; and,
  • being able to honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies in one’s own thought and action.

The Integrity Testimony can be a difficult master. I blush to consider how many times I’ve violated one of these guidelines, went along with a crowd or lacked the fortitude to apply my intelligence to a problem. Given that many issues today bristle with complications, how do we foster our own intellectual integrity as we sort through opposing positions and heated political talk?

The Critical Thinking Community has several suggestions. First, that we practice intellectual humility by recognizing the limits of our own knowledge and developing a sensitivity to our own biases. Most of us have deeply held beliefs about what is right, but sometimes we might need to step back and re-examine old positions and prejudices. Has time changed the facts? Do experts now have a better understanding? Have unintended consequences of such an approach been revealed? And toughest of all, could there be wisdom in some of the positions we dislike the most? All are important questions, and it takes intellectual humility to consider them.

Along with humility, the group suggests we practice intellectual empathy, the idea of putting ourselves in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them. Open-mindedness and fair-mindedness seem critical to closing the many divides between us. In the end, intellectual integrity requires us to commit to analyzing and evaluating our opinions on the basis of reason and evidence, with humility and empathy. That can take time, effort and patience, but it usually leads to more reasonable positions.

Sometimes when our Quaker Meeting is trying to decide what to do about an issue or problem, we take a long time to discern what God would have us do. Quakers can be famously argumentative with as many opinions as there are people in the room, but I believe that helps us practice tolerance. And in most cases, by giving everyone a chance to be heard and acknowledged, and by staying open-minded and seeking out common ground, we usually discern our way to a solution. And if we don’t, we sit silently in the light of God and wait until we do.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting


Are Quakers Mennonites? Or Amish?

Every so often we get a call at Reno Friends Meeting from someone wondering if the Quakers are Mennonites or perhaps part of the Amish faith. I used to find these questions amusing, as if people assumed we drive buggies, dress in simple clothes or wear colonial-style hats, like the smiling, white-haired guy on the Quaker Oats box. But it turns out the question is not so silly.

With some research, I began to understand the confusion. The Quakers, Mennonites and Amish have similar roots. All three groups rose as Protestant religious reformers in Europe and were drawn to America to escape religious persecution. All three put down significant roots in colonial Pennsylvania and later spread into other states. All three are known as peace churches: they practice nonresistance and oppose military service. They all emphasize the importance of community, having often been ostracized in their early years by mainstream society, and they follow a principle of simplicity.

Beyond those similarities, however, is a host of difference. According to Wikipedia, the Mennonites started as an Anabaptist movement in Holland and Germany in the 16th century. The Anabaptists were Protestants who rejected baptism for infants and instead baptized adults once they accepted the faith. Today there are about 1.5 million practicing Mennonites. The Mennonite Church is complex and diverse. Most are moderate theologically and, in most forms of worship and practice, differ very little from other mainstream Protestant congregations. Worship services usually consist of singing, scripture, prayer and a sermon from the pastor. The Mennonites advocate a personal relationship with Christ and a simple life, but do not restrict use of modern technology. Some conservative Mennonites wear plain dress, but many modern Mennonites do not.

The Amish, also an Anabaptist group, share many basic principles with the Mennonites, but split from the Mennonites in 1693 and embraced a more reclusive way of living. They generally reside in closed groups of families living in rural areas. They hold worship services in private homes. They have bishops, ministers and deacons who set rules that cover many aspects of life. There are different strains of Amish, but in the most common membership in the church starts when a child comes of age and is baptized. From then on, a church member shuns outsiders, marries only within their group, and generally rejects new technology and labor-saving devices, most notably cars. They are considered one of the most conservative religious groups in the United States:  they reject birth control and higher education and prohibit women from wearing pants. They number about 225,000 members, most of whom wear plain dress.

Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, diverge from the Mennonites and Amish most fundamentally in their form of worship. Most Quakers Meetings, particularly unprogrammed Quaker Meetings such as Reno Friends, do not have ministers, as they resist having creeds or a church hierarchy. Unprogrammed Quakers also worship in silence, with no sermon or music or liturgy. Individuals occasionally rise to share a message when they feel moved by God. There are some programmed Quaker Meetings, which split off in the nineteenth century and have pastors and programmed services, but they are less common. Quakers do not baptize members or celebrate communion – they consider all moments equally sacred and so do not believe in sacraments. Most Quakers today are tolerant theologically, believing that each person’s personal experience of God is what should direct that person’s faith. There are about 360,000 adult Quakers in the world. In the United States, the Religious Society of Friends is known for its early support of abolition and for its network of top-notch schools and colleges. While there are a few conservative Quakers who wear plain dress, most Quakers wear modern clothing.

As the Protestant reformers discovered, there are many ways to worship God. But after understanding both the Mennonites and Amish better, I am pleased that some of the tenets I admire most about the Quakers – the Peace, Simplicity and Community Testimonies – are shared with these other faiths.  Maybe we’re not that different after all.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting

The Power of Love

Watching the news these days can leave you with a case of whiplash. One day we see images of white supremacists skirmishing with counter-protestors in Charlottesville, then we watch as scores of volunteers rescue neighbors and strangers from flooding in Houston. Are we a nation of hate or love? Are we divided or connected? 

All this has left me thinking a lot about the second commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” A Quaker lobbying organization recently sent our Meeting a batch of pins and bumper stickers that read “Love Thy Neighbor: No Exceptions.” I offered them to those lingering after silent worship one day but had few takers. I hesitated as well, knowing I was unlikely to apply one to my bumper. It seemed to set too high a standard, one I would fail every day. As another Reno Friend said, with a rueful smile, “what if I don’t love my neighbor?”

Ah, the thorn in the garden of love. The difficult neighbor who fails to live in a neighborly fashion, the officemate who undermines your work, the friend who knifes you in the back. Even worse are those whose beliefs and principles baffle us.  How are we to love them? How can we engage in meaningful dialogue if we dislike each other?

This is one of the biggest challenges facing our fractured society. Friends’ testimony asks us to speak both truthfully and lovingly when trying to resolve conflict, whether within Quaker Meetings or in the outside world. But that can be difficult. Truth-telling often seems harsh rather than loving. Quaker writer Alison Sharman tells of finding herself in the middle of “a difficult exercise of Quaker decision-making.” She wailed to an older and wiser Friend, “how can I speak the truth in love when I feel no love?” The older Friend answered, “unless you speak the truth there never will be love.”

Perhaps, but how do we bridge the distance between truth and love? In search of answers, I ran across a quote from Anne Hillman, a poet and author who writes on spiritual issues. “Love is not a feeling,” Hillman says. “Love is a great power, an intelligence to which we are all heir and have been forever called.”

The idea that love is not a feeling felt strangely liberating. If we are not required to feel love, it frees us from getting tangled in the honest stirrings of our hearts. As social creatures, it is natural for us to like and dislike different people, just as we like and dislike certain foods or experiences.

If we think instead of love as a power, the door opens to all kinds of fruitful exchange. As Hillman says, it’s a power and an intelligence. By that she means it is a power to be used thoughtfully, appropriately, with grace and care. Love, then, becomes the context for communication. Love becomes the action of seeking understanding. Perhaps this is what Quakers mean when we say “Look for the Light of God in everyone.” The simple act of seeking that Light is how you convey love to those you don’t understand.

These are difficult times, without a doubt. Author Susan Vreeland observes: “No matter where life takes you, the place that you stand at any given moment is holy ground. Love hard, and love wide and love long and you will find the goodness in it.” I’m taking those as my marching orders. Maybe now I can put that bumper sticker on my car.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting

Other Religions

I recently attended an Episcopal service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a ceremony filled with thundering organ music, priests in crimson robes, and prayer after prayer.  It had been years since I attended a religious service with so much pomp and finery, and I admit it was moving.  The gorgeous stained-glass windows and soaring arches of the cathedral, the echoing hymns of the choir as it processed down the long aisle, the haunting recitative of the prayers.  The only thing missing was silence.

I was there to witness the ordination of my niece, who became an Episcopal priest that morning.  My family, it turns out, casts a wide religious tent.  There are Congregationalists, Unitarians, Quakers, Episcopalians, Methodists, Jews, Catholics and atheists.  In the Episcopal Church my niece finds a richness in worship that inspires her and opens pathways to the divine.  I understand that:  many prefer to worship through song and repeated prayer, or find solace and wisdom in sermons and liturgical readings.

For me, however, the absence of the silence is unsettling.  Halfway through the service, I closed my eyes to allow my mind to bend inward toward the place where I find God.  I am deeply proud of my niece, but I found I could not participate in the sacrament of communion, even though I had the opportunity to take the wafer and blessing from her hand.  The Quakers rejected priests and sacraments nearly 400 years ago. Once I learned to “wait silently in the Light,” I’ve never again hungered for more traditional worship.

Still, it was a stirring service, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  It reminded me how important it is to appreciate and respect the ways other people and religions reach for God.  The British Yearly Meeting has an appropriate query about this:  “Do you work gladly with other religious groups in the pursuit of common goals? While remaining faithful to Quaker insights, try to enter imaginatively into the life and witness of other communities of faith, creating together the bonds of friendship.”

At the end of the day, we all walk our own spiritual paths, and the variety of our choices provides a wealth of experience.  How lucky we are to be able to make our path our own.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting


Clerking a Quaker Meeting

The clerk of a Quaker Meeting has a pivotal role: he or she is supposed to lead the monthly business meeting and keep track of administrative tasks and how they are executed.  When I first offered to serve as Meeting clerk for Reno Friends Meeting several years ago, I figured my background and skills as a former university professor and administrator would be just the ticket.

How wrong I was.

I recently attended a workshop on clerking in Quaker Meetings, and within half an hour I discovered that I had missed the big picture.  Yes, part of my job is to “keep the trains running,” but more important my job is to midwife the Meeting’s spirit-led decision process.

Unprogrammed Quaker Meetings such as Reno Friends have no minister or board of deacons to provide leadership.  Instead, the Meeting is a gathered community led by spirit.  That means Quaker process is less about reaching practical decisions quickly and more about finding solutions by opening collectively to what God would have us do.

Easily said, but difficult to do.  When I run business meeting, I have an agenda of items we need to address, and I am always watching the clock.  Individuals in the Meeting often have different ideas about how to proceed.  Some speak frequently, while others sit back and say little.  And all of us have slightly different beliefs and convictions.  How am I to reconcile these conflicting currents and needs?

It turns out that I’m supposed to make time and space for us to better discern God’s leading.  Over the last 400 years, Quakers have developed a body of moral and spiritual advices and testimonies based on their experience of God in the world.  These range from how to seek that of God in everyone, to issues such as practicing social justice and non-violence.  These guidelines help Quakers discern God’s intentions.

Our business meetings are formally known as “Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.”  That’s a mouthful of a title, but it contains an important point:  business is to be done in a worshipful process.  According to Storm Evans, a Quaker in Philadelphia, the purpose of a business meeting is to listen to each other, to listen to God, and to deepen our understanding of God by deepening our love for each other.

To help this happen, we open our business meetings with a period of silent worship, and we take the time we need to let answers emerge.  We remember to speak out of ministry, which means sharing ideas and concerns that feel led by God.  We seek to reach unity of heart, rather than a compromise or consensus of will.

Sometimes we need to stop and return to reflective silence, or table a discussion to gather our thoughts and consult our own hearts.  If something is contentious, we can convene a worship sharing session, when everyone gets a chance to share during a service where messages are heard rather than debated.  All these tools require patience, but the decisions that emerge from a careful, thoughtful process are usually more durable than resolutions arrived at hastily.

I am beginning to understand.  As clerk of the Meeting, I am not helmsman or sheepdog or leader.  I am a listener, and I am to listen to the Meeting and to God.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting

Working for Peace, Peacefully

An attender at Reno Friends Meeting asked me a thought-provoking question the other day. “How do you work for peace, peacefully?” I understood what she meant. With so much anxiety in our political culture today it’s easy to get swept up by the frenzy of showing up for protests, writing letters to Congress, and circulating online petitions. This work feels important because it is, yet it can leave us feeling worried and angry. So how do we rally our strength and composure to work for peace with peace in our hearts?        

The Quaker columnist Parker Palmer recently wrote an article titled “What’s an Angry Quaker to Do?” In the piece, he admits to feeling deep wells of anger over current affairs, and asks whether anger should have a role in our response. As Quakers, he says, we are led to live by the values articulated in our testimonies: community, equality, simplicity, non-violence and peace. So do our testimonies mean we should ignore or deny the understandable anger we feel in our hearts? Should we forgive and tolerate everything?

As a wise psychologist once told me, anger is a sign that something is amiss, something that needs care and attention. Ignoring or repressing anger rarely helps, and it runs contrary to the Integrity testimony, which reminds us to be true in our words, including to ourselves. And yet, anger expressed can also corrode our best intentions, and anger directed at others rarely accomplishes anything good.

One answer to this dilemma is our Peace Testimony, which describes peace as the work of “sustaining relationships of mutual human regard, of seeing and speaking to that of God in everyone, of seeking peace within ourselves, the family, the community and the world.” This, I think, is the key to managing our anger in the face of injustice: to work for peace with peace in our hearts, we must connect to that of God and the hope for peace in the hearts of others.

The British Yearly Meeting has a helpful query: “Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

As author and Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote, “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting


Memorial Meetings in the Manner of Friends

A woman called me once with a question: did Quakers have funerals? Her mother, who had been a First Day School teacher at a Colorado Friends Meeting, had recently died. The woman, who had little experience of Quakerism herself, wondered whether the Colorado Meeting would hold a service and what such a service would be like.

As the Quakers are a spiritual community that worships in silence, this question gave me pause. I knew that Quakers held Memorial Meetings but had never attended one. I also knew that Quakers do not celebrate the ritualized sacraments of more traditional Christian faiths because they believe that every moment is sacred. To celebrate one moment as more sacred than others diminishes the sacred in the everyday. If they don’t celebrate the sacrament of a formal funeral, what do they do? I told the woman I would find an answer and get back to her.

When I checked our Quaker guide, Faith & Practice, I found that Friends’ Memorial Meetings for Worship are done the same way Quakers do most things:  gently, tolerantly, inclusively, and wrapped in the healing power of the Silence. On the appointed day, Friends gather for the Memorial Meeting and sit down in silence. Sometimes a member of the Meeting will start by rising and explaining how the Memorial Meeting will progress. Other Meetings hand out a written explanation. As memorials often bring non-Quakers into our Meeting Houses, it’s important to tell people what to expect.

The Memorial Meeting progresses organically. After a period of settled silence, someone from the Meeting – or a member of the family of the deceased – may read a prepared memorial message about the person. After that, Friends and attenders may rise and share personal memories or thoughts. As in all Meetings for Worship, such messages should come from the Light, with pools of silence between them so that all can reflect on what has been shared. Sometimes a poem will be read, or a hymn will be sung, but all in the context of the Silence. Those who have attended Memorial Meetings say they are often deeply spiritual events.

As it turns out, Reno Friends will be holding a Memorial Meeting soon, as one of our dearest members passed away last week. Ricki Ann Jones was a powerhouse of love and open-heartedness. She came to us just five years ago, having moved from Berkeley, California, where she was a member of Berkeley Friends. She had recently had a stroke, which garbled her speech, and her tiny frame was disabled by other health problems. But she burned with a love for others that illuminated the room. She adopted our Meeting as her Reno family, planning outings and parties, and engaging in adult education classes, spiritual discussions and book groups, always looking for a way to share and bring joy. We will miss her deeply; indeed, the Meeting House will not feel the same without her. May she rest in the Light.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.

Why Newcomers Attend Quaker Meeting

In recent months, a stream of newcomers has come to Reno Friends Meeting to try out the Quaker approach to worship. We’re always thrilled to see new faces but sometimes worry newcomers will be surprised by what they find. Unlike most churches, who worship with words and music, Quakers sit together for an hour of contemplative silence, punctuated occasionally by an individual standing to share a message from the heart. Coming into silent worship for the first time can feel like dropping into a new dimension. And so I wondered – what brings someone to a Quaker Meeting?

Talking with our recent newcomers, I’ve found that people have come to our Meeting for a range of interesting reasons. Some of our newcomers said they knew about Quakerism and had considered trying it for some time. For others, the idea of silent worship was a completely new experience, but one they thought might meet their needs at this point in their lives.

As the political climate has heated up, several told me they felt a hunger for silence. One visitor even shared that her prior church experience had gotten “too noisy.” She came to Quaker Meeting looking for something more contemplative. Another newcomer said he wanted to figure out for himself what to believe, and needed a quiet space to sort through his questions and doubt.

One young man told me he had heard so many interesting stories about Quakers, he had to check us out. He had read about Quakers fighting during wartime for the right to be conscientious objectors, and of their early efforts to promote abolition in the United States. More recently, he had heard of their social justice work and their resistance to paying taxes to finance wars. Other newcomers said they were also intrigued by the Quaker testimonies, which guide us to live lives of integrity, simplicity and stewardship of the Earth and our communities. Some said they appreciated the Quakers’ acceptance of everyone, no matter where they are from or whom they love.

All these comments resonated with me. I first sought out the Quaker silence many years ago because I was weary of ministers telling me what to think and believe. I loved that Quakers asked themselves “queries,” probing questions about important issues, rather than following a common creed that everyone must agree to. I found the silence of worship challenging at first, but soon came to treasure the deep centering and mental quiet that grounded me each week at Meeting. Now, when I occasionally attend a traditional church service, I feel there’s little room for me to consider what is in my head and heart, and I long for the silence.

But the newcomer with the most intriguing story was the one who said he had taken a quiz at an online “religion calculator,” which concluded he should be a Quaker. So he came to see what the Meeting was all about. After hearing about the online site, I tried it myself. I was happy to learn its “Spiritual Belief System Selector” concluded I am worshipping with the right group. It’s an interesting quiz, designed to sort religious preferences and beliefs in a systematic, even-handed way. If you’re curious about what belief system you align with, try it out at

Of course, we welcome anyone curious about silent worship and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). We invite you to join us at 10 am on a Sunday morning at our Meeting House in Reno.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.