Many who visit Friends Meetings wonder if Quakers celebrate Christmas. It’s a good question: because we worship in silence, without a traditional worship program, there’s no structured role for the Christmas story or hymns and carols.
Our Quaker Meeting House may be small, but its heart is big. Since its founding in 1994, Reno Monthly Meeting has welcomed the LGBT community. We celebrate the recent federal appeals court ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriages in Nevada, and we cheer when national figures like Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook feel free to profess that they are gay. I was particularly moved by the words Cook chose as he made his announcement late last month: “I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
If there was ever a time to seriously consider the Friends’ Simplicity Testimony, that time is now. Technological changes and modernity have brought a dizzying array of media, personalities and international events to our digital doorsteps. New gadgets complicate things we thought we understood, like our television sets and phones. New channels of communication and entertainment open daily, cluttering our lives with more things we never knew we lacked.
In 1651, English Puritans imprisoned Quaker founder George Fox in a dungeon for refusing to fight in the English Civil War. Out of this refusal grew the testimony to peace among early Quakers. As Fox said: “…we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world.”
Every fall the Reno Friends head to Grover Hot Springs State Park near Markleeville, California, for a weekend camping trip. We hike, swim in the hot springs pool, huddle in tents when it rains, and cook epic meals over bonfires. Most important, we talk — sometimes casually, sometimes with intensity. For a group that worships in silence, our time together around the campfire feels precious and important.
Recently a Reno Friend offered the Meeting a large photograph of a maple leaf. It was a vivid image, the veins of the leaf quite pronounced, branching and spreading in all directions. The Friend told us she became attached to the image after another Reno Friend suggested the leaf illustrated that there are many paths to God. Her hope was that we would hang the painting in the Meeting House.
When I went through a difficult time in my life many years ago, I drew great solace from a group of Quaker women. We met twice a month for fellowship and food, offering each other in turn the gift of compassionate listening. I was moved by their patience with me and by their restraint. Instead of showering me with advice, they just listened, trusting that all I needed was a chance to lay out the problem and see it afresh.
For the past several months, Reno Friends have been meeting twice a month to explore what the Quakers call “testimonies” – shared truths that Quakers have learned through their own experience.
When my husband and I moved to Reno seven years ago, we went searching for a spiritual community online….