How do Quakers live in community?

Community is implicit in our very name—the Religious Society of Friends. Though each of us has our own personal understanding of, and relationship with, God or Spirit or the divine, it’s important for us to come together in worship, to share messages and insights with each other. Being a community is more than just everyone showing up in the same space at the same time, though; it’s about learning to set aside personal differences and act as a unified force for good.

We do this with deliberate intention because, underneath our individual differences, we all have “that of God within us,” or, if you prefer, we are each of us made in the image of God. Honoring and respecting each other, then, is a way of honoring and respecting God.

That holds true for people who aren’t Quakers, as well! We recognize that we exist in relationship to all of humanity, and we strive therefore to live in “right relationship,” knowing that our happiness and well-being is ultimately bound with the happiness and well-being of everyone else. This holds true not just spiritually, but economically and politically—Quakers understand that when one of us is in chains, as the song says, none of us are free.

“We can all be ministers to one another, but… none of us can do it alone. We are all blessed with gifts from God—with spiritual gifts, with talents, with knowing God at all—and so we have to work together. We have to worship together, and in that work and in that breaking the bread beautiful things are possible.

We haven’t always lived up to that ideal, of course. In the United States, for example, many Quakers are taking a second look at the Society’s historical relationship with Black and Native people, acknowledging the ways in which our predecessors failed to honor that of God within them, which we discuss in more detail in the next section. We cannot change our past, of course, but by acknowledging it, we can begin to take steps towards repairing the harm we have done and establishing more equal and equitable communities in our meetinghouses, in our neighborhoods, and on a global level.

NEXT: Speaking of equality and equity…

Learn more at Friends Journal

A Community Formed for Faithfulness,” Marcelle Martin

Community Dinner at Brooklyn’s Quaker Diner,” Carl Blumenthal

Towards a Peaceable Community: An Invitation to Co-Creation,” La Verne Shelton

Acknowledging the Nature of Community,” Nan Bowles

“What is the blessed community? Well, for me, it’s a community where everyone has value and we’re actually able to see that of God in each person and to be able to live in community, sharing the gifts that God has given us with each other.”