The Religious Society of Friends began in England about 1650, in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation. It began as a religious protest against what many perceived as the hollow formalism of the established church at that time.
George Fox, generally acknowledged as the founder, underwent a profound religious experience during which he heard a voice responding to his spiritual need: “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.” The immediacy of Christ became the heart of his message and ministry and marked the beginning of the Quaker movement.
Early Friends were seeking authentic spirituality, a return to what they called “primitive Christianity.” They sought a way of life that recognized each day as sacred and where actions, rather than words, were the measure of an authentic spiritual life.
Friends believe the Light of God is present within each person. Sometimes called the Divine Spark, the Inward Teacher, the Christ Within, the Seed, this Light informs our conscience and can guide our actions in the world.
Deep within us all there is an amazing sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. –Thomas Kelly
Worship at Housatonic Meeting is held in the manner of early Friends. Friends gather together in silence, settling down and allowing the inward chatter and concerns of everyday living to fall away. In the quiet we may experience, first hand, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Living God. As we learn to listen to the “still, small voice within,” we may receive insight, be comforted, be challenged, or receive guidance for our lives. Out of the silence one may be moved to speak.
The Practice of Faith
True godliness does not turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavors to mend it. – William Penn
Friends are encouraged to “let their lives speak,” guided by what have come to be called our traditional Testimonies.
The testimony of Simplicity calls for detachment from the obsessive grasping after possessions, recognition and other worldly concerns. It seeks honesty in speech, integrity in personal relations and business dealings, and a lifestyle that offers an alternative to the frenetic busyness of modern life.
The Peace testimony arises from the understanding that there is that of God in everyone. Therefore, Friends are encouraged to engage in active peace-making, to call for the non-violent resolution of conflict, and to speak out against all forms of injustice and war. It is recognized that peace begins within each one of us and, from there, extends outward to others.
The testimony of Integrity calls for correspondence between the inner life and its outward manifestations, between word and deed, between belief and practice. It seeks coherence among the various realms of our lives.
The testimony of Community acknowledges the centrality of relationship and our connection with one another. We respect the Light that each one may bring to bear upon a situation or decision. We honor the oneness of life.
The testimony of Equality recognizes the equality of all before God, no matter one’s age, gender, race, social position, or religion.
The testimony of Stewardship is founded upon respect for God’s creation and a spiritual concern for our environment. Conscientious care and protection of our planet, along with the right sharing of the world’s resources, reflect an understanding that we are to be good stewards of the gifts that have been given us.