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About The Quakers
The Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers, grew out of the ideas and beliefs of George Fox in the mid-seventeenth century. Disillusioned with the religious beliefs and practices of those around him, he felt that everyone could discover their ‘Inner Light’ and find and experience God within themselves.
Despite persecution and imprisonment, the Quakers petitioned, through non-violent means, for freedom of conscience in religious matters. These ideas were encapsulated by Margaret Fell, the mother of Quakerism, in her testimony of peace. It’s core belief in peace, equality, social and economic justice, and sustainability have inspired Quakers past and present to work towards a better, fairer world.
Quaker beliefs today are enshrined in their four ‘testimonies’ – simplicity, truth, equality and peace.
The Importance of Community in Quaker Funerals and Memorials
Community is at the core of Quakerism and meeting for worship is the bedrock of living as a Quaker. Everyone is welcome and can contribute to the service. Their is no leader, but Friends and ‘elders’ may encourage and nurture the ministry.
Quaker Meeting Houses
Quaker friends and others from the community gather together, usually on a Sunday at a Quaker meeting house. Worship lasts about an hour and starts with quiet contemplation. Simplicity and silence are crucial elements of Quaker worship.
Anyone at the meeting can then share their thoughts, which is known as giving ‘ministry’. The meeting ends when two friends shake hands.
The Quaker Funeral
Community and the meeting house play a vital role in Quaker funerals and in memorials too. Quaker funerals are simple and informal. They take the same form as a regular meeting for worship. They are a time for quiet reflection, silence and stillness, to encourage emotional connection between mourners. The focus is also on giving thanks for, and celebrating, the life of the person who has died.
The meeting will start with an introduction from one of those present, usually a friend or an elder. Anyone can contribute to the service, through prayer, sharing memories of the deceased, or words of comfort for those left behind.
Readings and songs can be a part of the service too. There is no set format and the service ends when the time feels right, at which point those present shake hands with fellow mourners.
A Quaker funeral can take place at a Quaker meeting house, at a crematorium, cemetery, at the graveside in a Quaker burial ground or other place of burial such as a natural burial ground, or at any other convenient place to gather.
A Quaker Memorial Meeting
A Quaker Memorial Meeting can be separate to a burial, interment or scattering of ashes, and can take place any time following a death, maybe weeks or even months later. This can allow the bereaved time to process grief and to prepare thoughts before the meeting.
Or the memorial service might take place before a burial, cremation or interment, if a funeral service is not to be held at that time.
As with a Quaker funeral, it focuses on bringing everyone together in quiet contemplation, to give thanks for the life of the person who has died, and to support family and friends who are grieving.
What to Wear to a Quaker Funeral or Memorial Meeting?
There is no strict dress code or requirements, but it is still important to dress respectfully. Dark colours are often worn, but both formal and casual clothes are acceptable.
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