What is a PT Quaker, you might ask. Well, let me give you a brief description, then offer a longer explanation.
A PT Quaker is a member of the Religious Society of Friends who attends a Monthly Meeting of the North Pacific Yearly Meeting in the town of Port Townsend, Washington, United States of America.
If you understood the above paragraph, then you can stop here (as you can probably write the following at least as well as I can). Let me attempt to explain the above paragraph.
To begin, let’s start with the simple part – PT. This denotes Port Townsend, the town we live in (actually the town we meet in as some of us live outside of town). It has no further meaning, and is not associated with cars or boats, except that Port Townsend is a port on the Puget Sound. For more about Port Townsend you can visit the official city website at this link.
Now, for the Religious Society of Friends part. This is another way to refer to Quakers, a religion established about 350 years ago, which is associated with George Fox, Margaret Fell and a few of their F/friends. There is a lot of history here that can be found in books and journals. You can check out www.Quaker.org for a long list of Quaker topics.
We no longer wear gray (even for portraits), strange hats or bonnets; and are not associated with oatmeal, motor oil or the State of Pennsylvania (except that many Quakers live there). You may confuse us with the Amish, Shakers, Mennonites or other groups. However, we are one of the peace churches.
So, who are we and what is a Monthly Meeting? Our church service is called a Meeting for Worship, and it occurs on Sundays and other times during the week. We conduct our business in a Meeting that is held (usually) once a month, thus the Monthly Meeting part. During our Meeting for Worship, we wait in silence for the divine to speak to us through an Inner Light. When we hear this inner voice speaking we are often lead to speak out of the silence. A person who receives a message rises and speaks to those gathered. Then we sit silently to reflect on what was said. Another message may arise, but usually not with the same person, and this process repeats itself for about an hour. At the end of the hour, we hold hands and have a closing circle which includes introductions, personal stories and a few announcements. There is time to socialize following the meeting. There are branches of Quakers who attend churches where there is a pastor and a programmed worship. We don’t have a programmed worship or a pastor. Our leader is a called a Clerk, and we consider all Members to be ministers.
Meeting also refers to our group and the members of the group. Membership in our religious group involves a long process (called clearness). We also have many people who attend regularly and participate in our Meeting. These people are sometimes referred to as attenders or regular attenders. Visitors are also welcome and can attend any meeting.
Each Monthly Meeting is somewhat unique, but we belong to larger Quaker groups called Quarterly Meetings and Yearly Meetings. North Pacific Yearly Meeting (NPYM) includes the unprogrammed Quaker Meetings in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and part of Wyoming. Our Pacific Northwest Quarterly Meeting (PNQM) includes Washington and Northern Idaho. Your can find out more at NPYM.org or PNQM.org. This is not a hierarchy as there are no higher officials. We do call some people Elders, but this status is gained through experience that is recognized by others. There are no paid positions in our Meeting, and all of the work is done by volunteers. (Yearly Meeting has a couple of part-time paid positions.)
Quaker business is conducted as another form of worship. Our monthly business meeting is guided by the Light and we seek a Sense of the Meeting, which guides our actions. Some think of this as consensus, but it is more than that. When we reach unity on an issue, we move ahead.
I realize that I still haven’t said anything about what we believe. This gets a little more complicated as there are many different thoughts among us and we don’t have a prescribed doctrine. So, what can I say (or what canst thou say, to use a quaint Quaker expression). Quakerism has strong Christian roots and currently is inclusive of Buddhist, Wiccan and other spiritual threads. There are testimonies that are central to our religion, including simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality. We are actively inclusive of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. You may hear us talk about non-violence, as well as other topics such as our gardens or higgs-boson. Quakers have produced many journals, and currently produce several magazines (including Friends Journal and Western Friend, to name a couple).
As I write, I am attempting to avoid Quaker jargon and speak to a general audience. Perhaps I have, but mostly I think I have digressed a bit. Let me stop here and let you reflect on the above. Please join us for worship (see Worship), read our literature, or join us in some other activity.
Clint Weimeister, former Clerk