Luray Friends Meeting

What is Luray Friends Meeting?

Luray Friends Meeting is an unprogrammed spiritual worship group belonging to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) of the Universalist persuasion, founded in 2022 in Luray, Virginia. We are dedicated to fostering contemplation, peace, mindfulness, and discernment of the Spirit's message for its members and the surrounding community. We meet weekly on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 pm at the West Luray Recreation Center (The Rec) at 630 W Main St, Luray, VA 22835.

What is the Religious Society of Friends? 

The Religious Society of Friends is the name of a group of people living all over the world who have consciously united in the belief that all humans contain an Inner Light of the Spirit, and that they have the ability to experience and know this Inner Light for themselves. Members of the Religious Society of Friends are known as Friends, or more commonly today as Quakers. This latter name, while originally meant to be derisive, refers to the trembling that may occur while encountering firsthand the power of God, particularly while engaged in a mystical state of spiritual ecstasy, which is reached by some adherents upon sitting in meeting (communal meditation) and opening themselves up to the Light of the Holy Spirit within. This marked practice of silent meeting and being open to direct experience of the Light Within or Source allows for the realization of all the defining characteristics that have come to be associated with Friends, such as the universal priesthood of all believers, the testimony of peace and acceptance, a belief in equality, and a focus on humanitarianism. 

"Inner silence, calming the agitations of our hearts and minds, letting go of all that is stubborn and grasping, is essentially an expression of the love of truth. To be dispassionate, not to let one’s own needs or prejudices or emotions color one’s actions, is essentially to put truth before everything else. To love truth in this way is to love God, who is Truth. Thus the practice of inner silence is the same as the love of God."

-Daniel Seeger, Quaker

How was the Religious Society of Friends established?

The Religious Society of Friends was established in the mid 1600s in England. It was founded by a man named George Fox, who recounted the inspiration which led him to found the Society, as follows:

 "...as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition"; and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let it? And this I knew experimentally."

Quakers sometimes describe themselves as Saints, as Children of the Light, or as Friends of the Truth,  Although their views have matured and adapted with the times, from the beginning until now they have focused their lives upon piety, truth, and compassion for all beings. Most importantly, they have faithfully followed their own understanding of the Light of the Spirit, according to their personal transcendent mystical experiences. Mysticism here refers to the practices or experiences of a kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which are given religious or spiritual meaning, leading one towards the realization of Oneness with God, the Absolute, or Ultimate Reality, and resulting in the attainment of insight and human transformation. These experiences lead to direct revelations from the Divine, and they are the foundation of Quakerism, being described from its very beginnings.

“Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, so that I say I was come up to the state of Adam which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me, and it was showed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue... Great things did the Lord lead me into, and wonderful depths were opened unto me, beyond what can by words be declared; but as people come into subjection to the spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the Word of wisdom, that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being.” 
-George Fox, Quaker

"Nothing, I believe, can really teach us the nature and meaning of inspiration but personal experience of it. That we may all have such experience if we will but attend to the divine influences in our own hearts, is the cardinal doctrine of Quakerism."

-Caroline Stephen, Quaker

"Mysticism has been for the most part sporadic. It has found an exponent now here, now there, but it has shown little tendency toward organizing and it has manifested small desire to propagate itself. There have been types of mystical religion which have persisted for long periods and which have spread over wide areas, but in all centuries such mystical religion has spread itself by a sort of spiritual contagion rather than by system and organization. It has broken forth where the Spirit listed, and its history is mainly the story of the saintly lives through which it has appeared. The Quaker movement, which had its rise in the English Commonwealth, is an exception. It furnishes some material for studying a "mystical group" and it supplies us with an opportunity of discovering a test and authority even for mystical insights."

-Rufus Jones, Quaker

What beliefs do Friends generally hold?

Friends have no particular creed, and instead may embrace a wide range of beliefs, but in general they hold the following to be true:

Several testimonies or expressions of faith in the Divine which Friends recognize follow here: (It is important to note that these testimonies are not prescriptive, but are instead descriptive, meaning that they are not guidelines which must be followed by all Quakers, but that they generally describe the way in which many Friends behave, as guided by the Spirit Within.)

"Simplicity is the name we give to our effort to free ourselves to give full attention to God's still, small voice: the sum of our efforts to subtract from our lives everything that competes with God for our attention and clear hearing. " -Lloyd Lee Wilson, Quaker

"We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world." -Declaration of Friends to King Charles II

"Do not fear truth, let it be so contrary to inclination and feeling. Never give up the search after it: and let me take courage, and try from the bottom of my heart to do that which I believe truth dictates, if it leads me to be a Quaker or not." -Elizabeth Fry, Quaker

"If we learn to better help each other live faithfully and make doing so an important part of our community, then we will grow in our ability to discern and respond when the Spirit leads." -Marcelle Martin, Quaker

"We are not for Names, nor Men, nor Titles of Government, nor are we for this Party, nor against the other, because of its Name and Pretense; but we are for Justice and Mercy, and Truth and Peace, and true Freedom, that these may be exalted in our Nation. " -Edward Burrough, Quaker

"We recognize that the well-being of the earth is a fundamental spiritual concern... Our planet as a whole, not just the small parts of it in our immediate custody, requires our responsible attention." -Philadephia Yearly Meeting

Do Quakers have ministers or other clergy?

Each member of the Quaker meeting, no matter their background or age, is considered a minister and member of the clergy.  Quakers believe that there is “that of God” in every person, which is the Quaker way of saying that everyone has an Inward Light, the Light Within, Christ Within,  an Awakened-nature, a True Ultimate Self, or the Eternal Spirit Within. Every person present at the meeting is thus welcome to share their mystical experience of the Divine from within their being for the benefit of all. Quakers vehemently believe that a like-minded community is a great aid to spiritual progress, but also that no other spiritual leadership is needed beside the Light of the Divine that is within every being.

"The Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that he did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people's hearts … his people were his temple, and he dwelt in them."

-George Fox, Quaker

"Keep close to the Light and own it alone to be your teacher, guide, and counselor in all the way through which you are to pass, and in all things that you are to do. Stand in the denial of self and all its goals; and own the Light, which leads into singleness of mind unto God away from selfish ends." 

-James Parnell, Quaker

Benjamin Lay, revolutionary abolitionist Quaker

Who can be a Quaker?

People of all traditions may take part in and benefit from Quaker practices. As a universalist faith, our branch of Quakerism at Luray Friends Meeting views all people as having Light of the Spirit within them, regardless of their location, ethnicity, or religion, and acknowledges that there are many paths to the One Truth.  Quakerism provides a method of seeking personal revelation of this Truth, one which is open to all people, of any faith, and one which may be employed in  conjunction with other methods or systems of personal insight. It is important to note that many Quakers believe that the Spirit or Light which was embodied by Christ was not unique unto him, but that it dwells within everyone; that there is that of God - the Eternal, the Absolute, the Source, the Universal - within everyone, and that Jesus of Nazareth's example, while being one of the most profound, influential and important sources of inspiration, is not the only such one that humanity has experienced.  Certainly, there are invaluable mystical lessons from other traditions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Daoism, Islam, Hermeticism, Indigenous Religions, and others, which are in agreement with and can be of great benefit to those practicing Quakerism.

"There's a light that is shining in the heart of a man,

it's the light that was shining when the world began.

There's a light that is shining in the Turk and the Jew

and a light that is shining, friend, in me and in you."

-Sydney Carter, Quaker

"There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath different names: it is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no form of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity."

—John Woolman, Quaker

"The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion, and when death takes off the mask, they will know one another though the diverse liveries they wear here make them strangers."

—William Penn, Quaker

“Now the Lord God hath opened to me by his invisible power how that every man was enlightened by the divine light of Christ; and I saw it shine through all, and that they that believed in it came out of condemnation and came to the light of life and became the children of it, but they that hated it, and did not believe in it, were condemned by it, though they made a profession of Christ. This I saw in the pure openings of the Light without the help of any man, neither did I then know where to find it in the Scriptures; though afterwards, searching the Scriptures, I found it. For I saw in that Light and Spirit which was before Scripture was given forth, and which led the holy men of God to give them forth, that all must come to that Spirit - if they would know God, or Christ, or the Scriptures aright - which they that gave them forth were led and taught by.” 

- George Fox, Quaker

What is Meeting like?

Quaker Meeting for Silent Worship is informally preceded by a short period of greetings, where attendees may share news and talk together before the meeting truly begins. Once officially begun, the Meeting is held in an egalitarian manner, with all attendees sitting together in a circle or square, each facing the center of the congregation. Arranged in this manner, those in attendance sit in the serene meditative stillness of Silent Waiting, opening themselves to the potential promptings of the Spirit, which, upon coming to them in the form or a still, small voice from within, may or may not move them to speak to the other members of the meeting. If one is moved by the Spirit to share the message that they have received, then the attendee will speak their piece, and then rejoin the silence once more. Such a period of silence and possibly vocal ministries lasts for approximately one hour, upon the end of which the Silent part of the Meeting concludes, and handshakes are given to nearby attendees. After this, any necessary announcements are made among the congregation, and the Meeting for Worship is adjourned.

After a brief period of time wherein attendees may refresh themselves and converse, a second gathering, this one a Meeting for Business, may be held. During this meeting a topic of interest regarding the members of the Meeting may be discussed among attendees, possibly including theological/philosophical issues, political issues, social issues, funding, projects, or other subjects. After approximately an hour of such discussion, the Meeting for Business concludes.

"As a meeting 'gathers', as each individual 'centres down', there gradually develops a feeling of belonging to a group who are together seeking a sense of the Presence. The 'I' in us begins to feel like 'we'. At some point - it may be early in the meeting or it may be later, or it may never occur at all - we suddenly feel a sense of unity, a sense of togetherness with one another and with that something outside ourselves that we call God."

 -Thomas Bodine, Quaker

"I have never lost the enjoyment of sitting in silence at the beginning of meeting, knowing that everything can happen, knowing the joy of utmost surprise; feeling that nothing is pre-ordained, nothing is set, all is open. The light can come from all sides. The joy of experiencing the Light in a completely different way than one has thought it would come is one of the greatest gifts that Friends’ meeting for worship has brought me. I believe that meeting for worship has brought the same awareness to all who have seen and understood the message that everyone is equal in the sight of God, that everybody has the capacity to be the vessel of God’s word. There is nothing that age, experience and status can do to prejudge where and how the Light will appear. This awareness – the religious equality of each and every one – is central to Friends. Early Friends understood this and at the same time they fully accepted the inseparable unity of life, and spoke against the setting apart of the secular and the sacred. It was thus inevitable that religious equality would be translated into the equality of everyday social behaviour. ” 

–Ursula Franklin, Quaker

Quaker quilt design.

What is the Quaker form of meditation?

Quakers are encouraged to "center down" into the silence so that they may be receptive to revelations from the Divine, both individually in contemplative prayer, and at silent meeting for worship. These practices of being still and opening oneself to inner revelation may be called Quaker meditation, depending on one's understanding of this term.  One effective method for engaging in this activity is known as the "Experiment with Light" process.

"‘Experiment with Light’ is a Quaker practice which is based on early Friends’ discoveries.

It was devised in 1996 by Quaker and theologian Rex Ambler following his study of early Friends’ writings. He wanted to discover what it was that made them so sure, so centred, so willing to suffer privations to keep alive their faith.

He discovered a process by which the Light may be accessed.

The Experiment with Light process can be separated into four main steps, once you have accepted an invitation to be still:

-From the 'Experiment with Light' website (https://experiment-with-light.org.uk/about/) retrieved 11/19/2022.

"Words may help and silence may help, but the one thing needful is that the heart should turn to its Maker as the needle turns to the pole. For this we must be still... No clear impressions, either from above or from without, can be received by a mind turbid with excitement and agitated by a crowd of distractions. The stillness needed for the clear shining of light within is incompatible with hurry."

 -Caroline Stephen, Quaker

"Those who are brought to a pure still waiting upon God in the spirit, are come nearer to the Lord than words are; for God is a spirit, and in the spirit is he worshipped. In such a meeting there will be an unwillingness to part asunder, being ready to say in yourselves, it is good to be here: and this is the end of all words and writings to bring people to the eternal living Word." 

-Alexander Parker, Quaker

What are some important quotes from Quakers?

"Now thou must die in the silence, to the fleshly wisdom, knowledge, reason, and understanding; so thou comest to feel that which brings thee to wait upon God; (thou must die from the other,) that brings thee to feel the power of an endless life, and come to possess it." 

"And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one."

-George Fox, Quaker

"Thus He whose tender mercies are over all His works hath placed a principle in the human mind, which incites to exercise goodness towards every living creature; and this being singly attended to, people become tender-hearted and sympathizing; but when frequently and totally rejected, the mind becomes shut up in a contrary disposition." 

-John Woolman, Quaker

"Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself… It is a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us. It is a Light Within which illumines the face of God and casts new shadows and new glories upon the face of men. It is a seed stirring to life if we do not choke it. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And He is within us all."

"Only the inner vision of God, only the God-blindedness of unreservedly dedicated souls, only the utterly humble ones can bow and break the raging pride of a power-mad world."

 -Thomas Kelly, Quaker

“I think I have wasted a great deal of my life waiting to be called to some great mission which would change the world. I have looked for important social movements. I have wanted to make a big and important contribution to the causes I believe in. I think I have been too ready to reject the genuine leadings I have been given as being matters of little consequence. It has taken me a long time to learn that obedience means doing what we are called to do even if it seems pointless or unimportant or even silly. The great social movements of our time may well be part of our calling. The ideals of peace and justice and equality which are part of our religious tradition are often the focus of debate. But we cannot simply immerse ourselves in these activities. We need to develop our own unique social witness, in obedience to God. We need to listen to the gentle whispers which will tell us how we can bring our lives into greater harmony with heaven.” 

–Deborah Haines, Quaker