Over the years I've never written much about the Quakers, formally known as the Society of Friends. For one reason or another they've sort of slipped under my radar, though I've known Quakers and have long admired their approach both to spirituality and to peacemaking.
Today I want to talk a little about the Quakers because it was on this date in 1682 -- the year after King Charles II issued a charter to William Penn for the colony of Pennsylvania -- that the first Welsh immigrants to the American colonies arrived in Pennsylvania. And they were Quakers. They settled just north of today's Philadelphia. (By the way, the photo here today, which I took in 2007, shows a statue of Penn atop Philadelphia's city hall.)
The Society of Friends started in mid-17th Century England. Miriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions says the group was "dedicated to living in accordance with the 'Inward Light,' or direct inward apprehension of God, without creeds, clergy, or other ecclesiastical forms."
George Fox is the name primarily associated with the founding of the Quakers. But the English -- especially the Puritans -- fought against the Quakers in many ways.
Quakers began coming to the American colonies by the middle of the 17th Century, but there, too, ran into fierce persecution, including death. But the Quakers, nonetheless, gained followers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and elsewhere. Finally, Quakers began to collect in Pennsylvania, still a center of the faith today.
I've often wondered what the Quakers thought of Richard M. Nixon, who was raised a Quaker but who conducted the Vietnam War (which he inherited) with brutality.
At any rate, today the Quakers remain a dedicated spiritual people who call all of us to the ways of peace.
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HOW TO FOLLOW GOD ON TWITTER
In my Ghost Ranch class last month, I tried to suggest to people that social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook can be used as a channel for having their prophetic voices heard, despite all the trivial junk that gets posted on them. Now I see I have some support for that view from a former Hindu monk writing on the Washington Post's religion blog site. Yes, even high-tech tools that the culture sometimes runs into the ground can be at least partly redeemed. By the way, you can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BillTammeus.