“God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.”  ~ Bishop John Shelby Spong

A better statement about my Quaker tradition would be difficult to find. I would only add that my own tradition only points me to God….sometimes. I trust some of what I share today will resonate or harmonize with your own traditions and faith.

I Am But One Voice

I am a Quaker and the current presiding clerk of PFM. Please understand that I am but one voice. I speak with no authority beyond my own understanding. Other friends are here today and I hope they may add or offer alternative perspectives as led. You may have heard that Quakers did away with the priesthood, but it is more accurate to say that Friends did away with the laity and discovered that all may serve as ministers as led in the Light. I’ll touch more on that as we move forward. This presentation will naturally be incomplete, a sketch.

Getting Perspective

Last week’s presentation from Balaji K. Jilla was on Hinduism, the oldest religion at 3,500 years. Today, I will speak about Quakerism, begun only 375 years ago, out of the Christian tradition. One of the first phrases Balaji shared was “lead me to the Light.” And I said, Oh! Quakerism!  But first, let’s speak of time. Homo sapiens have been on this little blue sphere for only about 300,000 years.

All of this got me to thinking about the time and our perception of time and space, as it relates to the Eternal Truths we seek in religion. Consider the speed of light and our galaxy. That knowledge may provide some humility. The entirety of human existence is but a moment. 

 It takes 100,000 years for light to cross our galaxy. We have now proven there are trillions of galaxies. So, consider this, the light that left the sun when Jesus was preaching is now 2% of the way across this one little galaxy. Hinduism’s beginnings, 3.5%. Humility friends, let’s begin there. The miracle is that we can know these things and that awareness arises outside of physical space/time. That is infinitely bigger that the physical universe.

Quakers in Dutchess County

Today I have been asked to talk about the RSoF, better known as Quakers. We Quakers have been quietly practicing our faith in Dutchess County since the late 17th Century. I will be showing some pics of meeting houses and they reflect the simplicity we encourage to worship. We simply strive to follow the direction “wherever 2 or more are gathered.”

Today there are four active Quaker Meetings in Dutchess County, Poughkeepsie, Bulls Head/Oswego, Nine Partners and Green Haven Worship Group. Show Oswego Meeting House 

Nine other Dutchess County meetings are no longer active. There are three active meetings in Ulster County and more than 60 around NY State. Every meeting is also part of what is called a regional meeting and here in The Hudson Valley that is called Nine Partners Quarterly Meeting, a quarterly gathering of all of the local meetings.

Regional Meetings are part of New York Yearly Meeting and that is composed of all of the meetings in NY, two in CT and eight in NJ. Unlike many faith communities Friends have no hierarchal structure. The Yearly Meeting does not have authority over regional or monthly/local meeting. In fact, each meeting is autonomous.

Quakers are bottom up, not top down. Then again, from another perspective, we are Top down so long as you capitalize Top…. meaning the Divine Light. Perhaps it’s most accurate to say Spirit driven. I’ll share more about that in a bit.

We call our congregations monthly, quarterly, or yearly because that is the frequency of our business sessions. While Poughkeepsie Monthly Meeting meets weekly and year-round, our business sessions are held once a month.

In the early horse and buggy days, the distances and times were so daunting the annual gathering of all meetings was held only once a year. Yearly meeting now meets 3 times a year, but we have retained the name Yearly Meeting as a simple name for the gathering of representatives of all monthly and regional meetings. Simplicity.

 On Oct. 11, 2022, Don Badgley was asked to speak at the Dutchess County Interfaith Council. Click here to enjoy the full testimony.