Oh God… Let’s Talk About My Religion // What Is Quakerism? [CC]

[Music: “Faster Car” by Loving Caliber & Anders Lystell] [I’ve been feeling so small] [Watch the clock ticking off the wall] [but tonight] [I’m letting it go] [Spend my coin for show] Today we’re going to be talking about values, religion and God. If you’ve been watching me for a while you probably know that I identify as a Quaker. I am a member of the religious Society of Friends. They are commonly known as Quakers and [american accent] quakers. Quakers, not Quavers. Although that is a pretty common misconception. Also nothing to do with oats, that makes me mad every time.This is a video that I have been thinking of making for a while but I wasn’t too sure about. I ran some ideas past my channel members, which is the new name for sponsors that YouTube has…but really, “members of the Kellgren-Fozard Club” is the actual definition and they gave me some ideas for structure to focus on. Remember, if you’d like to become a member and have your say on future video ideas, you can just click the “sponsor” button down below next to the subscribe button, it may have now been changed to say “join”, they’re changing stuff. In this video I’m going to give you an incredibly brief overview of the history of Quakerism, give you some ideas about what we believe in and our values ..so on, and how that affects my everyday life. I’m also really interested to know if you have a religion or you grew up with one and how you feel it’s shaped your life. Equally so, if you are agnostic or a complete atheist. I have identified as a Quaker for as long as I can remember. I remember asking my mother if I could be a member when I was about five and she said no, because you have to be 16, I believe, to actually formally become a member. It has to be a choice. It’s a big part of who I am and I do feel like it has shaped me as I’ve grown up. Also, a religion that allows for fluidity of interpretation, and a lot of different viewpoints. So everything I’m going to be showing in this video is very much from my point of view, it’s the things that I believe in, and also what I have been taught. So, other people will have different interpretations of Quakerism, especially in different countries around the world. Quakerism grew out of Christianity in the 1600s in the north of England. The explanation that I use to describe the founding of Quakerism is, I swear, taken from a children’s meeting when I was like four, but I think it describes it very well. There was a man called George Fox who was very dissatisfied with the way he saw the Church of England, and how he saw that it was being run. He saw that the men around him would lie and cheat and steal and beat their wives and then on Sundays, they would go to church and it was as if everything was forgiven because they were very good on this one day. But George Fox instead believed that it was possible to have a direct experience of God, and that all people should try to live lives reflecting, faith, piety, and love. Also a big deal: he developed some of the major concepts with a woman called Margaret Fell. Woman! And, Quakers considered women to be vital to religion, vital! It was the 1600s, ok? I am allowed to get excited. Quakerism has a very firm concept of spiritual equality amongst all people. So yay! The religion as a whole however can be very difficult to explain and to define as it doesn’t have set religious Creed’s and doctrine. Instead of a Quaker Bible, we have Quaker Advice and Queries, which is an ever evolving document that is written by the members themselves. The idea is that it always reflects the times, so that people can read it and have a direct answer almost, or help with the query that they have right now, rather than a query that would have been super helpful to people in the 1700s. Our religion is less about following exact rules and more about the way that we live and the effect that we want to have on the world. We try to help each other work out how to live ethically, following our core principles. These are: equality, justice, truth, peace, simplicity, and sustainability. Equality The basic belief of Quakerism is that there is that of God in everyone. Quakers believe that all people are equal, it’s not young and old, or rich and poor, or black and white, gay, straight, whatever. I have always been raised as a Quaker, I could speak to adults on their level. Justice This belief in inequality inspires quaker’s to work for change in all systems that cause injustice, whether that’s dismantling slavery in the past, campaigning for gay marriage, or in the here and now; campaigning for help for asylum seekers. Obviously, it’s not just campaigning, there’s a lot of very hands-on help. We also believe that no person is beyond redemption and that no matter what a person has done, they deserve to be treated fairly. Truth Quakers live according to our truth, what we know and believe to be right. Even if this means speaking out against our own interests, or being straight talkers to those in positions of power. Hence, many Quakers got put into prison because they refused to deny that they were Quakers and they refused to stop having meetings. We’re not great to helping ourselves We’re guided by integrity – for this reason, Quaker businesspeople were known to have incredibly good practices and Quaker companies were generally companies that people really wanted to do business with, so then, some other businesses that were not Quaker businesses took our name and decided to put it on the box of their grain related food product and then did not follow Quaker business practices: point is, you’ll never get cheated by a Quaker. We are the ones who get really upset if you give us too much change. On the personal level, I try to be open and honest at all times, even if it might help me personally, because in the long run it might help someone else. Peace Quakers are probably best known for our peace testimony, since we believe that all life is of equal worth and that love is the center of the universe. We can’t harm another human being, we don’t believe that it’s right to do so. Thus, Quakers refuse military service and work towards peace instead. This could be personal, or interpersonal, and ranges from doing hands-on work in conflict zones to considering options for peace and working in places like The Hague. Sidenote, my brother and I never had water guns as a child or any type of toy that was similar to a weapon, or video games where you would injure someone. So I am super versed in the zoombinis. Simplicity and sustainability. I have lumped these two together, because that’s kind of how I see them now. In the past, simplicity was a lot to do with Quakers wearing certain forms of dress and living very modest and simple lives. Quakers would wear very plain clothes in very plain colors without any kind of lace edging or anything glittery or fancy. Today, however, it’s more of a spiritual life type of thing and goes along with the sustainability aspect. So we work to try and reduce excess and waste in our society. We want to make sure that our use of natural resources is sustainable and that we focus on living a simple life that doesn’t take away from others, even if there are others in the far future who will be damaged by global warming. I try to focus my life on the things that really matter. I really try my hardest to always be as sustainable as possible, but obviously with my disability I do have some issues with this, and that is why I get quite upset by certain things like plastic straw drama. But if you really want to know yes, I do use plastic straws. No, I don’t just use them once, I run them through the dishwasher. They’re fine. I am fortunate enough to have a dishwasher, one pack of straws last me for like two years. Okay, don’t.. Chill. Anyway today’s video is about Quakerism and not about disabilities. Oh, I didn’t actually add that, did I? Sorry, able bodied, disabled, we are also equal. Onto the tricky topics though – What do Quakers believe about God? Quakers do have differing beliefs when it comes to God, and they might use that word in different ways. But the one thing that binds us all together is that we believe that there is that of God in everyone, but that God is different for everyone. The greater understanding of God is that it is shaped by personal experience. We all use different words to describe it and it’s down to whatever you feel is personally helpful and meaningful – not all Quakers believe in “God” as a separate entity who lives in the sky. I personally believe that the goodness within each of us, which you could call the spirit, if you will, that goodness combined is what God is. In my mind, there is something precious and transcendent about every person, and I take great strength and comfort from that. We’re all connected and thus we’re never truly alone. I think it’s a lot of history and baggage that comes with the word God and it causes a lot of division. One thing I personally really like about Quakerism is that even though it grew out of Christianity, Quakerism very much sees the benefits and the meaning and value and other forms of religion. You could be a Quaker and also be another religion. Quakers are cool with that. There’s great history of tolerance and openness, but also independence of mind and thought and spirit when it comes to a Quakerism that I really value. Basically, we all believe that there is something beyond our individual selves and that we can communicate with that directly on a personal level, whether that be through living spiritual lives or through silent reflection, or both. Which brings me to: how to Quakers pray? Now as I mentioned earlier, we believe in complete and total equality. Thus we have no traditional religious structures or a minister, priest, bishop vicar whomever. Instead we share responsibility for what we do, because everyone has a valuable contribution to make. We pray collectively through a thing called “Meeting for Worship” Which can take place at any time, anywhere, but is generally held on a Sunday morning at a Quaker meeting house, because it’s handy to know where to go. But you could also just call a meeting right now if you wanted to. You don’t have to be a member to come, you could be either a tender, which is what my father was for many many years, which is where you go to Quaker meetings quite regularly and you get involved in the community but you’re not actually a registered member of the religious Society of Friends. You could also be a visitor, which is what Claud is when she comes with me. Again, They are completely open to absolutely anyone, and you don’t need to know someone who already goes to go, though obviously you are expected to show a level of respect when you attend. Don’t be on your phone or something. Children also come to meeting, although they generally don’t stay for full length of time, which is often about an hour, and the rest of the time they will be at the children’s meeting, which is generally like a room next door to where everyone else is sitting, and they will be doing some kind of game or learning experience. I made my parents many bad paintings at children’s meeting. During the meeting, we all sit in silence facing the center of the room. This could be the chairs either in circles or squares sometimes The idea is that there isn’t a certain special spot where one person is. Although sometimes there are chairs that are held for elders, but that is just so you know where they are. And what is an elder you ask? Well, within Quakerism, there’s a certain number of jobs that need to be held like someone needs to clark the meetings, someone needs to be in charge of the building and setting up, and someone is to write rotors and the elders are basically there as spiritual advisors. But, the great thing about Quakerism is that you can only hold a post for three years. You can’t nominate yourself. You have to be nominated by someone else so the community puts you forward, and I think you can only hold two consecutive posts. You can only do it for a maximum of six years, so no one gets too big for their boots. Elders are also called weighty Quakers because they have a weighty spirits. Every meeting begins in silence, it starts as soon as the first person enters the room and it only finishes when two Quakers shake hands. We use that silence to fully listen to ourselves and to be open to the wisdom that is around. Again, there’s no minister to lead and we don’t have any set prayers, hymns or sermons. The idea is when you feel moved to stand up and give ministry, you do, you say your piece, and then you sit back down then there is a silence again. And if someone else feels moved to speak, they will stand up, they will speak for a little bit and then they will sit down. And some more silence and people reflect on what is being said. It sounds a little strange if you’ve never experienced it before, but honestly when you sit in stillness and you open yourself up to knowledge that comes from around, you sort of feel sometimes as if there is something that you should share with the group? Sometimes, really often, people will stand up and they will say what you’ve just been thinking, or they’ll be talking on a topic or a subject that you came into the room thinking about. It’s a very beautiful experience and I personally find that it enriches my life. I need my stillness and my silence which is hilarious because deaf girl, but I need that certain amount of time every week where you just empty your mind, let yourself be. Please let me know if this makes sense to you. But Quakerism isn’t just about how you gather on a Sunday It is also about how you live your life the rest of the time. How we act as Quakers goes along directly with what we believe. I use those core beliefs that I told you about earlier to enrich my life. I think growing up a Quaker, going to Quaker events, having lots of Quaker friends, I went to Quaker school for a bit, helped me to develop things like a complete and total belief that all people are equal – always. There are no bad people. There are bad actions that people can do, but there are no bad people, just like there is no perfect person. And it also helped strengthen my very natural optimism, believing the best in everything, all people all situations. I find it very easy to see the good within all people and a silver lining to every situation. I don’t know if I can separate those strands to see whether that was growing up with Quakerism or whether that was just something I would have had anyway, but I don’t even know that I want to separate that. Not that it is always easy to live as a Quaker – I found that out a lot when I was teenager. I chose at quite a young age to not swear or use harsh language and that was quite difficult for my teenage friends to you understand. And I always try my hardest to never upset anyone. That is the thing that would just – it cuts me to the core every time I feel that I might have upset someone, I really don’t like that. I have no right and no place in the world to upset someone else. Anyway, that didn’t always go over well. As an adult, I don’t drink alcohol because it doesn’t react well with my meds and it’s just not something I’m really into, because I still dance on tables and get really loud. I didn’t drink as a teenager either and people had difficulty with that. I think it generally comes from people outside assuming that there is a sense of moralizing. Claud drinks when we’re with our friends, when we’re going out. Sometimes she will have a glass of wine with dinner. I genuinely have no opinion one way or the other I don’t think it’s a bad thing or a good thing. I think I wasn’t great at explaining that to the people around me when I was a teenager – they thought that because of the way I lived I thought everyone else should live exactly the same way. I do not judge other people but whatever, they may do. One thing I should probably point out, as Quakers we do not believe in proselytizing, which is where you advertise a religion to other people or attempt to force it onto someone else. So this video not about that. I tried to make this video educational and just share my views and my experiences, please don’t take this as me saying: Quakerism is amazing! You should do it! Everyone should be a Quaker!
For one thing, Quakerism as a religion is something that you need to find yourself and secondly, I don’t want to do that to anyone. That’s not my – that’s not my place. It’s not my point. Hopefully that comes across. Hopefully. I’ve also tried to sensitively title this video so that you know exactly what you’re getting. What else can I tell you about Quakerism? I went to a Quaker school for awhile for three years it was the best school I’ve ever been to but I think that I also had a lot to do with the way that I had been brought up, to kind of to feel that…we were all equal so I don’t some children can converse and then I went to a Church of England Primary School and they were very much like: no, children should be quiet and listen to their elders and betters – and I was like: No, there is no such thing as a better person and so I would just converse with adults on their level and they’d be like: “this incredibly cheeky, incredibly rude, go and sit over there.” You can find out about that more in the “being gay in school” video I made. I think also the “being disabled in school”? Although I actually only became disabled in the school after that school. Both of those videos will be down in the description. Next – Claudia and I had a Quaker wedding. We spoke about that in our wedding video – again, that will be down the description or up in a card I don’t think we went into that much depth about the Quakerism aspect of that, so if you would like to know more about it, I can make a separate video, please do let me know if you’d like to see a Quaker wedding video. What on earth does that entail? Also, obviously, yes Quakerism okay with the gay! Growing up as a Quaker, I felt really privileged to grow up alongside other Quaker children and young people – we went to youth groups together, obviously see each other every week at meetings, but then we’d go and stay somewhere like a week on mass. It was amazing, really great. We learnt so much about the world, and people, and diversity and at the same time it was a hotbed of hormones. The thing that was really excellent about it was that we always knew it was a very safe space to experiment in, so if one of the boys was like “I want to try out wearing dresses for a week”. He just would and we’d all be like “cool”. When I became really ill I lost a lot of the school friends and the friends that stayed with me were the ones I’ve known for years and years and years, the ones I gone to Quaker groups with, the ones some of my best friends becoming people who were just on the periphery of my group of Quaker friends, and they suddenly stepped in to fill all these gaps that were now-many job applications going around for the roll of Jessica’s friend. I’m not saying the only Quakers are good people, or that good people are Quakers. Or even that being a Quaker necessarily makes you good person. I assume there are some Quakers who don’t always do great things. But this became a much longer video than I planned… Let’s wrap it up. If you’d like to learn more about Quakerism, then I have probably put some links down in the description. So, if you’re like: what Jessica? That made no sense to me. You can go and… Please let me know if you have any questions about this video because I’d really love to do a follow up. Probably in a Q&A style with Quaker related questions. Please do remember to always be very kind to other people when you respond to their comments and do not hate on anyone or anything. Alright. I look very much forward to seeing you next time. Thank you for watching. Oh and if you’re watching this video because we’re writing an essay about Quakerism. Stop it. No, go and read a book or find an internet resource that is not YouTube. Thank you.

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