Differences between American and Cuban Quakerism

by Liam Mitchell ’19 

Although I’ve been attending Quaker meeting for 12 years now; I can’t really say that I’m a true Quaker. However, through my time being involved in Quakerism I’ve come to learn that you don’t need to necessarily identify with a religion in order to truly understand it.

The majority of what we are taught at George School about Quakerism is living your life by the SPICES, (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship,) and seeing the light in everyone. A typical Quaker meeting for me is in the meeting house, with 30 to 40 minutes of silence with the occasional heartfelt message from a peer about some sort of event that they are going through, or something that is on their mind. Sometimes a full meeting can go by without anyone saying a word. There is no defined leader, and no set schedule. Everyone is in their own space with their own thoughts, not being moved or influenced by anything else. Going to a Cuban Quaker meeting was definitely a different experience. There was a leader of the meeting, who led prayer and told us what was happening when. There were songs, poems, and opportunities for everyone to share regarding topics such as ´what are you thankful to God for today.´ The meeting was focused more on God, and how He is the one we should follow in our times of need. There was very little silence, maybe only a few minutes total, and they were used to think of what you would like to share. At one point, while everyone was singing, people got up out of their chairs to hug and greet one another, all the while singing that being together was such a blessing. While we shake hands with Tom before we enter meeting, the Cubans hug and smile, and greet each other so enthusiastically that you would assume they see each other once a year, rather than once a week. There are differences between Cuban and American Quakerism but American and Hispanic Quakerism. I spent some time in Costa Rica about 4 years ago, and had the pleasure of attending a small gathering of friends in Monteverde. The service was similar, with lots of prayer and songs, and little emphasis on silence.

Looking back, through my time at George and through these experiences I’ve come to learn that there is no ´right´ way to have a Quaker meeting. At the end of the service today, I felt similar to how I feel when I leave a meeting back home. What I like the most about Quakerism is the idea that there is no pressure to follow a certain set of rules. The entire religion is based on how you want to live your life and how you want to view other people. While the Cuban meeting was a lot more structured, I still felt safe and supported in such a friendly environment, where I was encouraged to voice my ideas and find new ways to connect myself with God.

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Filed under A Day in the Life, Service, Student Work, Students

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