Tag Archives: Quakerism

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

Students Don’t Mind Minding The Light

Curious George Poll: Students Bring Quaker Values Into Their Lives

by Julia Carrigan ‘20

The George School Mission Statement claims that Quaker tradition is the school’s “touchstone”–the testing point for any discussion of values or policy that goes on here. Quite simply, at George School, Quaker values are essential, including Quaker practices and, especially, attendance at Meeting for Worship.

George School’s website claims, “We don’t try to turn students into Quakers,” but the importance of Quakerism at George School was reaffirmed by students themselves recently, when sixty-six percent of students polled by The Curious George said their desire to be involved in some way in Quakerism has increased since attending George School.

One student even stated that the strong Quaker vibe at George School was “one of the major reasons I chose to go to here instead of Westtown.” Overall, it is clear that George School’s strong Quaker program has influenced the spiritual lives of many students.

However, George School is not the Bodhi tree, and let us not pretend that every student has been spiritually enlightened sitting on the firm wooden benches of the eighteenth-century meetinghouse.

What is important is that every student has sat there.

During the school year, day students spend thirty minutes a week in Meeting for Worship, and boarding students usually spend an hour and fifteen minutes. In addition to Meeting for Worship, we often pause for moments of silence and use Quaker consensus in meetings. In addition, many of our religion classes also focus on Quakerism.

Overall, it is pretty fair to say that Quakerism is central in the lives of students during the school year, but how does it affect their lives during the summer?

Fourteen percent of respondents told CG that they attend meeting over the summer. Even more significant, about a third of students take time out of their summer to practice Quakerism on a smaller level. For example, they might pause in their day to take a moment of silence.

This is incredible given the busy lives of teenagers in the summer, the relatively low number of Quaker identifying students, and the growing rate of non-religious teenagers. According to a recent study done of teenagers in Chicago, for instance, thirty-six percent of teenagers are “religiously unaffiliated.”

The approximate third of the George School student body who practice Quakerism in different smaller ways throughout the summer shows that while they may not be able to drag their families (or themselves) out of bed every Sunday morning, “Quaker tradition,” as the Mission Statement puts it, has a profound spiritual effect on them.

Although a hundred percent of those who answered the survey attend a Quaker school, only six percent attend or work at a Quaker camp over the summer. Some Quaker camps George School students spent time at over the summer include Camp Dark Waters, Camp Onas, and The George School Day Camp, which “emphasizes Quaker philosophies.”

Three George School students also attended Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s annual session, a gathering of all Quakers in the Philadelphia region.

While George School does not try to “turn students into Quakers,” apparently the school does a good job of exposing them to the values and practices of Quakerism. The students themselves decide how much of it they want to bring into their lives outside of school.

That’s a win-win proposition!


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Filed under Student Work, Students, The Curious George