Are Quakers Boring?

By Wally Winter

Are Quakers boring? Some of us may be. In fact, all of us may be some of the time, but all of us, all of the time? Recently a First Day School teacher at our meeting announced that his class thought Quakers were “boring.”

While reflecting on this blunt critique the other day, I discovered in a pile on my desk at home a bookmark-origin unknown-with the following quotation from Thomas Kelly: “One sings sweet songs within oneself, and one tries to keep one’s inner hilarity and exuberance within bounds. Traditional Quaker decorum and this burning experience of a living presence are only with the greatest difficulty held together.”

The young Quakers who find Quakers “boring” may be seeing only the “traditional Quaker decorum” and not our hidden “sweet songs,” “inner hilarity,” “exuberance,” and “burning experience.” They are there, aren’t they? They should be. The tension in Quakers between their decorum and their inner exuberance is one of the things, for me at least, that makes Quakers and Quaker meetings extraordinarily un-boring.

Here’s a suggestion for the coming millennium: we should reveal our “inner hilarity” more frequently to the younger members of our meeting. If we did, they might find a different adjective to describe Quakers, but it might not be any more complimentary than the one that prompted this commentary.

Reprinted from Lake Forest Friends Meeting Newsletter, June, 1999. Used with permission. Editor’s note: readers are invited to send Connections their opinions on this very important issue.

Translate »