This event has taken place – next public Quaker Meeting April 9.  Location announced presently

Public Quaker Meeting to Affirm Religious Freedom

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Saturday, February 25, 2017; 11AM – Noon
Lytton Plaza, 547 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

What is this about? We are hosting this gathering as a public statement of support for religious tolerance. We are Palo Alto Friends Meeting, a Bay Area congregation of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as “Quakers.” The beliefs and traditions of Quakers provide a rich history and framework for religious tolerance (and tolerance in general). We feel obliged to share with our broader community the experience that our faith has accumulated through 365 years of Quaker engagement with contemporary social issues. The Society of Friends was founded on principles of honesty and equality. The United States was founded on principles of free speech and freedom of religion. As Quakers, we feel obliged to defend the equal rights of all peoples to give honest expression to their religious beliefs. This is especially critical in a diverse nation of immigrants, and no place more so than in the Bay Area in 2017.

Who should come & what to expect?  We invite all to join:  come sit with us in silence. Use that time in silence however seems best to you – as a public expression of your support for religious freedom, as a time of contemplation, as a time of meditation, or even for day-dreaming about a better world. Among Palo Alto Friends, our worship is mostly silent, but occasionally, some participant will feel moved to stand and make a statement to everyone present – which we call “ministry.” It is likely that most of the ministry on February 25 will be related to our concern for religious freedom, but messages can range widely. Because we’ll be in a public square, the noise of traffic and passersby will also be part of the ministry we hear during this time of public worship.

What does the Quaker religion have to do with this? The Quaker religion was founded in the mid-1600s, when England was in a period of extreme religious intolerance and persecution. Early Quakers rebelled against the practices and beliefs of the Church of England, and consequently, they were oppressed, tortured, and sometimes killed. Quakers opposed to the dictates of England’s “one state religion,” and they believed instead – and still believe – that every person has the ability to seek Divine Will independently, without the intercession of professional clergy. Believing that every person possesses “that of God” within them, Quakers began worshiping “the Light” together in silence, praying for its guidance. They discovered that this practice gave them powerful direction toward right action. Quakers’ beliefs and practices sustained them through decades of brutal persecution in their early years, and have continued to sustain them through numerous other social struggles in which they have provided notable leadership, including: the abolitionist movement in the U.S. in the 1800s, the women’s suffrage movement in the 1800s, the Vietnam War protests in the 1960s and 70s, and work toward nuclear disarmament over the last forty years.

We believe that the undermining of religious freedom in 2017 is another critical crossroads in history. We hope to make our Quaker traditions more broadly available as forces for justice and nonviolence, for building community, and for seeking solutions to the challenges that face all people today.