As a contemporary Quaker who lives in the real world of working, raising kids, paying mortgages, and so on, I thought that it is probably time to take Quakers out of their quaint historic context and talk about Quakers today. For your edification, if not entertainment, I present five things to know about contemporary Quakers.
#1. There are lots of different kinds of Quakers, aka members of the Religious Society of Friends.The two major groups of Friends are the programmed and unprogrammed. Programmed Friends are by far the largest group. They call where they worship a church. Their worship has a liturgy and is led by a minister. Although a period of silence is part of the service, the service has a plan, a program. These Friends are evangelical and support mission work, especially in Africa and Asia. There are many subgroups of programmed Friends.
Unprogrammed Friends are the oldest type of Quaker, and they call where they worship a meetinghouse. When in worship, they sit in silent expectant waiting, listening to that of God within them. If one is moved to speak, one does. There is no minister or liturgy (or program, hence unprogrammed Friends). Among unprogrammed Friends, there are conservative Friends and liberal Friends; Friends who rely of the Bible, Friends who don’t. There is also a varying degree of tolerance for dissent.
So don’t believe anyone who says they know what Quakers believe or do – there is just too much variety.