We invite you to Merion Friends Meeting and hope that you
will feel free to join us in our Meeting for Worship. A Friends Meeting
is a supportive community for its members, but we also consider a it to
be a spiritual resource for the community at large. You may come as often
or as infrequently as you wish. You may wish to become familiar with Quakerism
ahead of time, or you may come with no other preparation than a willingness
to join us in silence, with openness to allow the Inner Light to inspire
and perhaps to change you.
The Religious Society of Friends came into being during the turmoil of 17th-century England. Both political and religious structures in English society had been torn asunder, and the people had grave concerns about what the future would hold for the world. The founder of what became the Society of Friends, George Fox, made a long and lonely search for religious truth. One day, he suddently felt overcome with the sense of the presence and guidance of God, communicating with him directly, in a way that was as real to him as would be any other information gained through his senses, and which was not required to be transmitted through the mediation of a clergyman, canon, or other religious authority. He wrote in his journal:
"... I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition"; and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let [i.e. prevent] it? And this I knew experimentally. "
Although we as Friends (or Quakers) consider ourselves part of the wider Christian Church, we have no written creed or fixed statement of belief. Our faith is that God's loving guidance is as directly available to us today as it was to the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles of Biblical times. Both as individuals and as meetings we try to be open to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, to follow the paths of God according to the measure of Light given to each. Quakerism over the years has adapted readily to modern science, as it has no need to persist in prescribing dogma that cannot be reconciled with new empirical evidence.
Friends in the Philadelphia area follow the traditional "unprogrammed" form of worship: we settle into silence, with no pastor, no music, no order of service, not even any formal process to begin the meeting itself. We gather, find seats, and wait together, seeking to feel the presence within of the Living Christ -- "the true Light that enlightens everyone." Anyone in the meeting may be inspired to share aloud a message, a prayer, a heartfelt concern. Sometimes no one will be led to speak -- but even a wholly silent meeting may leave us deeply moved and closely gathered.
Out of our beliefs and experiences come "concerns," and from our concerns testimonies: for reform of prisons and the criminal justice system; for minority and women's rights; for quality education for all children; for fair business practices and a just economy; for simplicity in life and conduct; above all for peace -- in the community, in the nation, in the world -- based not on political and military power, but in love and acceptance of our common heritage as God's children. For us, true religion expresses itself not in theology or creed, but in faith and practice, rooted in the shared experience of the Meeting for Worship.
The close of the Meeting for Worship is signaled when we turn to one another and shake hands, both to thank each other for joining in worship and to remind ourselves that the community we have felt there continues throughout the week.
We hope that you will feel drawn into the love and power of God when you visit. If you have comments or questions about Friends, about our beliefs and testimonies, and about the meeting or the meetinghouse, any one of us will gladly talk with you at the close of Meeting for Worship.