certainly have changed since George Fox went to north-west England in
1652 where a group of people known as Seekers found in his message what
they had been seeking. However, the essential elements of his message
still stand as the doctrine of the Religious Society of Friends.
Quakerism is a type of faith and behavior which developed during the
first century and a half of its existence. The preservation of the
original purpose isn't the same as the preservation of the visible form
in which that purpose was first expressed. As family life today presents
an aspect different from family life in the 17th century, so Quakerism
presents a different outward appearance.
To take the essential doctrine of George Fox and apply it to everyday
life is what Quakerism is all about today. Though the word
"Quaker" is an old word, the word "Quakerism" is a
relatively new one. The primitive Quakers called their doctrine the
Truth. A Quaker was defined as "one who professes the Truth."
This is still true today.
Robert Barclay, a 17th century Quaker apologist, said, "If
Quakerism is to remain a vital religion it must come to terms with the
thoughts of each succeeding generation."
Just as family life is different today, so are our thoughts. The
Society of Friends has always been attracted to the thought-provoking
concerns of peace and philanthropic ideals. While these basic principles
haven't changed, the way Quakers interpret them in today's society has.
The Religious Society of Friends is alive and growing. Life today is
much more complex and many of us who now practice Quakerism and attend
meeting were once members of other churches. We can’t help be
influenced by our former beliefs.
The search for the truth in Quakerism is even more important today as
we struggle to cope with a lifestyle that can sometimes run out of
control. Quakerism gives us the means to cope in a setting of peace and
Quakers of the past stood out by their use of plain dress old English
language, and often strict customs. Today, Quakers tend to blend in with
society, dressing and speaking as everyone else. But we still follow the
fundamental doctrine and principles of George Fox, although they're
often interpreted with an eye to the problems of today.
Quakerism is an ever-changing religion. One not bound by the past but
guided by it.