Quakers explain philosophy of ‘peace church’

Tahlequah Quakers explain philosophy of 'peace church'
David, left, and Beth Nagle hold meetings of the Tahlequah Friends Fellowship in their home.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Since fall 2018, a local couple have opened their home to those interested in the Religious Society of Friends.

Also known as Quakers, the Tahlequah Friends Fellowship is led by David and Beth Nagle.

“We believe that God is in every person; we respect all humanity; there is no intermediary required between us and God; and Christ has come to teach his people himself,” said David, a Friends pastor.

The Religious Society of Friends is a Christian movement started by George Fox in England in the 1652. There are now about 400,000 Friends across the globe.

According to David, Fox wanted to know more about life, so he visited leading religious figures of the time. He felt he wasn’t getting answers and was becoming despondent. During a reflection period, Fox said God spoke to him. He began sharing the essential, primitive Christianity.

“We’re operating like the early church did. So much had been added over the centuries, and this gets back to the real basics,” said David. “Today, there are various branches or groups of Friends who have latched onto one or more aspects, but not always. My concern has been to bring it together, to reclaim the whole.”

Some Friends still practice unprogrammed “silent” meetings wherein the entire worship is held in expectant waiting on God. Other Quakers now have programmed services led by a pastor, similar to many Protestant denominations, according to quakerinfo.org.

During a Friends meeting in Tahlequah, a guest will experience a small group of people. It begins with welcoming anyone new to the group, then prayer concerns and joys are shared, said David.

“Then we settle into some silence. It’s usually 30-45 minutes, unless somebody speaks. There are more times when there’s silence than when someone speaks. By meeting together in silence, one may feel healing that speaks to their situation,” he said. “Often, in a programmed meeting, you end up with folks who became interested because they may have been wounded by organized Christianity or other traditions. We’re not here to judge anyone.”

David was raised as a Quaker, but his mother was raised Methodist. Her parents thought highly of Friends even though they were Methodist, and sent his mother to a Quaker school. That’s where she met Nagle’s father. Beth was raised Baptist, and became a Quaker after meeting David.

“I found a spiritual home that felt right for me around Quakers,” she said. “The draw for me was that women in spiritual leadership is recognized and encouraged; it should be equal to men.”

Two misconceptions for Quakers is about the way they dress and their affiliation with Quaker Oats.

We are not associated with Quaker Oats. Because Quaker merchants were known to be trustworthy and honest and have quality merchandise, the adjective ‘Quaker’ became synonymous with value and quality,” said Beth. “Quakers abandoned the uniform way of dress, similar to the Amish, a long time ago.”

She said there are some similarities between Quakers and the Amish or Mennonites, but it is mainly that they are peace churches.

“Quakers are known for opposing war and the draft, and refusing to participate in war or contributing to war. Peace churches are protected from the draft as conscientious objectors of war. Not all Quakers have chosen to do that. Some have chosen to participate in the military,” said Beth. “We have a moral belief that we should not participate in war, and Quakers have opposed the death penalty. The commandment is ‘Do not kill.'”

David said that a good majority of Friends in the U.S. are welcoming and affirming – including Tahlequah Friends Fellowship, which is under the umbrella of Hominy Friends. David has served as a pastor at Hominy Friends, which has been a Osage-Quaker partnership since 1908.

“Quakers had mutual respect with Native Americans from the beginning,” said David. “The Quaker influence over history in this country is larger than our numbers would justify.”

Beth thinks people seeking spiritual guidance are attracted to Quakerism from different religions.

“Some people I think of as wounded spirits. They had negative experiences in other religious groups, and they still desire spirituality, but are afraid. I think people are attracted to Unitarians and Quaker because of the spiritual nurturing without requirement to believe specific things,” she said. “People may not know the Quaker history and the Christian aspects, and that creates tension in the Society of Friends.”

Along with other churches, Friends have had to address the modern issues, and that has split some groups apart.

“We are welcoming and inclusive of anyone who would like to worship with us. I take seriously Jesus’ requirement to love God and love our neighbor, and that includes everyone,” said Beth.

Learn more

For additional information on Tahlequah Friend Fellowship, contact David Nagle at 918-885-2714.



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