Friends church, ‘Quakers’ how it emanated
The Friends church movement arose in the mid 17thCentury in the English civil war in England.
The founder is George Fox born in 1624 in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire. His parents were Christopher Fox a weaver and a church warden. The mother was Mary Lago of the stock of martyrs.
Fox rebelled against the religious and political authorities by proposing an unusual and uncompromising approach to the Christian Faith.
He was often persecuted by the authorities who disapproved of his beliefs. Fox religious background is drawn from the puritans of his time who were English reformed Protestants who sort to purify the Church of England from all Roman Catholic Practices, maintaining that the Church of England was partially reformed.
Fox had little Education but he knew how to read and write. At an early age Fox had possessed a gravity and staidness of mind and a spirit not usual in children.
- As quoted in his journal “when I came to eleven years of age, I knew pureness and righteousness, for a while I was a child I was taught how to walk in holiness, the Lord taught me to be faithful in all things, to be faithful in two ways. Inwardly to God and outwardly to fellow humans.
At the age of 19, in 1643, he carried on a search for perfection, seeking out clergymen and others for spiritual guidance but none could satisfy him, he did not appreciate his second hand answers and could find assurance of Salvation and victory over sin. Turning to the Bible reading and prayer, he spent time to lonely places. Though he received revelations, it was until 1647 at 23, that his spiritual conflict was resolved.
“When all my hope in them was gone, so that I had nothing outwardly left to help me, nor could tell what to do, …….then, oh then, I heard a voice which said.
“There is one, even Christ Jesus, which can speak to thy condition, and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy”.
Afterwards he claimed that peace had come to him, not through the scriptures but the direct revelation of Christ. That is when he began his ministry as a travelling minister called to preach abroad into the world. He was soon in demand, preaching out of doors or at close of Puritan meetings, his distinctive message attracted much attention.
The origin of the name ‘Quaker’
Fox was imprisoned 8 times, and 1650 he was brought before the magistrate Gervase Bennet at Derby. He was charged with ‘blasphemy’ but as Fox was waiting on God inwardly, he started to tremble in the Spirit of God. The magistrate was amazed with what was happening and instead of prosecuting him he ordered him to go out, by saying, “look at this Quaker, take him out”. Thus the title “Quakers”.
Children of light, Friends of Truth. The scriptural base of the Quakers is from John 15:14. “You are my Friends if you do what I command.” The current names are Religious society of friends (Quakers). Recently in East Africa, the Name CHURCH was added to avoid speculations whether the movement is Church or not.
- In 1652 MAY is the date which marks the true beginning of the movement. After 5yrs, Fox came to a place called Lancashire on Pendle Hill, at the top of the hill, Fox saw a place where the Lord had a great people to be gathered……(and) a great people in white raiment by a rivers side coming the Lord”.
- Many converts were drawn from the lower middle classes, churches, seekers and the Renters.
- In 1654 Fox send out sixty missionaries, travelling in Paris, into the southern Counties.
- In 1657, he went to Wales and Scotland,
- In 1661, his followers visited Ireland, America, Holy Land and Egypt.
Quakers drew attention to themselves by their unusual customs and manners. They refused to wear fine clothes, refused to take off their hats before magistrates. They also refused to use Pagan names and to take any Oaths, not join the army challenging the church to return to a pacifist policy.
They became a much persecuted group: they suffered 2100 imprisonments, from which 32 Quakers died, but still they maintained their worship services thus their numbers increased. They went to prison for it cheerfully.
The beginning of meetings
Early Quakers referred to their fellowships as meetings, referring to a church building as a meeting house, and they still maintain it to date, though they also acknowledge the meeting as a church fellowship for Christians.
In 1668 , George Fox put Friends in an organized basis , as follows; Village/Local, meeting on every Sunday and in the middle of week, Monthly meetings, meeting after a month, Quarterly meetings, fellow-shipping after 3 months and then Yearly meetings which brings together members to fellowship after one year which brought all Quaker Christians around Europe.
The first Yearly meeting to start was London Y.M. which still exists today, but there are so many other Yearly meetings in America, Europe, and Africa mostly in Kenya which has the high number of Quakers. (The meetings were meant for pastoral care and discipline).
Now we have Youth meetings meant for young members, Quakermen meetings that is headed by Quaker men or male members of the church, USFW (United Society of Friends Women Meetings this is led by female members of the church and finally General meetings this comprises all members of the church, the three meetings form General Meeting.
FOX married Margaret Fell widow of Thomas Fell whom he converted to the movement and the family became instrumental in his ministry, she gave her home in Swarthmore Hall in Lancashire which became Fox Headquarters. This place remains a Quaker historic site. Fox had no his own biological children but together his wife they raised orphans of Thomas.
Courtesy of Pastor Jane Mutoro of BuruBuru Friends church in Nairobi.