Last Sunday it was time for visiting the Quakers. I'd never been to a Quaker meeting before, but after explaining my newbie status at the door, I was given a handy leaflet to read at my seat. Turns out that to someone who has lived for a long time in Kamakura, home of Zen Buddhism in Japan, a Quaker meeting is very straightforward, You just sit quietly for an hour. It was quite fun, but was less comfortable than Zazen due to the difficulty of getting in to a good posture on the pews which sloped slightly backwards - you have to slope forwards in zazen to get a good straight back and keep your feet on the ground. Consequently, people sat very slouched, which can't be very healthy.
We sat round in a square, approximately 25 of us. Apparently the meeting starts as soon as one people enters the room so there was no introduction. A couple of times people spoke, in surprisingly coherent ways. As it said in the handy booklet, people only speak when the spirit moves them. I'd been dreading this as, when ad libbing from the liturgy, non-ordained Anglicans generally spout rather embarrassing stuff! Not so here. The first person (who turned out to be "the warden" who had greeted me at the door) spoke about how we should always consider that we might be wrong. The second person followed up with how doubt can be a powerful force for good and how we should all be open to new experiences (unlike those other people who don't allow themselves to doubt...hmmm). Despite it being Palm Sunday there was no acknowledgement of this and I extrapolate this to suppose that Quaker meetings don't observe the church calendar. At the end of the meeting were notices, and I got the impression that there was a lot of promotion of good works, worthy causes, and work for charities underway.
After the service (Nescafe for the second week running - I opted for tea!) I learned that Quakers read a lot and write a lot. They have a little library from which it is possible to borrow books. The titles were rather interesting, covering a large range of religion and spiritual practice, from "mindfulness" to "the Muslim Jesus". I met one person who said she was Buddhist. Later the same week, I found a leaflet on Buddhism in our region at the railway station, and found that the Settle sessions are held at the same Friends Meeting House. I expect I'd need to do much more of that reading to understand properly, but on the surface, Quakerism seemed rather like Buddhism in the sense of being less a set of beliefs and more a way of life and worship, and thus not necessarily incompatible with other religions.