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What it means to be a Quaker...

Paul Jeorrett
Paul explains how Quaker meetings are normally held in silence

Paul Jeorrett is a university librarian in Wrexham, where he lives with his wife and their two sons. Here, he talks about his Quaker beliefs and the religion's Welsh connections.

Were you born into Quakerism or did you come to it later?

"I was a church-goer for years and went to church twice every Sunday then drifted off for a while. Then I met my wife who'd never been to church but thought the Quaker movement looked quite interesting so we went to a wonderful Quaker meeting in Burford. And it was just like coming home.

"We got more involved in Quakerism when we moved to Wrexham. The first person I spoke to was the Clerk of Wrexham meeting who happened to work at Glyndwr University which is where I work. Fantastically welcoming - we went into the meeting and people look after you. It's a big community in that sense."

How do Quaker meetings differ from traditional church services?

"In a Quaker meeting you come into a group of people usually sitting in a circle and it doesn't look as though there's anything going on. It's a silent meeting, at least the British tradition of Quakers is that meetings are held in silence, or should I say stillness. We believe that as a group, something's happening within that group of people and we're being led by God and the people who minister.

"We don't have a vicar or a priest but we would consider everybody to have the opportunity to share and to minister. We are our own priesthood."

Are the meetings completely silent?

"Though the meetings are mainly held in silence those attending are welcome to speak. They could read something or they could say something from their personal experience or something that's happening to them at the moment. They might read from the Bible, they might say a prayer. We have a book called 'Quaker faith and practice' which is really a gathering of sayings from Quakers and other people within our tradition. Someone might read from that - we call it ministry but it's not like a sermon.

I personally believe if you have a faith and you're not living it, what's the point?
Paul Jeorrett

"The first time I spoke at a meeting I felt the hairs go up on the back of my neck, my heart started to pound and I thought 'I'm going to have to stand up and say something' even though I didn't necessarily know what I was going to say. So you stand up, say something and sit down and then you're calm again.

"Sometimes nobody speaks at all however that can be really powerful as well because something has happened amongst that group as a collective group."

What are Quaker weddings and funerals like?

"There's no priest. The Quaker registrar will lead the worship. It's rarely held in silence though because there will be lots of people there who aren't Quakers and they will share a poem or say something nice about the couple. There will also be periods of wonderful, calm quiet! At the end, everybody there signs the marriage certificate so you actually have a signature and a record of everybody there.

"Funerals are held in the same tradition, either in a meeting house or at the crematorium. It is silent but very rarely completely silent. People will speak about the person and you usually learn amazing things about people you thought you knew well."

What is Quakerism's connection with Wales?

"There's a strong Quaker tradition in Wales. Morgan Llwyd in Wrexham, a significant Puritan preacher at the time, was interested in many different sorts of traditions and he sent two men to meet George Fox (the founder of Quakerism) in Cumbria to find out more about what he believed and one of them was John ap John. He came back and reported to Morgan Llwyd who was very much taken with Quakerism. Whether he would ever have become a Quaker we don't know because he passed away not long after that.

"But John ap John travelled around Wales, sometimes with George Fox and other Quakers and spread the good news about what George Fox had found and shared with others."

What does being a Quaker mean to you?

"Being a Quaker is an ongoing revelation. God will continue His creation and His revelation to us."

Wrexham Quakers meet every Sunday from 10.30-11.30am at the Quaker Meeting House in Holt Road.




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