PEI

P.E.I. Quakers live their faith quietly, peacefully

The current P.E.I. Quaker worship group began in 1991 and now meets every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 at the Chaplaincy Centre at UPEI.

'It's quite different from most other faith communities'

Community service is important to Quakers, so when they held their annual national meeting on P.E.I. in 2015, they planted trees in Stratford, P.E.I. (Submitted by Daphne Davey)

Did you know there are Quakers on P.E.I.?

The Quaker movement began in England in the 1650s, with Christians who believed in less formal church organization and fewer religious trappings — a more stripped-down, personal relationship with a divine being.

With an over-arching theme of peace and friendship, that movement spread throughout the world and now the Religious Society of Friends has a small but steadfast following on P.E.I.

"It's always a little difficult to say in a few little, pat words what Quakers believe," said Daphne Davey of Crapaud, the clerk of the P.E.I. Quakers. 

"Our whole tenet is to approach life non-violently, without wars," she said, noting many but not all Quakers consider themselves Christian.

Words to live by 

There were some Quakers on P.E.I. in the late 1700s, Davey said, but then no recorded Quaker activity until the late 1970s. 

In the spirit of the principle of equality, Quakers of both sexes willingly help with kitchen duties. From left: Morris Burgoyne, Linda Foy (visitor), Steann Hansen, Daphne Davey and Patricia Craig. (Submitted by Daphne Davey)

The current P.E.I. Quaker worship group began in 1991 and now meets every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 at the Chaplaincy Centre at UPEI. There are about 14 active participants, or "friends" — a number that grows in summer with seasonal residents and visitors. Worship is followed by a potluck meal and time to chat. 

You will find many Quakers in the forefront of peace demonstrations.— Daphne Davey

The Quakers live by six principles, what the group calls "testimonies," of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and more recently, stewardship, especially of the environment. 

Quakers are well known for their involvement in the underground railroad — the secret netowrk that smuggled slaves to free states and Canada in the 1800s. Quakers are firm believers in equality, so abhorred slavery. 

Equality of the sexes is practiced as well as preached, Davey said, so at gatherings men will be side by side with women in the kitchen and help raise children — an idea that was extremely radical 300 years ago. 

No priest or minister

And their method of worship is not what most Islanders are used to. No minister leads a sermon — Quakers sit facing one other or in a circle, and worship silently, together, for an hour. 

P.E.I. Quakers try to live by the principles of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. (Submitted by Daphne Davey)

Davey, now a senior, found the faith through neighbours in England at age 14. 

"The moment I walked into that meeting house, I knew I'd found my spiritual home," she said. 

If you didn't realize there is a Quaker Society of Friends on the Island, you're not alone — Quakers quietly try to live their best lives, "rather than spend a lot of time and energy advertising their views and beliefs," Davey said.  

"You will find many Quakers in the forefront of peace demonstrations — and of course, they are peaceful participants," Davey said. Many also work on and volunteer for social justice. 

'Quite different'

You won't be able to tell a Quaker by what they wear, or where they live. Although sometimes confused with Shakers or Amish, Quakers don't live in segregated communities or wear uniform clothing. 

"It's quite different from most other faith communities," Davey said, noting the lack of organized heirarchy and the consensus-based group decision-making.

Davey directs anyone who'd like to know more to visit the national website Quaker.ca, where you can even ask Quakers questions.

Anyone is welcome to come to the Quaker meeting Sundays at UPEI, Davey said.

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca