Quakers are among Christian groups that do not, for the most part, celebrate Easter in the manner of most Christians. There are somewhat differing views among Friends, since there are schisms in the Quaker community, as there are among other Christian denominations, so individual Quakers make their own choices about what to do on Easter. But for traditional, conservative Quakers it is a time for quiet reflection and prayer, in a manner most believe should take place every day.
George Fox, the founder of the Quaker Church, or as it is sometimes called the Society of Friends, said when asked how he celebrated Christmas, “When the time called Christmas came, while others were feasting and sporting themselves I looked out poor widows from house to house, and gave them some money.” These words are documented in his writings called The Journal of George Fox. This statement is used for guidance
of many Quakers on how to behave toward their fellow man in honor of the man called Jesus.
The simplicity statement
of the Quakers reflects the traditional belief in particular, “As we hold that one day is no more holy than another, as all days are the gift of the most High, do we continue to maintain a firm Christian witness that our members do not join in any public fasts, feasts, so-called holy-days and religious festivals (such as times called "Christmas" and "Easter" by some); for though exterior observances of a similar kind were once authorised under the law, as shadows of things to come, yet they who come to Christ will we believe assuredly find that in him all shadows end.”
In this particular belief, Quakers are somewhat like Jehovah’s Witnesses who also do not celebrate Easter or other holidays and prefer instead to honor the life and death of Jesus within their own traditions. For Jehovah’s Witnesses that is the special meeting that takes place respecting the sacrifice of Jesus death on a stake. For Quakers it can be simple contemplation.
For many people Easter celebrations take place in multiple traditions, with symbols of bread and wine and the cross as well as the Biblical story of the resurrection. These celebrations take place all over the world, in small and large churches, or even outside in special sunrise services. Despite the varying manner of worship and beliefs, Easter for most Christians is an important holiday. That is because, according to one author
, “The Christians believe that the resurrection of Jesus means that they can have a new life after death.
This belief is celebrated during Easter.”Last night my husband asked me, “So what do you want to do on Easter? “ “Steal Jesus from it, “ I told him with a chuckle, not intolerant of others beliefs, “Because there’s so much fussing about it all, I think He must get confused when it gets so mixed up with Easter eggs and bunnies that the significance of His life’s messages can get lost.”
For Quakers like me it always remains a choice. In some communities where there are no other Quakers, individuals may attend another church, although choose to refrain from specific practices, such as communion.
So here is one Quaker’s narrative of an Easter morning, an inward symbolism, of what others might do today in some similar pattern of worship to honor a man known as Jesus whom Quakers believe taught folks the best way to live.
I went to the river at sunrise, and I thought I heard weeping nearby. In the moment I felt my hand taken and held, while I wondered just what I might say. “I’m with you right here,” was the message, softly sweeping across a spring day. “I’m with you wherever you travel. With God I am there all the time. It’s there I belong, not just Easter. It’s your heart and in others I live.”
Then I felt a voice deep inside me as He spoke on this beautiful day, “I weep as I watch the ducks swimming. I think how precious each life can be for I know about suffering and death. My tears are for soldiers in battle, in wars that they never can win. I cry for mothers who hurt for their sons who are waiting to die in some jail. And I think of the poor and the lonely I had said are important to me. These I see as they wander without any bread, while cathedrals are built for God’s home. Yet home is with Father’s sweet children, who are hungry and waiting outside.”
I thanked Him and said I’d remember, that message He gave me again. It is there that the heart finds its “Easter” just as I feel I need every day.
It is that way, or a manner that simple, for centuries of belief, that Quaker friends, honor the man known as Jesus as others of Christendom celebrate Easter with its unique customs and traditions.