Date: September 17, 2017 06:17PM
Yes, I joined the Religious Society of Friends, a.k.a. Quakers, more than 35 years ago. Historically the movement began in reaction to the established church in England in the mid-1600's. It shared some similarities with (but arose independently of) the Anabaptists on the European continent.
In 1800's America there were some schisms, leaving American Quakers today split between:
(a) congregations ("Friends Churches") that tend to be theologically conservative, bible-centered, sometimes evangelical, with ordained clergy and a "programmed" order of worship (including sermons and music), and
(b) congregations ("Friends Meetings") that tend to be theologically liberal or universalist, without ordained clergy, with "unprogrammed" worship that is mostly contemplative or meditative. I'm a member of the latter group, and so my comments following apply to "unprogrammed" Friends Meetings.
We have no formal creed, theological doctrine, or articles of faith that must be affirmed to qualify for membership. The individual beliefs of Friends vary regarding the nature of deity, the existence and nature of an afterlife, etc. Many individual Friends identify as Christian (perhaps liberally interpreted), but many also describe themselves as universalist, or Buddhist, or other. It is up to each individual to seek truth in these matters as she finds it. And we are generally comfortable with theological heterodoxy.
There are, however, some central values that we share. First is the notion of respect and reverence for the life of every human being (or as Friends traditionally said, "There is that of God in every person"). From this notion flow other shared values of high importance to Friends: seeking to live life in a spirit of love, truth, peace, equality, and community. Thus, Quakers tend to be involved in social movements and actions seeking to enact these values.
Decision-making authority in Quaker community rests principally in each congregation or "Meeting." Decisions are made in monthly congregational meetings ("business meetings"), using a kind of consensus process, chaired by a "Clerk". Clerks appointed by their meetings usually rotate every few years.
The Quaker practice of mostly meditative worship is described by others in this thread. It isn't for everyone. And for those who mostly share with Quakers the same values and liberal approach to theology--but who prefer a structured service with professional clergy, prepared sermons, and music--a Unitarian Universalist congregation might provide a good fit. Except for the form of worship, the two denominations share much in common. (Full disclosure: when I was a young man I considered becoming UU after leaving Mormonism. And my husband, whom I met after becoming Quaker, is a UU minister.)
So, you asked, and this is my attempt to describe Friends Meetings in a nutshell.
In peace, (as we say),