To be a Friend is to be a Nonconformist person who practices nonconformism.

Historical Nonconformism

In English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not ‘conform’ to worshipping within the established Church of England (CofE) – and became known as metaphorical weeds within the church’s garden that needed weeding out.

Nearly a century before Quakerism began, the 1559 Act of Uniformity was designed to target the English Dissenters who sought to break away from the CofE.

Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity was updated in 1662.

By law and social custom, nonconformists were restricted from many spheres of public life – not least, from access to public office, civil service careers, or degrees at university – and were referred to as suffering from civil disabilities.

Even to this day, Quakerism is still considered a nonconformist faith and the Quakers are widely regarded as the Nonconformists of the Nonconformists.

Contemporary Nonconformism

Today, nonconformism has taken a more general meaning of someone who does not conform to prevailing ideas or practices in their behaviour or views. Contemporary Friends often express their nonconformism through some or all of the following:

  • Taking the path less beaten
  • Valuing opinions that are different
  • Finding and following interests outside of the ‘norm’
  • Celebrating difference
  • Embracing other faiths as an enrichment to one’s own faith

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