Quakers share a way of life rather than a set of beliefs. Quakers seek to experience God directly, within ourselves and in our relationships with others and the world around us. The Quaker way has its roots in Christianity and finds inspiration in the Bible and the life and teachings of Jesus. Quakers also find meaning and value in the teachings of other faiths and acknowledge that Quakerism is not the only way.
The focus is on experience rather than written statements of belief. The Quaker sense of community does not depend on professing identical beliefs, but from worshipping, sharing and working together. In school, we find that the Quaker ethos is one that sits happily with young people from all backgrounds and faiths. They see it as offering something personal to them as individuals, whether or not they are from a Quaker background. The Quaker tenets of simplicity, tolerance, equality and peace reach out beyond the boundaries of any particular faith. Quakers believe in strong encouragement of the individual. Each person has the capacity to be good, the ability to see the Light of God, and the ability to put that truth to good use. So at Bootham we provide a different kind of learning environment. Bootham students acquire the academic qualifications they need to go on to the next stage of education, but they also acquire, we hope, the wisdom needed to lead a ‘good life’: a strong sense of social understanding, the skills to deal with adversity, tolerance and respect for others, and a strong sense of self-worth. For generations of Bootham students, the Quaker ethos has spoken with relevance and meaning.
Comments below are from the Independent Schools Inspectorate report on Bootham School, January 2014
The pupils’ moral development is excellent. At all ages, they have a well-developed sense of right and wrong, behave well and are noticeably courteous. They understand the need for the school community to have a code of behaviour. They appreciate that, in the Quaker tradition, the onus of responsibility is placed firmly on the individual. They recognise the importance of their individual actions and their effect on the community as a whole. They understand that bullying of any kind is wrong. Throughout the school, pupils demonstrate excellent moral and ethical awareness. They are alert to injustice, as seen by their positive response to the suggestion that they should write to their MPs highlighting examples of inequality around the world.
The Religious Society of Friends, (Quakers) was originated by George Fox (1624-1691) during a period of political upheaval and social change in England. The established churches, Catholic and Anglican, were at a low ebb at this time, caught up in conflicts and preoccupied with forms and power struggles rather than religious witness. Neither provided much help to the victims of upheaval in a violent century, and so there were thousands of “seekers” who were looking for something that they could believe in and that would give meaning to their lives.
One such seeker, George Fox, after years of spiritual questioning, had a revelation on Pendle Hill, gateway to the English Lake District. This revelation led to the birth of the Religious Society of Friends and has been at the heart of its life and witness ever since. From this revelation, George Fox derived his essential insight, which was that there is “that of God” in everyone, and that one can gain access to the God within through stillness and the practice of silence.
Quakers have been forward-looking educationalists ever since George Fox himself established schools for both boys and girls in the 17th century: and equality of opportunity for both sexes (within the constraints of different social understanding at different times) has been a continuing thread throughout history. Nowadays, eight independent secondary schools in England, and many more in America and around the world, carry on the ideals of a Friends education.
Because Quakers believe that faith requires action in the world, we try at Bootham to develop a caring community, the peaceful resolution of conflict, and opportunities for service to others, especially those less fortunate. Friends have a long tradition of putting love into action, and the Quaker testimonies are reflected in the life of the school. Students grow into compassionate and responsible adults who recognise their interconnectedness with the larger human family.