When his partner died in 2004, Kevin-Douglas Olive reached a crossroads in his faith. Even though he had been a Quaker for almost two decades and put his trust in Jesus, he began to explore other ways of tapping into the divine.
"I had this experience of (my partner) after death, and he spoke to me and woke me up out of my sleep," Olive says. "It freaked me out, because I really didn't believe in that stuff; my faith in God had disappeared when my partner died."
He started to explore Wicca, a nature-based pagan religion, surrounding himself with pentacles, candles and incense. But that didn't stick. "It seemed like more make-believe on top of the Christian make-believe," he says. "I was rejecting one; I didn't want to bring in another."
Even after Olive found his way back to Jesus, he retained some elements of paganism. While he upholds the standard traditions of his local Quaker meeting hall, he privately incorporates pagan ritual into his prayer.
He's part of a small but growing movement of Quakers who also identify as pagan a trend that may or may not exist in other Christian traditions, but certainly not in such an organized, public fashion.
Across the board, the number of Quakers is dwindling, to roughly 100,000 in the U.S. But if Quakerism continues to catch on among the estimated half million pagans in the U.S., those who embrace both traditions predict that could reverse the Quakers' downward trend. Still, some Quakers worry about losing their own traditions through the process of accepting new ones.
In the last decade, this dual faith has sprung up around the country, including Quaker-pagan gatherings, seminars, an extensive presence on the Internet, and even explicitly Quaker-pagan congregations. There ...