Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome . . .
. . . to our Frequently Asked Questions page
Qucklinks to the answers below
- What is Meeting for Worship?
- Why do we call the building a "Meetinghouse"?
- Where is the minister?
- Why do we have two names, Quakers and Friends?
- What do Friends believe?
- Where are children during Meeting?
- How do Friends financially support meetings?
- Is there adult religious education?
- Is there special counseling available?
- How can I get to know other people?
- How can I get the newsletters?
- How does the Meeting conduct its business?
- What is a "monthly meeting"—don't you worship every Sunday?
- Is my local meeting part of a bigger organization?
- How do social concerns grow from Friends' beliefs?
- What holidays do Friends celebrate?
- How do I become a member?
What is Meeting for Worship?
We call our services “Meetings” because in such assemblies, we meet with one another and with God in holy fellowship. There is no formal order of service and attenders may sit wherever they wish. All participants sit quietly, listening to the leading of the Inner Light, God, or Christ within. It is customary to allow time at the beginning for centering in silence. After about 15 minutes, Friends who are truly moved to speak may speak their message. It is unlikely that any single person will feel moved to speak more than once at a meeting, or at every meeting. Silence should be observed between messages. It is not customary for Friends to bring prepared messages, since all messages should flow from the spirit of the Meeting. A Meeting may have many messages, or be completely silent. In either case, if we have allowed ourselves to be still, we will be drawn together and uplifted in love. Meeting for worship ends when a designated person shakes hands with a neighbor, and then everyone else does the same.
At some meetings, following the period of worship, there may be time for afterthoughts. Afterthoughts are those messages, which we are not sure are spirit-led but we feel compelled to share. There may also be time for introductions and announcements, and there may be time to share joys and sorrows with each other.
Why do we call the building a “Meetinghouse”?
The church is the gathered people, not the building. The building is the place where our spiritual community meets.
Where is the minister?
We believe we are all ministers one to another.
In unprogrammed meetings there is no paid minister of our Friends Meeting. We share the responsibility for vocal ministry, for the care of each other, and the Meeting. If you have any questions about the Meeting, ask the person who leads the announcements.
In programmed, or "pastoral" meetings, there is a minister who takes responsibility for presenting an order of service, giving a sermon or message, and providing pastoral care for the meeting's members and attenders.
Why do we have two names, Quakers and Friends?
Our official name is the Religious Society of Friends (see John 15:15). We are also known as Quakers. When we first started, over 350 years ago, our newfound spiritual power sometimes caused us to tremble with fervor, and we were called Quakers as a form of ridicule. The name stuck and we carry it with pride.
What do Friends believe?
We believe in that of God in everyone; however, there is no written creed. We use our book, Faith and Practice as a guide.
Where are children during Meeting?
The children are welcome to join us for worship, or they may leave for classes. Baby-sitting through the hour may be available for infants. We encourage parents to choose the extent of inclusion that meets the needs of their children, themselves as worshipers, and the other worshipers in the meeting.
How do Friends financially support meetings?
Most meetings are completely supported by financial contributions from members, attenders, and visitors. There will usually be a collection box near the door. You can ask the clerk or treasurer of the meeting if it is set up to do an automatic monthly withdrawal from individuals' checking accounts.
Is there adult religious education?
Many Meetings discuss readings and topics of interest. Occasionally, most also have special programs. Most local Meetings provide pamphlets and some have libraries where you may borrow books. We also have copies available of Faith and Practice.
Is there special counseling available?
Sometimes we need special help. Then we can go to our local meeting and request that a group of Friends get together in prayer and worship to seek clearness. This is not the same as psychotherapy or professional counseling, but the clearness process has long been of great value to Friends.
How can I get to know other people?
There are many ways to meet other people from Meeting on an informal basis, but one of the best ways to get to know us is to join Friends in a potluck meal. Most meetings host potlucks once a month.
Another way is to work on committees with us. This is a good way to learn Quaker process: how we think and work together. Most of the work of a Meeting gets done in committees, many of which welcome attenders. A few are limited to members because they deal in confidential matters. Ask a Friend in your meeting who you should talk to about committees.
How can I get the newsletters?
How do Meetings conduct their business?
The business meeting is facilitated by the Clerk. The process is based on the belief that God can guide us in our business affairs, as in other parts of our lives. Decisions are not made by majority rule because the truth is not necessarily held by the majority. Rather, decisions are made by listening for the “sense of the Meeting”, If agreement is not reached, the matter is reconsidered at a later date.
The actual work is done through standing committees. Concerns are first brought to the attention of the appropriate committee, which handles the matter if possible. If a meeting-wide decision is required, the matter is brought to Monthly Business Meeting, together with the committee’s recommendation.
To bring a matter to the attention of a committee, contact the clerk of that committee.
What is a "monthly meeting"—don't you worship every Sunday?
Meeting for Worship is indeed help weekly by almost all local meetings. In addition to Meeting for Worship, a business meeting (Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business) is held once a month; hence the name, Monthly Meeting. The Monthly Meeting is the primary organization of the Religious Society of Friends. The Monthly Meeting organizes activities to foster community, spiritual growth, and spiritual inspired social action. The Monthly Meeting also has responsibilities such as acceptance of new members and oversight of marriages. Each Monthly Meeting manages its own finances and property.
Is my local meeting part of a bigger organization?
Neighboring Monthly Meetings meet together for business, fellowship, and fun. These gatherings may be called Quarterly, Regional or Half-Yearly meetings.
Monthly meetings are also members of New York Yearly Meeting. The Yearly Meeting provides guidance in Quaker faith and practice by working with local meetings to publish and maintain a handbook, and publish the newsletter, Spark. It supports Powell House retreat center near Albany, New York. New York Yearly Meeting maintains contacts with Quaker service organizations such as American Friends Service Committee, Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
New York Yearly Meeting in turn participates in Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and Friends World Committee for Consultation. There are many other Quaker organizations for those who have special interests.
How do social concerns grow from Friends' beliefs?
Most Friends believe that faith must find expression in action in the world around us. The Religious Society of Friends is not a political organization. Our belief that there is that of God in every person has led some Quakers to be in the forefront on many social reform and peace movements.
What holidays do Friends celebrate?
Friends hold to the belief that each day is sacred. No holidays are particularly special, but we do generally celebrate Christmas, Easter, and other holidays with the rest of the wider society. Our testimony of simplicity lead most Friends to refrain from making too much of any one day, but there are no prohibitions to enjoying holidays.
How do I become a member?
After attending Meeting for Worship for a time, if you are drawn into the fellowship of the Religious Society of Friends, you may be inclined to formalize your relationship with the Meeting. Friends accept into active membership those whose declarations and ways of life manifest unity with Friends views and practices. Applicants should address a letter to their local Meeting indicating their wish to join. They then enter into a clearness process outlined in Faith and Practice to determine if they are ready to become members.