Quaker Principles and Practices

Quakers who worship in unprogrammed Meetings share a way of life, not a set of beliefs.  We seek to experience God directly, within ourselves and in our relationships with others and the world around us. We meet together for worship in local Meetings which are inclusive and open to all.  Quakerism is a way of life built upon principles of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship, rather than a written set of beliefs.   Quakers have a demonstrated, long-held commitment to putting their faith into direct action in the world.

Quaker Meetings offer a place where people can find a real sense of community and are free to challenge, question and explore their own beliefs, values and ideas.  Many Quakers describe it as a spiritual home – a place of deep connections; a group of people bound together by an awareness of the sacred in all things and a desire to change the world for the better.

Gunpowder Friends Meeting Building Exterior

Quaker Worship

You do not have to be a Quaker to attend a Quaker Meeting for worship. Meetings are open to all, children included, and you may come as you are. The heart of the Quaker way is the silent Meeting for Worship, which generally lasts for one hour.

Meeting for Worship is a time for communal, gathered stillness, where we can be open to inspiration from the Spirit of God or the Light Within, heard within us as we sit together in common purpose. As we sit together in silent worship we find peace of mind and challenging insights; we develop deep community and a renewed sense of individual purpose; and we discover joy to wonder at God’s creation.

During our worship some are moved to share their thoughts and inspirations that rise from God or the Light Within.  Space is created through silent contemplation of the words spoken and often these inspirational messages resonate deeply with others who may also share their thoughts, or simply continue to contemplate the message shared by another.

The shared silence in Meeting for Worship is different from the silence of solitary meditation.  The silence in Meeting for Worship involves deep listening and patient waiting as we seek to experience the divine and to hear the messages that God chooses for us on a given day.  The seating is usually arranged in a circle or a square to help people be aware of one another and remain conscious of the fact that they are worshipping together as equals.  There are no priests or ministers.

The silence may be broken if someone present feels called to say something which will deepen and enrich the worship. Anyone is free to speak, pray or read aloud if they feel strongly led to do so. This breaks the silence for the moment but does not interrupt it.

In the quietness of the Meeting, we can become aware of a deep and powerful spirit of love and truth, transcending our ordinary, day-to-day experiences. This sense of direct contact with the divine is at the heart of the Quaker way of worship and nourishes Quakers in the rest of their daily lives.

Quaker Worship

You do not have to be a Quaker to attend a Quaker Meeting for worship. Meetings are open to all, children included, and you may come as you are. The heart of the Quaker way is the silent Meeting for Worship, which generally lasts for one hour.

Meeting for Worship is a time for communal, gathered stillness, where we can be open to inspiration from the Spirit of God or the Light Within, heard within us as we sit together in common purpose. As we sit together in silent worship we find peace of mind and challenging insights; we develop deep community and a renewed sense of individual purpose; and we discover joy to wonder at God’s creation.

During our worship some are moved to share their thoughts and inspirations that rise from God or the Light Within.  Space is created through silent contemplation of the words spoken and often these inspirational messages resonate deeply with others who may also share their thoughts, or simply continue to contemplate the message shared by another.

The shared silence in Meeting for Worship is different from the silence of solitary meditation.  The silence in Meeting for Worship involves deep listening and patient waiting as we seek to experience the divine and to hear the messages that God chooses for us on a given day.  The seating is usually arranged in a circle or a square to help people be aware of one another and remain conscious of the fact that they are worshipping together as equals.  There are no priests or ministers.

The silence may be broken if someone present feels called to say something which will deepen and enrich the worship. Anyone is free to speak, pray or read aloud if they feel strongly led to do so. This breaks the silence for the moment but does not interrupt it.

In the quietness of the Meeting, we can become aware of a deep and powerful spirit of love and truth, transcending our ordinary, day-to-day experiences. This sense of direct contact with the divine is at the heart of the Quaker way of worship and nourishes Quakers in the rest of their daily lives.

What do Quakers Believe?

Quakers do not share a fixed set of beliefs. Our unity is based on a shared understanding and a shared practice of worship, not on our beliefs.  There is no need to be in unity with Quakers on every issue in order to be part of our meetings.

There is a great diversity within the Quakers on conceptions of God, and we use different kinds of language to describe religious experience. Some Quakers have a conception of God which is similar to that of orthodox Christians, and would use similar language. Others are happy to use God-centered language, but would conceive of God in very different terms to the traditional Christian trinity. Some describe themselves as agnostics, or humanists, or non-theists and describe their experiences in ways that avoid the use of the word “God” entirely. Quaker faith is experiential and it is the spiritual experience that is central to Quaker worship, and not the adherence to strict religious doctrine.

Some of our spiritual insights, which we call our testimonies, have been reaffirmed by successive generations of Quakers. These testimonies endorse simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. You can find out more about these testimonies, and how we try to incorporate them in our day-to-day lives by exploring the Faith and Practice of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

There are many explanations of Quakerism available in print and online.

Thanks to the Religious Society of Friends in Great Britain for permission to use material we have adapted above.

Please visit Friends General Conference (FGC)'s site, to explore the Quaker Way, to view frequently asked questions, or to read about basics for newcomers.

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