Quakerism FAQs

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What is a Quaker?

The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, is a Christian movement that emerged in England during the seventeenth century. Quakers believe in direct spiritual encounter with God (instead of relying on human intermediaries) and the conviction that God can and does speak to all persons.

 

What do Quakers value?

Quakers value a deep spiritual connection with the divine, community, social justice, equality, nonviolence, peace, education, and seeking divine guidance in all aspects of life.

 

What is a Meeting for Worship?

A Meeting for Worship is similar to what other religions call a “church service,” but in the Quaker tradition as we practice it at Fifteenth Street Friends come together silently. Meetings for worship take place at Fifteenth Street Meeting on First Days (Sundays) at 9:30am and 11am.

 

What is First Day School?

First Day School is what other churches often call “Sunday School”. Children are provided with a grounding in Quaker ideas and practices, including worship and the process of care of the earth, social justice, and living with integrity. It is designed to help them understand that religion and everyday life are interconnected.

At Fifteenth Street, First Day School takes place on the second floor during the 11:00 meeting, for children five and above. For children younger than five, there is play-based childcare in the same room. In other words: If you have kids, please bring them along!

 

What should I expect at a Quaker Meeting?

At a Quaker Meeting, Friends gather in silence, seeking communion with God and the opening of their hearts. During the meeting, individuals may feel moved to speak if they are led by the Spirit—in which case they will stand or come to the front to do so. The call to ministry may come to any worshipper, and the more they listen, the more they become aware of and are able to follow spiritual leadings. It’s important to listen tenderly to all messages, even those that may not seem to speak to one’s condition.

 

Is there a minister or preacher at a Quaker Meeting?

In the Quaker tradition practiced at Fifteenth Street Meeting, there is no appointed minister or preacher in the traditional sense, and no set order of worship, what Friends call an unprogrammed meeting. The Quaker approach to ministry and worship is characterized by a deep respect for the Inner Light and the potential for spiritual insight in each individual.

There are also programmed Quaker Meetings, like our sister Meeting, Manhattan Monthly Meeting, where there may be appointed pastors who help find a spiritual focus for the meeting. However, even in these settings, the emphasis is on the collective seeking of the Spirit’s guidance rather than on a traditional sermon or preaching style.

 

Can I speak at a Quaker Meeting?

Yes, in a Quaker Meeting, any worshipper is encouraged to speak if they feel moved by the Spirit to do so. If you feel a spiritual leading to speak, you are encouraged to do so at any time, as long as it is done in a spirit of humility and with the intention of contributing to the spiritual depth of the meeting.

 

What do I wear at a Quaker meeting?

In a Quaker Meeting, there is no specific dress code or prescribed attire. Friends value simplicity and modesty, and many choose to dress in a way that reflects these values. However, there is no formal requirement for specific clothing. Ultimately, the most important thing is to attend the meeting with a sincere and open heart, ready to engage in worship and communal spiritual reflection.

 

Do I need to give money at a Quaker Meeting?

Tithing is not a formal practice within Quakerism. The principles of stewardship and responsible use of resources are central to Quaker faith and practice, so individual Quakers may choose to give financially in ways that align with their personal convictions and the needs of their community. For those called to donate to the Fifteenth Street Meeting, you may do so here., or in the donations box in the lobby of the Meeting House.

How do you join, or become a Quaker?

Quaker worship is open to all, but for those seeking membership, it begins with an application (commonly a written letter) expressing your spiritual journey, your involvement in a Friends organization, and your reasons for seeking membership. Each applicant is assigned a clearness committee, which evaluates the applicant for membership and assesses their unity with Quaker principles. If the clearness committee finds the applicant is committed to the values and practices of the Society, they put forward the application at the Meeting for Business for all members to approve.

 

If I am a different religion, can I become a Quaker?

Yes, individuals of any faith can indeed become members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. The Quaker belief in the presence of the divine in everyone, as expressed in the principle that “there is that of God in everyone,” allows for a diverse membership that includes individuals from various religious backgrounds.

 

What do Quakers believe about Jesus?

There is a diversity of beliefs within the Religious Society of Friends. Not all Quakers today identify as Christians, but many Quakers hold Christian beliefs in some form.

Among Quakers with Christian beliefs, these beliefs vary widely.  Some view Jesus as simply a great moral teacher, emphasizing the universal principles of love, compassion, and justice that Jesus embodied rather than focusing on traditional Christian doctrines of atonement and salvation. Many others not only honor him as a historical figure, but believe in certain New Testament teachings about him that were emphasized by the founders of Quakerism: That in his earthly life he was the Word of God made flesh, that after his crucifixion his Spirit still lives, that he was and still is the Light that lives in everyone in the world, whether or not they identify as Christians.

The most important role of Jesus as seen by the founders of Quakerism was not merely to forgive “sins” or moral weaknesses, but to help people to overcome them by hearing and obeying his voice in the conscience, and seeking his guidance in our group decision making.

 

 

Besides a Meeting for Worship, are there other types of meetings?

The Quaker term “meeting” generally refers to a gathering of Quakers in a worshipful spirit for various purposes. It can encompass different types of gatherings within the Quaker community, each serving a specific function. Besides the Meeting for Worship, there are several other common uses of the term meeting:

A Meeting for Business (sometimes also called Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business) gathers monthly to conduct the business affairs of the Quaker community. It involves making decisions and addressing administrative, organizational and spiritual concerns of the community.

A Monthly Meeting can be loosely translated as a “congregation.” It has the primary responsibility for conducting meetings for worship and for care of relations among individual members, such as receiving applications and recording membership, approving and overseeing marriages, and providing pastoral care. It is called a “Monthly Meeting” because it meets monthly to conduct business.

A Quarterly or Yearly Meeting: These are larger gatherings of Friends that serve regional and general purposes, respectively. Quarterly Meetings bring together multiple monthly meetings to worship, counsel, and conduct business of common interest and concern and meet four times a year. The New York Quarterly Meeting includes the Monthly Meetings of New York City. Yearly Meetings serve a wider area and hold a full annual meeting, as well as interim meetings in the course of the year. The New York Yearly Meeting serves New York State and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey..

 

Answers adapted from the Fifteenth Street Friends Meeting Handbook and New York Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice, two documents that record some of our practices.