What we Believe
We believe that every person is loved by the Divine Spirit. There are Quakers of all ages, religious backgrounds, races, education, sexual orientations, gender identities, and classes... You are welcome to join us as you are.
- Friends General Conference's Newcomer Card
The Religious Society of Friends is a community of faith based on experience of a transforming power named many ways: the Inner Light, the Spirit of Christ, the Guide, the Living God, the Divine Presence. Friends are open to an ongoing relationship with God and seek to live according to the leadings of the Spirit as affirmed by the community of faith.
We try to live our lives simply, with integrity, treating everyone equally.
We are opposed to war, and encourage peaceful resolution to conflict.
We believe that all humans need to be good stewards of the earth, limiting wasteful use of non-renewable resources and encouraging exploration of sustainable innovations in energy, agriculture and other.
Membership includes openness to an ongoing relationship with God and willingness to live one’s life according to the leadings of the Spirit as affirmed by the community of faith. For generations of Friends, membership has been an outward sign of an inward experience of Christ, the “true light which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).
Friends have proclaimed from the beginning that every person is endowed with the capacity to enter directly, without mediator or mediation, into an empowering holy communion with God.
Quaker Testimonies (SPICES)
Friends have, over time, developed some consistent ways of behavior and of interacting with the world that we call our testimonies.
Our testimonies are the way we live what we believe. Quakers believe that God wants us to live as good people. There have been many testimonies over the years, but a basic list of our testimonies is often remembered with the acronym SPICES:
Use financial and natural resources carefully. Keep life simple so we are free to live in harmony and alignment with soul’s purpose. Service learning is a priority.
Build conflict resolution skills. Foster effective communication and alternatives to violence. See conflict as a springboard to moral growth. Seek elegant, simple solutions to problems or disagreements. Encourage creative problem-solving. Make decisions by consensus or the “sense of the meeting.”
Let your life speak: your outer life reflects your inner life. Nurture the inner moral compass and cultivate inner motivation in everyone. Treat others with respect and honesty. Acknowledge interconnectedness and essential oneness.
Connect with all members of the community. Bridge differences and create a close, working group.
Be our authentic selves. Create a safe, nurturing atmosphere in which all Friends can share all sides of themselves. Balance needs of the individual with needs of the group. Teach respect for everyone and the idea that everyone has a piece of the truth. Gather in silent meeting for worship and listen to other people’s thoughts without judgment or comment.
Respect different people and different ideas. Encourage families of diverse race, socioeconomic status, family structure, and faith backgrounds to worship and join the Meeting. Honor all faiths. Do not try to convert anyone to Quakerism, just offer it for consideration to a Seeker. Celebrate a rich community made up of many cultures. Invite members of various nationalities to share their stories, heritage, experiences. Reflect a broad, inclusive spectrum of the global family.
Protect and care for the Earth in a sacred trust. Walk lightly on the Earth, recycle and reuse whenever possible, and reduce the amount of energy we consume. Promote environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Teach social justice and the need for equal access to resources. Instill a sense of social responsibility and service work such as fundraisers, partnerships with outside organizations, and many more initiatives.
What are the Queries?
Friends have assessed the state of our religious society through the use of queries since the time of George Fox. Meetings use queries as a guide for self-examination, as a framework for periodically examining, clarifying and prayerfully considering the direction of our individual lives and the life of the meeting community. Quakers explore many facets of their daily lives to be sure that each is living in harmony with the Quaker community, the wider communities and the planet.
As an example, the queries for Deepening Our Faith in Meeting for Worship are:
Are our meetings for worship held in stilled, expectant waiting upon God?
As we worship in the living silence, are we drawn together by the power of God in our midst? Do we experience a deep reverence for the integrity of creation?
How does our worship nurture all worshipers, creating a deeper sense of community?
How does our meeting encourage vocal ministry that spiritually nurtures the worshiping community?
Meetings apply the general queries in a variety of ways. Some meetings prepare written answers—for example, as background for developing a state-of-the-meeting report; some use them as an aid to inward reflection; some make them part of the meeting for worship or meeting for business—either by reading one of the sets of queries or by reading selections from that set.
The current queries are contained in our Faith & Practice book. There may be times when a meeting will reword a query or contemplate a new one to meet its particular situation. Whatever the approach, faithful attention to the queries—open to the Spirit—can enrich the life of the meeting and individual Friends.
Faith & Practice includes advice on procedures within the faith, membership, current practice for conducting meeting business and numerous quotations from Friends on belief, worship, concerns, leadings, and testimonies.
Quakerbooks.org is currently selling copies of Faith & Practice.
What is Vocal Ministry?
(From Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice)
Direct communion with God constitutes the essential experience of meeting for worship. Fresh insights may come to anyone out of the living stillness. Some insights are purely personal, providing guidance and inspiration to that individual. Other insights seem meant for the meeting as a whole.
Friends find that vocal ministry:
Can arise in anyone who is present at meeting for worship;
Manifests itself in the individual as a “call”, described as an uncomfortable quickening or a profound silence before speaking and a sense of relief or release afterward;
Arises from the heart rather than the head;
Impels the worshipper to rise and share the message received from Spirit;
Does not break the silence but adds to it;
Takes many different forms, including prayer, song, story, testimonial or dance;
Cannot be readily reconstructed afterward by the one who responds to the call;
Is a conduit for God’s love and work in the world;
Is a call to faithfulness.
Those who are hesitant should feel the meeting community’s loving encouragement to give voice to the message that arises within them. Friends who are frequent speakers in meeting for worship serve the meeting best when they, like all others, wait patiently for the prompting of the Inward Teacher. Friends need time to absorb each message, so it is important to allow space between messages.
Friends are encouraged to welcome the movement of the Spirit in ministry. A given message may resonate differently among worshippers or become clear with time. Individual messages may converge toward a single, vital theme that becomes evident during the meeting; at other times, apparently unrelated messages are later discovered to have an underlying unity.
When and How Did Quakerism Begin?
By Andrew Wright, Durham Friends Meeting
George Fox was born in 1624 and was raised by Puritan parents. He was a young man during the height of the civil war in England, but he played no role in it. At this time he was wandering the countryside in England, reading the Bible inside and out, and pressing anyone who would talk to him for answers to inward questions.
He struggled extensively with despair because he felt he could not live a righteous life. He found the preachers of his day, who encouraged him to accept his sinful and imperfect nature, to be “poor comforters”. He continued to search the Bible and his own inner conscience for an answer to his despair.
As the Puritan revolution progressed and radicalized, many began to distrust any religious authority and any ritual expression of the gospel. It seemed to them that none of the existing alternatives were faithful to the life and teachings of Jesus. It also seemed to them that all religious ritual seemed hollow and empty.
Some of these people (called Ranters) began to give up their search of the Truth and rather spent their energy mocking Truth and drinking, etc. Others called themselves Seekers and simply sat in silence in their meetings, waiting for a deeper Truth to be revealed.
Fox had discovered within himself a Voice or a Light or a Guide that began to teach him and bring him into a new life that brought him out of his despair. He had many names for this direct and unmediated experience of the Divine. He then began to feel led by this Light Within to preach about it.
The message he preached was simple – that Christ had come to teach his people himself. George Fox had nothing to teach others, except to direct them to the Living Christ within themselves.
This message – that Christ had come and that he was available to all in their own inner conscience – had a profound resonance to many of those radical puritans who had begun to distrust any outward religious authority or ritual. Fox’s message helped them to find what they were looking for: an inward spiritual authority that could give their lives meaning and order.
During the late 1640s and 1650s, Fox continued to travel the countryside, going from town to town, but now he carried a message. Within a few years, Fox had begun to draw together a community of people who waited on the guidance of the Christ Within to lead them in all aspects of life – from worship to the conduct of business to outward testimonies to the world.
Four key aspects of George Fox’s thoughts:
The four aspects are:
a) Spiritual experience is at the heart of the Quaker faith and has the greatest authority, not text, tradition or church;
b) For the first Quakers, true religion is inward;
c) Fox is clear that everyone can have the kind of transforming experience he has had;
d) Everyone is spiritually equal.