YOUR FIRST TIME AT QUAKER MEETING

At Buffalo Quaker Meeting for Worship you are among Friends, quite literally. Quakers are more formally known as the Religious Society of Friends and participants in meetings are often referred to as Friends. QuakerSpeak, a video project of Friends Journal, asked six Friends what they remember about their first experiences. These experiences are shared in the video below.

What do quakers believe?

Quakers have no dogmas or creeds. Each participant seeks to experience and learn about the religious life for her or himself. We have the conviction that each person can have direct experience of the Spirit of God and that there is something of God in everyone.

What Happens in Meeting for Worship?

A Quaker Meeting is a way of worship based on silence, a silence of expectancy in which we seek to come nearer to God and each other as we share the stillness of the Meeting. Participants are not expected to say or do anything other than join in this seeking. Do not be concerned if the silence seems strange at first. We rarely experience silence in everyday life so it is not unusual to be distracted by outside noise or roving thoughts. There is no fixed structure to the Meeting. There are no creeds, hymns or set prayers. There is no minister in charge and no formal service.

After about an hour, sensing the end of Meeting, the Clerk will shake hands, with people, general greetings will ensue, signalling the end of worship.

What can you expect in a Quaker Worship Service? This is a guide for newcomers on the basics. Video by QuakerSpeak

Occasionally a meeting will pass with no words spoken

If someone feels compelled by the Spirit to speak, pray or read, the silence will be broken. Such ministry, which has not been planned before worship begins, seeks to enrich the gathered worship. If something is said that does not seem to make sense, try to reach behind the words to the Spirit which inspired them or allow them to be absorbed into the silence.

Meeting for Worship is not a debate so it is inappropriate to respond directly to spoken ministry although it is not unusual for other ministry to build on what has been said before.

No two Quaker Meetings are the same. A Meeting can embrace a wide range of experience. Some people may experience a profound sense of awe or an awareness of the presence of God. Others may have a less certain sense of an indefinable spiritual dimension.

In worship we have our neighbours to right and left, before and behind, yet the Eternal Presence is over all and beneath all. Worship does not consist in achieving a mental state of concentrated isolation from one’s fellows. But in the depth of common worship it is as if we found our separate lives were all one life, within whom we live and move and have our being.
— Thomas R. Kelly (1938); from Quaker Faith and Practice published by Britain Yearly Meeting

What happens at the end of meeting?

After Meeting ends visitors are welcomed and visitors from other Meetings may bring greetings and announcements will be shared. Often there is tea or coffee for a time of fellowship following the meeting. You are very welcome to join in but this is entirely up to you.