Life of the Meeting
VISITORS, ATTENDERS, AND MEMBERS
During a Meeting for Worship, the people present usually include a mix of visitors, attenders, and members.
Visitors frequently come to our Meetings for Worship without much knowledge of Friends' practice. Our historic district location draws visitors from all over the world. Our greeter will say hello at the lobby area, and answer any questions that a first-time visitor may have. All are welcome to join our unprogrammed (no minister or order of service) worship.
Attenders come regularly, perhaps for years, but have either not applied for or been accepted for membership. While long-term attendance is usually a prelude to joining the Meeting, some people remain attenders indefinitely.
An individual can join a Monthly Meeting of The Religious Society of Friends at birth, as a child, or as an adult and membership can take any one of several forms. Some members elect to register their sons or daughters as Friends at birth. Alternatively, children of Friends can be registered as Associate Members, a category that allows the child the choice of formalizing his/her membership at the age of twenty-one. Convinced Friends are those who request membership in the Religious Society of Friends as adults. Sojourning Friends are members of one Meeting whose work, school or other circumstance has taken them away from home and who 'join' a second Meeting temporarily.
Instead of a minister, who ensures that the business of the organization is accomplished, Friends have a volunteer Clerk of the Meeting. In addition we have Clerks who lead various committees to ensure that the Meeting's bills are paid, our building is maintained, and the needs of the members are met. Our committees include:
- Worship and Ministry
- Care (pastoral care and membership concerns)
- Peace and Social Concerns
- Adult Religious Education
- First Day School
- John Martin Trust Distribution Committee
- Outreach, and
Committee meetings are held either before or after worship. Monthly Meetings for Business are always held on the third Sunday of the month, September through June.
In contrast with the more specifically focused committee meetings, Meetings for Business deal with a wide variety of topics and include all members in the dialogue. Both at the committee level and during Meetings for Business, Friends operate by consensus - no votes are taken. Instead, the sense of the group as a whole is sought.
Visitors and attenders are welcome to observe Meetings for Business.
SOCIAL LIFE OF OUR MEETING
A visitor may wonder what do we do besides meetings for worship, committee meetings, and meetings for business? Here's a quick list:
Hosts sponsor a meal at their home, people sign up and provide a dish. Show up for conversation, food, and get to know others at the set time and date.
Blue Moon Sunday:
5th Sunday Potluck and/or pizza, discussion and conversation, following Meeting.
A theme day for deeper reflections into our faith and community, at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, or another location such as Burlington Meeting Center.
Historic Fairhill Burial Ground:
Quaker burial ground clean up and festival several times per year.
Annual Interfaith Walk for Peace:
We've participated in the planning of this annual event for many years, and join other faith communities in an outward expression of the belief that there is that of God in all of us. The walk begins at one house of worship, visits others along the way, and ends with a shared meal. Attendance is about 500 each time!
OPPORTUNITIES FOR PARTICIPATION IN QUAKER AND AFFILIATED ORGANIZATIONS
The small size of our membership limits the number and kind of activities we can undertake within our Meeting. However, our members serve on the boards of a number of organizations which reflect support of Quaker testimonies. They include Friends Select School, a Center City pre-K-12 independent school under the joint care of our Meeting and Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting; Friends Rehabilitation Program, an organization concerned with low-income housing; POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild), an interfaith organization with a social justice mission, and Historic Fairhill Burial Ground in North Philadelphia.
Our members - and attenders - participate in the retreats and educational programs of Pendle Hill, the Quaker residential study center located in Wallingford, PA. Most Pendle Hill programs are open to the public.
Two social organizations are also worth noting. Teenagers from our Meeting have enjoyed the PYM Young Friends retreats which take place several times a year. Young Adult Friends, a group for twenty-somethings, publishes a newsletter and schedules occasional events. More information can be found on PYM's website: www.pym.org
STRUCTURE OF THE QUAKER COMMUNITY in PHILADELPHIA
In addition to individual Meetings, called Monthly Meetings because the business meetings are held once a month, there are Quarterly Meetings and Yearly Meetings.
Our meeting is one of eight area Monthly Meetings which make up the Philadelphia Quarter. Meetings are held three or four times a year to address items of regional concern. Meetings in the Quarter include Central Phila., Chestnut Hill, Frankford, Green Street, Germantown, Unity and West Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is a larger body that draws on the resources of dozens of Meetings throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. A week-long residential meeting is held annually in the summer, with the addition of a fall or spring Interim Meeting to address concerns and discern long-range plans. Most of the activities of Yearly Meeting are implemented by appointed persons, committees supported by Yearly Meeting staff in offices at 1515 Cherry Street in Philadelphia, and working and service groups. Committee topics include prison reform and eradication of the death penalty, spiritual growth, social concerns, religious education and various administrative issues.