Quaker worship groups and meetings are dynamic faith communities. It is wonderful that you are considering starting a worship group or meeting! Below is some information that will help you in this spiritual endeavor.
Helpful Context and Definitions
A Quaker worship group or meeting is a community of two or more people who come together for prayer and worship.
Quaker worship generally consists of unprogrammed worship. This is where folks gather in expectant, waiting silence and listen openly to God, the Light, the Seed, the Inward Teacher, the Living Christ. All, regardless of gender or age, are equally able to give vocal ministry as they feel led by the Spirit in a Quaker meeting or worship group. The meeting for worship may be entirely unprogrammed or may be semi-programmed in which a reading, a brief presentation, or communal singing may precede the unprogrammed worship.
A Quaker worship group or meeting exists in relationship to other Quaker meetings and is structured within the practices and framework of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). It does not function in isolation.
Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meetings are recognized structures of meetings and groups of meetings. A monthly meeting usually meets at least weekly for worship, usually on Sunday morning, and meets monthly to do business together. A yearly meeting (sometimes called an association or conference) meets yearly to do business together. A yearly meeting is generally an association of monthly meetings in a given region.
A new worship group or meeting is usually under the care of a monthly or yearly meeting which assists in carrying out the business of the new group and developing and caring for the spiritual life of the new group. The business of a worship group at this point is primarily related to membership and finances. The new group is asked to be in regular communication with the existing (or “parent”) monthly or yearly meeting and is invited to regional events by these bodies.
A Quaker worship group is a worshipping community that:
- Worships together and listens together to discern how the Spirit/Divine/God/Inward Christ calls them to a life of love, faithfulness, and community
- Supports its members as they live into their beliefs and find ways to be faithful in the Quaker manner
- Celebrates the joys and mourns the sorrows of its members
- Is often newly formed and meets in participants’ homes or in rented space
- Often is smaller than a meeting and has less structure
- Usually exists under the care of a Quaker meeting that offers assistance and nurture
A Quaker meeting is a worshipping community that does all the things above, and:
- Has a formal structure and meets regularly to conduct business;
- Appoints committees and individuals to do the work of the meeting; and
- Formally affiliated with a Yearly Meeting or an association of Friends (such as Friends General Conference).
First, go to QuakerFinder.org to find out if there are already Quakers near you. If so, worship with them a few times. You may find that you don’t need to start a worship group or meeting. Or you may find one or more people on Quaker Finder who would help your group get started.
If there aren’t Quakers near you:
- Spend some time discerning if there really is a need for a new worship group or meeting.
- Invite two or three local folks who are Quakers or interested in Quakers to discern with you.
- Use QuakerFinder or contact a nearby yearly meeting to find a nearby meeting who might be interested in mentoring your group.
- Hold a planning meeting, perhaps in someone’s home.
- Advertise the planning meeting widely.
- Do not assume that you know the “type” of person who will be drawn to the worship group or meeting.
- Decide when and where the group will meet.
- Share word about the new group, through social media, emails, and phone calls.
- Add your group to QuakerFinder.
- A consistent meeting time and location allows newcomers to find the group.
- Include time for refreshments before and/or after worship.
- Provide childcare and/or Quaker education for children.
Community Outside of Worship
- Find times to study Quaker practice, beliefs, and history together
- Find times to share spiritual journeys
- Consider ways to do service together in the community
- Participate with Quakers regionally to connect with nearby monthly meetings and the area yearly meeting, , e.g., attend gatherings sponsored by other meetings, participate in yearly meeting sessions, etc
- Reflect periodically on how the group is developing.
- Ask to be added to the yearly meeting’s mailing list to learn of opportunities to connect with Friends.
- Seek connections with Friends willing to visit your worship group or assist in other ways.
- Make plans to visit and worship with other meetings.
- Attend your yearly meeting’s annual sessions or conference.
Connect with FGC
- Read and share books from QuakerBooks.
- Attend virtual and in-person anti-racism and spiritual deepening events.
- Browse the spiritual deepening library.
- Attend the FGC Gathering.