We talk about two kinds of membership. “Birthright Quakers” were born into a Quaker family, registered by their families as junior members, and request regular membership when they become adult. A person who joins as an adult is a “Quaker by Convincement.” This latter group makes up the majority of our membership. Those who become Quakers later in life start by attending a Quaker Meeting as regularly as possible. After a time, the Meeting may ask the attender to consider membership, or the attender may request membership by writing to the Monthly Meeting through its Clerk. The Meeting will form a “clearness committee” to meet with the applicant and discern together if the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is the appropriate spiritual home. If so, the clearness committee will recommend that the Meeting welcome the applicant into membership at a regular “meeting for worship with attention to business.”
Many Meetings have programming available for children while their parents are in Meeting for Worship. This is usually referred to as “First Day School.” First Day School may be offered every week, or on alternate weeks, or once a month.
Some Meetings allow children to read, draw, or do other quiet activities in the same room as the Meeting for Worship. This is common practice at Canadian Quaker Gatherings, and may be an option if you wish to attend a Meeting which does not regularly offer First Day School. The experience of having children present in Meeting for Worship is enriching for all ages.
We are always excited by the addition of families to our community. However, the availability and type of child care will vary significantly from Meeting to Meeting. Please contact the Clerk of your local Meeting to inquire as to their children’s program. Contact information for Meetings can be found at find a meeting.
In Meetings without many families it may be difficult for older children to connect with other Quakers their age. To build community with other young Quaker families, consider attending a regional gathering. Many families with children make a point of attending, even if they are irregular attendees at their home Meetings. Camp Neekaunis at Waubashene, near Midland, Ontario, is a place where some families and youth interested in Quakerism can explore it in an informal setting in the summer months.
Quakers enjoy questions, or ‘queries’ as they are often called, as they give people a chance to dialogue with each other. A good query here is: “What do you mean by believe?”
Some Quakers would consider that Jesus was a supremely inspired teacher whose words moved others to work for peace and justice. Others believe he is the Son of God. George Fox referred to ‘Christ Jesus’, and that ordering reminds Quakers of his great message.
Many Quakers are familiar with the Bible and refer to its teachings and stories for inspiration, comfort and help.
‘This is actually an interesting and somewhat controversial question. Depending on who you ask, your answer is likely to be either, 1) “Yes, for the most part”; or 2) “No, not exclusively”. Both responses are correct.
Certainly, most Quakers (Friends) are Christian, and our beginnings were exclusively Christian. The Quaker faith originated in seventeenth century England during the civil wars when many were questioning the authority and role of government and of the established church, the Church of England.
George Fox and the Early Friends believed that each person could have direct personal access to the Spirit from within themselves without need for mediation by priest, a specific ritual or a specific sacred place. In their understanding, Jesus possessed a full measure of the Christ Spirit, and all humanity are sons and daughters of God. As Friends, through this direct access to the Spirit, they believed they could be empowered to live lives of integrity towards creating a more peaceful and just world.
However, not all Quakers are Christian. Many have a profound experience of the Spirit without associating it with Jesus and Christian tradition. We understand that the experience of the Spirit is not limited to Christian contexts. Throughout our history, we have been wary of becoming dogmatic about any particular creed. We do not demand or expect that our Members all be Christian, and we have been enriched by our openness.
We are members of the World Council of Churches and we work with many religions in the search for peace, equality and justice for all.’
Look around you in the Meeting!
Everyone there is a minister of the Spirit within. That is why someone may be guided to stand and give an inspired message, and so aid and serve worship and wisdom for all there.
In order to give pastoral care to members and others who attend, most Meetings appoint a small group to serve as Ministry and Counsel, and these may be the folks whom you see starting and closing the meeting and doing readings. Feel free to talk to one of them with your questions.