A-Z Glossary Of Quaker Terms
Posted on 5 January 2021
From Advice & Queries to Zzz’s here’s an A-Z glossary of Quaker Terms.
A – F
Advice & Queries
Often the first chapter in the various worldwide editions of Quaker Faith & Practice, Advice & Queries is often published as as its own mini booklet and given away for free.
Area Meeting (AM)
A regularly held gathering made up of Friends from several Local Meetings, most often in the same geographical area. For example Lincolnshire Area Meeting comprises of Local Meetings from Alford, Boston, Gainsborough, Grimsby, Lincoln, Newark and Spalding.
A person who regularly comes to Quaker meetings but isn’t formally a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Regardless of whether a person is a member or not, everyone attending a Quaker meeting is regarded as a Friend.
Previously, until the mid 20th century, anyone born to Quaker parents automatically gained membership into the Society of Friends, which was known as Birthright. However, this was seen as outdated, and nowadays any person who wishes to be a Quaker does so through Convincement. Today, Birthright is used as a general term to describe someone who is born to Quaker parents.
Book of Discipline
Every country (or region in the United States) publishes its own Book of Discipline, often called Quaker Faith & Practice. This is a written testimony of what it is to be a Quaker.
The Society of Friends is structured as a bottom-upwards organisation. Quakers do not have a hierarchy (which literally means ‘Rule by Priests’) but they do have a simplified three step structure. First are Local Meetings (at the bottom), second are Area Meetings and third are Yearly Meetings (at the top).
Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM)
The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, also known as the Britain Yearly Meeting (and, until 1995, the London Yearly Meeting), is an annual meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. BYM is the national organisation of British Quakers and is nowadays commonly as Quakers in Britain.
Business Meeting (BM)
A common abbreviation for Meeting for Worship for Business
A Quaker whose inspiration is essentially Christian and who might believe that the Religious Society of Friends is essentially a Christian denomination.
A clerk is someone responsible for various administrative functions within a Meeting for Worship or Meeting for Worship for Business. Clerks are also appointed to committees.
A committee is a group of Friends tasked with undertaking work in a specific area or concern. Committees are most often formed by Local Meetings, as well as some at national and even international level.
An idea or prompting by the Spirit that leads a Friend to take on an issue as a personal crusade. The Friend will probably bring their concern to their business meeting to be tested, that is to see if it is a true ‘concern’ or simply a ‘notion’.
Applied to a person who is responsible for the organisation of a one-off meeting for business. Some committees that meet regularly e.g. Children & Young People’s Committee have conveners.
Convincement is When a person has ‘a discovery of truth’ that convinces them to become a Quaker.
When a Friend gives ministry inspired by the vase of flowers that sits on the table at a Quaker meeting.
To seek the leading of The Spirit in reaching a decision, often in a Meeting for Worship for Business. Quakers don’t use voting to reach a decision; rather a spirit-led sense of unity is reached to make a decision.
An experienced member of a Meeting who has responsibility for its ordering and spiritual life.
When an Elder needs to advise a Friend on Right Ordering, often by way of an informal chat.
Someone who is Quaker Curious and wants to find out more.
Quaker gatherings, to discern pressing matters, often send a report of their deliberations to other Quakers, known as epistles. The best known example is the Yearly Meeting epistle. They often start ‘To Friends everywhere…’
A member or attender of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
The central offices of Quakers in Britian, opposite Euston Station, London, where most central work is done.
In the Manner of Friends
The Quakerly term for etiquette. For example, it is the Manner of Friends that a person only gives ministry once during a Meeting for Worship.
A prompting thought to be received from The Spirit.
Local Meeting (LM)
A geographical term for a Quaker meeting held locally. All Local Meetings hold both Meetings for Worship and Meetings for Worship for Business. Each Local Meeting belongs to an Area Meeting. For example, Lincoln Meeting belongs to Lincolnshire Area Meeting.
Both the collective and general name for a group of Friends who gather together to practice Quakerism.
Meeting for Clearness
Meeting of a group of experienced and knowledgeable Friends to help in the amicable settlement of disputes or to help Friends find clarity about a matter.
A building owned or leased by Quakers to hold their various meetings.
Meeting for Worship (MfW)
A Meeting for Worship (MfW) is a gathering of Quakers who come and sit together in stilllness for a period of time. With no ministers delivering a sermon or creed to be spoken, Friends settle into the silence and let The Spirit guide them into new insights and revelations. A Meeting for Worship can be either programmed or unprogrammed.
Meeting for Worship for Business
Often this is simply shortened to Business Meeting. It is when a Local Meeting gathers to discuss and reach decisions on administrative, financial and other general matters. Quakers do not let anyone impose a decision on the group. Instead, they wait for a consensus to emerge from a free and open discussion. Probably the most distinctive feature of the Quaker Business Meeting is that it begins and ends in silence. They are mostly held monthly or at regular intervals during the year.
Members / Membership
Those Friends that have formally joined the society as known as members and thus are in membership. Friends formally join for a variety of reasons, but usually it’s to progress their faith journey as a seeker and become more involved in the running of the society.
When you are prompted, by The Spirit, to speak during a Meeting for Worship you are giving Ministry. It is In the Manner of Friends that you stand (if you can) and speak only once per Meeting for Worship. In some Meetings for Worship, it can happen that there is no ministry at all.
A divinely inspired recognition of some truth from an ‘opening’ of light.
Speaking in a way that is a testament to simplicity.
When there is a burst of closely followed ministry from several Friends during a meeting, it like the popping of popcorn.
A Quaker Meeting for Worship that includes prepared speech and/or hymns. Programmed Meetings often included a period of worshiping in the silence.
Quaker Centre Bookshop
A very useful source of books on all matters Quakerly, you’ll find it at Friends House and online at www.quaker.org.uk/bookshop.
Used to describe an enquiring person (known as an equirer) who is interested finding out more about in Quakerism.
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
The formal title of the organisation to which Friends/Quakers belong. Often this is shortened to Society of Friends.
Keeping things simple whilst doing things in right order and with due consideration to Quaker tradition and practice.
A Quaker Meeting for Worship where Friends worship in the silence.
The sound you hear when a Friend falls asleep during a meeting.