First time in Meeting
If you have never been to a Quaker Meeting before, this page may help.
On entering the Meeting Room, feel free to sit anywhere. It is helpful to leave seats near the doors for latecomers.
What do Quakers believe?
Quakers have no dogmas or creeds and no paid ministers. 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, two Friends will shake hands, signalling the end of worship.
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.Traditionally a person only ministers once during the Meeting for Worship.
"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, para 2.36, published by Britain Yearly Meeting
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.
What happens at the end of Meeting?
After Meeting ends visitors are welcomed and visitors from other Meetings may bring greetings. Then the notices will be read and often there is tea or coffee. You are very welcome to join in but this is entirely up to you.
All Quaker Meetings for Worship welcome children, whether there are other children present or not. They are not expected to sit silently for an hour, but can leave at any time.Usually children stay for the first 15 minutes of a Meeting for Worship or join for the last 15 minutes.The rest of the time is spent in the Children’s’ Meeting. For more about this see the Ealing Quaker Meeting website.
How can I find out more about Quakers?
If you would like more information about Quakers or their worship, any Friend will be happy to help you. Most Meetings have a selection of pamphlets to give out. Enquirer's free information packs are available from Friends’ House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ, tel: 020 7663 1094/1095 (opposite Euston Station); or look at their Web site.
We are grateful to Scotland GM for permission to base this text on their equivalent page.