An excerpt from quakerinfo.org,
It is difficult to write a description of Friends beliefs that would be acceptable to all the Quakers in the world today. Quakers all share common roots in a Christian movement that arose in England in the middle of the 17th Century. Today, it is generally true that Friends still adhere to certain essential principles:
•a belief in the possibility of direct, unmediated communion with the Divine (historically expressed by George Fox in the statement, "Christ is come to teach his people himself"); and
•a commitment to living lives that outwardly attest to this inward experience.
I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of a Quaker service. As you’ll read below, the kind of meeting I’d heard about is called unprogrammed. Sitting in silence until the Spirit moves you to speak. Can you imagine? I know what I’d do in that much silence, if I could keep my mouth shut. It would move me to tears.
Guest Post #4 for May's Different Beautiful Church Series:
by Michael Willett Newheart (Professor Emeritus at Howard University School of Divinity)
The Quakers with which I worship have Meeting for Worship every Sunday at 10am. Benches are arranged in a rectangular shape so that everyone can see one another. The Meeting is silent until someone is moved by the Spirit to speak. Usually this message is brief, and it often comes from the Bible, Quaker history, current events, or personal experience.
After an hour the person sitting on the facing bench will call for joys and concerns, followed by everyone greeting one another. Introductions of visitors come next, and then announcements. A potluck meal is then held, and then another sort of Meeting, depending upon the Sunday. First Sunday is Adult Religious Education, second Sunday is Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business.
I got ahead of myself. At 10:20 the children leave and have their own educational program, called First Day School.
Quakers experience Jesus as the Inner Teacher. In silence they communicate with that Inner Teacher.
It is important to realize that there are programmed Friends (clergy with prepared messages and planned worship services) and unprogrammed Friends (no clergy etc.). I belong to the unprogrammed group.
And I forgot to mention this painting, Presence in the Midst, painted by J. Doyle Penrose RHA (1862-1932) in 1916, which hangs in the foyer of many Meetings, including mine at Adelphi Friends Meeting.
This is a photo of a print hanging in Beccles meeting room.
A youtube clip showing a meeting house and some brief explanation:
Here are a few books for further reading:
To read Guest Post #1 in this series: This Year On Good Friday
Guest Post #2: I Do Church Differently Than My Ancestors Did
Guest Post #3: I Do Church Differently Because I Attend Catholic Mass