Faith & Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting’s book of Faith and Practice describes the beliefs of Friends and the structures and processes of Pacific Yearly Meeting, and its Quarterly and Monthly Meetings. It also explains the spiritual foundation of these processes and of our way of worship.  It should be of interest and value to newcomers and old-timers alike. 

The most recent edition of Faith and Practice for Pacific Yearly Meeting came out in 2001.  Portions of it are currently undergoing revision by the Faith & Practice Revision Committee. A Spanish translation was completed in 2004 by Friends in Mexico City Monthly Meeting and elsewhere in Pacific Yearly Meeting.

Print copies can be ordered from Western Friend’s online bookstore

Download Faith & Practice (2001) as a pdf file here

Leer Fe y Práctica en español aquí
Descargar Fe y Práctica en español aquí

We, like every generation, must find the Light and Life again for ourselves. Only what we have valued and truly made our own, not by assertion but by lives of faithful commitment, can we hand on to the future. Even then, we must humbly acknowledge that our vision of the truth will, again and again, be amended.

Britain Yearly Meeting
Quaker Faith & Practice, p. 17, 1995

The Quaker way emphasizes experience over religious belief or doctrine. It is inherently difficult to capture the essence of that experience in words.Yet every Faith and Practice attempts to do that very thing.

As time passes, the body of experience grows and shifts and a Yearly Meeting may be moved to take up the task of revising its book of Faith and Practice. The book offered here is a revision of the 1985 edition, which in turn was based on revisions of 1973, 1963, 1957, and 1952, and the original plan of organization adopted at Palo Alto in 1942.

This Faith and Practice describes the beliefs of Friends and the structures and processes of Pacific Yearly Meeting, and its Quarterly and Monthly Meetings. It also explains the spiritual foundation of these processes and of our way of worship. It should be of interest and value to newcomers and old-timers alike.

Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided: and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the  Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.

Advices from the elders at Balby, 1656
Britain Yearly Meeting
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §1.01


Pacific Yearly Meeting in Context

The religious practices of Friends are founded in direct communion with God and the conviction that the Divine Light is accessible to each person; yet it is one Light, one Truth. We wait with hearts and minds open to the Divine so that Truth will be made known among us.

Our corporate search for God’s word is the heart of the Quaker Meeting for Worship. We believe that God, the Light, the Truth, is part of our being. We say, “there is that of God in everyone.” Truth is continually revealed to us, often through a gathered mystical experience. We learn to recognize the truth by experience.

We work to develop a relationship between the individual and the corporate body that allows inspiration and leadings to be tested within the Meeting. In this unity, Friends find order and peace in reconciling individual inspiration and corporate wisdom, enabling us to choose right courses of action.

As God is revealed to us individually and corporately, we are guided in the right ordering of our lives. All Friends practices flow from this faith in the revealed truth; our care for each other, our governing structures and processes, our testimonies and witness to the whole world.

Through the personal experience of each seeker comes the Light necessary for their guidance. Vocal ministry in a Friends Meeting emerges from the direct relationship between the individual and the Divine. Truth is tested, not by the degree to which it conforms to dogma, but by its power to transform our lives and the lives of others.

Not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine and convincement of my understanding thereby, came I to receive and bear witness of the Truth, but by being secretly reached by the Life. For when I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them which touched my heart; and as I gave way unto it I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up and so I became thus knit and united unto them, hungering more and more after the increase of this power and life, whereby I might feel myself perfectly redeemed.

Robert Barclay, Apology, 1676, 11:7

A Brief History of the Religious Society of Friends

A great outburst of prophetic passion swept through the northern counties of Puritan England in the mid-seventeenth century, as on the forward wall of a tidal flood. It carried with it the utter conviction, based on direct personal experience, that the world could know directly and immediately the power of Christ’s love and the light of his truth. George Fox, probably the most charismatic and certainly the most influential of the founding members of the Quaker movement, discovered after a long, intense search, that no priest or preacher could, as he said, “speak to my condition.” He later wrote: “Then, oh then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition’; and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.”

This direct experience and others like it formed the living center of the Quaker movement that arose in the early 1650’s around Fox’s teachings and personality. In their thirst after righteousness and in their eagerness to engage the world with God’s truth, early Friends believed they were called to be prophets to their age. Like the Hebrew and Christian prophets whose lives they consciously used as models, they experienced God as a living, energizing power that spurred them to confront corrupt institutions and to form communities of believers.

Key figures in the Quaker movement during its early days included, along with Fox himself: theologian Robert Barclay, the charismatic James Nayler, writers Margaret Fell, Isaac Penington and William Penn.

Their prophetic vision was soon carried abroad. Borne by the“ Publishers of Truth,” as many early Friends called themselves, the Quaker movement spread south to London and into southern England, west to Ireland, and very quickly across the seas to Holland, Germany, France, and the American colonies. In a remarkable outpouring of spiritual energy, Quakers arrived in Puritan New England in 1656, only four years after George Fox began his public ministry.

Quakers’ rejection of the established church, and their obedience to conscience rather than to legal authority, brought them severe persecution in both England and America. They suffered frequent imprisonment, fines, and confiscation of property. The Act of Toleration of 1689 finally ended the worst of these troubles in England; however, Quakers were still not allowed into professions or universities.

The Colonies varied in religious tolerance. Some permitted more religious freedom than was possible under strict British law. The colony of Pennsylvania, owned by Friend William Penn, was noteworthy, although not unique, in welcoming more than one variety of religious belief.

Quakerism in the New World

The movement spread rapidly in America. yearly meetings were founded: New England (1661), Baltimore (1672, in the middle of Fox’s two-year visit to America), Philadelphia (1681), North Carolina (1689), and New York (1695). Quakers organized colonies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and settlements in New York, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Barbados. Thus, there was a brief period when Friends thought that Quakerism would become the most influential religious movement in the American colonies.

Although the number of Quakers has never become as large as anticipated, the influence of Friends’ ideas and values has been extensive throughout American society. Historically, Friends have built their Meetinghouse with adjacent land for a burial ground and a school. Today, Friends schools are respected as leaders in principled education. Friends founded excellent colleges and universities. Haverford, Swarthmore, Earlham, Guilford, and Whittier are only a few of those still flourishing today. Some have passed out of the direct supervision of Meetings, but most carry the philosophical imprint of their Quaker founding.

Friends have also had a remarkable influence on penal reform and conditions in mental hospitals both in this country and in Great Britain. Many Friends today are active in the work of abolishing capital punishment.

The movement’s sense of cohesion arose in large part because many Friends were led to travel in the ministry, making long journeys through the wilderness to witness to the workings of the Spirit. Some were heard and welcomed, some were whipped and imprisoned by local authorities, some were run out of town, and some died of exposure and disease. Friends nevertheless continued to hear and to heed their leadings.

George Fox came by ship to America, landing at Barbados in 1671. He traveled through the colonies by horseback, by boat, and by foot. Both women and men were inspired to leave families to the loving care of their Meetings while they crossed the ocean and braved the new, wild territory to share their joyful message. Stephen Grellet, a member of the French nobility, wrote simply of his faithfulness to calls to preach, sometimes without knowing that anyone listened. Mary Dyer, Catherine Peyton, and Mary Fisher, each usually travela ling with a female companion, came to minister to Americans. While their messages were heard by some colonists, Mary Dyer was among four Quakers who were hanged for their teaching. The journal of Catherine Peyton (later Phillips) tells vividly of rigors of travel, the illnesses she endured, and her firmness in continuing to follow her leading. These traveling ministers and their visits played an important role in keeping alive a sense of community among scattered Friends.

Mary Fisher, after returning to England briefly, traveled through the Mediterranean to bring the message to the Sultan of Turkey, returning to settle in the colonies. When Mary Fisher was talking with the Sultan of Turkey, he asked her what she thought of Mahomet.According to Brinton, her reply was “…that she knew him not, but Christ enlightened every man who came into the world. Him she knew…. And concerning Mahomet, they might judge him false or true according to the words and prophecies he spoke.” (Howard Brinton, Friends for 300 Years, Pendle Hill, 1965, p.159)

During the 1700’s, slavery became a major concern among Friends in both Britain and America. Some Quakers had imported, held and sold slaves, but hearing the gentle yet persistent preaching of John Woolman, Friends who had formerly accepted the“ economic necessity” began to be uneasy. In corporate worship, they began to discern a leading to change their ways. First, they agreed that importing human beings was wrong. Then, step by step, individual Meetings declared their opposition to trading and owning slaves. By the end of the century, because of public preaching, individual conscience, and the disowning of members who did not comply, the Religious Society of Friends contained no slave owners. Many Quakers provided leadership in the movement for emancipation. 

Early Quakers were concerned with a “right ordering of one’s own life.” They tried to live in accordance with God’s will, and felt an evangelical imperative to spread their discovery of good news around the world. A period of “quietism” developed among the Quakers of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, during which they withdrew from political activity and other concerns seen as worldly. The evangelical spirit was temporarily muted. A more passive, inward life gained ascendancy as Friends focused on spiritual purity and the subordination of self-will. Personal feeling was considered a surer guide to Truth than reason. This tendency to withdraw from the world also coincided with a decline in numbers. The Religious Society of Friends became a smaller, closed society of “peculiar people,”† set apart from the world. The prophetic mission was mostly laid aside and the mystical encounter, which had always been at the heart of the Quaker experience, became more prominent.

† “Peculiar” in the seventeenth century meant “chosen.” Titus 2:14,
King James Version

Schisms among American Quakers

The breadth of vision that characterized the earliest Friends required a precarious balance among seemingly paradoxical factors. The tenderness of Penington and Penn, the passion and eloquence of Fox, the dedication and sacrifices of Mary Dyer, Elizabeth Fry, and Lucretia Mott revealed the variety of ways in which Friends’ convictions shaped lives.While their backgrounds were in Christian tradition, Friends were at the same time able to believe both in the significance of Jesus and in the “Inner Light,” which they affirmed had been and was still in every human being, whether or not they had heard of Jesus. While believing in the immediate communication between God and the individual, Friends also revered and found wisdom in the Bible. Amidst the joy of their mystical unity, they were also motivated to lead challenging lives of service beyond their own numbers. From time to time, one or another of these elements became paramount even to the point of jeopardizing the movement’s ‘wholeness.’

During the 1800’s, schisms arose among American Friends. The “ Great Separation” of 1827-1828 began in Philadelphia YearlyMeeting when some tried to prevent Elias Hicks, a New York Quaker preacher, from speaking. Hicks’ followers were mostly country Friends who perceived urban Friends as worldly. Known as Hicksites, they placed a greater reliance on the Inward Light as a guide to the individual conscience, while “Orthodox” Friends tended to emphasize the Bible and Christian teaching as a guide. The split was not purely doctrinal. It reflected tensions that had been growing between the elders — who were mostly from the cities— and Friends who lived farther away from major communities and Meetings. Both groups continued as unprogrammed Meetings, having no designated preacher, music or ritual.

Following this sad separation, which became bitterly hostile in some areas, Friends continued to divide over differences in discipline and dogma. Early Quakers had been both mystics and evangelists. Following the emphasis on quietism, and confronted with the burgeoning forces of revivalism, Friends were often unable to retain the underlying unity of their heritage. Further splits occurred in both types of American Yearly Meetings. Most Orthodox Friends followed Joseph John Gurney, a British Friend, whose teachings focused on the Bible as a basic guide. He led many Friends to an increasingly evangelistic conviction. John Wilbur, a birthright Friend from New England, was disturbed by the emphasis many British Friends placed on the Bible. He spoke eloquently on behalf of the leadings of the Inner Light of Christ as the basis of faith. As the Gurneyites moved toward a pastoral and programmed system, the Wilburites† saw this as a threat to traditional Quakerism and generally either withdrew or were expelled. They usually continued to hold unprogrammed worship. A Wilburite-Gurneyite separation was evident in New England by 1845, and in Ohio Yearly Meeting in 1854. It later spread throughout the U.S.

From the time of the American Revolution, Friends in America had been faced with structural changes within the Religious Society of Friends. The Civil War brought further challenges to both faith and practice. Some Friends took up arms, while others would not. Individual families found themselves divided over how abolition was to be accomplished, and whether to help escaped slaves or obey federal laws. Some Friends were active in the Underground Railroad, and some were not.

 The Enlightenment, a new liberalism, and a thrust toward evangelical renewal were lively forces in the greater society throughout the 1800’s, particularly along the expanding American frontier. Charismatic speakers and massive revival meetings brought throngs of new adherents to many Protestant churches as the westward movement swept on. Some groups of Friends in the new communities held similar gatherings, thus gaining members who were unfamiliar with the traditional unprogrammed framework.

Many Meetings were led to hire pastors to help with the influx of new members, sometimes becoming almost indistinguishable from traditional Protestant churches, with reading of scriptures, singing of hymns, and prepared sermons. Once a pastoral system had been accepted, it was difficult to relinquish. Indeed, many groups began calling themselves “Friends Churches” rather than the more traditional “Friends Meetings.” These followed the tenets of Joseph John Gurney and were located mostly in the Midwest, although some eastern Meetings were also affected. 

By 1885, there were three distinct kinds of Quakers in America. The Gurneyites (Orthodox) were evangelical and emphasized the primacy of scripture. The Hicksites were inner-directed, relying on the guidance of the light within and traditional forms of Quaker worship. The Conservatives fell in between the other two.With no written creeds, distinctions in doctrine were not obvious, but differences were evident in forms of worship, books of Discipline, and ways of life. Friends have attempted definitions, but no single statement of belief has ever successfully reflected the deep, often passionate faith of Friends.

† The term “Wilburite” was used prior to the Civil War in the United States; after 1865 these were the “Conservative” branches.

Steps Toward Wholeness

Following the divisions, Friends in America began reaching out to each other. Beginning in 1887, a series of conferences among Gurneyite Yearly Meetings at Richmond and Indianapolis, Indiana, led to the founding of a national organization in 1902, called the Five Years Meeting of Friends. It is now Friends United Meeting (FUM). An attempt to articulate a common declaration of faith was not entirely successful; however eleven Yearly Meetings eventually accepted a common Book of Discipline. Nearly half of the Quakers in the United States are members of FUM.

Friends General Conference (FGC) was formed in 1900 to bring together Friends from Hicksite Meetings. It did not attempt to create a unified national organization, but to serve Friends in their diversity.

Philadelphia Quakers bridged the schism in 1945 with the establishment of Philadelphia General Meeting, which encompassed both Hicksite and Orthodox Yearly Meetings. In 1955 they formalized this by establishing a single Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and Uniform Discipline. Similar unification followed in other Yearly Meetings.

In 1937, the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) was founded to promote better understanding among Friends the world over. Today, FWCC is widely seen as the appropriate instrument to serve Friends in consultation, work, or witness that transcends the boundaries of Yearly Meetings, traditions or nations. The Wider Quaker Fellowship was established in 1936 to serve “friends of Friends” and link isolated Friends across the world. It is now under the umbrella of FWCC.

Founded in 1965 in response to secessions from FUM, Evangelical Friends International (EFI), formerly Evangelical Friends Alliance, links Meetings that share both a strong evangelical component and deeply held Christian doctrine.

The first Western Gathering of Friends occurred in 1992, bringing together Friends from all eight of the western Yearly Meetings. Although no ongoing formal organization was planned at the time, some connections have resulted such as joint retreats for women of North Pacific, Northwest, and Canadian Yearly Meetings.

The Western Association of Friends was established in 1996. Through it, individuals or Monthly Meetings may participate fully in Friends United Meeting activities. (For more information about Friends organizations and the relationship of Pacific Yearly Meeting to each of them, see the section Links to Other Friends Organizations, p. 133.)

In 2000, the various branches of the Religious Society of Friends worldwide numbered about 250,000 members. The majority belong to evangelical Meetings that follow a pastoral form for Meeting for Worship. Unprogrammed Meetings exist primarily in Europe, the United States and Canada. In the United States, most unprogrammed Yearly Meetings belong to FGC. Conservative Yearly Meetings, and Pacific, Intermountain, and North Pacific Yearly Meetings are unaffiliated. (Appendix 8 shows the evolution and affiliations of the various branches of Quakerism in the United States.)

Quakers in Southern California

Like others caught up in western migration, Friends responded both to the California land boom of the 1880’s and to leadings to establish colonies of Quakers in the West.

A group from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Orthodox) settled in what became Pasadena. By 1884, a Monthly Meeting had been established, and by 1885 a Meetinghouse was being built. By 1887, with two monthly meetings in the area, Pasadena Quarterly Meeting was approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting. (The original name proposed for this group was “Pacific Quarterly Meeting.”) Soon, it became the seventh largest of the fifteen Quarterly Meetings under the care of Iowa Yearly Meeting. Villa Street Meeting in Pasadena was established under Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). It has since been laid down.

Meanwhile, Aquilla Pickering and his wife Hannah, Friends from Chicago, had traveled from Northern California to the Los Angeles area, visiting Friends along the way and seeking a place for a colony. He organized a “Land and Water Company,” which sold lots and so established the town of Whittier. By August 1887, a Meetinghouse was opened, and in December, Whittier was recognized as a Monthly Meeting under Pasadena Quarterly Meeting. Plans for building Whittier College were considered by the Quarterly Meeting as early as 1888. California Yearly Meeting grew out of these and other groups which met in the programmed manner.

Although pastoral Yearly Meeting Friends were organized in groups, individual Friends from the Eastern unprogrammed tradition were slow to find each other. Small groups came into being and disappeared, lacking a structure for communication among them. 

Orange Grove Meeting, in Pasadena, established in 1908, was unusual. It was under the care of unprogrammed (Hicksite) Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and was large enough to acquire land for a Meetinghouse and a school. Although empowered to develop a burial ground, they instead contracted with a local cemetery for a Friends plot. Thus, the long-established tradition of building with those three components was continued.  

Soon Orange Grove Meeting took several of the emerging Meetings in Southern California under its care, nurturing them until they became Los Angeles (1942), La Jolla (1947), Santa Monica (1948), Claremont (1953), Inland Valley (1960), and other Monthly Meetings. Unprogrammed Meetings and Worship Groups in Southern California and southern Nevada comprise Southern California Quarterly Meeting. Together with College Park Quarterly Meeting <see page 8>, Mexico City, Guatemala, and Hawaii they make up the present membership of Pacific Yearly Meeting.

Quakers in Northern California

In 1861, two well-known Quakers from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Orthodox), Joel and Hannah Bean, worshiped briefly with Friends in San Jose on their way to a two-year sojourn in Hawaii. Following their ministry, a Meetinghouse was built in San Jose in 1866. Iowa Yearly Meeting recognized it in 1873, making it the first Friends Meeting on the West Coast. Joel Bean continued his ministry in Hawaii and a strong Quaker presence continued there after he and Hannah returned to Iowa.

However, while Joel Bean was Clerk of Iowa Yearly Meeting in 1877, a separation occurred which eventually led to the formation of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Although he sympathized with the dissidents who were defending traditional Quaker ways against new trends, he did not join them. The discord was so troubling to him that he and Hannah left Iowa and returned to San Jose in 1882, becoming leaders in that Meeting. He wrote two strong defenses of Quaker traditions, which were circulated by Friends journals in America and England, and the discord escalated.

With the return of Joel and Hannah Bean, Friends in San Jose began to separate into two groups. One group followed the theology and practices of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Orthodox) and the new revivalist Quakerism of the Great Awakening. The other group remained with the Beans in their unprogrammed worship. In 1885 Joel Bean’s followers, who were not members of San Jose Meeting, built their own Meetinghouse for unprogrammed worship. Iowa Yearly Meeting denied this group’s request for status as College Park Monthly Meeting and also laid down San Jose Monthly Meeting, leaving the San Jose area with no recognized Monthly Meeting.

Nevertheless, the new Meeting continued and membership grew. In 1893, Iowa Yearly Meeting withdrew its recognition of Joel and Hannah Bean as recorded ministers evoking strong negative responses in Philadelphia and London. In 1889 Joel Bean and others founded the College Park Friends Association, which consisted of Friends who retained their membership in their various home Meetings. In 1918, the by-laws were amended to allow Monthly Meetings to join the association. Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Los Gatos joined at the outset; ten years later, there were 30 associated Meetings.Above is an early Discipline of the College Park Association, probably from the early 1890s.

Discipline of the College Park
Association of Friends

Doctrine: Friends believe in the continuing reality of the living Christ, available to all seeking souls.

Worship: The worship of God is in spirit and in truth and shall be held on a basis of the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Ministry: All members and all Attenders are free to participate vocally in Meetings, under a sense of God’s Presence.

Manner of Living: Friends are advised to conduct their private lives with simplicity and directness, ever sensitive to the world’s needs and eager to engage in service.

Relation to State: Friends are urged to feel their responsibility to the nation, and at the same time to recognise their oneness with humanity everywhere, regardless of race.

The above is an early Discipline of the College Park Friends Association, from which Pacific Yearly Meeting evolved.

Emergence of Pacific Yearly Meeting

Friends from both the pastoral and the unprogrammed traditions were scattered in California and around the Pacific Rim by 1928. In that year, Howard and Anna Cox Brinton (a granddaughter of Joel and Hannah Bean) moved from Philadelphia to the Oakland area to serve on the faculty of Mills College. They played key roles in the next phase of Quaker growth by actively visiting among Meetings and helping to start the Pacific Coast Association of Friends (PCAF) in 1931. It met annually and included Friends from unprogrammed Meetings in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, China, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Honolulu, Mexico City, and California. By 1940, it was holding weeklong gatherings every August, rotating its meeting place among the Pacific Northwest, the San Francisco Bay area, and Southern California.

The Pacific Coast Association experienced growth and change in the 1940s. Conscientious objectors (COs) to World War II were scattered to locations far from their homes. The Friends Ambulance Corps of Britain offered active service to a few. By 1942, the Civilian Public Service (CPS) program gave COs of the historic Peace Churches the option of working in special camps or other institutions where the war had depleted available staff. Thus, many young Quaker men were stationed in the West Coast area. Often their wives had moved to be nearby and the family then remained in the West.When travel became possible after the war, they built a thin but strong network. Their lives of faithful service left a lasting imprint on Pacific Yearly Meeting.

The unhappy experiences of some individual members influenced the Pacific Coast Association of Friends to shun formal relationships with other organizations. PCAF refused to exert authority over individual Friends, who could join the Association directly, without having a Monthly Meeting membership. Beginning in 1941, Howard Brinton voiced strong support for forming a new Yearly Meeting. His message gradually took effect.

In 1946, University Friends Meeting in Seattle formally proposed that PCAF become Pacific Yearly Meeting (PYM). The first annual gathering of the new Yearly Meeting was held at Palo Alto in the summer of 1947 with twelve member Monthly Meetings.

As memberships grew, and travel became an increasing problem, an amicable process led to changes in the structures of unprogrammed Meetings in the West. In 1973, Meetings in British Columbia (which had maintained dual memberships) withdrew from PYM to align with Canadian Yearly Meeting. Two new Yearly Meetings were created out of sections of the original PYM: North Pacific Yearly Meeting in 1973 and Intermountain Yearly Meeting in 1975. Although all three Yearly Meetings experienced some loss of fellowship among particular Friends, they all continue to thrive and grow and they cooperate in activities such as sponsoring Friends Bulletin and conducting the Brinton Visitor Program.

From its varied beginnings, Pacific Yearly Meeting has come to have a distinctive character.Many members maintain close ties with their original Meetings. Most members are convinced Friends, many of whom have little experience with Meetings outside PYM. These factors, as well as a certain western spirit of independence, have resulted in PYM’s reluctance to join either Friends General Conference or Friends United Meeting.

The character of Pacific Yearly Meeting developed in large part from the faithfulness of Friends to their concerns. From its beginning in the Pacific Coast Association of Friends, ties stretching beyond its geographical confines have been evident. Honolulu Monthly Meeting was established in 1937 under the care of Friends World Committee for Consultation. Connections with Quakers in Korea, Japan, and China (Shanghai and Hong Kong) were maintained even through the wars and gave an unusual richness and flavor to the meetings of the PCAF and later of PYM. Shanghai dropped out in 1951, though Hong Kong remained a part of PYM at that time. The Friend in the Orient Committee, created in 1962, continued to be active after China was closed to Westerners, carrying on a ministry of support and communication among Quakers around the Pacific Rim until it was laid down in 1998.

In 2000, Pacific Yearly Meeting includes Meetings and Worship Groups in California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guatemala, and Mexico. Still, it is geographically smaller than the Pacific Coast Association of Friends or the original Pacific Yearly Meeting. Individual participation has remained constant since 1980 at about 1,500 members. In the 1990’s, the direction of outreach shifted from the Pacific Rim to Russia and Latin America.

The ongoing support and faithfulness of individual Friends has led to the establishment of several independent non-profit corporations. Among these are the Friends Association of Services for the Elderly, Ben Lomond Quaker Center, the Pacific Friends Outreach Society and John Woolman School, the only Quaker boarding school in California. Although these are not directly under PYM authority, Friends throughout the Yearly Meeting have been involved in their support. Other projects led by individual Friends and carried forward by PYM include continuing support for the Guatemala Scholarship Loan Program for indigenous students, and links with the Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City. Friends House Moscow evolved from initial work by PYM Friends in conjunction with British Friends. Many informal bonds contribute to a lively intercourse between PYM Friends and the wider world of Quakerism.†

† For more on the early history of Friends in the Western U.S., see Friends Bulletin (May 1998 and January 1999), Quakers in California by David LeShana, The Quakers by Barbour and Frost, The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800-1907 by Thomas Hamm, A Certain Kind of Perfection by Margery Post Abbot, A Western Quaker Reader by Anthony Manousos (ed.), as well as archival minutes. Some Meetings have published extensive histories in booklet form.

Pacific Yearly Meeting within the Religious Society of Friends

Pacific Yearly Meeting is one of 33 Yearly Meetings in North America, which together with 50 other Yearly Meetings throughout the world make up the Religious Society of Friends. Although an unaffiliated Yearly Meeting, PYM seeks to understand and relate to all Friends. In recent years PYM established the Wider Fellowship Among Friends Committee to facilitate reporting and interaction among the many representatives appointed by the Yearly Meeting to various Friends organizations <see p. 133>. These include Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, Evangelical Friends International, Friends Church Southwest Yearly Meeting, and the General Reunion of Friends in Mexico.  

From the beginning of Quakerism, part of the vitality of the movement has been nourished by continuing visitations and contacts among Friends. Pacific Yearly Meeting sends annual epistles to all Yearly Meetings and receives similar communications from Friends across the globe. In this way, as with individual travel and through written materials of many kinds, Friends in Pacific Yearly Meeting seek to maintain fellowship throughout the Religious Society of Friends.

Quaker Service in America

During the twentieth century, many Quaker organizations were created to respond to Friends’ needs for service opportunities and connection with one another. In 1917, shortly after the United States entered WWI, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was founded in Philadelphia to enable American Quakers to act on their humanitarian concerns.Much of its early effort was to prepare Quaker conscientious objectors for relief and reconstruction work in Europe. During World War II, the AFSC also helped to organize many Friends on the West Coast to provide legal and material support to interned Japanese-Americans, including helping to place Japanese-American students in colleges and universities east of the Rockies. Today, the AFSC has regional offices throughout the United States including the Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Pasadena, and the Pacific Mountain Regional Office in San Francisco.

These modern-day service activities grow naturally out of Friends history. Prison reform, relief for victims of strife, feeding the starving, improving the plight of native peoples are themes woven into the Quaker experience — in America and elsewhere.

Friends’ concern for the political process led to the founding of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC. FCNL enables Friends and likeminded people to follow and influence legislative issues. They “seek a world free of war and threat of war; a society with equity and justice for all; community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled; an Earth restored.” (FCNL mission statement)

The Friends Committee on Legislation (FCL) is based in Sacramento, and is charged with maintaining a Quaker presence in California’s capital while informing Friends of upcoming legislative issues and the voting records of elected officials. Although it was not established to serve beyond California, it does serve Friends within the state and some members of Pacific Yearly Meeting in other areas. Both FCNL and FCL reflect Friends’ lively concern for and interaction with the worldly society in which they live.

Although Friends withdrew from politics early, they have maintained a lively concern for the health of the social order. Led by conscience to resist participation in war and looking toward a world beyond war, Friends have supported the efforts of the United Nations and established an office in Geneva, Switzerland and one at the U.N. headquarters in New York. These Quaker United Nations Offices (QUNOs) serve representatives, ambassadors and legislators, by presenting accurate, unbiased data and by creating a safe space in which informal conversations can occur.

Friends Relationship to Christianity

As it is important to consider the place of Pacific Yearly Meeting within the entire Religious Society of Friends, it is important to consider Friends relationship to Christianity, historically and in the present.

Friends are often asked: “Are Quakers Christians?” Whether one interprets the Quaker movement as a strand within Protestantism or as a third force distinct from both Protestantism and Catholicism, the movement, both in its origin and in the various branches that have evolved, is rooted in Christianity.

Pacific Yearly Meeting includes many people who were not raised in the Religious Society of Friends and among them are some for whom Christianity is not part of their faith experience. There is thus a great variety of religious belief and expression. Many Pacific Yearly Meeting Friends articulate their Quaker faith in Jewish, Universalist, Buddhist, or other terms. Similarly, Friends hold diverse definitions of Christianity, interpreting and reacting to traditional Christian terminology differently. Some do not accept the defining beliefs required by the church of their youth or of current mainstream Christianity. This has been a point of lively discussion in Pacific Yearly Meeting for the past fifty years.†

Early Friends considered themselves Christians; they interpreted and justified their unique vision in Biblical and traditional Christian terms. However, from its inception the Quaker movement has offered critiques of many accepted manifestations of Christianity while at the same time empathizing with people of other faiths. We might use the phrase “primitive Christianity” to describe more closely where Friends fit across the Christian spectrum. Primitive Christianity usually refers to those teachings which pre-date Fourth Century Christians, who had been embraced by Constantine and were becoming “established.” These earliest followers of Jesus were radical revolutionaries, representing a “new order” of faithful who lived communally, eschewed violence of all kinds, and practiced simplicity.††

For some contemporary Quakers, the concept of the Divine Light Within emerges from the Bible, teachings of Jesus and traditional Christian doctrine; for others, it comes through different sacred sources. Quaker history demonstrates that an excessive reliance on any one perspective, neglecting the essential unity among them, has been needlessly divisive.

In the centuries since its founding, the Religious Society of Friends has embraced a wide variety of beliefs and practices; however, there are important commonalities throughout much of the Society. As Robert Vogel said in 1993, “…[most Quakers adhere to] plainness and devotion to truth, a clear understanding of spiritled worship, and essential inwardness; the use of queries and advices in framing faith; seeking the sense of the meeting in business sessions; the peace testimony and other social concerns; and the rejection of outward ordinances and sacramental worship.”††† Friends in London Yearly Meeting (now Britain Yearly Meeting) spoke practically on these matters:

 We respond [here]…in Christian language, but many Quakers would prefer less specifically Christian terminology. We worship, live and work together in unity, however, valuing the variety of expressions of truth which each individual brings.

London Yearly Meeting
To Lima with Love, 1987, pp. 7-8

† See “Quakerism and/or Christianity” Friends Bulletin (December 1966), which is the transcript of talks at Pacific Yearly Meeting by Henry J. Cadbury.
†† See Primitive Christianity Revived in the Faith and Practice of the People called Quakers, William Penn, 1696 and Quakerism and Christianity, Edwin B. Bronner, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 1967.
††† Friends Journal, March 1993, p. 18

Religious Language

Quakers encourage one another, in John Woolman’s phrase, “to distinguish the language of the pure Spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart,” rather than focusing on seeking names for God. The Light of Christ to one may be what another understands as the Inner Light; the Spirit to one may roughly be what another understands by the Christ Spirit. The Eternal, the Divine, and God may mean the same or not, depending on the context, the speaker or the reader.† The language used in all Quaker writing (including this Faith and Practice) varies with the source of material. Friends should temper their interpretations, knowing that any specific phrase may have different connotations to different Friends.

In the course of following their spiritual paths, many Friends find great depth of meaning in familiar Christian concepts and language, while others find more universalist language speaks to their condition. Although this phenomenon may seem perplexing to a casual observer, it does not trouble many seasoned Friends who have discovered deep unity with one another in the Spirit. The breadth of Friends’ terminology promotes latitude in expression and appreciation for what may be subtle differences in understanding.

…tell them in the name of God that there is to be no wrangling about words: all that this ever achieves is the destruction of those who are listening.

2 Timothy 2:14. The New Jerusalem Bible

† In fact one can find many terms for the same or similar concepts in the books of Faith and Practice of other Yearly Meetings. Inner Light, Living Spirit of God, Risen Christ, Truth, Light, Light of Christ, Light Within, Divine Spark, Holy Spirit, Living Christ, Jesus Christ, Inner Teacher, Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, Divine Light, Divine Presence, God’s Light, Seed, Spirit, Presence, Eternal, and Divine are found in the vocabulary of Friends.

The Bible

For most Friends, the Judeo-Christian Bible is an interpretation of God’s revelation over many centuries and a rich and sustaining source of inspiration. The Quaker movement began at a time when the Bible had recently come into wide circulation in England. George Fox and other Friends knew the Bible well, studied it earnestly, and quoted it often.

While they affirmed the inspiration of the scriptures, early Friends made a distinction that has remained vital to this day. In Henry Cadbury’s words: “Divine revelation was not confined to the past. The same Holy Spirit that had inspired the scriptures in the past could inspire living believers centuries later. Indeed, for the right understanding of the past, the present insight from the same Spirit was essential.” Thus, in emphasizing both the power that produced the scriptures and the accessibility of that same power today, Friends have avoided making written records a final or infallible test. Instead, Quakers seek the spirit behind the Bible, both in order to understand its contents and to be led in continual discovery of God’s ways.


All of life is sacred. Friends recognize that special moments of particular insight and spiritual awareness do occur, but they do not require prescribed rites or external sacraments. Friends practice the inward condition, but not the outward form, of the sacraments of baptism and communion. John Wilhelm Rowntree in 1902 wrote:

 It is the inward change, the inward purification, the spiritual fact and not the outward symbol, that belongs in truth to the Kingdom of God. Neither in the refusal to baptise nor to take the supper do Friends set forth a negation. They assert, on the contrary, the positive truth that the religious life is the inward life of the spirit. But no place or time can limit its action, nor any symbol adequately express it.

Britain Yearly Meeting
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §27.37

In most Christian worship services, the goal is communion with God or the celebration of the Eucharist, so that worshipers sense the immediate presence of the divine among them. Friends feel that their experience of Meeting for Worship, especially when it is a gathered Meeting (See “meeting for worship” in Part II), parallels this phenomenon. Worshipers who prepare the way by waiting together upon God sometimes experience this mystical connection.

Friends in unprogrammed Meetings, like most people, cherish the passages and life experiences often marked by traditional sacramental forms and community recognition. Friends hold special Meetings for Worship where some of the content is planned in advance, specifically on the occasion of marriage or death.Many Meetings also hold small, usually informal, celebrations for the birth of a child, graduation, new membership or another special event. These often take on the sacred character of a community united in its focus on the divine: a sacrament.Wary of how quickly a spontaneous celebration can become an empty ritual through repetition, Friends have avoided adopting rituals governed by outer rules or supervised by an ordained individual.†

† A few pastoral Friends practice the outward rituals commonly used in other Christian churches.


The lack of a creed or clear description of Quaker beliefs has sometimes led to the misconception that Friends do not have beliefs or that one can believe anything and be a Friend.Most Quakers take the absence of a creed as an invitation and encouragement to exercise an extra measure of personal responsibility for the understanding and articulation of Quaker faith. Rather than rely on priests or professional theologians, each believer is encouraged to take seriously the personal disciplines associated with spiritual growth. Out of lives of reflection, prayer, faithfulness, and service flow the statements of belief, both in word and in deed.

‘The Scriptures were the prophets’ words and Christ’s and the apostles’ words, and what as they spoke they enjoyed and possessed and had it from the Lord’. And [he] said, ‘Then what had any to do with the Scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth. You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?’

Margaret Fell,
describing a sermon of George Fox
Britain Yearly Meeting
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §19.07

Quaker Faith and Spiritual Practice
Worship & the Meeting
Meeting for Worship

And it is especially to be observed, that in the whole New Testament there is no order nor command given in this thing, but to follow the revelation of the Spirit, save only that general one of meeting together; a thing dearly owned and diligently practised by us…

Robert Barclay, Apology, 1676, 11:10

Worship is the response of the human spirit to the call of the Divine. Friends seek communion with that of God within, which some Friends call the Living Christ, the Teacher with whom each one has a relationship. Corporate worship deepens our sense of the Presence and our connection to it. In worship at its best, we transcend ourselves: “Every individual man and woman” is brought“ to the Spirit of God…and Truth in their own hearts, [to] love one another and love enemies.” (George Fox, The Power of the Lord Is Over All, 1668, p. 235)

The Meeting for Worship is at the core of Quaker practice. There, Friends gather together in expectant silence, waiting upon God. Typically, Meeting for Worship begins when the first worshipers settle into the silence at the appointed place and time. It ends when the Clerk or another designated individual shakes the hand of another person seated nearby.At that signal, Friends generally shake hands and greet each other.  Meeting for Worship is different from solitary prayer. The strength and focus of the community draw one who is distracted back toward the Center. In the embrace of the Meeting, an individual may be more willing to be searched by the Light that exposes weaknesses and shortcomings, and challenges the worshiper to transformation. Together, we can more clearly see Truth; we can better receive and understand continuing revelation. William Penn’s query captures this spirit in the language of his time:

When you come to your meetings…do you sit down in True Silence, resting from your own Will and Workings, and waiting upon the Lord, with your minds fixed in that Light wherewith Christ has enlightened you, until the Lord breathes life in you, refresheth you, and prepares you, and your spirits and souls, to make you fit for his service, that you may offer unto him a pure and spiritual sacrifice?

Willliam Penn, A Tender Visitation,
Works, 1771, p. 441

Thus conducting worship under the leading of Divine Will, Friends assemble in the silence without prearranged program. Each tries to still the inward clamor of personal anxieties and ambitions, listening for the voice of the Inner Guide, endeavoring to be faithful to its instruction. Such faithfulness may require an outward silence. It may require one to rise and speak words that do not come easily, which may not be fully understood, or which may be uncomfortable. It may require action, or restraint of action, by some individual or the whole Meeting, outside the Meeting for Worship.

During worship, all share responsibility for vocal ministry. God may call upon any one, regardless of experience or education, age or gender, to be a messenger. No one is excluded from the possibility of such service just as no one is appointed in advance to preach or pray at a particular Meeting for Worship.When someone does offer vocal ministry, Friends seek to be open, notwithstanding any hesitations or imperfection in the speaker’s words. An unexpected message may touch hearts, reveal the wisdom from the Source, and encourage the growth of the Seed within.  During Meeting for Worship, Friends seek connection to one another and to God dwelling among them. In some Meetings, the vocal ministry will have a common theme, each message deepening and enriching the other, and connecting to one’s own thoughts. Some Meetings are entirely silent. At a gathered Meeting, “the sense is present that a new Life and Power has entered our midst” (Thomas Kelly, The Gathered Meeting). Not every Meeting is a gathered Meeting, and not everyone has the same perception of a particular Meeting.

The meeting comes to be truly gathered when most, if not all, of those present have themselves been drawn in to the depths of themselves so that even their thoughts have been stilled and their minds, while by no means empty, are in near perfect rest.

George Gorman, The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship,
1986, p.4

In nurturing its worship, a Meeting that is experiencing an extended period of arid silence might try to encourage those who are reluctant to speak to be faithful to the call when it comes. Another Meeting, where many vocal messages have come from speakers with questionable discernment, may seek to encourage a greater spiritual depth in both the silence and the words. Seeking what George Fox referred to as the “universal, true, and perfect worship,” Friends return in faith to God for guidance.

All of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18 The New Jerusalem Bible

Preparation for and Participation in Worship

Friends who thoughtfully prepare to come together with clear minds and open hearts enhance the depth and quality of Meetings for Worship and for Business. Preparation may include regular prayer and worship, the reading of Scripture and other devotional literature, reflection, and other ways of experiencing God’s presence. The quality of each person’s participation affects the entire community. Regular and punctual attendance is helpful, as are attentive listening to the vocal ministry of others and the exercise of careful discernment in offering vocal ministry. Genuine preparation includes knowing others in the Meeting, being of service, and through words, actions and attitudes, honoring covenant relationships with one another and with the Living God.

Prayer & Other Reflective Practices

Prayer outside of Meeting for Worship takes many forms. For some, constant awareness of the Presence is the background to everything else that happens. For others, prayer is a change from one’s usual focus to communicate with the Divine at a particular moment.

Prayer may be of a traditional type, such as intercession or praise in the form of beloved words written by another. A prayer may be vocalized, alone or in a group. It may be silent: formed of internal words or deep and wordless. Prayer may include an embodied discipline, like chant or a movement meditation.

Daily prayer is a discipline that sustains the spirit and prepares for the coming Meeting for Worship. The Meeting community is greatly strengthened when its members regularly pray for it and for one another.

 There is no use trying to conceal how difficult it is to find time for private prayer in the congested schedules under which most modern people live. But at the bottom it is not a question of finding time…[but] of the depth of the sense of need and of the desire. Busy lovers find time to write letters to one another, often…long letters; although what really matters is not the length of the letter any more than it is the length of the prayer. In this life we find the time for what we believe to be important.

Douglas Steere, 1938
Britain Yearly Meeting,
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §2.32

Study of Judeo-Christian scriptures, Quaker materials, devotional literature, and other inspiring works can deepen understanding and enliven spiritul imagination. Individual reflection, conversations with a spiritual friend, group discussions, small gatherings for worship during the week, retreats, and pursuit of opportunities for religious education enhance spiritual development and readiness to be faithful instruments of God’s will.

Vocal Ministry & Faithful Listening

Just as careful preparation enhances the quality of worship, so too does attention to the Light during worship. Friends come to worship to receive and to give, to speak when led, to be silent when that is what obedience requires. Vocal ministry is a vital part of the Meeting for Worship. It is a form of service in which a person stands to share a message from God delivered through the individual. Friends hope that all spoken messages during worship are in fact vocal ministry. The responsibility rests on each member of the group to be ready and willing to offer such ministry when called to do so.

As one sits in silence, a message may arise out of the depth of the soul that seems intended not simply for the worshiper, but for the gathering as a whole. Some Friends feel burdened with a sense of omission if a message is not expressed, but once it is faithfully uttered, a sense of inward peace may follow. Experience in Meeting helps to discriminate between private words and those that arise as true leadings of the Spirit that should not be silenced. An inclination to share a message may arise in advance of Meeting, but the decision to speak should await a clear leading at the time.With practice, a person may learn to discern a call clearly, though many are quite unable to describe its quality.

Some worshipers called to speak feel an internal or external quaking, deep emotion, tears, an increased heart rate, or other agitation. Some have felt grabbed by the hand of God and held until after delivering the message. One person feels a profound stillness accompanied by a clear voice that is not her own. Another may find himself suddenly standing, and then wait, praying silently for guidance, before beginning to speak. Still another may test a message by repeatedly pushing it ‘out of mind’ only to find that it returns again and again.

As one is weighing whether to speak, certain questions may be helpful: Is this message Spirit-led, or merely emotionally compelling? Is this message intended for this group, or is it only for me? Is it better saved until another time or place? When the call to speak is clear, the worshiper should stand if possible. He or she should speak simply, briefly, audibly, and from personal spiritual experience. Occasionally, ministry may take the form of singing or of standing silently. Neither debate, nor discussion with previous speakers, is ever appropriate, and speaking twice during a single Meeting for Worship is very seldom so.  

Those who are led to speak have different backgrounds, verbal skills and interpretive power. Friends try to listen more than they speak, keep an open heart, seek the Spirit behind the words and hold the speaker in love. Listeners may find it helpful to pray that the messenger is faithful to the call, and that God’s word will emerge through the medium of human speech. A message that does not speak to one person’s needs may be helpful to another. After a message has been given, it is important to allow time to ponder its meaning, letting the Spirit move through the assembly of Friends before another ministers.

Meeting for Worship for Business

This section looks at the mystical roots of Quaker business process. Detailed treatment of procedure is to be found in Part V, Friends Process for Making Decisions.

Being orderly come together… proceed in the wisdom of God, not in the way of the world… not deciding affairs by the greater vote… [but by] assenting together as one man in the spirit of truth and equity, and by the authority thereof.

Edward Burrough, 1662
Britain Yearly Meeting
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §2.87

There is little record of how Friends’ unique practice for conducting business evolved, but there can be no doubt that it is derived directly from Friends’ faith. It is guided by three core beliefs: that there is that of God in everyone, that each can experience that of God within, and that divine guidance will lead to the realization of a single shared truth.

From these beliefs it readily follows that a Friends Meeting for Business is a Meeting for Worship in which business is conducted by seeking God’s will in the decisions that are to be made. The silent worship with which the Meeting for Business both opens and closes connects individuals to the Spirit. It prompts them to be sensitive to and grounded in the Love that binds the Meeting.

Anyone may call for silence in the course of a meeting: when resolution of a matter is proving difficult, when there is a need to reflect on what has been said, or to return the Meeting to a spirit of quiet reverence. A call for silence is always a call to worship, to focus on the guidance of the Spirit, to listen with a loving and open heart. As in other Meetings for Worship, Friends may feel moved to speak out of the silence on the matter in hand.

Friends strive to observe a discipline of plain speaking, expressing themselves simply and directly. This discipline extends to not interrupting or interjecting remarks. The occasional “That Friend speaks my mind” shows support for a viewpoint. Friends maintain order and ensure full participation by waiting to be recognized by the Clerk and usually standing to speak, addressing all comments to the Clerk and not to one another.

Although Friends study and discuss issues in advance, they should not come to Meeting for Business with minds made up. Seeking to be reverent to that of God in themselves and others, Friends should offer their personal perspectives and avoid taking fixed or adversarial positions.

Friends pay careful attention to all expressions, searching for the truth behind the words, aware that it may come from unexpected places. However, the voice of an experienced Friend is often especially valuable, providing wisdom that the Meeting needs.

Listening is at the very heart of Friends’ faith and practice. By listening to the Divine in ourselves and in each other, Friends are better prepared to find God’s will. Friends should not listen for the most convincing argument, but for the greater understanding to which each contributes and to which each may assent.A sense of the Meeting evolves from the interplay of all contributions and the skilled guidance of the Clerk. When unity is realized, the outcome is deeply satisfying. It produces a sense of the rightness of the decision and a loving connection between members.

Friends do not vote or act on the will of the majority. In Quaker experience, it is possible for all to unite in a decision, even when some have reservations. A united Meeting is not necessarily of one mind but it is all of one heart.

Unity requires active participation: where there is division over an issue, it is especially important for everybody to be heard.When Friends withhold expressions of dissent in the interest of avoiding controversy, the unity that results is spurious. The collective wisdom of the Meeting can be realized only to the extent that all participate in seeking it.

When Friends come to an issue with conflicting views, they are challenged to pool their knowledge and experience, and to experience the joy of discovering a new understanding that encompasses all of these elements in a far better form than previously imagined. This process requires love, courage, trust, and an ability to truly listen and change.

In coming to unity, Friends draw upon feelings and contemplative insight, not simply upon rational thought. Honest emotions are essential to discernment, but they should not be abused to sway the Meeting’s decision. Time is also essential for“ seasoning” important decisions. Sometimes decisions must be deferred for reflection and to allow residual unease to surface.

Decisions made in unity are not victories or defeats when Friends remain faithful, preserving the loving unity and higher purpose of the Meeting. Business conducted as a corporate endeavor in a Meeting for Worship enables Friends to move forward with confidence and joy. (See friends process for making decisions, p. 83).

The Meeting Community

 I do not think I am alone in my certainty that it’s in my relationships with people that the deepest religious truths are most vividly disclosed.

George Gorman, Religion and Life, 1982
Britain Yearly Meeting, Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §10.20

The Religious Society of Friends arose as a community of the Spirit, centered in regular, shared worship. Ostracized and attacked by mainstream English society, Quakers developed a loving social community which, while not immune to struggle and conflict, supported their personal growth, their care for one another, and their work in the larger world.

Now as then, community is essential to Friends’ life and spiritual growth. A strong Meeting community offers companionship, resources to care lovingly for those in need, and a place to test and support leadings and concerns. Community is expressed in many ways: by cheerfully joining together to accomplish the work of the Meeting, refraining from gossip and disparaging others, taking part in clearness committees, providing pastoral care, and reflecting Friends values in the larger society. Community is also expressed in commemorative, sociable and playful activities of the Monthly Meeting.

Those who belong to a Meeting community receive its loving care. Each one in turn should attend to the spiritual condition of others. While respecting others’ privacy, Friends must be sensitive to one another’s needs and willing to ask for assistance in times of trouble.

Conflict and difference are a part of life, a necessary result of the varying needs, aims, and perspectives of individuals and communities. Bringing them into the open is a necessary step towards empathy, understanding, and healing. Individuals and Meetings need to address conflict promptly in a spirit of goodwill and a desire to maintain loving relationship.When resolution is not immediate, the Meeting waits for way to open,while persisting in an earnest search for unity.

Recognizing the universal human needs for embrace, intimacy and sharing, as well as solitude, Friends support each other as individuals, couples, and families, however constructed or defined. The Meeting strives to be present for all its members throughout different stages of their lives and their specific needs — as single people, coupled, or in broader communities — recognizing the Divine in each. The Meeting can be an instrument of “divine assistance,” not only in supporting the marriages under its care, but also in supporting single people and all forms of partnership.We all have need for solitude as well as companionship, though these needs differ and are not always arrived at by choice. The Meeting Community plays a vital role in being sensitive to the needs and changing circumstances of its members.

Families are built on faith and love, not simply legal definitions. Friends experience the joys and struggles of being loving and faithful within families of choice and families of origin. Sharing life with those who matter most to us is a deeply spiritual journey when we struggle to live lives of openness and integrity. To be companions to each other on this common journey is central to the meaning of community.

Children bring special blessings to the Meeting community. Meetings must learn to cultivate the spiritual gifts of their youngest members, to listen to them and learn from them.

Jesus said: Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for such belongs to the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

Luke 18:16-17

As Meetings open themselves to the lessons children offer, they must also be attentive to families experiencing the joys and stresses of child rearing. Parents provide for the healthy development of their children’s minds, bodies, and spirits. Time and attention needed for this central task should be shielded from less important tasks.Meetings should share these responsibilities with parents and extended families so that children grow in the knowledge that they occupy a valuable place in the Meeting community. All adults in the Meeting should find ways to be involved in the children’s lives.

At the same time Friends cherish older people in the Meeting, offering support as they face changing circumstances in their lives, valuing the wisdom, serenity and detachment that advancing age may bring.With gratitude for the memories and blessings of those lives, Friends value older people in new ways as they pass on theirresponsibilities, assuring them of their continuing role in the Meeting community. Aging members can be bearers of wisdom, a tranquil enlightenment that recognizes the divine presence in the ordinary, as well as prophecy, which calls us out of the ordinary to a new vision of the world.

The Meeting must find ways to consult its experienced members as it makes decisions. It may ease its expectations of members who no longer find it easy to bring a pot luck dish, or volunteer to do clean up, but whose company it cherishes.

At the same time the Meeting must accompany all members as they experience transitions, change, diminishments of all kinds. These changes present constant challenges: physical, financial and spiritual. The life of the community can deepen and grow in the process of confronting change.

The Quaker community extends beyond our home Meetings. Historically, Friends have maintained contact with the wider world of Quakers through traveling ministry, intervisitation, home hospitality, and participation in the wider gatherings of Friends. Such participation often results in a deepening of individual commitments and a livelier sense of community at the home Meeting.

Friends seek to embrace all people — all God’s children — in community. This witness for, and practice of, community informs social concerns for peace and justice in the world.

When Friends are led to actions in the wider world, the Meeting may be called upon not only to help discern the merits of such a leading but also to offer material and spiritual support. (See clearness and clearness committees, p. 91). Early Meetings were both a religious body and an economic unit, coming to the aid of persecuted members who risked imprisonment and loss of jobs and property for acting on their beliefs. Meetings that have united on a course of action, such as providing sanctuary to families fleeing oppression, have often found their faith deepened and their community life enhanced. Such actions require full participation, which is the essence of community.

Living Our Faith

George Fox called Quakerism an “experimental” faith. Today, Friends are more likely to call it “experiential,” and this in turn implies willingness to consider new insights and perceptions. Friends historical experience has led to shared attitudes and a mode of living in the world that is reflected in Friends’ testimonies, which guide the living faith both individually and corporately.  Friends have often completed the study of a problem, whether spiritual or worldly, by offering a set of queries, believing that these may open the way to Truth more effectively than a set of conclusions. This practice dates from the early days of the Quaker movement. Most books of Faith and Practice include a set of Queries, often accompanied by a set of Advices <see page 31>. Advices and Queries offer challenge and inspiration, while nurturing continued exploration of Friends faith and practice.


Another descriptive saying of Friends is that “Quakerism is a way of life,” which is to suggest that the testimonies are the moral and ethical fruit of the inward leading of the Spirit. … Because the testimonies have a religious base they might also be called the Quaker “articles of faith,” but clearly for Friends it is faith that must be translated into action.

Wilmer A. Cooper,
The Testimony of Integrity in the Religious Society of Friends,
Pendle Hill Pamphlet 296, 1991

For more than three hundred years, Friends have acted upon a set of shared convictions. While the specific details have varied over time, today’s concerns and underlying beliefs are remarkably similar to those of past generations. The word “testimonies” refers to this set of deeply felt, historically rooted attitudes and ways of living in the world. Testimonies bear witness to the Truth as Friends in community perceive it: Truth known through relationship with God. Testimonies are expressions of lives turned toward the Light, outward expressions that reflect the inward experience of divine guidance.

Spiritual evolution of the Religious Society of Friends occurs largely through individual Friends’ openness to spiritual insights. Insights widely held by Friends over time, guiding and informing the community, become testimonies.  

There is no single list of testimonies. To understand the role of testimonies in Friends’ history and spiritual practice, it is first important to understand their essential oneness.


Let your lives speak.

Inscription on
George Fox’s Memorial Tablet

The testimony of integrity calls us to wholeness; it is the whole of life open to Truth.When lives are centered in the Spirit, beliefs and actions are congruent, and words are dependable. As we achieve wholeness in ourselves, we are better able to heal the conflict and fragmentation in our community and in the world.

Integrity is a demanding discipline.We are challenged by cultural values and pressures to conform. Integrity requires that we be fully responsible for our actions. Living with integrity requires living a life of reflection, living in consistency with our beliefs and testimonies, and doing so regardless of personal consequences. Not least, it calls for a single standard of truth. From the beginning, Friends have held to this standard, and have often witnessed against the mainstream. When they suffered in consequence of their witness against secular order, their integration of belief and practice upheld them in adversity.

Speaking the truth in all circumstances† and at all times, as enjoined in the Bible, is shown in the refusal to take oaths. Oaths imply that there are times the truth is not necessarily told and early Friends believed that the system of requiring oaths taught people that lies were otherwise acceptable. Truth telling led to a one-price system in merchandising, with fair value for fair price rather than bargaining or discrimination between buyers.

Friends believe in speaking simply, avoiding misleading words or emotionally manipulative language, which could divert from the discernment of God’s will. Commitment to truth requires authenticity and veracity in following one’s conscience, illuminated by the Inner Light. When we depart from truth, we separate ourselves from God. Integrity is not simply a habit of speech, but a way of life increasingly aligned with God’s will.

† Particular circumstances have occasionally presented Friends with painful and difficult choices. Kenneth Barnes discusses obeying a deeper call when he writes: “The integrity of some Dutch Friends I have met showed itself during the war in their willingness to tell lies to save their Jewish friends from the Gestapo or from starvation.” Kenneth C. Barnes, 1972 (Britain Yearly Meeting, Quaker Faith and Practice, 1995, §20.44)


Friends believe that it is possible for the human spirit to be in direct communion with the Divine. Seeking God’s will together, we believe way will open and unity will emerge.

The way is one; Christ the truth of God; and he that is in the faith, and in the obedience to the light which shines from his Spirit into the heart of every believer, hath a taste of the one heart and of the one way, and knoweth that no variety of practices, which is of God, can make a breach in the true unity.

Isaac Penington, 1659, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Faith & Practice, 1997, p. 163.257

One of the queries in continuous use since 1682 asks, “Are love and unity maintained among you?” Early Friends considered themselves part of a great movement that would soon sweep the world. Unity and mutual care in the Quaker community in the face of persecution demonstrated to the world the working of God among us.

Working together to discern and serve God’s will both nourishes and benefits from unity. This unity grows from trust in one another and readiness to speak out, confident that together, Friends will find the truth.

True unity may be found under great apparent differences. This unity is spiritual, it expresses itself in many ways, and we need divine insight that we may recognize its working. We need forbearance, sympathy and love, in order that, while remaining loyal to the truth as it comes to us, we may move forward with others to a larger and richer experience and expression of the will of God.

London Yearly Meeting, 1916


There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28, The New Jerusalem Bible

Friends testimony on equality is rooted in the holy expectation that there is that of God in everyone, including adversaries and people from widely different stations, life experiences, and religious persuasions. All must therefore be treated with integrity and respect. The conviction that each person is equally a child of God opened the way for women to be leaders in the Religious Society of Friends: both women and men ministered in Friends Meetings from earliest days.

The testimony of equality does not imply that all individuals in a particular role are the same; it recognizes that the same measure of God’s grace is available to everyone. John Woolman explified this belief in his travel among Native Americans:

Love was the first motion, and thence a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of Truth amongst them.

John Woolman, Journal, 1763
Ed. J. G. Whittier, 1871, p.192 

Before Friends became pacifists, they were dismissed from the army for refusing to treat officers as superior. George Fox and other early Friends demonstrated their conviction that all persons were of equal worth by refusing to take off their hats to those who claimed higher rank, and by addressing everyone with the singular “thou” (or “thee” in America) rather than the honorific plural “you.”

Friends recognize that unjust inequities persist throughout society, and that difficult work remains to rid ourselves and the Religious Society of Friends from prejudice and inequitable treatment based upon gender, class, race, age, sexual orientation, physical attributes, or other categorizations. Both in the public realm — where Friends may “speak truth to power” — and in intimate familial contexts, Friends’ principles require witness against injustice and inequality wherever it exists.


Simplicity is the right ordering of our lives, placing God at the center. When we shed possessions, activities, and behavior that distract us from that center, we can focus on what is important. Simplicity does not mean denying life’s pleasures, but being open to the promptings of the Spirit.We Friends seek to take no more than our share and to be sensitive to the needs of others, especially future generations.

Early Friends believed that the rituals and elaborate ceremony of the church were distractions from true religious experience. Seeking to emphasize substance rather than form, they gathered to worship simply in silence. To this day Friends in unprogrammed Meetings worship without outward sacraments.

Maintaining a simple life requires discipline and resolve to avoid getting lost in worldly distractions or undertaking too many activities, even in the service of good causes.When Friends truly practice simplicity, their lives and homes are orderly and they find time for prayer and service.

In earlier times, and in their concern to avoid frivolity, Friends devalued art and music. Later Friends recognized that music and art can enrich life in the Light. Simplicity need not entail meagerness or crudeness. A simple rendering of speech, writing, or artifacts often enhances that which is genuine and unmasks that which is not.

Simplicity, when it removes encumbering details, makes for beauty in music, in art, and in living. It clears the springs of life and permits wholesome mirth and gladness to bubble up; it cleans the windows of life and lets joy radiate. It requires the avoidance of artificial or harmful social customs and conventions but it opens wide the door to cultivate and express to all sincere cordiality, kindness and friendliness. This sort of simplicity removes barriers and eases tensions. In its presence all can be at ease.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Faith & Practice, 1961, pp. 22-24


 We utterly deny all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any  pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole  world.… The spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth will  never move us to fight and war against any man with  outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for kingdoms of this world.

George Fox, Declaration to Charles II, 1660
Britain Yearly Meeting,
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §24.04

 A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it.

William Penn, 1693
Britain Yearly Meeting,
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §24.03

Based upon love and concern for the wellbeing of all, Friends work for reconciliation and active nonviolent resolutions of conflict. Friends have traditionally supported conscientious objectors to military service, while holding in love, but disagreeing with, those who feel that they must enter the armed forces. Friends oppose all war as inconsistent with God’s will.

Recognizing that violence and war typically arise from unjust circumstances, Friends address the causes of war by working to correct social injustice, and by strengthening communities, institutions and processes to provide nonviolent alternatives to military force. We testify against structural violence implicit in disparities of wealth and income and against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, class, sexual orientation, and other divisions of people. John Woolman implored Friends to seek out the seeds of war in themselves:

 Oh that we who declare against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding great  estates. May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of  our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds  of war have nourishment in these possessions?

John Woolman, 1763

The work of peace is the work of sustaining relationships of mutual human regard, of seeing and speaking to that of God in everyone, of seeking peace within ourselves, the family, the community and the world. The Kingdom of God is both present in each of us and a goal yet to be fulfilled. The task may never be done, but sustained by God’s love we are called to pursue it.


Friends’ testimonies on integrity, unity, equality, simplicity, and peace come together in our testimony on community, which calls us to sustain caring relationships for all. In today’s interconnected world, human survival depends more than ever on discerning and actualizing the truth of our corporate experience, on mutual regard and support, on nurturing our relationships with one another, with society, and with the environment as a whole.

 We need to find the courage to assert and act upon the hope, however naïve, that community can be found, because only  by acting “as if” can we create a future fit for human  habitation… Community means more than the comfort of souls. It means, and always has meant, the survival of the species…

Parker Palmer, A Place Called Community,
Pendle Hill Pamphlet 212, 1977

Without mutual regard and concern, without the trust that comes from the observance of mutual expectations developed and sustained over time, without commitment to a collective search for unity around that of the Divine that each of us shares, there is separation, and separation is the root of conflict. Community is the necessary foundation for social justice and peace. As we live in a community which is committed to honor that of God in all, we are, as individuals, strengthened in the work to which we are called.

The Quaker exhortation to “know one other in that which is eternal” is an exhortation to a mutual knowing in which we are affected by, and responsive to, one another. We come to know one another as we seek our collective, Spirit-led Truth — our shared sense of the common good within which we discover who we are and where we each fit in the larger scheme of things. We see and speak from that of God in ourselves to that of God in all others when we discover and acknowledge our common ground and common good. We see Jesus’ command to love one another as a command to be in community. We testify against all appeals to divisiveness.

Within Friends’ spiritual community, the collective search for truth, undertaken in the Meeting for Worship, is the foundation for the beloved community to which Friends aspire. Gathered together in the Light, the work of community involves empathic searching for the Divine in self and other. It nourishes our witness to the world.

 Love, trust, fellowship, selflessness are all mediated to us through our interdependence. Just as we could not live physically without each other, we cannot live spiritually in isolation. We are individually free but also communally bound. We cannot act without affecting others and others cannot act without affecting us. We know ourselves as we are reflected in the faces, action and attitudes of each other.

Janet Scott, What Canst Thou Say?
Swarthmore Lecture, Friends Home Service, 1980, pp.41-42 

The Spirit calls Friends to acknowledge their connection to one another and to all creation. This understanding strengthens us to minister to one another and the wider community, to test individual leadings, and to witness to the truth as it is revealed to us.

Living by faith is not a private matter. It calls us outward to the needs of the community at large. The Spirit we follow is present in each individual human being. To be true to that Spirit, we must recognize and nourish the spiritual worth of all people, particularly those who have been devalued or excluded. Following the Spirit’s leadings together, we hope to overcome the causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the neglect or disrespect of children, the poor, and the socially marginalized, in the world and in ourselves.

Advices & Queries

Friends are committed to a way of worship that allows God continually to teach and transform us. The Advices and Queries remind us of the essential faith and principles of the Religious Society of Friends. They challenge and inspire us in our personal lives and in our corporate life. If the ideal of Christian discipleship seems impossibly demanding, and we become disheartened at times, we should remember that we seek it not with our own strength, but with the strength of the Light within.

The Advices and Queries are intended for use in Monthly Meetings as well as for personal devotions. Some Meetings read one section each month, during Meeting for Business or at other times, or publish them in Meeting newsletters. They may be used as a basis for annual reports on the State of the Meeting. Committees may find certain queries helpful in evaluating their activities.

As we speak to what we know to be true in our lives and listen to each other in humility and understanding, we trust in the Spirit that transcends our human effort and comprehension. So these Advices and Queries are offered for the comfort and discomfort of Friends, with the hope that we may be more faithful and find deeper joy in God’s service.

Some queries are intended for individuals.
Italicized queries are intended for the Meeting collectively.

Meeting for Worship

The heart of the Religious Society of Friends is the Meeting for Worship. In direct communion with God, we offer ourselves for God’s will. Our daily lives are linked with the Meeting for Worship, the Meeting for Worship with our daily lives.

Come regularly to Meeting for Worship, even when you are angry, tired, or spiritually cold. Bring your joys and your hurts, and the needs of other people. Accept and support each other in the community where God dwells among us. As you do so, you may find the grace of prayer.

At times the Spirit may prompt you to speak in Meeting. Wait patiently to know that the sense and the time are right. When you are sure, have confidence that the words will be given to you. Listen to the ministry of others with an open spirit. If it is not God’s word for you, it may be for others. After a message has been given, allow time to ponder its meaning and to let the Meeting return to silent worship. In speech and in silence, each person contributes to the Meeting.

Do I come to Meeting with heart and mind prepared for worship?

In both silent and vocal ministry, do I respond to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, without pre-arrangement and in simplicity and truth?

Am I careful not to speak at undue length or beyond personal spiritual experience?

Do we meet in expectant waiting for the promptings of the Divine Spirit?

Are we drawn together in a living silence by the power of God in our midst?

Spiritual Life

The life of the spirit gains depth and vigor through devotional practices, prayer, study and meditation. Take time regularly for individual and family worship, discussions, readings from sacred texts, and other spiritual refreshment in order to live a more centered life and to bring a deeper presence to the Meeting for Worship.

Friends believe that the spiritual path is best found in community. Create opportunities in your Meetings for people of all ages to explore and express their evolving relationship with the Divine, their spiritual highs and their doubts. If different metaphors and language interfere with communication, listen more deeply, honoring the Spirit in which the thought and words have their beginnings.

Do I live in thankful awareness of God’s constant presence in my life?

Am I sensitive and obedient to the leadings of the Holy Spirit?

When do I take time for contemplation and spiritual refreshment?

What steps am I taking to center my life and to stay open to continuing revelation?

Do we share our spiritual lives with others in the Meeting, seeking to know one another in that which is eternal?

Does the Meeting provide religious education including study of the Bible and Friends’ history and practices?

Meeting for Worship for Business

Come to Meeting with hearts and minds prepared to be open and faithful to the leadings of the Spirit. Then the conduct of business will lead to truth, unity, and love.

When a matter is before the Meeting for Business, each person present contributes to the corporate search for a decision that accords with the will of God. Inaction is a form of action. Silent worship in the Meeting for Business contributes to the process of achieving unity.

Listen attentively to others’ words and use the silence between messages to reflect carefully on what you might contribute. When you are clear, speak simply what is in your heart, without repeating what has already been offered.While making your insights clear, lay aside personal opinions and attend to what God requires.

Do I attend Meeting for Business regularly?

Do I speak in Meeting for Business only when I am led to speak?

Is the Meeting for Business held as a Meeting for Worship in which we seek divine guidance for our actions?

Are we tender and considerate of different views, coming to a decision only when we have found unity?

Do we give prayerful support for our clerks that they may be sensitive to the movement of the Spirit among us?

Stewardship & Vocation

John Woolman said, “As Christians all we possess are the gifts of God… To turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of Universal Love becomes the business of our lives.” The principle of stewardship applies to all we have and are. As individuals, we are called to use our time, our various abilities, our strength, our money, and our material possessions with care, managing them wisely and sharing them generously.

From the indwelling Seed of God, we discover our particular gifts and discern the service to which we are called. In making choices about occupation or education, consider the way that offers the fullest opportunity to develop your individual abilities and contribute to the world community while providing for yourself and your family. In daily work, manifest a spirit of justice and understanding, and thus give a living witness to the truth.

Be ready to limit engagements, to withdraw for a time, or even to retire from an activity that inhibits your ability to follow a higher call. Try to discern the right moment to accept new responsibilities as well as to relinquish responsibility that can pass to others. Be open to your calling in different stages of life. Meetings need the strength and vigor of young people as well as the experience and wisdom of elders.Although they may not be able to contribute great financial support, their energy and insight invigorate the community. As people begin careers and families, they may need the spiritual and experienced help of the Meeting. Later, when families are growing up and careers are established, greater participation in the Meeting and greater financial support may become possible. Welcome the approach of old age, your own and others’, as an opportunity for wisdom and greater attachment to the Light.Meetings should be ready with material and spiritual support for those suffering from unemployment or facing difficult vocational decisions.

How have I been faithful to the leadings of the Spirit in choosing work or vocation?

What am I doing with my talents, time, money, and possessions? Am I sharing them according to the Light I am given?

Is my conduct at the workplace consistent with my life as a Friend?

How does my daily work enhance my spiritual life?

How does the Meeting help and support members who are in job transitions?

Harmony with Creation

It would go a long way to caution and direct people in their use of the world, that they were better studied and knowing in the Creation of it. For how could [they] find the confidence to abuse it, while they should see the Great Creator stare them in the face, in all and every part thereof?

William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude, 1693

God is revealed in all Creation. We humans belong to the whole interdependent community of life on earth. Rejoice in the beauty, complexity, and mystery of creation, with gratitude to be part of its unfolding. Take time to learn how this community of life is organized and how it interacts. Live according to principles of right relationship and right action within this larger whole.

Be aware of the influence humans have on the health and viability of life on earth. Call attention to what fosters or harms earth’s exquisite beauty, balances and interdependencies. Guided by Spirit, work to translate this understanding into ways of living that reflect our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

In what ways do I express gratitude for the wondrous expressions of life on Earth?

Do I consider the damage I might do to the Earth’s vulnerable systems in choices I make of what I do, what I buy, and how I spend my time?

In our witness for the global environment, are we careful to consider justice and the well-being of the world’s poorest people?Does our way of life threaten the viability of life on Earth?

Social & Civic Responsibility

In the words of William Penn, “True godliness don’t draw men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it.” Elsewhere he commented: “It is a reproach to religion and government to suffer so much poverty and excess.”

Poverty within a wealthy society is unjust, cruel, and often linked to skin color, gender, and language. We must examine our own privilege and role in the economic order that deepens this disparity. Friends should be alert to oppression and injustice, and persistent in working against them.

We value our part in shaping the laws of our country. Our task is to see that laws serve God’s purposes and build a just social order. Our first allegiance should be to God, and if this conflicts with any compulsion of the state, we serve our country best by remaining true to our higher loyalty.

If, by divine leading, our attention is focused on a law that is contrary to God’s law, we must proceed with care. Before acting, Friends should pray for further guidance and speak with the Meeting, family members, and all those who might be affected by the decision. If a decision involves disobedience to the law, we should make the grounds of our action clear to all concerned and be prepared to suffer any penalties without evasion. As a community, we must care for those who suffer for conscience’s sake.

What am I doing to carry my share of responsibility for the government of our community, nation, and world?

Am I persistent in my efforts to promote constructive change?

How do we attend to the suffering of others in our local community, in our state and nation, and in the world community?

Do we try to understand the causes of suffering, and do we address them as a Meeting?

How do we, individually and as a Meeting, support the organizations that work to bring the testimonies of Friends into reality in our society?

Reaching Out

Friends fellowship begins and is nurtured within the home and Meeting. It reaches greater fulfillment as we carry our beliefs into the wider community.

Share your Quaker faith. Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light and, as you learn, give freely from what you have gained. Respect the experiences and opinions of others, but do not be afraid to say what you value. Welcome the diversity of culture, language, and expressions of faith in your Monthly Meeting, the Yearly Meeting, and the world community of Friends. Encourage discourse with Friends of pastoral and programmed traditions, and with members of other faiths.

Friends have a long history of involvement in public and private education, sharing our values with the world and nurturing future generations. Be mindful of the needs of children in your community and of avenues for deepening understanding between peoples.

How does my life reflect Friends beliefs and thus encourage others to be interested in the Religious Society of Friends?

Do I respond openly to inquiries about Quaker experience and belief?

What does our Meeting do to make others aware of Friends principles and practices?

What are we doing to help people of various races, cultures, and backgrounds feel at home among us and we among them?

How do we encourage newcomers to return and participate in activities of the Meeting?

In what ways do we participate in the life of the interfaith community and in the wider fellowship of Friends?


Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center… a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time.

Thomas R. Kelly, Testament of Devotion, 1941

A life centered in God will be directed toward keeping communication with God open and unencumbered. Simplicity is best achieved through a right ordering of priorities, maintaining humility of spirit, avoiding self-indulgence, resisting the accumulation of unnecessary possessions, and avoiding over-busy lives.

Elise Boulding writes in My Part in the Quaker Adventure, “Simplicity, beauty, and happiness go together if they are a byproduct of a concern for something more important than ourselves.”

Do I center my life in an awareness of God’s presence so that all things take their rightful place?

Do I live simply, and promote the right sharing of the world’s bounty?

Do I keep my life uncluttered with things and activities, avoiding commitments beyond my strength and light?

How do I maintain simplicity, moderation, and honesty in my speech, my manner of living, and my daily work?

Do I recognize when I have enough?

Is the life of our Meeting so ordered that it helps us to simplify our lives?

Integrity & Personal Conduct

Integrity has always been a goal of Friends. It is essential to trust, to all communication between people and between people and God. Integrity grounds our beliefs, thoughts, and actions in our spiritual center and makes us whole.

Friends believe that we are called to speak the truth. A single standard of truth requires us to conduct ourselves in ways that are honest, direct, and plain, and to make our choices, both large and small, in accord with the urgings of the Spirit. It follows that we object to taking an oath, which presupposes a variable standard of truth. Be true to your word.

… let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.

James 5:12
King James Version

From early days Friends have opposed gambling and practices based on chance. These activities profit from the inevitable loss of others, promote greed, and conflict with good stewardship. Public lotteries have not furthered their purported benefit to the public good. All addictions are of concern. As the use of alcohol and tobacco all too often entail serious risks to self and others, Friends who serve alcohol at home should be diligent in offering alternatives. Alcohol should not be served at Meeting gatherings.

Find recreation that brings you joy and energy. Be aware of how your choices affect yourself and others.

How do I strive to maintain the integrity of my inner and outer lives?

Do I act on my principles even when this entails difficult consequences?

Am I honest and truthful in all that I say and do, even when a compromise might be easier or more popular?

Am I reflective about the ways I gain my wealth and income and sensitive to their impacts on others?

Is my life so filled with the Spirit that I am free from the misuse of alcohol and other drugs, and of excesses of any kind?

Do we, in our Meeting, hold ourselves accountable to one another as do members of a healthy family?

Personal Relationships

In daily relationships with others, both inside and outside the home, our lives as Friends speak immediately and lastingly. In these relationships, our faith may also be severely tested.We are called to respond to that of God in everyone: we are all children of God.

Friends celebrate any union that is dedicated to mutual love and respect, regardless of the unique make-up of the family. We strive to create homes where the Spirit of the Divine resides at the center and where the individual genius of each member is respected and nurtured.

Human sexuality is a divine gift, forming part of the complex union of body, mind and spirit that is our humanity. In a loving adult relationship in a context of mutual responsibility, sexuality brings delight, fulfillment and celebration.

The presence of children carries a special blessing as well as responsibility. Children bring unique spiritual gifts — wonder, resiliency, playfulness and more. Recognize and honor the Divine Light within children and treat them with the dignity and respect that is due to all people. Listen to and learn from children; share with them those values and practices that are central to our own lives. Special care must be given to resolving problems between adults and children in a manner that gives equal weight to the feelings and needs of both children and adults. Tender parenting is one of the critically important peace vocations in our society.Make every effort to offer all parents the personal and institutional support that this challenging work requires.

Take a strong stand against any form of abuse, whether that abuse is minor or severe, and whether it is emotional, physical or sexual in nature. The terrible impact of abuse on the most vulnerable members of our families creates lifelong suffering for its victims and is a major source of violence in our society. Perpetrators are themselves usually victims of similar violence and should be approached with compassion as well as firmness.

Do I make my home a place of friendliness, joy, and peace, where residents and visitors feel God’s presence?

Are my sexual practices consistent with my spiritual beliefs and free of manipulation and exploitation?

What barriers keep me from responding openly and lovingly to each person?

Do we open our thoughts, beliefs, and deep understandings to our children and others who share our lives and our hospitality?

Do we provide our children and young adults with a framework for active, ongoing participation in the Meeting?


Friends oppose all war as inconsistent with God’s will. As every person is a child of God, we recognize God’s Light also in our adversaries. Violence and injustice deny this reality and violate the teachings of Jesus and other prophets.

Friends challenge their governments and take personal risks in the cause of peace.We urge one another to refuse to participate in war as soldiers, or as arms manufacturers.We seek ways to support those who refrain from paying taxes that support war. We work to end violence within our own borders, our homes, our streets, and our communities. We support international order, justice, and understanding.

Become an instrument of peace. At every opportunity, be peacemakers in your homes, workplaces and communities. Steep yourself in the power of the universal Spirit. Examine your actions for the seeds of violence, degradation and destructiveness. Overcome the emotions that lie at the root of violence and nurture instead a spirit of reconciliation and love. Come to know the oneness of all creation and oppose the destruction of the natural world.

Do I live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars?

How do I nourish peace within myself as I work for peace in the world?

Do I confront violence wherever it occurs, even when my personal relationships are involved?

Where there is distrust, injustice, or hatred, how am I an instrument of reconciliation and love?

What are we doing to remove the causes of war and destruction of the planet, and to bring about lasting peace?

Do we reach out to all parties in a conflict with courage and love?

The Meeting Community

Meetings for Worship and Business are the center of our spiritual community. There, as we come to know each other in the Spirit, we build the “beloved community.”

Mutual respect and care in the Meeting form the foundation from which we can test, support, and exercise leadings of the Spirit. At its best, the Meeting community provides a framework for us to learn and practice mutual care, which strengthens us as we act in the world.

All members of the Meeting community should share in the care of one another.While respecting privacy, we must be aware of and sensitive to each other’s needs. We must also be willing to ask for assistance when we are in need.

Do I strive to be inclusive in my relationships within the Meeting?

Do I care for the reputation of others, refraining from gossip or disparaging remarks?

Am I committed to the difficult work of forgiveness, and affirming God’s love for the whole community?

How are love and unity maintained among us?

Do we practice the art of listening, even beyond words?

How have we been sensitive to the personal needs and difficulties of members and attenders, young and old?

Do we visit one another in our homes and keep in touch with distant members?

Concerns & Leadings

Concerns and leadings grow out of the spiritual experience and contemplative practice of the Meeting. They are the living fruit of Friends’ faith that the Spirit will lead us forward into right action in the world.

The impetus for action is often a concern: a pull toward a specific issue, an experience of the stirring of the Spirit about a particular topic, individual or group. A concern may thrust itself suddenly into the life of a Friend or may grow out of a long-standing interest.

A concern may be short lived or it may inform and direct Friends throughout their lives. For some, this call is experienced in terms of Christian discipleship: “Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor… and come follow me.” (Luke 18:22) In the Hebrew scriptures a call can be seen in the prophets, such as Isaiah 6:8 “Here am I, send me.

When it initially arises, a concern may not yet be linked to a proposed course of action, but may simply be a troubled sense that something is needed or something is awry. Action, when it follows, is often the result of a sense of being drawn or called by God in a particular direction or toward a particular course of action. Friends speak of “feeling led” or “being called.” The response may be shortterm and specific, or it may involve transformation of one’s life and the life of the Meeting.

A leading, the experience of feeling called by God to act, takes many different forms, and always requires careful discernment. In Meeting for Worship as one considers whether a message is intended as vocal ministry, the central task is to discern whether one is called by God to give the message. One who is called to serve on a challenging committee may need the Nominating Committee’s help with discerning the appropriateness of the selection. Another may be called to speak truth to someone who does not want to hear what we have to say. In each case, Friends want to be clear about the calling before acting.

At times a call may take a more profound hold, causing us to make significant life changes, to take risks, or to engage in specific social or political actions. Friends under the weight of such a concern should rely on the Meeting to help them discern the right course of action. Friends’ long-standing practice confirms the rightness of testing a leading with the Monthly Meeting, which customarily appoints a clearness committee to meet with the concerned individual. Together, the clearness committee and the initiating individual seek to join the mystical with the practical and to test the validity of the concern. (See clearness and clearness committees p. 91.)

Achieving clarity about a concern is a particular exercise in discernment. It is a process that begins with considerable private reflection and the asking of some tough questions. Is this a desire that someone else do something or it is really a call to act oneself? Is it genuinely from God?

Britain Yearly Meeting,
Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995, §13.05

During the clearness process, the Meeting has a duty to consider the matter carefully and sympathetically. The concerned Friend has a duty to participate in the discernment. Does the concern spring from the movement of the Spirit in the life of the concerned Friend? Is it consistent with Friends’ testimonies? If not, can the committee confirm that it nonetheless flows from that same Light that has steadfastly inspired Friends?

If the committee affirms the spiritual leading of the concerned Friend, the committee then considers how it is led further to act. If the concern is confined to the individual and does not directly involve the Meeting, then clarity may be the primary gift of the Meeting. However, an individual’s need for careful discernment often comes during a period of change, and it is always appropriate to offer ongoing spiritual support to the concerned Friend. The existing clearness committee often takes responsibility for this support.

The Meeting should determine what additional forms of support it wishes to offer, ranging from childcare and financial assistance to releasing the Friend from other responsibilities. The Meeting may support the leading of the concerned Friend; it may also wish to take on the leading as its own. This may relieve the concerned Friend of the burden of leadership; more often it affirms and validates the importance of the initial concern.

The clearness committee, after listening carefully and laboring faithfully with the concerned Friend, may conclude the Friend’s calling is not divinely inspired. This may lead the Friend to feel relieved of the concern and lay it down. Some Friends may choose to carry on, without the support of the Meeting, taking care to represent the concern as a personal one. Any Friend may choose to labor further with the Meeting and the clearness committee, in pursuit of unity. The clearness process should substantially assist the concerned Friend; it may inspire the Meeting. Ideally it will do both.  Depending on the nature and scope of the concern, the Monthly Meeting may wish to present it as a minute to the Quarterly Meeting. Similarly, the Quarterly Meeting may seek to engage a wider circle of Friends by bringing it before the Yearly Meeting.

Laboring with Concerns

At different times, Friends have felt strongly moved to apply a historic testimony to a particular issue of their own day. Elizabeth Fry’s work for prison reform and John Woolman’s outspoken concern for the abolition of slavery are familiar examples from earlier times. Within Pacific Yearly Meeting, people have raised serious concerns on topics such as the environment, population, economic justice, abortion, gambling, and the right to die with dignity. Pacific Yearly Meeting Friends have not found unity to formulate testimonies on these issues.  

A concern for the environment coalesced at the annual session of Pacific Yearly Meeting in 1985. Many Friends see a testimony on harmony with nature emerging. The following is included to exemplify and acknowledge this subject on which Friends are laboring.

Toward a Testimony of Harmony with Nature

Several early Quakers wrote of their mystical understanding of our harmony with all creation, and many Friends have held themselves to be stewards of nature, taking little and using it wisely.

We now find ourselves called toward a new testimony. We must witness to the planetary crisis of our times and to our own role in it. We can no longer turn away from the harm done to fragile biological systems.

We know that our power as human beings to alter nature for good and ill makes us responsible in a way that is different from other creatures. Our way of living needs to change in a profound ways, and we who are affluent must curb our demands.

At the same time, we cannot turn away from the modern world. However simply we may each try to live as individuals, we are almost wholly dependent upon the society that causes the destruction we abhor. We cannot simply abandon all of its benefits.

Friends seek that which urges not our dominance over nature but our care for and unity with it. This calls for a deeper understanding of ourselves as continuous with nature. Friends do not seek to dominate nature but rather to live in harmony with it. This calls for a deeper understanding of the fundamental patterns of organization and interaction that govern life on Earth. Our task is to turn toward the Light for guidance about the meaning of these patterns for human beings, and to discern the values and behaviors that will lead us to be in harmony with them.  

Cultivating a deeper awareness of our connections with all of Creation enables us to live more Spirit-filled lives. Every person, animal, and every other entity has its own wondrous reality, its own authenticity. Such awareness brings us great joy, it reminds us of the sacred in all of nature, leads to greater clarity and acceptance of ourselves as creatures of the Source of life, and helps us avoid the traps of busyness and striving after material things. As we seek to live in the awareness of connectedness, we become more sensitive to the consequences of our words, deeds, and attitudes, and we enter a deeper, more joyous relationship with the Divine. We call upon Friends, individually and corporately, to live in a more loving relationship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.We may be led to transform our understanding, our hearts, and our lives.

Testimony & Experience of Friends

Historians have observed that the years 1655-1660 were critical in forming the Quaker organization. There was serious question about who could speak for Friends. How can Friends further Truth? A meeting of Elders was convened to address this concern. The Letter they signed is “the oldest church advice from any general body of Friends.” Below, in full, are the original advices from the Elders at Balby as in William C. Braithwaite’s The Beginnings of Quakerism:

From an epistle to
‘brethren in the north’ issued at
a Meeting of Elders at Balby, 1656:

1 The settled meetings to be kept each first-day.General Meetings, as a rule to be on some other day of the week.

2 As any are brought in to the Truth new meetings are to be arranged to suit the general convenience,without respect of persons.

3 Persons ceasing to attend meetings are to be spoken to. Persons who walk disorderly are to be spoken to in private, then before two or three witnesses; then, if necessary, the matter is to be reported to the Church.The Church is to reprove them for their disorderly walking, and, if they do not reform, the case is to be sent in writing “to some whom the Lord hath raised up in the power of the Spirit of the Lord to be fathers,–His children to gather in the light” so that the thing may be known to the body and be determined in the light.

4 Ministers to speak the word of the Lord from the mouth of the Lord, without adding or diminishing.If anything is spoken out of the light so that “the seed of God” comes to be burdened, it is to be dealt with in private and not in the public Meetings,“except there be a special moving so to do.”

5 Collections to be made for the poor, the relief of prisoners, and other necessary uses, the moneys to be carefully accounted for, and applied as made known by the overseers in each meeting.

6 Care to be taken “for the families and goods of such as are called forth in the ministry, or are imprisoned for the Truth’s sake; that no creature be lost for want of caretakers.

7 Intentions of marriage to be made known to the Children of Light, especially those of the meeting where the parties are members. The marriage to be solemnized in the fear of the Lord, and before many witnesses, after the example of scripture, and a record to be made in writing, to which the witnesses may subscribe their names.

8 Every meeting to keep records of births, and of burials of the dead that died in the Lord.Burials to be conducted according to scripture, and not after customs of “heathen.”

9 Advice to husbands and wives, as in 1 Pet. iii: 7.Advice to parents and children, as in Eph. vi: 1-4.

10 Advice to servants and masters, as in Eph. vi: 5-9.

11 Care to be taken “that none who are servants depart from their masters, but as they do so in the light: nor any master put away his servant but by the like consent of the servant; and if any master or servant do otherwise in their wills, it is to be judged by Friends in the light.”

12 Needs of widows and fatherless to be supplied:–such as can work and do not to be admonished, and if they refuse to work, neither let them eat. The children of needy parents to be put to honest employment.

13 Any called before outward powers of the nation are to obey.

14 “That if any be called to serve the Commonwealth in any public service which is for the public wealth and good, that with cheerfulness it be undertaken and in faithfullness discharged unto God, that therein patterns and examples in the thing that is righteous ye may be to those that are without.”

15 Friends in callings and trades are to be faithful and upright, and keep to yea and nay. Debts to be punctually paid, that nothing they may owe to any man but love one to another.

16 None to speak evil of another, nor grudge against another, nor put a stumbling-block in his brother’s way.

17 None to be busybodies in other’s matters.

18 Christian moderation to be used towards all men.

19 The elders made by the Holy Ghost are to feed the flock, taking the oversight willingly, not as lords, but as examples to the flock.

Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all with the measure of light which is pure and holy may be guided, and so in the light walking and abiding these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, — not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.

Braithwaite comments further:
Such is the oldest church advice on Christian practice issued by any general body of Friends. … There is, on the one hand, a tacit acceptance of the main body of Quaker experience and practice, which is assumed to be a ground of union common to all; and, on the other, a refusal to multiply regulations beyond what seemed practically necessary. (pp. 313 & 314)  

The quotations that follow speak to the condition of Friends in Pacific Yearly Meeting. Some are drawn from those repeated in past editions of our Faith and Practice. Many come from Friends who have graciously submitted them as testimony of experience in their own lives and Meetings. Their chronological order in each section may reflect how Friends walk in the Light throughout changing times.

Faith & Experience

1.- As you have received the light from Christ Jesus, the fountain and fullness of all light and life, so abide in the light, dwell in the light, walk in the light, have your being and habitation in the light. Life and immortality moves in the light, so wait every one in your measure for the manifestation of God, his will is revealed in the light.

Margaret Fell, 1658

2.- If but one man or woman were raised up by His power to stand and live in the same spirit that the Apostles and Prophets were in, who gave forth the Scriptures, that man or woman should shake all the country in their profession for ten miles round.

George Fox

3.- The sum and substance of true religion does not stand on getting a notion of Christ’s righteousness, but in feeling the power of the endless life, receiving the power, and being changed by the power. And where Christ is, there is his righteousness.

Isaac Penington

4.- Answer the Witness of God in every man, whether they are heathen that do not profess Christ, or whether they are such as do profess Christ that have the form of godliness and be out of the Power.

George Fox

5.- The gospel religion is very precious, being inwardly felt and experienced in the life and power of it, but a bare profession of it, out of the life and power of godliness, is of no value in the sight of God, nor is it of any profit or advantage to the soul.

Isaac Penington

6.- The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask they will know one another, though the divers liveries they wear here makes them strangers. This world is a form; our bodies are forms; and no visible acts of devotion can be without forms. But yet the less form in religion the better, since God is a Spirit; for the more mental our worship, the more adequate to the nature of God; the more silent, the more suitable to the language of the Spirit.

William Penn, 1693

7.- The unity of Christians never did nor ever will or can stand in uniformity of thought and opinion, but in Christian love only.

Thomas Story, 1737

8.- There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath had different names. It is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever, they become brethren in the best sense of the expression.

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