Friends are kind of hard to describe. Sometimes we act like a church, sometimes we’re more like a movement. Friends (we’re also known as Quakers) started in the mid-1600’s during the Protestant Reformation in England.
Our name comes from a passage in the Bible, John 15:14, where Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. . .” In an increasingly busy and stressed-out world, Quakers practice a religious life which is direct, simple, and in touch with the Holy Spirit.
Friends believe that:
- God speaks to the hearts and minds of every person, in every walk of life.
- Every moment and every occasion can be a time of special closeness with God
- In telling the truth at all times, no matter what the cost
- God knows what is best for the church, and that God can lead ordinary people and provide concrete guidance for our decisions
- Jesus came to bring peace to the world, and calls us to be peacemakers as well
- worshiping together in spiritual unity is more important than agreeing to things on paper
- every person is called to be a minister; both men and women are called to the ministry, and there is no separate clergy
- our outward lives should line up with our inward feelings and convictions
- although Friends have adapted to living in today’s world, many Friends try to live more simply, using fewer of the world’s resources
Friends have no written creed. Our services do not include any physical sacraments, like baptism or communion. We don’t decide church business by majority rule. We welcome people from many different backgrounds.
Friends spread rapidly across the English-speaking world, with large numbers moving to the American colonies in the early 1700’s. Today there are also large numbers of Quakers in Kenya and East Africa, with smaller groups in Europe and Australia.
There are also substantial numbers of Spanish-speaking Friends in Bolivia and Guatemala, and smaller but very faithful groups in Mexico, Costa Rica and Cuba.
The overwhelming majority of Quakers would unhesitatingly identify themselves as Christians, but we also have Friends who are universalist in their orientation, or who retain strong roots in other religious traditions.
There are several different branches of the Quaker family. Some local churches (or meetings) have no pastor, sermon or prepared service — they simply gather to pray quietly together, waiting for the Spirit to speak in their hearts or through a message given to one of the worshipers. Other meetings have a sermon and sing hymns, but have a volunteer or part-time pastor. Many meetings support and release a pastor for full-time service — but the pastor is considered to be just one minister among many.
You can find lots of online information about Friends using any search engine. It’s much better, though, to visit a Friends meeting and spend some time getting to know us!
To find a Friends meeting in the U.S. or Canada, click here.