The Quaker ‘Meeting for Worship’ is often referred to as silent worship. It is unprogrammed in that there are no hymns or psalms, no chanting or ensemble vocal prayer. Instead, we choose to sit together, waiting in silence, listening for ‘that of God within’. During the meeting, should anyone feel led to speak, they stand and give what is known as ‘ministry’. Unlike a church sermon, ministry is both unprepared and tends to be brief.
There are no sacraments such as eucharist and baptism. Some Quakers, perhaps many, believe that all life is a sacrament. We have no ‘church calendar’, although it is hard to ignore the prevailing British Christian calendar of Christmas, Easter and other church festivals.
We have no clergy, and no formal hierarchy. This means that most Quakers are expected to take some responsibility for the Meeting for Worship, and for the Meeting (the congregation). Whilst to some people these absences may sound negative, to people who become Quakers this stripping away of the paraphernalia associated with some religions is refreshing and liberating.
Historically based within Christianity, for many Quakers today Quakerism remains a Christian faith. However, Quakerism has for a long time also embraced people of other religions and of none. This is made possible because there are no formal creeds, and there is no agreed theoretical theology. Each and every Quaker is free to believe what makes sense to them. What Quakers share in common is a sense of ‘faith in action’. The Quaker way of life tends to affect one’s entire life, leading each person to try to live in a simpler and more sustainable fashion, and to live out their vision of a more just and peaceful world.
It has to be admitted that the Quaker way does not suit everyone. There are people who have little time for, or interest in, the spiritual dimension of their life. Some people do not cope well with silence. There are religious people who feel uneasy with the absence of liturgy and clergy, and others who require a clear statement of accepted beliefs. However, should you decide to come along and experience a Quaker Meeting for Worship, no-one will attempt to persuade you because that is not the Quaker way. No-one will embarrass you into parting with your money (although we do usually collect money in support of various charities). No-one will try to make you visit us again, although you would be welcome to do so, should that be your wish. Some people experience the Quaker way as their spiritual home, and stay for the rest of their life.