What is Quakerism?

The Roots of Quaker Belief
Worship room insideThe Religious Society of Friends, commonly called “Friends” or “Quakers,” began in England around 1650 following the vision of a young Englishman, George Fox. Fox believed in the existence of “the Light within”—a spark of the Divine which resides in every person regardless of social status or origin. Fox led his followers to eschew the ritual and outward symbols of traditional Christian worship, so that they might “wait upon the Lord” in silence. This expectant waiting in silence is the core of the Quaker worship service, called the Meeting for Worship. Friends believe that by waiting in such a manner a person becomes able to receive direct communication with God and that intervention by specially trained clergy or use of specific ceremonies is therefore unnecessary.

Of the many followers of George Fox who influenced Quaker thought and ideas in the United States, perhaps the best known is William Penn, who founded the colony of Pennsylvania in 1681. The organization of the Society of Friends differs from that of most religions in that there is no central authority or body which governs and dictates the beliefs or practices of its members. Decision making and policy originate at the local level (the individual “Monthly Meetings,” of which Midcoast Meeting is one) and flow up from there to regional and national bodies. Within Monthly Meetings, emphasis is placed on individual responsibility and group process. In all decision making, Friends labor together to reach “the sense of the Meeting,” a point somewhere beyond consensus, in which all are united in the decision to be taken. The work of the Meeting, both pastoral and practical, is done by committees on which all members and active attenders are encouraged to serve on a rotating basis. While Friends adhere to no strict doctrine or theology, Quaker groups traditionally have published extensive ‘guides’ for the conduct of individual lives and our practices as organized Quaker groups. Faith and Practice of New England Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends is one such guide.

Quakerism is based on the values and life of Jesus and in the mystical and personal experience of the Divine within each individual. The Quaker belief in “that of God in every person” guides all aspects of life; our gatherings together for worship, the activities of our individual daily lives, and the use of our time and material resources. This Quaker concept of the Inner Light, God, or the Holy Spirit which is present in all persons, is fundamental to our social attitudes, humanitarian service activities, political or civil engagement, and treatment of others. Our lives can become a testimony to our religious beliefs.

For more information about Quakerism and Quaker life, please go to the New England Yearly Meeting website.

The Peace Testimony
The Peace Testimony of Friends, articulated by George Fox in 1660, is another foundation of Quaker faith. He wrote from prison, ”We ...utterly deny...all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever... and we certainly know and so testify to the world that 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 the kingdoms of this world.” As a group and as individuals Quakers have evolved and are still evolving in the extent of their actions regarding nonviolence. Ways in which some present-day Quakers witness to their peace testimony include providing humanitarian aid to the suffering, negotiating agreements to prevent and to intervene in conflicts, conscientious objection to participation in military service, tax resistance to military expenditures, and providing educational activities to enhance human knowledge, respect, and understanding. Each Friend is called to live nonviolence in ways unique to the person while supported by the Quaker community.

Meeting for Worship (10-11am Sundays and Wednesdays 9:30-10:30am)
Friends Meeting for Worship is a gathering of worshipers who sit quietly together, each seeking a sense of the Divine presence and guidance. The reverent silence affords the opportunity for each to quiet the turmoil of thoughts and to center on the search for truth. Group silence enhances each individual’s awareness of being in a company united in a common search and a shared willingness to be obedient to Divine guidance.

When someone is moved to speak, he or she rises and speaks briefly in a manner that all can hear.  We allow some time to elapse between messages, so that the full import is not lost.  We believe that the messages are inspired by the source of the Light within us and merit our attention.  Sometimes it is easy to immerse oneself in the silence, and at other times some of us may be disturbed by distractions outside or by our own unsettled thoughts.  On these occasions we return again and again to the still center of our being where we can know the presence of God.  We try, if only briefly, to be quiet in body, mind, and spirit.  Meeting for Worship is always a high venture of faith, to which we invite you and welcome you.

Following Meeting for Worship, which lasts approximately an hour, it is customary at Midcoast for people to introduce themselves by name and town of residence.  This practice helps us to get to know each other.   If there are afterthoughts, based on the testimonies given during Meeting, they are shared at this time.   Following the introductions, there are usually a few announcements, after which we remain to socialize for up to 15 minutes after which we share modest refreshments in the Social Room and enjoy each other’s company.

No collection is taken during Meeting for Worship; however, donations are always welcome.

Membership
Membership in Midcoast Meeting is a mutual commitment between the individual and the Meeting.  It is undertaken after one has experienced Meeting for Worship, Monthly Meeting for Business, and other friends' activities.  Membership is an outward sign of an inward experience.  The timing of application is an individual choice, in response to inner prompting.

The Society of Friends does not require that its members subscribe to specific doctrines but does expect general agreement with Friends principles.  We learn to trust the leading of the individual's mind and spirit - guided by the Inner Light - as validated by the collective wisdom of the Meeting's members.  Historic Friends' experiences and testimonies are held dear: simplicity in living, directness in dealing with others, reverence for life, respect for the sanctity of every person, social justice, and nonviolent solutions to conflict.

Those who are part of the Meeting take active responsibility for the welfare and vitality of the Meeting.  Each of us joins in the corporate search for truth in Meeting For worship and Meeting for Business, contributes financially according to his or her ability, and serves on committees insofar as health and strength allow.

If moved by the Spirit to seek membership, one should write to the Clerk of the Meeting.  This letter (or e-mail) is read at Monthly Meeting and then given to Ministry & Counsel.  A clearness committee of three or four persons is formed to meet with the applicant and help determine if membership is the right leading at this time.  A recommendation to Monthly Meeting follows.


Organization of the Meeting
Midcoast Meeting is an “un-programmed” Meeting with no paid clergy. The practical work of running the Meeting is done by committees. The business of the Meeting is discussed and decisions are made at a Monthly Meeting for Business (open to all), which is conducted by the Clerk of the Meeting every month except August.  All decisions are made by consensus of those convened.

The
Ministry & Counsel committee is responsible for the spiritual life of the Meeting and the quality of worship.  The encouragement of a wider sharing of local ministry is an important part of the committee's work.  the Committee:

The Pastoral Care committee
Many Friends offer pastoral care within the meeting community and the Pastoral Care Committee serves as a hub for these efforts. It reaches out to members and attenders dealing with sickness/surgery, loss, old age, or various other stresses.
Through special meetings for worship with individual Friends who are unable to travel, Pastoral Care provides opportunities for worship with shut-ins, their families and friends. The committee sponsors monthly Listening Sessions for members and
attenders, and in general, tries to be aware of the concerns of all members and attenders. When appropriate it sends cards, flowers and books as gifts from the Meeting. It arranges celebrations of Friends’ special birthdays. The committee meets monthly, often in members’ homes, and has occasional joint meetings with Ministry and Counsel.

A committee under the care of Pastoral Care is the Emergency Fund Committee which consists of the clerk of Pastoral Care and two other members of the meeting. The committee makes available small, short term financial gifts/loans to members
and attenders in unexpected need. As needed, Pastoral Care and the Emergency Fund Committee may solicit funds or sponsor fund raisers.

The Finance Committee, based on proposals from other committees, recommends to the Meeting and annual budget, initiated by the Treasurer, off revenues, operating expenses, and capital expenses.  The Finance Committee provides advice to the Treasurer of the investment of assets, balancing long and short term cash flow needs with risk and potential income.

The Meeting House and Grounds Committee has overall responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the Meeting building and grounds.

Communications:

The Hospitality Committee has responsibilities including the following:

The Library Committee maintains and oversees the circulation of the Meetings collection of books, pamphlets and magazines.

The Archives Committee is responsible for the stewardship of historical records of Midcoast Meeting including Memorial minutes, profiles, and photos.  It maintains specific record books as designated by the Meeting and advises the Meeting on the care of other documents.

The Meeting uses a Clearness Committee when a couple requests marriage under the care of the Meeting.  Another use of the clearness committee is for an individual concern.  A committee may be requested when a member of the Meeting community seeks to reach clarity on how to respond to a problem or dilemma.  Behind the clearness committee is a simple but crucial conviction, that each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, which offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems.  The process is one of aiding the person seeking clearness in finding the answer within rather than seeking outside advice.

Social and Educational Activities
Midcoast Meeting is active in peace and social concerns, questions of health and aging, community services, and environmental issues. Periodic programs, discussion groups, and forums are organized to explore topics of interest.

There is a First Day School (education) program for children on the first and third First Day (Sunday) of the month. Children usually join the adults for the first ten minutes or so of Meeting for Worship, then adjourn to the Social Room for their activities. If they wish, children are welcome to worship with the adults for the entire Meeting for Worship.   Childcare is available every Sunday.

The Peace Center of Midcoast Friends Meeting is our outreach to the community to share our concerns for peace and a sustainable environment.  The center organizes public meetings to exchange perspectives, insights, and commitments on such relevant issues as climate change, food and the environment, militarism in our schools, and violent and inter-cultural conflicts that deeply affect our domestic communities and foreign relations.  The basis of our commitment is our faith that there is that of God in every person and that only nonviolence can lead to just solutions of violent conflict.