The Society of Friends

Protocols of the Original Meeting



"Friends, meet together and know one another in that which is eternal, which was before the world was."   -George Fox




"Though there be not a word spoken, yet is the true spiritual worship performed."

                                    Barclay  -Apology 1678





            "And so from this principle of man's being silent, and not acting in the things of God of himself, until thus actuated by God's light and grace in the heart, did naturally spring that manner of sitting silent together and waiting together upon God.  As every one is thus gathered, and so met together inwardly in their spirits as well as outwardly in their persons, there the secret power and virtue of life is known to refresh the soul, and the pure motions and breathings of God's spirit are felt to arise.

            "And no man here limits the spirit of God, nor brings forth his own conned and gathered stuff; but everyone puts that forth which God puts into their hearts; and it is uttered forth not in man's will and wisdom, but in the evidence and demonstrations of the spirit and of power.

            "If the soul be still thinking and working in its own will, and busily exercised in its own imaginations, though the matters as in themselves may be good concerning God, yet thereby it incapacitates itself from discerning the still small voice of the spirit, and so hurts itself greatly in that it neglects its chief business of waiting upon God.

                                    -Barclay Apology 1678


True ministry is not simply the expression of views of truth or ideals of conduct.  It arises out of personal communion with God in the atmosphere of fellowship with others, whether before or at the time of meeting with them.  It should have in it a direct message adapted to their present spiritual needs.  To find the right words for a gathered company, we need to wait for that sense of call that comes to us from God through the fellowship of hearts that are bound into harmony by the flowing through them of the tides of his living presence.  Hence, whatever may have been on our minds beforehand-whatever thoughts we may have worked out under the sense of help from God-must be held loosely, with perfect willingness to refrain from uttering them if the right time has not come.  In a large company, it is of special importance that we should thus quietly wait for clear guidance. 

-London Y.M. 1911


"If any have anything upon them to speak, in the life of God stand up and speak it, if it be but two or three words, and sit down again."  -George Fox


Protocols, 2


"For not a few have come to be convinced of the truth after this manner of which I myself, in part, am a true witness- who, not by strength of arguments, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came to receive and bear witness of the truth, but by being secretly reached by this life: for when I came into the silent assemblies of God's people, I felt a secret power among them, which toughed my heart; and as I gave way unto it I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up."   -Barclay Apology 1678


"While benefiting by the words of Friends in a meeting, we must remember that it was the greatness of Fox that he was always anxious to bring men to 'sit under their own vine'; to 'fix their eyes on Christ their teacher' and not to depend on himself or any other preacher or leader"   -Lucas,  The Quaker Message 1948



As the presence of God in the individual becomes a means whereby a man is unified and the different elements in his being are co-ordinated on a higher level of existence, so the presence of God in the group operates upon its members, unifying them into a single organic whole in which the various parts function toward a single end.  -Brinton, The Nature of Quakerism.



The great thought in worship is the effort to bring the soul into such a linking with the purpose of the divine life that it flows unto us and fills us so that when we go out into the world it is not our life that carries things forward, but the divine life moving and acting in us.    -Conference of All Friends in London, 1925


The Inward Light has guided Friends into a wonderful fellowship which represents itself in the whole life of the Society, and in its testimonies, but especially in two ways: - First, in the Meeting for Worship, in which on the basis of silent prayer and communion with God a corporate sense of the divine presence is reached.  Out of this springs the typical Quaker ministry: which is free in the sense that it is open to all without distinctions of office or sex.  Second, in an organization which gives each member opportunity to serve the church, links one group with another, and is dependent in all things on the guidance of the spirit.  -Friends World Conference at Philadelphia, 1937.  Advanced Study Outlines.



The practice of the quiet gathering of souls together to share fellowship with God is an inheritance from generations of men and women, many of whom had intense experience of the devotional life.  Pure in heart, honest in business and sincere in their relations one with another, they walked humbly with God.  The basis of their life was worship.  It is for us to cherish this tradition, not to be confined by it, but to develop it and to hand it on to those who, like ourselves, will desire in the company of others of like mind to meet with God.   -Book of Discipline, London Yearly Meeting, 1925.



                                          Protocols 3





The worship, preaching, praying, and singing, which we oppose is a worship which is both begun, carried on, and concluded in man's own natural will and strength, without the motion or influence of God's spirit.  -Barclay


The full tides of God's power cannot flood in through the well-prepared channels of our respectable, half-hearted goodness.  Hodgkin  -The Missionary Spirit and the Present Opportunity.  Swarthmore lecture 1916




There is no place for resonant preaching devoid of significance; for in this solemn service may all be impressed with the importance of their words being few and full. 

-Statement to Yearly Meeting, 1868;1911




Worship means the linking of the soul to that which is worthy in another, in God or in man.  It means seeking earnestly and faithfully to advance the true purpose of the other: true worship is true service.  -Conference of All Friends at London, 1920



The spiritual welfare of a meeting is greatly helped if its social life is vigorous, and its members take a warm personal interest in one another's welfare.  -London Yearly Meeting 1925



The Meeting stands as a public testimony to the two great essentials of Friends' experience: the assurance that all men who seek God in their hearts can find him; and the knowledge that both as individuals and as groups those who ask and accept his guidance are led of him.  Book of Discipline, London Yearly Meeting 1925


Both the meeting for worship and the meeting for discipline are based on the central conviction that the whole may be more than the sum of its parts; a genuinely creative synthesis.  -Friends World Conference Philadelphia 1937



While guidance must be sought and followed in all the affairs of life, not by the displacement or disuse of our natural faculties, but by their consecration to God's service, there is, we are convinced, a yet more intimate guidance to be known in our meetings for worship.  -Adjourned London Yearly Meeting 1925

“We sat and waited very quietly from ten o’clock to a quarter after eleven…. Finally, one of the two… old men in the front pew rose, removed his hat, turned hither and yon, and began to speak, but so softly that even in the middle of the church, which was not large, it was impossible to hear anything except the confused murmur of the words.  Later he began to talk a little louder, but so slowly that four or five minutes elapsed between the sentences; finally the words came both louder and faster.  In their preaching the Quakers have a peculiar mode of expression, which is half singing, with a strange cadence and accent, and ending each cadence, as it were, with a half or …. A full sob.  Each cadence consists of two , three or four syllables, but sometimes more, according to the demand of the words and means; e.g. my friend/put in your mind/we/do nothing/good of ourselves//without God’s//help and assistance…. When he stood for a while using his sing-song method he changed his manner of delivery and spoke in a more natural way… at the end, just as he was speaking at his best, he stopped abruptly, sat down and put on his hat.”


-Swedish traveler Peter Kalm attended a meeting for worship in Philadelphia’s Bank Meeting House, on 7 December 1750, and described it thus.  Quoted in Frost, Quaker Family, 36-37.




“As to religion,” Delaware Quaker David Cooper told his children in 1772, “… Let it have the chief and principal place in thy heart.”  He explained, “I mean real religion, not ceremonious attendance at meetings, and talking God and Godliness.”


-David Cooper Memoir, 1782, Havrford





Protocols 4,  Quaker worship as something you do… a practice:




The Meeting for Worship


And so, I find it well to come

For deeper rest to this still room,

For here the habit of the soul

Feels less the outer world's control;

The strength of mutual purpose pleads

More earnestly our common needs;

And from the silence multiplied

By these still forms on either side,

The world that time and sense have known

Falls off leaves us God alone.


Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier




Meeting for Worship, 17th Century.  Entering into this form of worship.


“… the first that enters into the place of your meeting, be not careless, nor wander up and down either in body or mind, but innocently sit down in some place and turn in thy mind to the Light, and wait upon God simply, as if none were present but the Lord, and here thou art strong.  When the next that come in, let them in simplicity and heart sit down and turn to the same Light, and wait in the Spirit, and so all the rest coming in fear of the Lord sit down in pure stillness and silence of all flesh, and wait in the Light.  A few that are thus gathered by the arm of the Lord into the unity of the Spirit, this is a sweet and precious meeting in which all are met with the Lord…. Those who are brought to a pure, still waiting on God in the Spirit are come nearer to God than words are… though not a word be spoken to the hearing of the ear.  In such a meeting where the presence and power of God is felt, there will be an unwillingness to part asunder, being ready to say in yourselves, it is good to be here, and this is the end of all words and writings, to bring people to the eternal living word.”  -1660


-Alexander Parker, Letters of Early Friends, ed. A.R. Barclay (London; Darton and Harvey, 1841), pp. 365-66.  Alexander Parker was a close companion of George Fox.