A QUAKER GLOSSARY
Compiled by Kate Hood; edited by Gertrude Beal – January 2009
(Used with permission, Slightly edited by C. Wess Daniels January 2020)
This glossary was compiled particularly for the Guilford College Board of Trustees. The numbers (1, 2, 3 and 4) in parentheses at the ends of sentences indicate which of the documents cited as references on the final page are quoted.
Friends have carefully kept clear of formal creeds or anything that might resemble them . . . it was not always easy to get along without an occasional definition of principle that would hold members together. So, when statements had to be made in a simple declarative vein, Friends were careful to advise one another rather than command or require. . . Both Advices and Queries grow out of the collective experience of Friends in trying to live their Light. Unlike dogma, they are subject to revision as new experience sheds new light. (1)
After the Manner of Friends
. . . Committees grown tired of the formal procedures of Roberts’ Rules of Order decide to conduct their business “after the manner of Friends,” using Friends’ processes. (1)
As Way opens, or Way will open
. . . Even when the Meeting agrees on what should be done, it may not be able to implement the agreement immediately. . .[The phrase brings] assurance that the Meeting will proceed “as way opens. . .” (1) It is also used to suggest that circumstances will eventually be favorable to a “way” that is good and right.
In Quaker history, the term “birthright” Friend has been used to describe those who are born to one or more Quaker parents. A “convinced” Friend is one who has come to the decision to join the Religious Society of Friends out of a commitment to its principles. Ideally, all Friends, regardless of designation, should be convinced! (4) In the 21st Century, there is little attention paid to whether or not a Friend is “birthright.”
A meeting for worship concerned with decisions to do with the life of the Meeting, such as finance or property. No votes are taken, but the clerk [states and the recording clerk] prepares a minute reflecting “the sense of the meeting.” Unity is seen as a sign of discerning God’s will accurately; disunity as a sign that further work needs to be done, perhaps at a later date. (3)
A meeting convened for a stated purpose but not regularly scheduled. (2)
In the traditional silent worship of Friends, people seek to still the body and mind, to “let the world fall off, and leave us God alone,” as the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote. One “centers” on the presence of God, “down” within each person. At Guilford, the terminology is also used to encourage people to pause, focus, and collect their thoughts in the moments of quiet before classes and committee meetings begin.
Those appointed by a monthly meeting to . . .help persons be clear about their leadings to . . .take a particular action. (2) An applicant for membership. . .should undergo a search for clearness, though the visiting committee might not have that name. And any Friend facing a personal dilemma may ask the Meeting for a clearness committee to help view the situation more objectively. (1)
. . .The person who sits at the head of the Meeting . . .(and) must see that business is conducted in an orderly fashion, that time is allowed for everyone to express his or her views, but without wandering too far from the subject under discussion. . .the clerk must be able to grasp the “sense of the meeting” and formulate it into [words] for the recording clerk. (1)
One of the major testimonies. Quakers value each person in a group as well as the individuals comprising the group, or community. They believe that what affects one affects all. In making decisions, Quakers strive for what will be best for all in the community.
. . .It should be reserved for weighty matters that disturb the conscience and impel a person to action. . .A real concern may lead to much worry and much seeking, and even come to rule one’s life. (1)
A readiness to accept a decision reached by cooperative search. Meaning has changed since secular usage has become common. At one time, it was close to sense of the meeting. (2) (See Sense of the Meeting)
The tradition of Quakerism which attempts to conserve Quaker faith and practice. As such, they use the more traditional “unprogrammed” form of worship. (3) Only three Yearly Meetings (Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina) use this name officially. (2) [North Carolina has two Yearly Meetings: North Carolina Yearly Meeting, FUM and North Carolina Yearly Meeting, Conservative. The former is affiliated with Friends United Meeting.]
Direct Access to God
Friends believe that the Inner Light in each person is “that of God” and accessible without any intermediary. Although many Friends meetings employ pastors, there is a belief that “the laity has been abolished.” All Friends are responsible for seeking and carrying out God’s will in the way in which they are led.
One of the major testimonies. Quakers believe that all human beings are children of God and have “that of God” within them. All should be treated with respect and compassion. This results in efforts to end discrimination of all kinds. Therefore, there has been heavy Quaker involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and other movements promoting equal rights for minority populations.
Evangelical Friends International
. . . Friends from Evangelical Friends International, an association of pastoral Friends which is especially concerned with church growth and the Christian mission. (1) These Friends are Biblically centered.
That which one has experienced, testing those things which work, bringing good to pass, trying out a convinced truth to see if it will bring good results. George Fox said, “This I know experimentally.” He was speaking of knowing, not because someone told him, but by testing God’s guidance himself. (2)
Faith and Practice
A book that sets out the beliefs of a group of Friends (usually a yearly meeting) and its ways of doing business. It is sometimes also called “The Discipline.” (2)
Friends General Conference
. . .This organization, consisting of yearly meetings and a few monthly meetings, regards itself as an association of Friends who share similar concerns vital to their individual and corporate spiritual lives. . .[it] has no authority over the affiliated . . .meetings. (1) It is primarily comprised of unprogrammed meetings who share a less Biblical, more Universalist theology. (1) However, it is important to note than many in these meetings consider themselves Christians.
Friends United Meeting (formerly Five Years Meeting of Friends)
. . .Friends United Meeting. . .has the majority of its membership in pastoral meetings. . .which maintain much of the evangelistic zeal and missionary concern of the early Quaker movement and are closer to mainstream Protestantism than are the meetings of Friends General Conference. FUM now includes yearly meetings, comprising over half the world’s Friends, and encompassing in its fellowship the large number of Friends in East Africa. . . A number of yearly meetings maintain an association with both Friends General Conference and Friends United Meeting. [New Garden Friends Meeting, Greensboro, NC is one of those.] (1)
Friends Center at Guilford College
The office of Quaker studies and Multifaith Collaboration. This office overseas all religious and spiritual life programming of the college, is where the college chaplains are connected, and is responsible for all Quaker studies, underground railroad programming, and the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program.
Founder of Quakerism. A longtime, serious seeker himself, he appealed to seekers in the 1650s in northwest England and a new faith was born. He came to know and share with others that “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.” For him, direct access to the Divine within (the Inner Light) was what he had sought for so long and finally found. This concept became the basis for The Society of Friends.
Hold in the Light
“Holding another in the Light” is a way of expressing a concern for God’s guidance and care for a person. (4) It seems to be used most often when a person is ill or experiencing grief; however, Friends offer to “hold someone in the Light” when s/he is struggling in any way.
Inner Light or Inward Light or Light Within
This is the central concept of Quakerism. Friends may differ on almost any other issue, but they are united in their belief in the presence of an inward source of inspiration and strength. The Inner Light is more than conscience. . .[it] is that of God within.. . By whatever name Friends refer to it, they know by experience that it is a potential force for good in every human being, and [George] Fox has enjoined us to walk cheerfully through the world answering it. The constant presence of the Inner Light assures us of a continuing revelation and a contemporary religion that cannot become obsolete with changing times and the advance of secular knowledge. (1)
One of the major testimonies of Friends, it has its roots in the Biblical injunction to “let your yea be yea and your nay, nay.” (James 5:12, KJV) And since Quakers try to be truthful at all times, they feel it is unnecessary to swear in court that they will tell the truth in testimony, which would give the impression of a double standard of truth. . . Instead they affirm. “A Quaker’s word is as good as his (her) bond.” (2)
Direction or guidance coming from the Spirit of God for right ways of living (2)
Let your lives speak
Allowing personal actions to witness to others instead of verbalizing testimony. (2)
Meeting for Worship
The term used to refer to Quaker worship, rather than “service.” [Most] Quakers talk of “going to Meeting rather than going to church. (3)
The name given to the places built intentionally to house Quaker worship. (3)
Mind the Light/Walk in the Light
Friends believe that the Inward light is present as an inward guide and teacher. Encouragement to “mind the Light” or walk in the Light” is counsel to live with integrity and with fidelity to what is good and true. (4)
. . .Even where pastors are employed, individual Quakers have not felt free to lay all the pastoral responsibilities on a professional minister. (1) Men and women who feel the leading of the Spirit to further the Kingdom of God, thus all Friends, “the priesthood of all believers.” Those who are recorded as having special gifts in the ministry: speaking, visitation, and counsel. (2)
Record of actions taken in Meeting for Business. (2) Friends frequently use this word in the singular: A minute is composed to express the sense of the meeting. A minute of appreciation is recorded. Or, as a verb: We want to be sure that this action is minuted. (1)
Moment of Silence
Many meetings and even some classes at Guilford begin with a “moment of silence.” It is Friends’ practice that business proceedings and other activities arise out of the same concern for knowing the truth that is at the center of worship. The brief moment of silence before gatherings is a reminder of the spiritual basis of what we do at Guilford. (4)
This is the central unit in U.S. Friends’ organization, so called because normally meetings for business are held at monthly intervals. Meetings for worship are usually held weekly . . .Most local meetings are monthly meetings. . .in the organizational scheme of Quakerism. . . [They] have a large measure of autonomy. They not only maintain their own records of births, marriages, and deaths, but arrange for their own pastoral activities and a local program of social outreach as well. In the regular organizational pattern the monthly meeting . . .would be joined to several other monthly meetings to form a quarterly or half-yearly meeting, and the quarterly meetings would comprise the yearly meeting. (1)
Pacifism, Peace Testimony
From the beginning Friends have opposed wars, citing Jesus’ advice from the Sermon on the Mount. Friends’ declaration of 1660 is absolute in its rejection of armed force as a means of settling disputes: “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatsoever; This is our testimony to the whole world.” It is also the testimony for which Friends are best known. . .for Friends the peace testimony is not merely a wartime thing. It is a way of life that governs attitudes and behavior in the home, the school, in business. . .In the midst of an age of violence, Friends keep urging, “Let us see what love can do.” (1) Friends are often encouraged to work to “take away the occasion for war.”
A meeting which calls a Friend with spiritual gifts to reside near the meeting and minister with partial or entire financial support. (2) The majority of the world’s Friends are now pastoral Friends. . .Usually this includes bringing a Sunday message in the name of the meeting. (1)
“A chosen and peculiar people.” Biblical nickname for Friends because of behavior patterns and dress. Joseph John Gurney wrote a book with this title, not using the expression about outward appearances but denoting that Friends were set apart for spiritual concerns. (2)
Traditional Friends language using thee and thou. This way of speaking was based on the principle of all persons having equal status, whether king or peasant. In the 17th Century, the plural you was used only for royalty and prominent persons, while in families or with ordinary folk thee and thou were used. Today, the universal use of you makes this testimony unnecessary for most, though some continue the tradition. Friends generally have not used titles (such as Rev., Mrs., Dr.) as a further testimony to their belief in the equality of all persons. (2) This is the reason that, at Guilford College, peoples’ titles are not used in correspondence or in addressing each other.
Meeting for Worship with pre-planned speaking and music. (2)
From the Journal of George Fox: “This was Justice Bennet of Derby, who was the first that called us Quakers, because we did bid them tremble at the word of the Lord. This was in the year 1650.” For many of the later years the term “Quaker” has been more widely recognized than the term “friend,” and has been highly respected. . .The Quakers are formally called the Religious Society of Friends. (1)
Quaker “Alphabet Soup”
There are many organizations which Quakers tend to abbreviate. Here are a few:
AFSC – American Friends Service Committee
EFI – Evangelical Friends International
FAHE – Friends Association for Higher Education
FCE – Friends Council on Education
FCNL – Friends Committee on National Legislation
FGC – Friends General Conference
FLGBTQC – Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns
FUM – Friends United Meeting
FWCC – Friends World Committee for Consultation
NCFHS – North Carolina Friends Historical Society
NCYM – North Carolina Yearly Meeting
NCYM-C – North Carolina Yearly Meeting, Conservative
QLSP – Quaker Leadership Scholars Program at Guilford College
QUIP – Quakers Uniting in Publishing
QUNO – Quaker United Nations Offices
Quarterly Meeting, Half-Yearly Meeting
Monthly meetings within the same geographic area of the Yearly Meeting gather four times a year for worship and business. Some now meet less frequently. . .(2)
Questions for spiritual guidance to be asked and answered by both individuals and meetings. A listing of queries is in each yearly meeting’s Book of Discipline or Faith and Practice. (2)
A process of recognition by the monthly meeting and yearly meeting of special gifts in vocal and public ministry by which a person ministers. (2) Some meetings use “recorded ministers” rather than those trained in seminaries.
The person who records the actions of a Friends Meeting for Business. The record becomes “minutes.”
Sense of the Meeting
Since, in a Friends business meeting there is no voting, agreement, when it comes, must be sensed – usually by the clerk, though often he or she needs vocal help from others. . . Finally a satisfactory minute is framed, and that is what is written down as the sense of the meeting. (1)
Solemn quiet time in meetings. Silence is the preparation. One listens before one speaks. (2)
One of the major testimonies of Friends, it means living without extravagance. Sincerity and honesty at the heart and center of the person. Simplicity is maintained as a testimony by Friends and evidenced in many ways: dress, manner of worship, decoration of meetinghouses, clarity of spirit in all relationships in order that a person may give time and money to the most meaningful things. (2)
Speak to one’s condition
A word or action which is particularly appropriate, helps to clarify a situation, settles or satisfies. (2) This is a phrase taken from founder George Fox: “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.”
S P I C E / S P I C E S
This is an easy acronym to use to remember the major testimonies:
S is sometimes added to refer to as Stewardship
Stand in the Way/Stand Aside
If a person feels conscientiously that a proposed decision is not the best formulation of truth, s/he is obliged to express such a belief. When objection is rooted deeply in conscience, the person may choose to “stand in the way of (block) consensus.” If the matter is less consequential for the person, s/he may decide to “stand aside” and allow the decision to be made.
Lacking any formal statement of beliefs, the Society of Friends has always achieved whatever unity it possessed at any given time by a common agreement on behavior rather than a common acceptance of words. These common actions by which Friends came to be characterized are generally called their testimonies – in effect, statements of approval of their actions or beliefs. In a literal sense they are the validating evidence of the Inner Light. (1)
That of God in Everyone (see Inward/Inner Light)
“…Friend Speaks My Mind”
A phrase that Friends use in meetings for business to express that they agree with what a person has just said. This phrase is used in many meetings on campus so that people can express that they agree with an opinion without having to restate what has already been said. (4)
Universalism, Universalist Friends
Friends who believe the spirit of Quakerism embraces ideas beyond formal Christianity. The Quaker Universalist Group’s. . .aim is to extend the Quaker message and method to all sincere seekers, including agnostics and non-Christians. They remind us that Christianity has no exclusive claim on Truth. Those raised in other traditions, or who have departed from their Christian upbringing should be welcomed into meetings. (1)
Meeting for Worship with no previously arranged order. . .Any person may minister out of a period of silent waiting on the Lord. (2) These meetings have no clergy (known as “released Friends”) and no pre-arranged singing, offertory, Bible reading, etc. The service unfolds according to the leadings of those in attendance – to speak, to sing, to read, etc. or to be silent. One person is designated to “break meeting” by shaking hands with the person next to him/her.
Friend recognized for speaking in a manner which reflects the leading of the Spirit and showing an ability to evaluate the truth of a situation. (2) Such a Friend’s judgment is often sought in times of difficulty. (1)
The pejorative term used by the first Quakers to describe anything not Quaker. Over time, what constitutes “the world” has shrunk; what Quakers consider “too worldly” varies between [their particular] traditions. (3)
The Yearly Meeting is composed of Quarterly or Half-Yearly Meetings, which are in turn made up of monthly meetings. In the rather loose organization of our Society, the Yearly Meeting is the largest integral unit. . . The grouping of yearly meetings into Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends Alliance do furnish a kind of superstructure, but there is no authoritative. . .”Holy See” to bring errant Yearly Meetings into line or to expel heretical groups from the Society. . .Yearly Meetings are not strictly business. They are also times of Friendly reunions and spiritual renewal. (1)
(1) Warren Sylvester Smith, One Explorer’s Glossary of Quaker Terms (Philadelphia, PA: Friends General Conference, 1985).
(2) Beatrice Kimball & Joyce Holden, Dictionary of Friends Terms (Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 1984).
(3) Pink Dandelion, The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
(4) Max Carter, A Glossary of Quaker Terms Heard at Guilford [used with First Years]