Quakers use the same word for their local communities as they do for their spiritual practice – they are both called ‘meetings’. So the group of Quakers who meet in, say, Winchester is called Winchester Meeting.
Everyone is welcome. There isn’t a dotted line you have to sign. No list of requirements. No exam. And no one is in charge. We are committed to equality, so the essential jobs are rotated round each community. People do them for just a few years at a time and then hand them on to someone else. All this applies, too, to the increasing number of online meetings. Most of these started as a result of the Covid pandemic, and they continue to work well. We find them particularly valuable and nourishing, because people come to them from every part of the world.
Many young people find their Quaker community is online and supplement it with social gatherings. You can find a list of Young Adult Quaker groups here.
Why, I ask myself, did I go to worship with those rather small and not very distinguished groups of people? Surely it was that sitting among these quite ordinary people, to most of whom I remained a stranger and a foreigner for some months, I sensed an experience of belonging – of community.
- Ranjit Chetsingh, 1967
Some come to Quakers looking for something beyond their established faith. People with religious backgrounds aren’t expected to turn their back on them when they come to Quakers. Many Buddhists, for example, have found a spiritual home in Quaker meetings, allowing Quakerism to enhance their philosophical tradition while at the same time giving a Buddhist slant to their Quaker beliefs. There are Hindu Quakers, Anglican Quakers, Roman Catholic Quakers, Muslim Quakers – the list is endless.
It often happens that social and political activists – from the peace movement, say, or from climate-change campaigning – discover Quakerism almost by accident through their work. They may never have considered joining a religious group, but the more they sit with Quakers the more they find themselves changing, as one passionate concern nurtures the other.
Some find Quakers through Quaker groups. These are usually groups that Quakers have formed around a shared interest or a concern they wish to do something about. These groups often welcome everyone who share their interests and concerns. The Quaker Universalist Group (UK) centres on spiritual awareness being accessible to everyone of any religion or none. The Quakers and Business Group promotes ethical practices in the workplace. There’s a Quaker Arts Network, Quaker Social Action, Quaker Concern for Animals – and many more. You can find a list of Quaker groups on this website and the Quakers in Britain website.
One of the unexpected things I have learnt in my life as a Quaker is that religion is basically about relationships between people. This was an unexpected discovery, because I had been brought up to believe that religion was essentially about our relationship with God.
- George Gorman, 1982
Whichever part of the Quaker community you try, you can expect to find: