1. Are Quakers Christian?
When the Religious Society of Friends emerged in 17th century England, Christianity was taken for granted. In fact, early Friends thought they were building the true church. Now we are very diverse. Many Quakers do consider themselves Christian and we are represented on “Churches Together” groups locally and nationally, as well as the World Council of Churches. See this short video from Watford Meeting as well:
2. What about Jesus and the Bible?
Most Quakers see Jesus as a great spiritual teacher and his words as a guide to action. There are many different views amongst Quakers. To get a flavour, look at the following video clip:
3. Do Quakers have ministers or priests?
No, in Britain Quakers do not have ministers, although some other parts of the world-wide family of Quakers do. This means that all members of the Society of Friends in a local Meeting are responsible for the pastoral and spiritual care of one another.
4. Quakers don’t hold elections – so how do you choose people for committees?
Within Quaker Meetings, members are nominated for positions, not elected. In the same way, we do not take votes to make decisions in Meetings for Church Affairs. Instead of elections, we have nominations.
5. Who are “Elders” and the “Pastoral Care Group”?
All members are expected to share responsibility for pastoral care, but we appoint Elders and a Pastoral Care Group, who are chosen particularly for their loving care for the Meeting and its members. Both the Pastoral Care Group and Elders are expected to encourage Friends to come to meeting, to welcome strangers, and to help attenders towards membership. Although there is considerable overlap in their duties, Elders are chiefly concerned with the spiritual nurture of the worshipping group whilst the Pastoral Care Group seeks to provide support for individuals in their daily lives.
More specifically, Elders are responsible for the growth of the religious life of the Meeting, including that of children, for encouraging and initiating opportunities for learning more about the life of the spirit, for growing in wisdom, and for sharing problems and insights. To this end they may organise study groups (such as Quaker Quest or Enquirers Evenings), invite speakers and recommend suitable reading, as well as making themselves available to individuals for advice. They are also responsible for the right holding of Meeting for Worship, not only each Sunday and our midweek Meetings but also on special occasions such as weddings, funerals, memorial meetings, or meetings in homes or hospital for those unable to reach the meeting house.
The duties of the Pastoral Care Group toward the individuals in their Meeting include: visiting them when they are sick, housebound or in hospital; listening and talking through family and personal problems; welcoming members who have just arrived in the area; and arranging the visits to membership applicants.
The names and faces of all Elders and Pastoral Care Group members in Oxford Meeting are on display in our lobby.
6. What is the history of Oxford Meeting?
Books on this subject are available in the Library, including Friends in Oxford by Stephen Allott, which describes how we’ve moved about the city:
1654 – 1681: Frewin Hall, Seven Deadly Sins Lane (now New Inn Hall Street)
1682 – 1688: No regular meetings
1689 – 1865: 63 St Giles
1866 – 1887: No regular meetings
1888 – 1906: The Scottish Church, Nelson Street
1906 – 1907: 40 Canal Street
1907 – 1914: 21 George Street
1914 – 1919: 19 Holywell Street
1919 – 1919: 21 George Street, and the Rectory of St Peter de Bailey (New Inn Hall Street)
1919 – 1946: 115 High Street
1946 – pres.: 43 St Giles
7. What are Quakers doing right now?
- Quaker News (quarterly; free)
- The Friend (weekly; £48+ per year, free trial available)
- Friends Quarterly (quarterly; £20 per year)
- Quaker Voices (bimonthly; £20 per year)
- Quaker Studies (semi-annually, £15+ per year)
8. How can I get involved?
Come to meeting for worship, which is open to all who are open to the spirit. There’s also the option to ask to be partnered with someone from Oxford Meeting, or you might like to take a course designed to nurture and support those who are new to Friends, called Becoming Friends; it’s £5 to do online, or paper copies are available in the Library at Friends Meeting House. You may already know more Oxford Quakers than you think.
To learn more online, there’s our Wikipedia entry, the online book Quaker Faith and Practice, great videos, and many Quaker blogs to browse and interact with; lists of these blogs can be found here, here, and here. Internet search engines will help you as well.
We thank Watford Quaker Meeting, near London, for the use of their videos.