Glossary

This is a list of terms Friends have used. Some appear in this Faith and Practice. All appear in Friends’ speech and writings.

ADVICES. Ideals stated as a continuing reminder of the basic faith and principles held to be essential to the life and witness of Friends. Friends have found it useful regularly to remind each other of their nature through periodic reading and discussion along with related queries.

AFFIRMATION. A legal declaration made by Friends or others who conscientiously decline to take an oath.

ATTENDER. One who attends and participates in meeting activities fairly regularly but has not become a member.

BIRTHRIGHT MEMBER. Friend born of Quaker parents and recorded at birth on a monthly meeting’s membership rolls.

BREAKING MEETING. Term used for the closing of the meeting for worship when a designated Friend shakes hands with the persons next to her or him. Following this, all shake hands with their neighbors.

CENTER DOWN. A process by which we still or direct our conscious thought and open our minds in order that we may hear God speak directly to us.

CLEARNESS. A condition in which there are no perceived obstacles to a proposed course of action by an individual or meeting.

CLEARNESS COMMITTEE. A group of Friends appointed or selected to assist a person or the meeting to clarify a decision or concern.

CLERK. A member who presides at meetings of Friends. A meeting for worship with a concern for business may have recording and reading clerks.

CONCERN. A deep interest, whether by an individual or a meeting, in some spiritual or social matter, an interest so deep and vigorous that often it must be expressed in action.

CONTINUING REVELATION. The belief that God speaks to persons directly today.

CONVENER. Member of a committee, usually the first-named, whom the meeting asks to call together the first meeting of that committee.

CONVINCED FRIEND. A person who becomes a Friend as a result of being led to this decision by the Inward Teacher after careful study, thought, and seeking.

CORPORATE. Description of the body of a Friends’ meeting. While God may speak differently to individuals, the gathered meeting provides a clear perception of divine guidance for the community.

COVENANT. A commitment between two persons with God as the third party.

COVERED MEETING. A meeting for worship or business in which the participants feel the power and inspiration of God so strongly that they are united in silence that is the reward of waiting upon the Lord.

DISCIPLINE. 1. Term related to discipleship: following a particular path. 2. The book of Faith and Practice of the Religious Society of Friends. Each yearly meeting may draw together its own book of discipline, so Friends may refer to Britain Yearly Meeting’s discipline, for example, or that of other yearly meetings.

ELDERING. Gently admonishing in love the ways, habits, or thoughts of a Friend or attender after serious consideration by or consultation with respected members of the meeting.

ELDERS. Historically, those appointed to foster the vocal ministry of the meeting for worship and the spiritual condition of the members.

EPISTLE. A letter of serious import sent either by an individual or a group. Usually a formal letter sent annually by each yearly meeting to all Friends everywhere stating the condition, exercises, and experience of the yearly meeting.

EXERCISE. The exploration of a deep concern that has been brought to a meeting. The meeting may record this exploration as a “minute of exercise(s).”

FACING BENCHES. The benches or seats in the front of the meeting room, facing the body of the meeting, on which Friends’ ministers and elders generally sat. In recent times, many meetings have adopted a circular or square arrangement to eliminate the facing-bench distinction.

GATHERED MEETING. The special occasion when the meeting for worship or business attains more than the usual sense of divine presence, which touches the worshippers and unites them in holy fellowship and shows in united themes of ministry. (See Thomas R. Kelly, “The Gathered Meeting,” in A Testament of Devotion.)

GOOD ORDER. The procedures, found through Friends’ experience, that facilitate our business and committee meetings as we seek to find and carry out God’s will.

GOSPEL ORDER. A fellowship of the disciples of Christ that comes into being as the result of the preaching and experience of the Gospel. Our order, organization, testimonies, and closeness come from God through the relationships between people that Jesus described in parables and showed through his healing, counsel, and prophecy. Jesus lives amongst us, counsels and chastises, and leads us in living this order. Our fellowship is local, regional, national, and international at the same time, since we are a spiritual group that Christ heads rather than an episcopal, congregational, or bureaucratic system managed politically.

HOLD IN THE LIGHT. To ask for God’s presence to illumine a person, situation, or problem, whether in concern or thanksgiving.

INWARD LIGHT. This refers to the power and inspiration of God and Christ coming inwardly to us to show us our motivations and true selves, correct us, guide us, and lead us, and give us strength to act on this guidance. It thus brings us into unity with the spirit of God. The concept differs from that of conscience, which is a developed awareness of the merits or faults of our conduct, intentions, or character and the sense of obligation to do right. Conscience and the Inward Light are not alternatives or substitutes for each other. The “Inward Light” is also called the “Light Within,” the “Christ Within,” the “Light of Christ,” the “Holy Spirit,” and “The Seed.” Often, the term is written “Inner Light,” implying that the light comes from each of us, an implication that is not part of early Friends’ concept.

LABOR WITH. An effort by one or more Friends to help another struggle with a concern or a difficulty and come through to a resolution.

LAY DOWN. To terminate a committee when its work is completed or no longer felt necessary. A monthly meeting may be laid down when it is no longer functioning as such.

LEADING. An inner conviction that impels one to follow a certain course under a sense of divine guidance. A Friend may submit a leading to the meeting for testing by corporate wisdom.

MEETING FOR SUFFERINGS. A committee to support and care for members and their families who suffer because of their commitment to Friends’ principles. In Britain in recent years it refers to a representative committee that acts in a deliberative and executive manner for the Religious Society of Friends when the yearly meeting is not in session.

MINDING THE LIGHT. An expression used to remind us that there is an “Inward Light” in each of us that can reveal God’s will and direction.

MINISTERS. Those recognized and recorded by a meeting as having a special gift for the ministry. (See “Recording of ministers.”)

MINUTE. A statement of an item of business approved by those in attendance at a given meeting for worship with a concern for business.

MOVED TO SPEAK. An experience, in the quietness of the meeting, of feeling led by God to speak.

OPENING. Moment of unexpected enlightenment or inspiration from God.

OVERSEERS. A committee that has pastoral care of the meeting’s membership.

PLAIN DRESS. Undecorated garments without bright colors used by Friends to express simplicity in dress. Today the term refers to the wearing of Quaker dress of that early period.

PLAIN SPEECH. The “thee,” “thy,” and “thine” used by Friends, especially up to the early twentieth century. Plain language bears witness to the testimony of early Friends for democracy and equality. In the 1600s, a wealthy person or member of the nobility was addressed by the plural pronoun “you” while inferiors or children were addressed by the singular pronoun “thou.” Friends and many others refused to recognize such distinctions: they said “thou” to everyone and thus brought on themselves much persecution that the use of “you” might have spared them. Because the days and months were named for non-Christian gods, goddesses, and emperors, Friends preferred to use “first-day,” “second-day,” “First Month,” “Second Month,” etc. All of these usages are still common among some Friends and in some minutes of Friends’ proceedings. Also refers to forthright and divinely-led speech.

PREPARATIVE MEETING. 1. Originally, and still in Britain Yearly Meeting, a term used to refer to one of a group of meetings that “prepare” business to be brought before the monthly meeting. 2. A group of Friends generally under the care and guidance of an established monthly meeting, preparing to become a monthly meeting.

PROGRAMMED MEETING. A meeting for worship, usually conducted by a pastor, with pre-arranged program including music, collection of money, sermon, and periods of silence and waiting when Friends feel free to speak from the body of the meeting.

PROCEED AS WAY OPENS. To wait for guidance from God; to avoid hasty judgement or action; to wait for future circumstances to help solve a problem.

QUAKER. Unofficial name of a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Originally pejorative.

QUERIES. The questions that, in conjunction with the “advices,” enable individuals and meetings to examine themselves in relation to the standard of conduct that the Religious Society of Friends has established for itself.

RECORDING OF MINISTERS. Friends’ meeting may minute the designation as a minister of a member whom the meeting recognizes as having the gift of ministry or a special gift of service to the meeting or community. The yearly meeting on ministry and counsel* confirms the recording.

RELEASE. 1. To set free a concerned and qualified Friend for religious service, as traveling among Friends. This may require the meeting to take over responsibilities of the concerned person while that person is away. 2. To remove from committee or membership rolls.

SEASONING. A process to ensure that decisions are truly grounded in God’s will.

SENSE OF THE MEETING. A perception of Truth that emerges from the corporate business process as Friends seek God’s will. After full consideration of a matter and allowing for the development of new insights with God’s leading, if the clerk feels that a decision has been reached, she or he states the sense of the meeting as a minute for the meeting’s approval. No vote is taken. Unity is sought for, but if it is not attained to a reasonable degree, the clerk can minute postponement. (The clerk must decide on the degree of unity required, basing that judgement on the importance of the subject and the experience and wisdom of those who speak to it.)

SOJOURNING MEMBER. A Friend who is temporarily residing in the area of another monthly meeting, accepted by that meeting as a participating member but not included in their statistics for financial purposes.

SPEAK TO ONE’S CONDITION. The experience of receiving a message directly from God, or through another person, that touches one at the deepest level or helps one solve a problem or make a right decision.

STANDING ASIDE. The withdrawal of opposition by a member not able to unite with a proposed minute, thus freeing the meeting to proceed.

STANDING IN THE WAY. The declaration of a member unable to unite with a proposed minute. The clerk must decide if this declaration prevents unity or is merely to be recorded.

STATE OF THE MEETING. The statement of condition from the monthly meetings to the quarterly meetings and then to the yearly meeting, prepared each year for Friends’ consideration. The yearly meeting summary of these reports is known as the State of the Society Report.

STOP IN THE MIND. An expression that Friends may use to explain that they cannot follow a course of action. Scruples about engaging in an activity or approving a minute that may be partly conscious, usually not fully thought out but rather felt.

TESTIMONIES. Public statements or witness based on beliefs of the Religious Society of Friends that give direction to our lives.

TRAVEL MINUTE. The endorsement a meeting gives to one of its members who is traveling, usually among Friends, under the weight of a concern. This is distinct from a letter of introduction, which the meeting may approve for a Friend who plans to visit Friends in the course of traveling. For travel outside the yearly meeting, the yearly meeting must endorse this minute.

UNITY. A shared perception in a business meeting that the minute arrived at through the corporate search is Friends’ best understanding of God’s will for them. It implies that everyone will take part in or support the concern under consideration.

UNPROGRAMMED MEETING. A meeting for worship sometimes erroneously referred to as a “silent meeting.” No pastor is in charge. The gathered Friends sit in silence, waiting upon God and “leadings of the Spirit,” which may give rise to vocal messages to share with the meeting, although meetings for worship in which Friends spend the whole time in silence can also be occasions of great inspiration.

VISITATION. Formal visiting among Friends for any one of several purposes.

WAIT UPON THE LORD. Actively to seek and attend to God’s will in expectant, quiet worship.

WEIGHTY FRIEND. A member whom Friends informally recognize as having special experience and wisdom.

WITNESS. Used as a noun or a verb; one who testifies to or shows evidence of religious beliefs and convictions, or the act of doing so.

WORLDLY. Having to do with non-spiritual values. Originally referred to non-Quaker values.