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A Small Glossary of Quaker Terms

The descriptions here indicate how the terms are commonly used within Britain Yearly Meeting; usage in other countries may differ. Much fuller information about the Religious Society of Friends in Britain can be found in Quaker Faith & Practice. As well as the preceding online link, it is available to consult on paper in the Cheltenham Friends Meeting House library or to buy from the Quaker Bookshop.

Area Quaker Meeting (AQM) or Area Meeting (AM): Used in 2 senses:
(a) An area community of Friends (akin to a parish, but often covering a much wider geographical area such as a County) in which membership resides. Usually comprises several Local Meetings (formerly Preparative Meetings and Recognised Meetings). Each Local Meeting is typically based in, and serves, a town or village within the MM area.
(b) A meeting for decision making and administration. Typically the community meets once a month to conduct this Meeting for Business.
Prior to 2007, the term “Monthly Meeting” was used. That name will probably take some time to fall completely out of usage, and will of course still be found in older documents.
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Attender: Someone who participates regularly in Quaker worship but who has not yet sought and gained membership in the Meeting. Back to previous page
Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM): An annual gathering for worship and business open to members of all Area Meetings (formerly Monthly Meetings). This body is akin to a diocese in other Christian communities, but with advisory rather than determinative authority over smaller units. Britain Yearly Meeting has a staff which provides services to Area Meetings (Monthly Meetings), represents the Yearly Meeting to the general public, and carries on the projects initiated by the Yearly Meeting in session.
Note that Friends use the word “Meeting” (prefixed appropriately) in 2 different senses - to describe:
(1) an administrative unit, or the people who comprise such a unit;
(2) the occasions on which representatives of an administrative unit meet face-to-face to conduct business.
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Centred: Describes the state of an individual or group in touch with the divine presence. Back to previous page
Clearness: Confidence that an action is consistent with the divine will. Clearness can be tested through a Meeting for Clearness. Back to previous page
Clerk: A person who takes a Meeting or committee through business and records minutes. Back to previous page
Concern: A spiritual compulsion for a particular action or service. It is usually tested at a Meeting for Business to see if it is a true concern. Back to previous page
Elders: Members of a Meeting appointed to be responsible for the ordering of the spiritual life of that Meeting. Back to previous page
Friends House: Administrative offices of Religious Society of Friends in Britain, where Britain Yearly Meeting Committees operate. It also includes a library, bookshop, archives and Meeting House. Back to previous page
Gathered Meeting: A worshipping group when an awareness and presence of God is felt. Back to previous page
General Meeting: A regional unit, comprising two or more Area Meetings (formerly Monthly Meetings), which meets on a regular basis to explore Quaker issues in greater depth. Back to previous page
Inner Light: That of God within us. Back to previous page
Leadings or Openings: The sense of divine guidance or revelation. Back to previous page
Local Meeting (LM): Used in 2 senses:
(a) A local community of Friends within an Area Meeting who gather regularly in Meeting for Worship.
(b) A meeting for decision making and administration for a Local Meeting. It is one of the business meetings, and was formerly called “Preparative Meeting” because its purpose is to prepare for the Area Meeting business meeting.
Prior to 2007, the terms “Preparative Meeting” and “Recognised Meeting” were used for Local Meetings. Those names will probably take some time to fall completely out of usage, and will of course still be found in documents created before the change.
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Meeting House: The Quaker equivalent of a church building. It can also be applied to the room within a building where Meeting for Worship is held. The term is intended to be suggestive of simplicity, and also to emphasize the principle that the church exists in the people, not in any building. Back to previous page
Meeting for Business: A gathering of Friends for the purpose of making administrative and business decisions, at either Local Meeting or Area Meeting level. Also applies to committee meetings. The expressions “Hope so” (meaning “I agree”) and “in right ordering” (meaning “in accordance with Friends practices’) can sometimes be heard at such meetings. Back to previous page
Meeting for Sufferings (MfS): A body selected to do the work of Britain Yearly Meeting when the latter is not in session. The executive work is undertaken by Committees of individual Friends assisted by paid staff. Back to previous page
Meeting for Worship (MfW): A gathering of Friends for the purpose of worship. When an awareness and presence of God is felt, the Meeting is said to be “gathered”. Back to previous page
Ministry: When a person is inspired by the spirit to speak in Meeting for Worship, that is described as Ministry. Back to previous page
Minute: A summary statement of the Meeting’s understanding of the divine will in relation to the matter brought before the Meeting for Business. The clerk offers a draft minute to the Meeting before recording a form of words that the Meeting can unite upon. Back to previous page
Monthly Meeting (MM): A now-obsolescent term, used in 2 senses:
(a) An area community of Friends (akin to a parish, but often covering a much wider geographical area such as a County) in which membership resides. Usually comprises several Local Meetings (formerly Preparative Meetings and Recognised Meetings). Each Local Meeting is typically based in, and serves, a town or village within the MM area.
(b) A meeting for decision making and administration. So named because, by custom, the community meets once a month to conduct this Meeting for Business.
In 2007, the term “Area Meeting” began to replace “Monthly Meeting” as the official title. The older name will probably take some time to fall completely out of usage, and will of course still be found in documents created before the change.
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Overseers: Members of a Meeting appointed to be responsible for the general welfare of all those in that Meeting. Back to previous page
Preparative Meeting (PM): A now-obsolescent term, used in 2 senses:
(a) A local community of Friends within a Monthly Meeting who gather regularly in Meeting for Worship.
(b) A meeting for decision making and administration for a local Meeting. It is one of the business meetings, and is so called because its purpose is to prepare for Monthly Meeting.
In 2007, the term “Local Meeting” or just “Quaker Meeting” began to replace “Preparative Meeting” as the official title for the community. The older name will probably take some time to fall completely out of usage, and will of course still be found in documents created before the change.
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Recognised Meeting (RM): A now-obsolescent term for a local community of Friends within a Monthly Meeting who gather regularly in Meeting for Worship. The RM does not hold Preparative Meetings and does not usually have a formally-apppointed clerk. Often this is because the group of Friends is quite small and does not have the resources to function as a Preparative Meeting. As membership changes, an RM may become a PM, or it may have been a PM in the past.
In 2007, the term “Local Meeting” or just “Quaker Meeting” began to replace “Recognised Meeting” as the official title. The older name will probably take some time to fall completely out of usage, and will of course still be found in documents created before the change.
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Sense of the Meeting: What the clerk is seeking to record when drafting a minute. Back to previous page
Testimonies: Cumulative lived witness of generations of Friends which includes testimonies to Equality, Peace, Simplicity and Truth. Back to previous page
Truth: A synonym for Christ or the divine guide;
the complex of Quaker ethical traditions;
the Quaker gospel.
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Edited extracts and abridgements with thanks from:
Quaker Faith & Practice
Beyond Majority Rule by M J Sheeran
Quakerspeak by Alistair Heron
Quaker Jargon Buster produced by Ealing PM


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