What, exactly, is a “Friends Church,” and how do Friends churches differ from other Christian congregations and services? Watch and find out.
The church is who we are as a community drawn together. So we are people united as people who are trying to seek after God together. And that’s what a church is. It’s not the building that we meet in, that’s our meetinghouse. It’s not the administrative pieces that we have to do to keep the place running, but it’s the life of the community. So when we refer to ourselves as a Friends Church, we are a group of people attempting to be friends of Jesus, which is the reason we have the name “Friends,” originally, and who are attempting to be the body of Christ together: being a church.
What is a Friends Church?
My name is Cherice Bock and I’m from Oregon and I’m a lifelong Quaker. Right now, I go to North Valley Friends in Oregon and am part of Northwest Yearly Meeting.
Friends Meeting or Friends Church?
In Evangelical Friends circles we tend to often refer to ourselves as Friends churches and so that’s a little different from a Friends meeting that is unprogrammed, although we often do refer to ourselves as Friends meetings, so we’ll talk about our own meeting and our monthly meeting that we have for business, our yearly meeting that we have for annual business and worship together and so we do definitely refer to ourselves as Friends meetings fairly often, but we also talk about ourselves as Friends churches, and I think part of that is to connect us to the broader family of churches and the Christian world that might not understand what we’re talking about when we say a Friends meeting. “What, a meeting of people that you’re friends with? I don’t know…” So it’s to help bridge that gap between Quaker language and Christian language and so it’s a mashup of those two worlds to be able to say, “We’re Friends and we’re part of a church.”
The People are the Church
So I think what distinguishes our reference to ourselves as a church to what we maybe historically as Friends would have said, we don’t really like the term “church” to be applied to the building, but if we refer to ourselves as a people as the church, I think that’s what we’re trying to get at, where the meeting is the business stuff that we do, the administrative stuff, the governing body that we are. The church is who we are as a community drawn together.
How Friends Churches are Different
When you come to a Friends church, you may think of it as similar to other Protestant churches, but we don’t, generally—most Friends churches don’t—practice the physical sacraments, so instead of communion with wine and grape juice, you’ll experience communion in the manner of Friends, which is silence and listening to God together in silence, and with the ability for each person to bring a message that they feel is on their heart from the Spirit. So this communion in the manner of Friends allows us to actually commune with Christ, so that’s one difference between Friends churches and other Protestant or Catholic churches.
Group Decision Making as Worship
Another difference would be that when we come together for our business meetings, that is also considered worship. I think that’s something that gets lost in some other Protestant traditions. But when we come together in our business meetings, then those are also acts of worship that we do together so we’ve held onto that tradition of Friends that we aren’t just a worshiping community that worships when we sing and when we hear a message, but we’re a community that worships together in every aspect of the business dealings that we do together and with the wider world, as well as the worshiping part.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.
- Cherice imagines someone in the broader world seeing the words “Friends meeting” and thinking, “What, a meeting of people that you’re friends with?” Do you find the language of “meeting” to be confusing?
- How do you feel about the language of “meeting” and “church”? Which do you prefer and why?