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?
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11 thoughts on “What is a Friends Church?”
I would appreciate an interview with someone who was not Christocentric, perhaps one or more actually feeling themselves as a “non theist” Friend. Your videos highlight the Christian Quaker point of view and I believe this is not representative of the majority of Friends. I could be wrong, but I became a Quaker about 28 years ago with encouragement from the Wider Quaker Fellowship and enjoyed Friends Journal at that time. Nothing has changed, so I am surprised at the many videos you are making which deal with Christocentric spirituality and so few which highly at the incredible social activism and spirituality of non-Christian Friends. Just my opinion. . . I have been to Meetings all over the world and very rarely meet people like those who are featured in your videos. (Wondering how you choose them. They are lovely people, very articulate and committed to their beliefs, but really don’t speak for me. ) This is not an issue for me, but I just wanted to let you know my opinion.
To comment on the reaction of mika goldin above, I would not agree that the Friends Videos emphasize the specifically Christian Quaker aspect as articulated by Evangelical Friends, a conference largely in Western USA. Mika if you would take time and go back through the first 3 seasons of Quaker Speaks, you would find mainly the Quaker beliefs and practices you are more familiar with. In fact, having gone thru all 3 seasons ( I bought them on CD), I would say that the majority of the pieces are not concerned with the Christocentric viewpoint. There are some very interesting expressions of Friends who take a nontheist approach to their spiritual life. However, I am glad that in this series, all elements are represented in what I like to think of as “big Tent Quakerism” — a faith deep enough to encompass some differences. After all, it was one of our leading inspirers, John Woolman, who wrote in his journal after worshipping with Native Americans, “I found no narrowness concerning sects, but rather that true hearted believers everywhere are accepted of Him.”
You might be surprised of the number of Friends around the world that are Christ centered.
I enjoyed her thoughts on people being the church – it is what the Bible teaches & part of Friend’s history.
I was born a Friend in Mexico. I am am a member of the church in Victoria Tamaulipas, but I have lived in the States for 50+ years. There is no Friends church here, so I worship at the Methodist Church.
Was born a friend in Kenya and am real enjoying their services….
The pillars of friends church have helped me live a life of Christianity. Its when im seeing this for the first time but its good. God bless all
I love the diverse topics and seasoned responses to questions or concerns posed to each video participate. Deep faith mixes with practical devotion to God. Keep up the creative endeavor.
I think that, just as sitting in a circle, or sitting in silence, is really a universal human thing, Quakers meeting together for silent worship does not necessarily need to be referred to as ‘church’.
Fox referred to the churches of his time as ‘steeplehouses’. One does not need to worship in a building that has a steeple, nor even a cupola of any sort.
At the end of the day, so to speak, one does not need to know the name ‘Jesus’ to be a Quaker. And one certainly does not need to think of either the people they solemnify their spiritual certitude with, nor the building where they do that, as ‘church’.
I was, for a time, an at-large Quaker representative on the National Council of Churches Advisory Board. The Council of Churches defines its organizational members as ‘communions’. Is the group you worship with, or solemnify your spirituality with, a ‘communion’? You see where I am going with this line of reasoning?
Friends church has helped to extensively involved in the spread of the gospel(evangelism) being one of the am proud being a Quaker. It’s meditative of the word of God and being the doer of the word.
I like Janet’s comment about “big tent Quakerism” and I love that my meeting in Wilton, CT has a diversity of belief (and doubts). Just among us – I am a lot more Christ-centric than the average bear, and actually wish my meeting would lean more that way. But I am thrilled to be with a community of welcoming and seeking individuals and that each Sunday / First Day, we help each other in this group hike through the forest of life.
I’m looking forward to visiting the Friends meeting house/church on Goddard here in Boise tomorrow.m
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