Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT DO QUAKERS BELIEVE ?
Quakers have no set creed or dogma – that means we do not have any declared statements which you have to believe to be a Quaker. There are, however, some commonly held views which unite us. One accepted view is that there is that of God (or the spirit or divine) in all people and that each human being is of unique worth. This shared belief leads Quakers to value all people and to oppose anything that harms or threatens them.

ARE QUAKERS CHRISTIAN ?
Quakerism started in England in the 1650s and there is no doubt that Quakerism is rooted in Christianity and many Quakers center their faith on Jesus.  On the other hand, some Quakers find that traditional religious language doesn’t describe their inner experiences, and they look to both Christianity and other faiths and philosophies.  The Society appears very different from any other Christian group – without priests, creeds, or sacraments, and with a distinctive worship based on silence.  Quakers feel that God is a living presence within us, and worship leads to continuing revelation of the Divine.

WHAT HAPPENS IN MEETING FOR WORSHIP ?
Quakers think that everyone can have a direct relationship or “communion” with God. We find that this communion can best be experienced if we meet in silence, with nothing pre-planned – also known as an “unprogrammed meeting”. Meeting for Worship couldn’t be simpler: you go in and sit down in a plain room with other Quakers and settle into silence, a silence which can become very deep and powerful. After a time, someone may feel inspired to stand up and speak briefly in his or her own words a message from the Spirit, after which the meeting settles back into silent waiting. A Meeting for Worship usually lasts an hour.

Although the unprogrammed, ‘waiting’, or silent worship practiced at Portland Friends Meeting is the form nearest to that of the early Friends, the majority of Quakers in the world – here in the U.S. and in most of Africa and South America – practice a form of “programmed worship” which is every bit as authentically Quaker as unprogrammed Friends.

Programmed worship offers a setting in which those gathered express their praise, burdens, and statements of faith together through prayer, singing, and prepared messages. Pastoral Friends trust God to lead as the worship leader or the pastor prepares the order of worship elements for the worship gathering. This form of Quaker worship grew out of the North American revival movement of the nineteenth century, as communities spread and scattered westwards, and started to feel the need to hire pastors in order to preach regularly and take care of the spiritual needs of the congregation.

ARE ALL QUAKERS PACIFISTS ?
In 1660 Quakers said “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world.” Not all Quakers call themselves pacifists, though most do, but we are all trying to live in a more loving, caring and non-violent way.

WHAT DO QUAKERS THINK ABOUT ALCOHOL/DRUGS ?
Some Quakers do drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or even occasionally use other drugs. But we are guided by one of the Quaker advices which says “In view of the harm done by the use of alcohol, tobacco and other habit-forming drugs, consider whether you should limit your use of them or refrain from using them altogether.” Use of these substances could impair judgment and potentially cause harm to the user and others.

WHAT DO QUAKERS THINK ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY ?
Quakers were one of the first churches to talk openly about sexuality. Since we try to live our lives respecting “that of God” in everyone we attempt to treat all people equally. We feel that the quality and depth of feeling between two people and the respect and committment they give each other is the most important part of a loving relationship, not their gender or sexual orientation.

IF THERE IS NO PASTOR OR PRIEST, WHERE DO I GO FOR HELP OR ADVICE?

The Ministry and Counsel Committee is responsible for the spiritual growth and community life of the Meeting. If you are facing a major decision or life-changing event, Ministry and Counsel may convene a Clearness Committee for you. In silent worship and thoughtful discussion, this group works to help one discern one’s way. If you need services such as rides, meals, or visits, you can contact the Pastoral Care Committee. Finally, you can always contact the Meeting Co-Clerks, who will direct you to the best resource for your request.

WHAT ARE QUAKERS DOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD ?
Quakers have always answered the call of the Divine Within to confront social injustice. The earliest Quakers worked in prisons and insane asylums to bring society’s outcasts into the light of fair treatment. American Quakers took on the abolition of slavery long before the Civil War. Others championed the rights of women to hold property and to vote. Quakers, trusted as advocates of non-violence, were among the first relief workers welcomed in war-torn Europe after the end of World War II. More recently, Quakers have been in the forefront of those calling for an end to discrimination based on race or sexual orientation, for thoughtful stewardship of our earth, and for fair-sharing of the world’s resources.

COULD ANYONE BECOME A QUAKER ?
Yes.  Quakers are not extraordinarily good or kind people; we just want to live a life guided by our spiritual beliefs.  If the Quaker way of expressing spirituality appeals to you then you may want to discover more for yourself. Please join us on Sundays for worship and fellowship; Meeting for Worship times are here. For families with children, we have childcare for children during Worship, and you can find out more about our children’s programs here. Or learn more about becoming a member of the meeting.