Swarthmore Friends Meeting

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania







A Small Glossary of Quaker Terms

Much fuller information about Quaker terminology can be found in "Quaker Faith and Practice" - available to consult in the Meeting library.


Someone who participates in Quaker worship but who has not yet sought and gained membership in the Meeting.


Describes the state of an individual or group in touch with the divine presence.

Gathered Meeting:

A worshipping group when an awareness and presence of God is felt.


Confidence that an action is consistent with the divine will. Clearness can be tested through a Meeting for Clearness.


A person who takes a Meeting or committee through business and records minutes.


A spiritual compulsion for a particular action or service. It is usually tested at Preparative or Monthly Meeting to see if it is a true concern.


Members of a Meeting appointed to be responsible for the ordering of the spiritual life of that Meeting.

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 Meetinghouse.

General Meeting:

A regional unit, comprising two or more Monthly Meetings, which meets on a regular basis to explore Quaker issues in greater depth.

Inner Light:

That of God within us.

Leadings or Openings:

The sense of divine guidance or revelation.


The Quaker equivalent of a church building. The term is intended to be suggestive of simplicity. It can also be applied to the room within a building where Meeting for Worship is held.

Meeting for Business:

A gathering of Friends for the purpose of making administrative and business decisions. 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.

Meeting for Sufferings:

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.

Meeting for Worship:

A gathering of Friends for the purpose of worship.


When a person is inspired by the spirit to speak in Meeting forWorship, that is described as Ministry.


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.

Monthly Meeting:

A local community of Friends (akin to a parish) in which membership resides. Usually comprises several Preparative Meetings. So named because, by custom, the community meets once a month to conduct a Meeting for Business.


Members of a Meeting appointed to be responsible for the general welfare of all those in that Meeting.

Preparative Meeting:

A small outlying Meeting for Worship, usually larger than a Worship Group, under the care of a Monthly Meeting.

Sense of the Meeting:

What the clerk is seeking to record when drafting a minute.


Cumulative lived witness of generations of Friends which includes testimonies to Equality, Peace, Simplicity and Truth.


A synonym for Christ or the divine guide;
the complex of Quaker ethical traditions;
the Quaker gospel.

Yearly Meeting:

An annual gathering for worship and business open to members of all Monthly Meetings. This body is akin to a diocese in other Christian communities, but with advisory rather than determinative authority over smaller units. Yearly Meeting has a staff which provides services to Monthly Meetings, represents the Yearly Meeting to the general public, and carries on the projects initiated by the Yearly Meeting.