Swarthmore Friends Meeting

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania








Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
About Quakerism

Do all Quakers practice silent worship?
No. There are many "programmed" or "pastoral" Friends Churches where the worship service is similar to that in other Protestant denominations. Quakers in the programmed and unprogrammed traditions share many beliefs and testimonies, but are also different in significant ways. For more information on the programmed branch of Friends, go to www.fum.org

Where did Quakerism come from?
Quakerism started in England in the 1650s, during a time of civil war and religious turmoil. It grew out of the preaching of George Fox, who rejected the hierarchy and rituals of existing churches, and challenged all people to encounter God directly and to experience the Kingdom of Heaven as a present, living reality.

How many Quakers are there?
There are perhaps 300,000 Quakers in the world today, in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. About one third of all Quakers live in the United States and Canada.

Are Quakers Christians?
Not all of them. Quakerism has deep Christian roots, and most Quakers consider themselves Christian, but many do not. Quakers have always held that Christ as spirit is universally available, and has been at work since the beginning of creation. This "universalist" perspective is especially strong in the unprogrammed branch of Quakerism. Unprogrammed Meetings are often characterized by great theological diversity, while still experiencing profound spiritual community.

How do Quakers view Christ?
Many Quakers see Jesus Christ as a great religious teacher, or someone inspired by God to live an exemplary life. Others see Christ as a source of salvation, although in a different sense than most other Christian churches. Quakerism is concerned with life in this world rather than the next, and has no theology of heaven and hell. George Fox taught that redemption through Christ and the Second Coming should not to be thought of as past and future events. Both can only be experienced in the present, as spiritual truth, independent of history. He believed that "Christ has come to teach his people himself," and that we can be as Adam was before the Fall if we open our hearts to the Inward Teacher.

Do Quakers have a creed?
No. Quakers have tried to avoid written creeds, especially in unprogrammed Meetings. We want people to attend very carefully to what the Inward Guide is trying to open to them, and to express whatever truth they discover as honestly as they can in their own words. Pre-formulated statements can short-circuit this process and may hamper true spiritual growth.

Are Quakers the same as the Amish?
No. Both are "peace" churches, but otherwise they have few similarities.

What are Friends attitudes toward sacraments and Scripture?
Friends do not believe in outward sacraments--communion and baptism as variously practiced in Christian churches. We seek an inward reality. We believe that all of life is sacred, and that all great human experiences are of a sacramental nature. We value Scripture as it helps us to encounter the Spirit that inspired it. We do not believe that the words themselves are sacred, but only the Spirit. We believe in continuing revelation, and use many different doors to enter into an experience of the sacred.

What is the Quaker peace testimony?
When George Fox was asked to take sides in the English Civil War, he answered that "he lived in the Life and Power that takes away the occasion for war." Quakers seek to avoid violence on both the personal and the societal level, and affirm that the Spirit that takes away the occasion for war is available to everyone, everywhere, in all situations.

What are the other Quaker testimonies?
Our testimonies are not formulated rules, but ways of being in the world. They are based on our accumulated corporate experience of the divine, including what is written in the Bible, but also including modern day experience. The basic Quaker testimonies have been described as: simplicity, integrity, equality, community, and peace.

Where can I find out more about Quakerism?
Many books and pamphlets on the beliefs, practices, social witness and history of Quakerism are available QuakerBooks of Friends General Conference.