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Quaker Terms

A GLOSSARY OF QUAKER TERMS HEARD AT WILMINGTON COLLEGE

1. QUAKER/FRIEND

The Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers founded Wilmington College. Friends arose as a radical Christian movement in 17th century England. The name comes from the Gospel of John in which Jesus says, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." The name Quaker was originally a pejorative term used by opponents to make fun of Friends who shook in the power of the Lord. The terms Friend and Quaker are now used interchangeably.

2. THAT OF GOD IN EVERYONE

George Fox, one of the founders of the Quaker movement, encouraged Friends to walk cheerfully over the earth answering that of God in everyone. Friends believe that the Spirit of God dwells in all people, regardless of race, religion or nationality. This indwelling Spirit is also referred to as the Inner Light or Christ Within.

3. MIND THE LIGHT, WALK IN THE LIGHT, HOLD IN THE LIGHT

Friends believe that the Inward Light is present as an inward guide and teacher. Encouragement to "mind the Light" or "walk in the Light," is counsel to live with integrity and with fidelity to Truth to the best of one's ability. "Holding another in the Light" is a way of expressing a concern for God's guidance and care for a person.

4. MEETING FOR WORSHIP/MEETING FOR BUSINESS

Friends believe the true Church is not a building but people. Their places of worship are called meetinghouses. Friends "go to meeting" as others go to church. The Quaker equivalent of a diocese or synod is a yearly meeting.

Worship for Friends is traditionally based on corporate silent waiting upon God's Spirit to lead into truth. Many Friends' meetings have pastoral leadership and follow an order of worship, which includes hymns, scripture and prepared messages from the pastor. Similarly, when Friends gather to conduct the business of the Society, they gather in a spirit of worship to seek truth in their proceedings.

5. MOMENT OF SILENCE

Many meetings and even some classes at Wilmington College begin with a "moment of silence", a time to center our minds for the task at hand. The same concern for knowing the truth that is at the center of worship guides Friends, practice of business. The brief time of worship before committee meetings is a reminder of the spiritual basis of what we do at Wilmington College.

6. SENSE OF THE MEETING (consensus)

Quakers do not vote while conducting the business affairs of the Society of Friends, nor do they seek a simple majority decision. Instead, they seek to arrive at a decision that is shaped and formed by the best insights of all present. The leader (clerk) of the meeting for business attempts to shape and record a concluding statement on the matter under discussion, to which the group gives its approval or disapproval. This is called "gathering a sense of the meeting".

7. CLERK

Friends avoid the use of honorific titles because of a belief in basic human equality. Accordingly, the person whose responsibility it is to facilitate the decision-making process of a meeting for business is given a functional title: clerk.

8. STAND IN THE WAY OF CONSENSUS/STAND ASIDE

If a person feels conscientiously that a proposed decision is not the best formulation of truth, s/he is obliged to express such a belief. When objection is rooted deeply in conscience, the person may choose to "stand in the way of (block) consensus." If the matter is less consequential for the person, s/he may decide to "stand aside" and allow the decision to be made.

9. TESTIMONY

Instead of stating their beliefs in the form of creedal assertions Friends give "testimony" to their corporate experience of truth. Traditional Friends testimonies address the Quaker concern for peace, simplicity, equality, and integrity.

10. CENTERING

This describes a process of quieting one's thoughts and focusing on the Inner Light/God/Christ. It is a process of putting all peripheral matters aside for awhile in order to listen more completely.

11. PROGRAMMED/UNPROGRAMMED FRIENDS

The traditional manner of worship for Friends is a form of silent, group prayer and contemplation that does not use traditional liturgy and music and has no clergy. Often called "unprogrammed" or "silent" Friends, Quakers who continue to worship God in this way gather in expectant silence. Any who feel moved to share a message out of the silence may do so.

A majority of Friends in the world have now adopted an informal Protestant form of worship, making use of hymns, readings, a sermon, and pastoral leadership. These "programmed" Friends may appear to be similar to other Christian denominations, although most still do not use the outward sacraments, of baptism and communion and many have a time of open worship.

Some Friends meetings combine the two styles of worship and are labeled "semi-programmed" Friends.

12. QUAKER ACRONYMS

Friends are fond of using acronyms to identify their committees and associations. A few you may hear on campus are: AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation), OUNO (Quaker United Nations Office), FWCC (Friends World Committee' for Consultation), or FGC, FUM, and EFI (larger bodies of Quakers known as Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends International, respectively).

13. KELLY CENTER

Thomas Kelly was a Wilmington College graduate and teacher. Author of the Christian devotional classic A Testament of Devotion, Kelly is recognized as a major spiritual guide for the Religious Society of Friends.

Contact info:

Wilmington College main number: (937) 382-6661 or 1-800-341-9318
Campus Minister
Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, ext. 239